Managing Strategic Alliances in an Era of Uncertainty: Exploring the foundations for a mutually beneficial cooperative strategy between big and small companies

Sara Leth Ottosen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Background The complex and fast-moving economic environment has created a high degree of uncertainty. In order to sustain competitive advantage, companies increasingly look to form alliances in order to tap into each other!s key resources that will help them survive. This tendency is apparent for both big and small companies in the ICT industry. Purpose The purpose of the thesis is to understand and interpret the foundations for a mutually beneficial cooperative strategy between a big and a small company. This involves the creation of tacit knowledge, the creation of maximum synergy and minimum trade-off in extant learning modes and ensuring steady trust building in order to erode uncertainty. Cases The thesis is based upon four cases of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that have created strategic alliances with IBM. Method The research is based on qualitative research methods and a multiple case study research design. The research takes an interpretive view with an abductive approach, allowing the combination of deduction and induction. Data was collected through semistructured interviews. Theoretical Framework From a Resource Based View, the framework applies new theories such as the theory of duality and the Geocentric Framework of Trust, as well as traditional theories on alliances such as Transaction Cost and Transaction Value. Findings The empirical data shows that all cases have generated tacit knowledge, but the learning modes have changed. This leads me to develop a new model suggesting that exploration and exploitation should be pursued to a high degree in order for the companies to approach each other collaboratively. The findings furthermore highlight the importance of trust building, trust-as-choice and control mechanisms in the process. Additionally the findings showed that maturity does not necessarily determine phases in learning evolution. Lastly, it was found in one case that personal trust could still be weak, thus challenging the Geocentric Framework of Trust.

EducationsMSocSc in Management of Creative Business Processes , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2013
Number of pages116