"More audits. More audits. More audits!" Stu Kliman pumps his fist in the air. The audience laughs.
We're nearing the end of a highly engaging panel discussion led by Kliman, entitled, "The Journey to Global Alliance Management." Kliman has spent the last 40 minutes expertly guiding Mary Jo Struttman and Andy Hull through the process of sharing their stories with a fairly large audience in the Hyatt Regency's grand ballroom at the 2014 ASAP BioPharma Conference in Boston.
This type of session is my favorite. There are no slides, no speeches; just stories, told casually by experts in the field of alliance management. The relaxed atmosphere seems to suit the rest of the audience, as well. Folks appear to be listening intently.
Every major corporation is doing business globally these days, so Kliman makes sure to define the parameters of the conversation at the start of the session. "What does it mean to build a global alliance network," he asks. "What are the goals? What's the distinction between an alliance management function and an alliance management capability?"
The alliance management function can own the alliance management capability; the function can drive the capability. Yet the presence of the AM function does not automatically guarantee the presence of the capability. Among the thousands of partnering interactions that must occur regularly, how many actually involve alliance managers? How can an organization use the alliance management function to drive, push, and enable the AM capability?
Developing a global alliance management network is the answer. Astellas and Takeda chose to create a global AM network in the form of a Center of Excellence (CoE). Since establishing their CoE for alliance management, Takeda has seen many positive results. Astellas is just beginning the process. Establishing a global alliance management Center of Excellence enables the company to define best practices and consistent behavior patterns within the AM function. Struttman envisions connecting Astellas' top alliance managers around the world, so those who know how to collaborate and have expertise in the field can guide those who are just learning.
Essentially, setting clear boundaries and parameters gives individual alliance teams the freedom to customize each alliance based on the goals defined by all of the key stakeholders, without constant oversight and micromanagement from executives.
"It's not playing nice in the sand box," Struttman explains. "It's the skills... You have a repository of tools, guidelines, and fundamental basics. However you still have knowledge and expertise. "
Both Struttman and Hull share their experiences openly. Hull describes conducting a needs assessment with the alliance management team at Takeda's research sites around the globe. "What was amazing was the list of challenges, and the list of what people needed and wanted was almost identical," he explains.
Across the globe, Takeda's alliance managers requested clear guiding principles and philosophy, clarification and definition of the AM role, tools, skills, and training. They wanted to know what to capture in meeting minutes, what approach to take in internal communications about a given partnership, etc. At the same time, they feared the center of excellence would create a rigid SOP. Hull reports that is the opposite of what Takeda leadership wanted to create. In fact, Takeda chose to keep standard AM reporting requirements separate from the CoE. Instead, Takeda's global AM team reports to and receives support from an executive steering committee that includes the leaders of emerging markets, research, and business development.
"Even though there's no reporting relationship, we're all connected with this virtual center. We get together live, and via phone. The people who didn't have alliance management skills initially really wanted it, and they ended up being the experts at their sites," Hull explains.
The takeaway is this: when people are empowered to design a CoE with procedures, tools, educational opportunities, and strategies based on their needs, they develop a sense of ownership and become the CoE's greatest advocates. Their work lives are easier and more fruitful, which works to the ultimate advantage of the corporation.
There's a saying in the creative world: there are no original stories. So, you've probably heard a similar story before. Yet as you apply this version to your unique alliances, you may find the truth in an old chestnut even more valuable than you expected.
As Kliman moves toward wrapping the session, Struttman shares a final piece of information: once it was established that Astellas's AM team is integral to the success of the company, the organization hired Price Waterhouse, to audit the AM team to see how they function. "We have a whole set of guidelines, tools, etc., that Price Waterhouse went through with a fine tooth comb," she says. "We came out with a great rating."
"Vantage has seen many client opportunities precipitated by audits," Kliman adds. "It leads to important questions: Do we have policies and procedures in place?"
"So you want more audits..." Hull asks, facetiously, to which Kliman responds:
"More audits. More audits. More audits!"