Singapore’s leadership in the global economy provides business opportunities for companies establishing strategic alliances.
In today’s highly competitive global business environment, competitive advantage is highly contestable and can be easily copied by competitors. It needs to be constantly defended and renewed. Obtaining new value generation from current competitive advantage creates economic efficiencies, as it builds on established strengths, procedures, and firm culture, while providing new opportunities. An emerging path to do this is through multi-stakeholder partnerships involving strategic alliances across economic sectors. Collaboration between industry, government, community, and education offers a way to work on complex issues through sharing of resources, networks, skills, and expertise.
A recent example of interest is the announcement of the strategic alliance between Qantas, Singapore Tourism Board (STB), and Changi Airport Group (CAG) forming a S$5 million partnership to promote Singapore as a destination and a connecting gateway to Asia, Europe, and Australia. 1 These organisations operate differently, offer different resources, and are bound to each other to achieve their individual and collective aims. With the opening of Jewel Changi Airport this year, this new partnership has had time to work together to strengthen Singapore’s reputation as a leading business and tourist destination and a global leader in transit points.
Although once negotiations are complete and contracts signed, various challenges arise as to how the strategic alliances remains on track to deliver the solution that meets market needs and stakeholder goals and required outputs. Sectoral differences bring differing priorities and ways of work and globalisation brings cultural as well as regulatory challenges to which various partners are subject.
Organisations seeking to build new and greater value through multi-sector strategic alliances have recognised this mode to increase access to new markets and to untouched segments of current markets. A country that fosters and facilitates such alliances, nationally and internationally, will see increased global networks and, importantly, develop a reputation as a desired place to undertake business due to the enhanced access to marketing channels and logistics networks.
The key steps in ensuring a strategic alliance can deliver to market needs include:
- Shaping: Scoping of the deliverables and being clear as to the various stakeholder expectation of each member. All parties need to agree on the selection of target customers and the allocation and accountabilities associated with the alliance teams’ responsibilities and roles. Importantly this is the time to clarify if in the case above, these targets are different to each organisation. Arising from these shaping discussions, agreed mutually beneficial activities can be overlaid with individual organisation outputs and arrangement can be devised at the same time separate, but consistent tactics can be employed by all organisations.
- Developing: Throughout the alliance, establishment, trust, and relationships develop. There is a need to ensure the mutually agreed outputs to clients remain a focus and these, act as a pragmatic reminder to solve issues based on agreed outcomes. Additionally, this external focus is key to understanding and providing constant input of the external environment; this includes competitor analysis, customer needs, regulatory or sectoral changes, and changes to these dynamics. Although some of these inputs will be fed into the project plan, the impact on the stakeholders’ own operations needs to be considered and addressed for continuing benefit.
- Progressing: The health of the alliance and collaboration is key. Whilst project managers will be monitoring the state of the project and deliverables, timelines, and budgets as well as external interface. The reputation of the alliance needs to be monitored and feedback to the partners to maintain their enthusiasm to complete the project within agreed timeframes. There is also a need to consider a strategy around parties withdrawing or finalising their roles in the project—reaching maturity and rolling off. This is especially the case for non-completion of the alliance or project to ensure that proactive stakeholder engagement and communications are considered in case of the project not proceeding as planned.
- Launching: Powerful alliances, when launched, attract immediate attention: enhanced brand for the collective as well as for the individual partners. By extension each organisation can grow their customer base, expand their footprint in the region and sector as well as to position for further project work. Of note is the ability to leverage networks and relationships to harness business intelligence as well as, depending on the alliance, work with other entities associated with ongoing operations of the project
For success, there is a need to develop a shared definition of the partnership and created shared ways of working. Due to the demands of meeting needs of various stakeholders, different expectations can lead to frustration amongst partners and potentially conflict. This places projects at risk, especially of protracted legal and costly proceedings.
Within project frameworks, as part of the risk management strategy, it is essential to constantly monitor the status of strategic alliances and provide methods to ensure the alliance is aimed at meeting its market or project needs. Sometimes the alliance can become too inwardly focussed and problematic by concentrating on difference, so alliance leaders need to consider devoting resources to promote the benefits of the alliance and the anticipated market outcomes. In the case cited above, Qantas, STB, and CAG need to ensure that the potential markets sought by these organisations remain at the center of their strategies and work towards these goals.
Alliances are constantly evolving: positions and interests of parties can change, new teams are introduced throughout the project, relationships mature during the project lifecycle.
Co-creating of appropriate governance frameworks is an important way to ensure parties are delivering to potential. Leaders of each party needs to be confident project management is constantly seeking feedback at all stages of the alliance from introduction to the final stages of project to ensure that the outcome meets agreed outcomes and resources are used optimally. Teams and their contributions evolve over the duration of the alliance and it is important to recognise and support their role and smooth transition in and out of the project, whilst delivering to timelines. Importantly once teams have transitioned, if effectively managed, means there is always the possibility that an urgent request for clarification or detail based on prior knowledge can save valuable time to move the project ahead.
Singapore is recognised for its important leadership role in the global economy, in providing business opportunities to numerous organisations seeking to establish strategic alliances with companies operating in or out of the region. 2 Nurturing the competitive advantage that can come from the interconnectivity that is built in strong and functioning alliances is key to growth and viability in the global economy. Key to this process is the understanding that the alliance itself is an asset of all the firms involved. Keeping this asset viable requires investment in being coming aware of what value it is generating and what needs to be done to be knowledgeable about and skillful in the management of the multiple exceptions of and risks faced by the participants in the alliance.
1 Qantas, 13 March 2018, Qantas inks strategic marketing partnership with Singapore Tourism Board and Changi Airport Group. Accessed via https://www.qantasnewsroom.com.au/media-releases/qantas-inks-strategic-marketing-partnership-with-singapore-tourism-board-and-changi-airport-group/
2 The World Bank, World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report. Accessed via https://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/singapore/#
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