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Alliance Managers and FAME

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 11/22/2013

With the importance of alliances increasing for so many companies, there’s a corresponding importance to teaching alliance management skills and spreading them across the organization. But how to do it in a concerted, coherent, and coordinated way?

Enter the FAME program, a “FUBU” (for us, by us) program created by Novartis. Presenters Nancy Griffin, Jeremy Ahouse, and Angela Bylancik, all of Novartis, outlined the program for an audience at the 2013 ASAP BioPharma Conference and explained how it’s done, why, and what some of the key takeaways have been for those involved in their presentation “Living in FAME: Building Alliance Capability Across Your Organization—and Getting Credit for It!”

FAME stands for “Forum for Alliance Management Excellence,” and it’s been going on at Novartis now for five years, across various divisions and functions, in the U.S., Switzerland, and Japan. Its objectives include building a community of practice, becoming a great partner, establishing consistently good practices across divisions, developing the organizational capability and improving alliance activities across Novartis, and spreading alliance management skills throughout the company.

The way it’s done at Novartis, an organizing committee is formed from different divisions and line functions, and a theme is selected. Bylancik urged those who might try this to think about “What problem are you trying to solve?” Also, since many of the prospective attendees will essentially be “accidental alliance managers,” she suggested coming up with descriptions of the sessions that will help these people “self-identify” and find things that will meet their needs. Programs can also be “homegrown, outsourced, or hybrid,” with a combination of external speakers chosen for their prestige and/or expertise and internal speakers and case studies.

As with many alliance activities, gaining support from senior leadership is critical—as is getting the word out to people in the company via the corporate Web site and other means and making it easy and attractive for folks to register and get onboard. In planning the sessions, it’s also important to realize, according to Ahouse, that audiences in different geographies are different, that it’s critical to try to keep things fresh for repeat attendees, and that activities, games, and discussions must be continually rethought and fine-tuned after getting feedback and reflecting on what has worked and what hasn’t.

Other important aspects the presenters mentioned were promoting networking activities such as sharing a meal or a cocktail hour, having a good keynote speaker and a senior executive sponsor to do the opening remarks, and involving partners as and where possible to bring a more 360-degree view. You might be “less transparent about the big disaster” internally, as Bylancik put it, but getting the partner’s perspective can also be very impactful for participants.

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