Why partnership health has become a key metric boards demand today

Business partnerships are rapidly growing in strategic importance.

It is no secret that progressive companies are pursuing innovations and greater speed-to-market to achieve competitive advantage and growth. In order to succeed in a timely way more organisations are leveraging strategic partnerships than ever before, with BCG reporting the number of new partnerships formed in 2020 was 8 times that in 2011. Additionally, digital ecosystem partnerships are also bringing greater complexity with 70% of CEOs saying ‘new partnerships will be critical to continuing their pace of digital transformation’ according to KPMG*.

On paper, Boards and Management believe most new partnerships entered into are an ideal strategic match. Each organisation brings complimentary resources to drive innovation that is faster, lower risk and lower cost than alternatives – so what could possibly go wrong?

According to David Winspear from Partnering Excellence “Strategic partnerships can be complex when it comes to the blending of cultures, objectives, business processes, decision making and more. Add in personalities, emotions, and significant change and what was once seen as an ideal marriage can quickly end in divorce – the secret according to Winspear is all in the selection, set-up, management and measurement”

Yet over 60% of strategic partnerships fail^.

An example of a company that has avoided the common pitfalls, is Eli Lilly, a global pharmaceutical company, who identified strategic partnerships as a core element of their growth strategy many years ago.

Eli Lilly’s Board, realised the need to invest in partnering capability to achieve their growth objectives. After an in-depth analysis, a dedicated Partnership structure was created to develop partnership frameworks, tools and measures among others. One critical element was a tailored measure that tracked Partnership Health on factors proven to drive successful partnerships – Voice of the Alliance. This continues to be delivered regularly across their portfolio to identify any early warning signs in key partnerships and is a cornerstone of their program.

However, most can be successful with measurement, insight and focus.

Eli Lilly is recognised as a top performer in the pharmaceutical industry by leveraging strategic partnership frameworks to achieve the objectives of their business and partners.

Without this measurement, insight and focus, Eli Lilly may not have been able to deliver successful partnerships and achieve their growth objectives.

Organisations and Boards have been measuring employee and customer engagement using tailored measures for decades, but this typically excludes partners – which have been identified as one of the most important factors in achieving strategic plans. In practice, many organisations rely on subjective assessments, lagging indicators or NPS which do not provide effective insights into partner health.

Partnership health measures are invaluable lead indicators.

More Boards are now seeking to measure partnership health as a lead indicator of their business future with independent parties increasingly being called upon to offer an objective view of partnership health across a range of partnership success factors.

Aside from helping organisations to maximise the value of their partnerships, boards are viewing partnership health scores as a risk mitigation strategy – ensuring no surprises at a shock loss of a partner at contract renewal time.

Regular measurement can objectively identify early warning signs of partnership retention risk, benchmark partnering capabilities to identify areas of opportunity and build investor, board, and management confidence, especially with companies with a heavy reliance on partnerships.


  • Companies are seeking to obtain competitive advantage through developing their partnering capability
  • As organisations increase their reliance on partnering their business risks also increase.  
  • Strategic partnerships have high failure rates.
  • Objective measurement and insight is becoming a focus for progressive organisations – in similar ways to other organisational metrics that measure employee and customer engagement
  • Partnership health measures builds investor, board, and management confidence.

Partnering Excellence

How important are strategic partnerships in your business? How do you manage partnering risk? How do you measure partnership health for risk mitigation and improved partnering capability?

Partnering Excellence (PX) is a consulting practice specialising in business partnering and supporting companies to maximise the value of their business relationships by offering a range of services across the partnering lifecycle. This includes Partner Engagement measurement tools and consulting on how to embed these practices within a business.