Moderator Jan Twombly, president of The Rhythm of Business, introduced the panelists last Wednesday night, Nov. 5, as ASAP’s New England Chapter convened at the Verizon Innovation Center in Waltham, Mass. USA: Petra Sansom, head of alliance management, Genzyme; Alyssa Rosinski, global business development director, IAPP (International Association of Privacy Professionals); Kathy Faigen, Certified Client Executive, IBM; and Tony DeSpirito, VP, Global Alliances—IT Partners, Schneider Electric.
Twombly’s vivid opening slide—two planets in collision—acknowledged the challenging context of the evening’s topic, “Alliance Management in an Age of Disruption: Today’s Critical Partnering Success Factors.” Twombly then flashed four percentages on the screen: 92% … 68% … 42% … and 53%.
“Recent studies say 92% of chief marketing officers are looking to partner to get closer to customers and better understand them,” Twombly explained. “68% of chief information officers are partnering to bring additional capability to their organization,” she continued, noting that IBM studies are the source for these two data points. “42% represents CEOs in last year’s PwC survey who said they were going to enter into a significant strategic alliance within the next year.”
Finally, 53% represents that very familiar data point for anyone involved in alliance management—the virtually unchanged success rate for strategic alliances despite the proliferation of alliances and alliance management practice across most industries. “It is so clear that alliance management has to step up its game as partnering proliferates,” Twombly said. With her final slide, she asked her panel of expert practitioners, “So what’s changing for alliance managers—do the fundamentals still apply or do they need to change as our businesses change?”
Panelists then dived into the discussion—bringing diverse perspectives to an exploration of why alliance management matters more than ever today, yet must adapt if partner success rates are to improve. Tony DeSpirito discussed how Schneider Electric—confronted with major disruption around the internet of things—moved beyond its stodgy infrastructure company heritage, recognized that it lacked many capabilities, and embraced partnering across both its traditional and emerging business lines. IBM’s Kathy Faigen discussed how her company developed a coherent approach to the disruptive technologies of SMAC (social, mobile, analytics, and cloud) while honing in on the crucial role of engagement, with customers and other constituents, in allowing businesses to successfully embrace unrelenting waves of change. Petra Sansom shared with the audience how Genzyme, a powerhouse biotechnology company now owned by Sanofi, is evolving its partnering strategy as it, and the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry overall, grapple with pricing pressure from all around the world.
Alyssa Rosinski rounded out the discussion with her organization’s interesting lens on disruption. Privacy challenges are exploding thanks to ubiquitous connection, mobile device proliferation, whistleblower disclosures (think Edward Snowden) and correspondingly magnified risks of exposure that companies of all types now face when handling personally identifiable information, she explained. In the face of this challenge, over just the past few years, IAPP membership has grown from 8,000 to more than 20,000.
When partnering amidst disruption, DeSpirito said, it’s vitally important to ensure that your partnering is tied to overall strategy—and to do that requires a strategic review of the portfolio, making sure you’ve got the right partners aligned to your company strategy . Faigen talked about the critical importance of ensuring you’ve got the right value proposition for your customer as well as for the partners. It’s never been more important to rethink, to relook at it, and make sure the value proposition remains relevant, she explained.
Wednesday night’s panelists also talked about importance of governance and metrics.
“That can be harder to do amidst disruption, because people are so crazily busy, so it’s hard to make the time to plan, to evaluate, it can be hard to think beyond the current crisis or meeting the current quarter’s numbers,” Twombly noted. “I think some of it is a maturing of the alliance capability, where people are recognizing the importance of having good governance. In biopharma, governance is in the contract but that’s not always the case in other industries.”
The final question of the night went to Alyssa Rosinski. Asked what quality or skill she is finding essential, she said that adaptability is at the top of her list.
Adaptability is, not surprisingly, crucial for alliance managers, who must “understand your partners’ needs, understand what your organization needs, understand what the customer needs, and be flexible and adaptable about how you’re going to get your result,” Twombly said in summarizing the discussion.
“In other words, you’ve got to be strategic, you’ve got to be entrepreneurial, you’ve got to be the expert,” she said. “You’re the one who needs to know everything about your partner, to represent the partner within your company, and everything about your company, to represent it to the partner. You’re the only one who has that big picture view, and that’s part of the expectations of senior management today.”