Step 3 - Planning (Alliance)

The planning phase will be the largest body of work in your collaborative endeavour. At this stage, you will have identified the areas that you would like to collaborate around and you will have identified and approached your collaboration partners. You should be confident at this stage that you have a valid and well reasoned rationale for the collaboration, so don’t be afraid to take that leap of faith! The amount of work and type of activities in this phase will vary, and will be largely dependent on the number of partners in your collaboration initiative and the degree of formality around the arrangement i.e. Coordination, alliance or integration.

Alliance Projects

As we saw from an earlier description, an alliance can consist of administrative consolidation, joint-programming, or a variant of both. The planning required for this form of partnership is more complex than for a coordination type arrangement. Whilst working with the organisations that were in the planning phase, we found it useful to conduct a risk analysis at the outset. We did this to ensure that all possible issues were identified up-front and that they did not surface once the collaboration progressed.
For instance, one of the organisations on the Collaborate to Innovate project dealt in the area of providing information and guidance around the area of unmarried parents and their families. There were a number of collaboration and alliance ideas posed and the project team decided that a risk analysis would help in deciding which areas to prioritise and focus efforts on. Some of the risks that were identified were: brand damage, financial implications of over-commitment and the dilution of the mission.
Once these risks are identified, it is useful to plot them into an impact/severity matrix as seen below. It is also good practice to assign a risk manager in order to actively monitor and respond to risks as they arise.
As well as the project planning and risk analysis activities, another core item to be addressed in the planning phase, and especially in the realm of alliances is: Service Level Agreements and Memorandums of Understanding. 
A Service Level Agreement or SLA, is a contract between two organisations, which outlines the nature, quality and scope of the services to be provided. Typical contents might include:
  • Minimum performance criteria
  • Remedial Action
  • Penalties for non-performance
  • Technical definitions.
A Memorandum of Understanding or MOU, on the other hand, is a written agreement put in place to establish a clear understanding of how an arrangement will practically function and each party’s role and responsibilities. Contents may include:
  • Committments from each party
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Process for changing agreement
  • Timeframes.
It is advisable to draw up both an SLA and MOU during the planning stage if you are entering into an alliance with any partner organisation(s). You should seek legal advice from your legal representative regarding this.


A detailed project plan is crucial for the success of any collaborative project and should be completed within the planning stage. Below is a sample template, but feel free to tailor your project plan depending on the complexity of the project.

The below matrix is a useful tool to use when analysing risks. Hold a brainstorming session to generate a list of risks. Once this is done, plot them into the matrix below depending on the liklihood of them occuring and the impact or severity if they did occur. 

The stakeholder analysis matrix is a helpful way to analyse which stakeholders will be allies in the change initiative and which stakeholders may be somewhat resistant. As before, once the stakeholders are identified, plot them into the matrix depending on their level of influence and their perceived support level. This will assist you when developing the communications plan. 


Go to Alliance Step 4: Implementation ►