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Pharma Alliance Leaders Making Adjustments to a Virtual, Stay-at-Home World

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Tuesday, April 28, 2020

During the COVID-19 crisis, it’s been heartening to see how many pharmaceutical companies—including a representative number of ASAP members—have stepped up their efforts to work toward vaccines and medicines to treat the virus, including partnering with one another and with government to speed up the processes of research and development, all while trying to keep regular manufacturing and supply operations going so that lifesaving drugs continue to reach patients who need them.

But as is true for all of us, the coronavirus has thrown significant obstacles in pharma companies’ path as well: Almost everyone is working from home, supply chains have been interrupted, sales reps can’t see physicians, and some companies in the biopharma ecosystem are already feeling the pain of financial distress.

So how are pharma alliance management groups coping with COVID? How are their teams communicating internally, reaching out to partners, and moving projects forward in the face of these hurdles?

Different Times, Different Strategies

That was the subject of an April 21 ASAP Netcast Webinar, “Alliance Management Practices in a Virtual World for Pharmaceutical Executives.” The four panelists were among the crème de la crème of big-pharma alliance leaders: Harm-Jan Borgeld, CSAP, PhD, MBA, vice president and head of alliance management for Merck Healthcare KGaA; Mark Coflin, CSAP, MBA, vice president and head of global alliance management at Takeda; David Thompson, CSAP, chief alliance officer at Eli Lilly and Company; and Steve Twait, CSAP, vice president of alliance and integration management at AstraZeneca. The webinar was moderated by Michael Leonetti, CSAP, president and CEO of ASAP.

As Leonetti noted at the outset, “We are in very different times, and different times require different strategies.” Accordingly, the four alliance leaders shared their strategies and thinking in a number of areas, from keeping their teams humming along internally to communicating with partners to monitoring supply chain and manufacturing issues.

Thompson observed that we’re currently living through a “worldwide inflection point,” a phenomenon not seen “since probably the 1930s and ’40s, where the entire world is experiencing something at the same time.” Twait concurred: “This is my 20th year in the alliance management space and I can say I have never seen anything quite like this before. COVID-19 is providing us with challenges I don’t think any of us ever anticipated.”

Buddies, Backups, and Break Times

Borgeld said one of the first things he and his colleagues at Merck in Germany did was to look at what would happen if alliance managers could not fulfill their duties, for whatever reason. So they created “a buddy system, where every alliance manager has a backup—even me. A member of the leadership team is my backup in case I would not be able to function. Also the partners have been informed of this backup system, so they know there’s always someone to contact.”

In this new world, alliance executives and their teams have had to figure out how to hold internal meetings virtually—and how often and for how long—how to carry out alliance governance, and how to interface with partners when everyone is working remotely and none of these activities can be done in person. Some of what they’ve done has changed over time already—going from two meetings a week down to one, for example, having shorter meetings, or making the meetings last only 45 minutes instead of an hour, both to give people a much-needed break that they might have formerly used to walk down the hall and “grab a cup of coffee,” as Twait put it, but also to allow for some “unstructured chat” time, in Thompson’s words.

In addition, half-day or full-day meetings across multiple time zones around the world have in many cases been condensed down to one- or two-hour videoconferences, which allows greater focus and prevents “virtual meeting burnout” while being “respectful of time zones,” as Coflin phrased it—especially important when partners and/or team members may be spread out across the globe.

There’s good and bad in this virtual situation, according to Thompson. “The upside of course is there’s a time savings, the downside is you’re not getting that human interaction,” he said. “You have to be more cognizant of how you’re going to structure your agendas for the meeting to get the most out of it.” Another positive that Twait has observed is that videoconferences today give us a window into each other’s lives—including children, pets, decorations in home offices or other rooms—and these help to build “interpersonal trust” in a way that wasn’t necessarily done pre-COVID.

Borgeld emphasized that while some of the same problems and issues arose before the virus took hold, now it’s even more critical to anticipate and address them, whether it’s coworkers who are trying to multitask and get work done while managing children at home, or partners who may be experiencing financial distress. In the latter case, he recommended, “Seek the dialogue early—it’s not important that you open the books. Focus on the alliance itself: what do we need to do? Come early, discuss it, and try to find a solution.”

Problems, Solutions, and Opportunities

Solutions can be hard to come by, especially where coronavirus is concerned, but more than one of the panelists mentioned the resourceful, flexible cooperation and collaboration between various biopharma organizations, leading to more partnerships and, hopefully, effective treatments and vaccines down the road.

“One of the things that’s very encouraging is the number of partnerships that are springing up all over,” said Twait. “Not just between pharma and pharma—we’re all working together, and many of those interests are around COVID. I’m seeing pharma to biotech, pharma to academia, pharma and others to nonprofits—partnerships of all types.”

Coflin backed up that assessment: “In this current environment where we’re looking for solutions on an urgent basis for humanity, there’s a lot of external innovations and partnerships that are rapidly forming, amongst companies, together with regulatory authorities, NIH, you name it. Everybody’s pulling together to find some solutions.”

Twait emphasized viewing the crisis as a chance to potentially change how things are being done for the better. “I try to look for the opportunities that are coming out of this, and it feels like now is the perfect time,” he explained. “What COVID is allowing us to do is to ask the question: Can we move faster, and are there ways to accelerate? It’s a great opportunity to use this burning platform and the urgency that we have to really challenge inefficiencies and change some of those internal and external processes.”

Shining Examples

Thompson advised looking at alliances with an eye toward contractual obligations, as well as the risks that may be triggered if those are left unfulfilled. “I would really recommend to everybody,” he said, “to do a thorough read of each contract: to go back through and with the lens of the business, human, and legal uncertainties and risks, foresee what’s in the contract, identify and begin to engage with the partners in a discussion now. To me that has been one of the most helpful exercises we’ve done, and also has allowed us to engage in productive discussions, because we’re identifying early the things that the contracts are pointing to. Regardless if you’re in or out of our industry, anybody who’s got a contractual relationship with anybody, that is worth doing.”

Coflin also mentioned being aware of potential supply issues, which can be dicey at a time like this. “The supply continuity is critical to the patient,” he acknowledged. “These are lifesaving medicines in some cases. So we look very carefully at the supply chain, and have since the very beginning of COVID-19, looking not only at the current inventory but also…where it’s sourced from—in some cases China, [or] Italy, and others where we’ve run into a very challenging situation with logistics. The amount of flights is less than it used to be, including cargo, so it is something that requires constant evaluation of risk and constant discussion with our partners.”

Asked for final thoughts, Borgeld gave this exhortation: “Focus on your team. Make [it] so that they can shine in this difficult environment. It’s an environment where there are challenges, and that has to be recognized. Focus on the team, make sure that the team feels that [its] needs are addressed.”

After the four panelists had answered a number of questions, both from Leonetti and the large audience sitting in on the webinar, Leonetti thanked them for sharing their insights and experiences. “You are a shining example of our community, our willingness to collaborate with each other, and our willingness to help share best practices that ultimately make us better partners and better future partners,” he said. “I can’t thank you all enough for bringing this forward and helping to keep our ASAP community alive during these virtual times.”

Tags:  academia  Alliance Leaders  alliance manager  AstraZeneca  best practices  biotech  COVID-19  David Thompson  Eli Lilly and Company  Harm-Jan Borgeld  manufacturing  Mark Coflin  Merck Healthcare KGaA  partnerships  Pharma  Pharmaceutical Executives  Steve Twait  supply chain  Takeda  virtual 

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ASAP Global Alliance Summit - Going Virtual June 23 – 25, 2020

Posted By Kimberly Miller, Friday, April 24, 2020

The global health crisis involving COVID-19 has obviously forced all of us to change how and where we’re working, living, and where we’re going (or not going). After carefully evaluating all of our options and closely monitoring information from both government and industry leaders, we have determined the need to move the face-to-face conference to a virtual one instead. This is an exciting opportunity for ASAP and our community as we look to provide the same meaty content to all of our attendees virtually.

The virtual conference will offer attendees both a livestream event for a few hours each day June 23–25, and on-demand sessions to listen to as attendees’ schedules allow. The new format promises to be a quality learning experience that affords engagement during the livestream sessions and flexibility and access to all the on-demand recordings.

Over the coming weeks, the ASAP team will provide additional information regarding the virtual agenda and conference access. To stay up to date visit www.asapsummit.org

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Partnering Superheroes | Who Better to Combine Collaborative Leadership Skills with Strategic Vision and Ride Them All the Way to the C-Suite?

Posted By Mike Leonetti, CSAP, Friday, April 17, 2020

Superhero movies are definitely, as the kids say, “a thing.” They’re fun and exciting, a great way to liven up a long winter night. But do superheroes really exist, and could they have any relevance for us in terms of business strategy? I didn’t think so, but recently I was part of three conversations that changed my mind.

 

First, I spoke with Elizabeth Gazda, CEO of Embr Labs, in anticipation of her upcoming Leadership Forum talk at the ASAP Global Alliance Summit. Embr Labs makes a wearable bracelet that can raise or lower your skin temperature to help with stress reduction and anxiety and improve sleep and focus. Before joining Embr, Liz cofounded a fintech and a music technology startup, and worked at some of Boston’s first “unicorns,” like ATG and m-Qube.

 

Liz made the point that the collaborative leadership and critical thinking skills needed in the C-suite are very close to those of the alliance management competency profile. Liz believes partnering “superheroes” can and should be showcased in their organizations as potential future CEOs. In her view, alliance management is the perfect preparation for executive leadership, especially as more and more companies undergo digital transformation via partnerships and seek to nurture and reward collaborative entrepreneurial excellence.

 

A second conversation took place in early February in Boston, at an ASAP New England chapter meeting whose theme was “Taking the Next Step: Critical Skills for Aspiring Alliance Executives and Organizational Leaders.” Moderated by Mai-Tal Kennedy of Vantage Partners, the discussion featured panelists Lou Shipley, former CEO of Black Duck Software and a lecturer at Harvard Business School and MIT; Christine Carberry, CSAP, board member at the UNH Entrepreneurship Center; and Andrew Hirsch, CFO and head of corporate development for Agios Pharmaceuticals.

 

All of them highlighted both the difficult job alliance managers have and its relevance for future career success. Lou in particular noted the number of alliance management “superstars” at his previous organization, including one who combined the roles of alliance management, business development, and investment banking expertise—superhero skills indeed. This individual directed the ultimate spinoff of the company and saved it close to $10 million. How’s that for adding value?

 

The third conversation was Jay McBain’s January 30 ASAP webinar, “Top 10 Channel and Alliances Predictions for 2020.” This presentation, an outgrowth of Jay’s influential research for Forrester, highlighted key trends affecting not only the tech world but most industries, as nearly every company, he says, is fast becoming a technology company. (See our cover story in Strategic Alliance Quarterly on ecosystems, for more of Jay’s and other experts’ timely insights and analysis of this exploding phenomenon.)

 

Among these trends is what Jay calls the “trifurcation” of the IT indirect sales channel into an influencer channel, the familiar transactional channel, and a retention channel. He noted too that with such heavyweights as Microsoft and Salesforce bringing hundreds or thousands of new partners into their ecosystems every month, a great partner experience is quickly becoming as important as a great customer experience when companies look strategically to their future.

 

With this heightened awareness of the interrelated issues of customer and partner experience—especially the complex retention phase—how are we going to manage all these relationships and ecosystems? What sort of superheroes will be needed to lead behemoths like Microsoft, Google, Salesforce, IBM, and others into the partnering-everywhere world?

 

I think you know the answer. Who better than alliance professionals? As Jay said, they’re the ones with the right résumé to be ecosystem managers and orchestrators—not only in IT, but in biopharma, manufacturing, consumer goods, and across industries. These partnering specialists, collaboration leaders, and strategic visionaries have the capabilities, the skills, and the superhero savvy to get it done—the same attributes that make them ideal candidates for the C-suite.

 

So what’s holding us back? Despite an abundance of evidence, not enough companies have grasped the full implications. I see many organizations focused on the transaction—and not applying partnering best practice in the retention phase of sales partnerships. As Jay argues, some of them—even among the Fortune 500—will end up losers, sticking their heads in the sand and refusing to adapt to an oncoming future where customer satisfaction is increasingly delivered through a great partner experience (Px).

 

Alliance professionals can make Px a reality right now. The lessons of past partnership failures should be enough to rally today’s C-suite leaders to seek success in the massive partnerships their organizations will undertake. In addition, organizations must begin grooming their best alliance managers for the C-suite and other positions of leadership in the future—even as they’re employing them for partner and customer retention in the present. We have the tools, the skills, and the people to get the job done; what’s needed is a true focus and consensus that partnerships are difficult and require best practices and trained professionals to make them successful. That and a hardy band of partnering superheroes—with or without the cape.

Tags:  alliance professionals  Black Duck Software  Christine Carberry  collaborative leaders  c-Suite  ecosystem  Elizabeth Gazda  Embr Labs  Google  Harvard Business School  IBM  Jay McBain  Lou Shipley  Mai-Tal Kennedy  Microsoft  MIT  partnerships  Salesforce  UNH Entrepreneurship Cen  Vantage Partners 

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On the Eve of Disruption: Summit Keynote Will Explore How Digital Transformation Affects Nearly Every Industry

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Tuesday, April 7, 2020

“Disruption,” in addition to being a much-used term in the business press, is a two-edged sword: an exciting prospect if you’re the one doing the disrupting; not so much if your company or industry finds itself being disrupted and forced to scramble and adapt. Some disruptions may be temporary—as, we fervently hope, will be those spawned by COVID-19—while others are likely here to stay.

It’s these more lasting and far-reaching effects that will be the subject of a keynote address at the ASAP Global Alliance Summit, now scheduled for late June, to be given by Steve Steinhilber, global vice president of ecosystems and business development at Equinix. The presentation, titled “Creating Alliances and Digital Ecosystem Capabilities in an Increasingly Platform Enabled and Interconnected World,” will examine how the speed and scale of information technology growth and new global platforms will enable—and even necessitate—the digital transformation of nearly all businesses, creating many new business models in the process.

According to Steinhilber, the speed and rate of disruption varies by industry, but many existing value chains are already under significant disruptive threat. Industries that are “content sensitive or highly inefficient value chains” have already experienced this disruption, he said, as whole segments of the value chain have been eliminated. These industries include advertising, newspapers, movies, and retail, as well as the travel industry, including hotel bookings and other reservations services.

Others are either just starting out on this journey or find themselves somewhere in the middle. Steinhilber cited the automotive and transportation services industries as examples of verticals that are just beginning to experience the waves of change, while “all layers of the IT industry and also the satellite launch industry” are in the midst of ongoing disruption.

According to an IDC survey, by 2022—less than two years away—at least 60 percent of global GDP will be digitized, with growth in every industry driven by digitally enhanced offerings, operations, and relationships. And according to McKinsey, digital ecosystems will account for more than $60 trillion in revenue by 2025, or more than 30 percent of global corporate revenue. As we’ve seen—and if you haven’t already, check out our cover story on ecosystems in the Q1 2020 issue of Strategic Alliance Quarterly for more on this trend—these disruptive forces are enabled by an explosion of information technology delivered via platform-enabled companies monetized by new business models. These platform models are proving to be much more profitable than product pipeline business models, and also offer accelerated time to market for new products and services and create new ways to share the wealth. This has directly translated into massive growth in platform companies’ market capitalizations.

These new ecosystem- and platform-based models have significant implications for how partnering frameworks and practices are changing, said Steinhilber, requiring “a blend of both strategic, high-touch partner management as well as low-touch engagement via new tools and systems.” And as organizations as a whole struggle to adjust and adapt, today’s—and tomorrow’s—alliance and partnering professionals will need to change their ways, too.

“They’ll still need conventional strategic alliance skills in order to manage complex, highly strategic relationships,” Steinhilber said. “But they’ll also need to have the ability to build programmatic models to engage companies that are wanting to innovate on top of the platform. This means implementing new financial models such as revenue sharing, deploying tools to automate partner engagement and management, developing dashboards that can manage rapid scaling, and being able to ensure the quality of what partners are offering on your platform.”

Curious to learn more? Me too! Stay tuned for more information on this and other outstanding presentations to be offered at the upcoming ASAP Global Alliance Summit. 

Tags:  alliance  digital ecosystems  Digital Transformation  disruptive  ecosystem  engagement  Equinix  frameworks  IDC  IT industry  McKinsey  partner  partnering professionals  platform-based models  satellite launch industry  Steve Steinhilber  strategic relationships  value chains 

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Strategic Alliance Quarterly Q2 Outtakes: How Alliance Managers Keep Data Alliances from Running Afoul of IP, Privacy Laws

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Saturday, April 4, 2020

We’re deep in the throes of assembling our Q2 2020 edition of Strategic Alliance Quarterly, which means we’ve gathered insights from a number of ASAP members and friends of the community. As is always the case, not every useful tidbit of information we’ve gleaned will make it into the issue. That is where this blog comes in. It gives us a forum to share some tips that may one day come in handy for an alliance professional, and hints at what will hit your mailbox in the coming weeks.

This quarter’s Strategic Alliance Quarterly examines the tenets of IP and privacy law that alliance managers must know when putting together and running a data-driven alliance. The piece is a follow-on to our feature on early AI alliances that appeared in the previous issue. It covers some basics of specific statutes like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and chronicles some broad measures around negotiating initial contracts, handling data at all parts of the alliance life cycle, and driving amendments to the agreement when necessary.

A Template for Expediting Contract Negotiations

In the article, Rita Heimes, general counsel and privacy officer for the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), shared some valuable knowledge around how to determine whether the data at the heart of a partnership is classified as personally identifiable information (PII), and thus subject to GDPR and maybe CCPA regulations. She also outlined how to collect that data and transfer it to partners, when to dispose of it, and ways to limit liability where this new privacy legislation is vague.  

Heimes also had another pointer for alliance managers, who by and large don’t carry law degrees, that you won’t read in the full print story.

“It’s always a good idea to work with qualified counsel in the first instances [of working with data-driven alliances] to create a really robust template, assuming the alliance manager’s employer is in position to start the contract negotiations,” said Heimes. 

In Heimes’s estimation, creating and reusing a template will help alliance professionals learn the basic language of GDPR and CCPA and the entry-level issues they need to address on behalf of their organizations. Moreover, it gives them something concrete to fine-tune with legal if and when a potential partner has redlined a contract proposal or radically changed the initial terms. 

Creeping Toward a Potential Legal Breach

Brian O’Shaughnessy, partner at Dinsmore & Shohl LLP and a former ASAP BioPharma Conference co-presenter, talked about what he called “mission creep” in an alliance that spans several years. In the print version, he expanded on how alliance managers need to convene stakeholders regularly to check whether the alliance’s original purpose is still relevant and whether the current contract still reflects its mission. He spoke about the alliance manager’s critical responsibility for driving contract amendments should a collaboration take a slightly different course from the one charted at the outset of the voyage.

The print version also talks about some of the potential consequences if an alliance manager fails to catch this mission creep in time. The research team “might not be generating the data the other side [intended], or you’re not producing the products that they need,” O’Shaughnessy said by way of example. Or worse, employees executing alliance responsibilities could be using the partner’s IP in a way that’s not contemplated in the agreement—for example, using a diagnostic device to diagnose a condition it wasn’t intended for, a potentially costly contract infringement. Here is a quote that didn’t make the cut that provides a sense of what you will get in the Q2 2020 issue.   

“You don’t want to be the one that has invested millions of dollars and thousands of FTEs (full-time employee) to generate a bunch of information and data only to find out that because you were using that data wrong, or you weren’t complying with certain contractual obligations, now the other side can terminate the agreement, with the result that perhaps you don’t get the benefit you had sought,” said O’Shaughnessy.

Many ASAP members are involved in data-centric alliances around AI-powered drug discovery initiatives, IoT products or services, and new ways to diagnose patients’ illnesses more quickly and accurately, among many other use cases. Don’t miss the ASAP editorial team’s overview of the basics in keeping your data-centered alliance out of legal hot water stemming from IP misuse or privacy violations. Be on the lookout for the Q2 Strategic Alliance Quarterly in June.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already, check out your copy of the Q1 Strategic Alliance Quarterly and absorb the emerging best practices in joint marketing, collaborative selling, and research and development as they relate to AI alliances. 

Tags:  AI alliances  AI-powered  alliance managers  Contract Negotiations  data alliances  data-centered  data-centric  Dinsmore & Shohl LLP  drug discovery  General Data Protection Regulation  IP and privacy law  O’Shaughnessy  Rita Heimes  Strategic Alliance Quarterly 

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