Limited Time Offer
Up to $20K in incentives for AWS partners. Request Details
Ecosystem Leaders

Episode 56

May 18, 2019

#56: Norma Watenpaugh: The Skills Every Alliance Manager MUST Have

She is the Founding Principal at PhoenixCG, which specializes in best practices for alliances and alliance managers.

Alliance management can be a somewhat lonely field.

On one hand, you’re surrounded: You’re managing personnel from not only your own

the team, but you’re also working with team members from the other companies within the ecosystem.

On the other hand, very few people understand your role — as an alliance manager, you’re in a high-level, critical thinking, strategic position between entities.

It’s as if you were running your own mini-business between all the alliances.

Chances are, you love the challenge, but it can be awkward at times.

Norma Watenpaugh understands.

She is the Founding Principal at PhoenixCG, which specializes in best practices for alliances and alliance managers.

She came on the Alliance Aces podcast to discuss trends she’s seeing (and sometimes creating) in the alliance's profession. Here are the highlights from that interview:

(You can catch the full interview on our podcast. It was also streamed on Facebook Live at this link.)

Established Trend: The Skills Every Alliance Manager Must Have (Based on Data)

For a long time, alliance management wasn't recognized as a profession. “But it's really been my profession, and I wanted to elevate it,” said Norma.

She has not only worked in alliances, but she’s helped create alliance management certifications. Further, she’s done extensive research on what skills are most beneficial for alliance managers.

Here’s what she found were many of the most necessary skill sets:

  • Business process skills (joint governing, metrics, putting together an escalation process, etc.)
  • Industry-specific skills
  • Insider knowledge of your organization (you have to know your own company, understand its culture, and know how the decision-making process is conducted.)
  • Soft skills (people skills, empathy, leadership, collaboration.)

The Soft Skills Every Alliance Professional Need Are Often Taken For Granted

The soft skills are often taken for granted, but these are what enable an alliance manager to drive results through influence and persuasion. Also, soft skills allow you to align the strategies of the organization and the objectives of the alliance. (Norma wrote a fascinating blog here, that discussed in detail the soft skills managers need.)

Norma noted one study on the industry, that gave a 3-hour assessment to alliance managers. The results were very telling: The highest performing alliance managers scored very high in these areas:

  • Critical and analytical thinking
  • Strategic thinking
  • Creativity and resourcefulness
  • Empathy
  • People skills

(Interestingly, this list matches what most companies look for in high-level executives.)

Newer Trend: More & More Partnerships in an Alliance

Nowadays, alliances are not 1-to-1 partnerships anymore; Now, alliances require an entire solution stack. Particularly in more complex tech deployments, most relationships require more than 2 alliances.

Tech and digital transformation are the main reason for this expansion: Every industry is touched by technology now, from pharma to manufacturing.

New(ish) Trend: Alliance Management Standards With ISO

Norma is also one of the co-creators of the ISO standards for alliance management. The standard came out in 2017 and was written by almost a dozen different alliance professionals from a variety of sectors, across government, nonprofits, and the private sector.

Originally, the standard had 128 requirements.

Recently, though, Norma released a newer document that has 12 basic principles that all companies should adhere to when forming strategic alliances.

One of the benefits Norma highlighted was the common vocabulary: As many of us in the profession know, when 2 or more entities are debating the word “governance,” little to no strategic work is able to move forward.

Listen to the podcast here.

To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to the Alliance Aces Podcast, or visit our dedicated Alliance Aces page.

This episode is part of the Alliance Aces Roadshow. Watch the video interview on Facebook.

To contact the host, Chip Rodgers, with topic ideas, suggest a guest, or join the conversation about alliances, he can be reached by: