The Skills of Highly Successful Partner Managers

Posted: 5/31/2016 by Norma Watenpaugh

Partner managers need many skills to orchestrate collaboration between partnering organizations. Based on the requirements outlined by the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals[1], the successful partner manager must have developed skills that are not only specific to collaboration but also to broad business and industry knowledge along with an in depth understanding of their own organization.

These competencies and skills are broken into four categories in order to organize thinking around them.

  • Core skills are the collaborative management skills that operationalize the partnership so it can be managed efficiently. 
  • Context skills include 'soft skills', which are more leadership and people oriented, that help make the partnership run more effectively. 
  • Business and industry skills are functional business skills paired with understanding the common practices and landscape of the particular industry. 
  • Company skills are those specific to the culture, norms and the practices that exist within a particular company.

The critical skills are listed below. The partner manager needs all of them, but the partner savvy company embraces them across the organization. 

Critical Skill Set

  • Managing the Alliance Lifecycle
  • Stakeholder Alignment
  • Managing Performance
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Harnessing Diversity to Capture Innovation
  • Change Management
  • Influence without Authority
  • Managing up, down and sideways
  • Financial and Business Acumen
  • Critical Thinking
  • Leading Virtual Teams
  • Cultural Sensitivity and Savvy
  • Collaborative Selling

In today’s hypercompetitive environment, organizations are becoming increasingly dependent on business collaboration to compete successfully - creating new value networks, tapping into new sources of innovation, and driving growth through strategic partnerships. Organizations need to ensure they can deliver on their strategic objectives by leveraging high performing collaborative partnerships and alliances. The skills required to manage these complex collaborative relationships have now become critical value-creating competencies. Hence executives need to be confident in the skills of their partnering professionals and partner managers need to be able to demonstrate their knowledge and capabilities against internationally recognized standards and global best practices. With businesses becoming more dependent on strong partnerships and internal collaborative capability, it is imperative!


[1]The ASAP Handbook of Alliance Management: A Practitioner’s Guide”; Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals, 2013

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