11.5.4 Resources and implications for business functions

Strategic alliances need to be encouraged and supported by management and need to be implemented by all levels of employees.

Collaborating can bring employees into contact with very different kinds of organisations and individuals from those with whom they are used to working. This can be a stimulus or a challenge.

Some education programmes might be needed to prepare employees for different value systems and management cultures. Learning about creativity techniques1 might be a useful way of facilitating this. Internal systems of mentoring or coaching might be useful.

As the collaboration becomes more active its objectives and activities may become more important than the objectives and activities of the individual companies involved. The latter might keep their original business interests intact or they might use the situation as an opportunity to change quite dramatically. These kinds of changes also have an impact on customers and on the other alliance partners; if there is a high level of trust then there might be opportunities to discuss this within the alliance and to learn together from the situation. Where trust is not so high, it might be useful to use creativity techniques or facilitation skills and consultancy to encourage strategic thinking.

Once strategic alliance is introduced as part of the business strategy it is self-perpetuating and self-fulfilling; some of the longer-term implications of networking should therefore be considered. Where is it taking the company? Is it distracting the company from its primary goal? Is the company becoming too dependent on another organisation and is it becoming vulnerable for this reason?2

University-industry interactions are intensifying across Europe and the level of basic research being undertaken by companies is decreasing; as a result of this trend the financial performance of companies appears to increase. However, if as a result of the collaboration policy they lose crucial skills in dynamic science and technology areas they might not be able to absorb new technology in the future. Companies need therefore to consider how they interact with universities (and other organisations) and how they learn accidentally from the process of collaboration. If they only aim to acquire the results of a project as if it were a sub-contract then they might miss other opportunities.3

Please stop and think: does your organisation need to interact with universities and/or technology centres? If so, is your company interested in transfer of knowledge or does it simply want the results of the research?

A key organisation in a strategic alliance may over time become unavailable, or may choose to work in another network; the strategic development and objectives of each partner in a network needs to be considered. In highly critical missions the risks and consequences of such situations occurring should be evaluated in advance.

Once the alliance has started it can become a new modus operandi and lead the company into promising new areas that could not previously have been anticipated. This can be exciting but it needs also to be controlled and to be incorporated into technology strategy thinking.

If the strategic alliance is designed on traditional lines with functional responsibilities some of the required advantages associated with networking may be missed. Alliances require and result in new organisation structures, not just links between existing organisations.

1  For enlarging information about creativity techniques please have a look to component 4 –Tools for developing innovative solutions- of this guide
3  lbid