How Can I Build a Strategic Alliance?

Answer: Strategic alliances can provide you with a competitive advantage. By creating a relationship with an individual or group that has different and complementary skills and competencies, you can pursue larger, more complex projects, provide more varied services, and reach a broader geographic area. In return you can decrease your competition, achieve economies of scale, and share costs.

However, strategic alliances are often built on "a wing and a prayer" and they may not be robust enough to achieve a successful outcome. Reasons for failure include poor partner choice, differing values or culture, unclear goals, project management issues, and unequal benefits.


The Boston Consulting Group has developed a strategic alliance process model which can be adapted for the independent consultant:

1. Remember your goals. Don't lose your own business plans in the flurry of this engrossing project. There will be life after it is over so keep your long term goals in mind.

2. Be rigorous. Determine potential team members' competencies, work standards, reputation, ethics, interpersonal communications, and team skills. Review samples of their work and set up a small preliminary project with them to test the relationship.

3. Get it in writing. Develop a Memorandum of Understanding for the project outlining roles, responsibilities, communication strategies (both within the team and with the client), data ownership, and report authorship. Develop a sub-contract for each consultant or group specifying tasks, daily rate, number of days, and insurance and tax responsibilities.

4. Manage. Use good project management skills to ensure clear and frequent communications, budgeting, scheduling, and reporting. Make sure your client is apprised of your relationship.

5. Evaluate. Whether positive or negative, key benefits from the experience are likely to be the learning and insights gained from working with other consultants.

6. Diversify. This may be only one of several alliances you develop depending on the type of projects you want to pursue. Build on the lessons from this relationship.

Make sure your early strategic alliances are successful. They will transform your practice and broaden your portfolio in ways you never dreamed.


Originally published in the Independent Consulting TIG Newsletter, Volume 4, Issue 2. March 2013

See: - Natalia Cojohari. "The competitive advantage of strategic alliances."

For more information on consulting topics see in Barrington, G. V. (2012). Consulting Start-up & Management: A Guide for Evaluators & Applied Researchers. Los Angeles: SAGE.

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