Guest Post: Driving Better Business Decisions Through Strategic Alliance Management Intelligence

Posted By: Louis Rinfret Contributed Content,

In many life science organizations, alliance management is not yet as well established as other functions that have better-developed processes and more standardized operational and strategic contributions. It can be seen as more of an art than a science, and stakeholders may not clearly understand how alliance management can contribute to decision making because they do not directly own the success of alliances. Rather, they depend on a network of others within and across organizations to generate results.

Alliance management’s unique insights come in many forms: early learnings gleaned from interactions and discussions with external partners and internal stakeholders; the identification of risks and opportunities within alliances; and the portfolio view of these across alliances. Combined with accumulated experience in interorganizational relationships, these insights help make good and timely decisions across the alliance portfolio to maximize its value.

Optimizing Alliance Management

As companies in the pharmaceutical industry expand their reliance on partnerships, tapping into this knowledge and optimizing the value delivered by the alliance management function is key. Done well, strategic alliance management delivers measurable results in terms of time to market, risk reduction, knowledge and capacity development, as well as revenue generation. It also supports an increasingly important imperative to become a partner of choice in order to attract the best partners and opportunities.

So what’s holding companies back from making the most of this knowledge? A common challenge is that alliance management information and data tends to be inconsistent and unstructured—and siloed. It is usually kept in emails, spreadsheets, or other documents in incomplete and inconsistent formats—or even not captured at all, except in people’s memories. Unsurprisingly many of the alliance managers we survey tell us they spend too much time on administrative tasks—manually gathering information from various stakeholders, preparing reports, and answering ad hoc requests. Consistency, proactivity, and repeatability are rare qualities because they are difficult to achieve and maintain without concerted effort. This situation, combined with the relatively high turnover rate in alliance management teams, is far from ideal.

But there’s good news: Alliance management leaders have an opportunity to clarify their contributions to the organization and structure their knowledge in a meaningful way. This will enable them to standardize and automate much of the regular information sharing that is required with their many stakeholders to drive better business decisions. How do they do this?

Meeting the Moment

A holistic vision is needed to systematically and sustainably improve decision making, particularly when decisions involve multiple stakeholders across departments, business units, and organizations. As a first step, alliance management teams can identify key stakeholders and define how to best engineer support for their interactions with each of these groups. The aim is to move toward repeatable, scalable processes so that decisions are backed by predictable, quality data, information, and knowledge. Then they can track the success and impact of their decisions and improve over time.

More specifically, alliance management leadership can take actions in four key areas to drive better business decisions through strategic alliance management intelligence:

1. Setting the North Star

Well-defined goals are the hallmark of successful alliances, especially when multiple stakeholders are involved. They also serve as a reference point when things get murky and tough decisions need to be made.

The end goals of each alliance should be clear, agreed upon by stakeholders, kept up-to-date, and easily accessible. A central, self-serve information repository can be set up by alliance management and used by stakeholders so that everyone is in the loop about important updates and changes to alliances.

2. Driving Alignment

Alignment doesn’t happen until your teams are using the same data. To be able to prioritize goals and make decisions collaboratively, you need to know:

  • where you are today
  • what “good” looks like

The alliance management function can proactively lead with key stakeholders in analyzing the situation, identifying gaps between end goals and the current status, and by ensuring that key decision makers are involved early to support the decisions and actions that are needed. By standardizing the types of insights provided by alliance management to stakeholders, this process improves over time as we learn about the types of information and interactions that lend the right results.

3. Tracking and Measuring Progress

Theoretically, maybe you can manage what you don’t measure, but…by defining and tracking relevant data and information, you can generate greater clarity, align on critical issues, and foster creativity and innovation to optimize the value of your alliance portfolio.

Strong alliance management teams proactively seek insights to guide decisions and strategies and to strengthen alliance management contributions. Standardizing terminology and data capture across the alliance management team enables aggregation of insights across different levels of analysis, whether individual alliances, types of alliances, or the entire portfolio. Each audience will have different needs, whether they are boards of directors, executive committees, divisional heads, steering committees, or business function stakeholders. The data collection strategy should consider these needs in addition to those of the alliance management team itself.

4. Using the Right Tools

Give me a lever long enough, and… Through the proper use of tools and resources you can do a lot more than you could manually, or through straight “brute force” methods. This in turn will enable you to free valuable alliance manager time from administrative tasks and focus on higher-value activities such as risk management, relationship building, and opportunity development.

A specialized digital platform can help alliance management functions organize, streamline, and automate much of the time-consuming administrative tasks carried out by alliance managers while improving the flow of information, knowledge, and decisions within your organization. It also mitigates the risk of key people departing with unique knowledge, forcing important decisions to be delayed or based on incorrect information. It enables real-time access to up-to-date information by stakeholders to gain the agility needed by your organization and helps the alliance management function to contribute meaningfully at a strategic level within the organization.

What’s Needed Today…to Seize Tomorrow’s Opportunities

As the future of life science—like many other industries—depends increasingly on collaboration, alliance management is becoming a critical competency. Leading organizations of all sizes are investing in developing their strategic alliance management function and elevating it from reactive and tactical to proactive and strategic. This integrating role within an organization supports leadership imperatives to be a partner of choice and attract the best collaborative opportunities. It also makes the organization more adaptive in the face of turbulent times, drives better business decisions, and results in competitive advantage.

Louis Rinfret, PhD, is the founder and CEO of allianceboard.