Piecrust promises, partnerships and alliances

Most announcements of partnerships or alliances appear to be piecrust promises, easily made, easily broken.

Announcements of partnerships and alliances come in every day. I seldom comment on them. After watching the industry for decades, I've come to view these announcements with a great deal of skepticism. They are often announced with a great deal of ballyhoo and quietly are disbanded later when the suppliers think no one is looking. The media coverage lives long after the partnership or alliance has died in disgrace.

When analyzed, most of these announcements appear to be another piecrust promise made to the industry in the hope of some short term gain.

What's a piecrust promise you ask? A piecrust promise is a fragile or empty promise that's easily broken. Mary Poppins discussed them when she said, "That's a piecrust promise. Easily made, easily broken." Is this just the type of promise an IT decision maker should avoid when considering the organization's long term strategy.

Here are a few suggestions for evaluating the broad promises made by newly formed partnerships and alliances:

  • Discover the goals of each of the players — If the goals appear congruent, the partnership or alliance is likely to hold for a reasonable period of time. If not, it is merely a marriage of convenience and is not likely to survive after the short-term goals have been achieved.
  • Learn where and when the partners or alliance members plan to work together and where they are likely to compete. If the areas of competition are broad and the area of cooperation small, the end of the partnership or alliance is clearly in sight at the beginning.
  • Learn how are the suppliers planning to help your organization get from where it is today to their future promised land. Hand waving and slide presentations aren't going to get the job done.
  • Learn how much will it cost to go on the journey they are proposing. It may quickly become apparent that this is an unnecessary journey for your organization.
  • Learn about their plans for ongoing support for both today's products and for the future products of the partnership or alliance. The history of the IT industry is littered with empty promises that led nowhere.
  • How well funded is the partnership or alliance? If the only thing behind the public effort is a press release, it can safely be ignored.
  • Get the promises in writing!