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Not a Mad Dash: A Key Alliance Document for the Executive Suite

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 11/21/2013

In their 2013 ASAP BioPharma Conference presentation “Creating and Implementing an Executive Dashboard,” Christian de la Tour and Agnès Golléty, both of Ipsen, remarked that creating this document is a good way to get a strong commitment and support for alliance management from senior management—but they may not have needed it at their company.

“At Ipsen it has never been an issue, and we are blessed by the gods in a sense,” said de la Tour. Partnering is core to Ipsen, and has been for 30 years at least, he added, so alliance management is both a highly visible function and a revenue growth driver. Ipsen’s alliance management team separated from business development in 2011, and Ipsen has become increasingly involved in ASAP, contributing conference keynote speakers and a profile subject (their CEO) in Strategic Alliance Magazine.

Although Golléty is a financial controller and not an alliance manager, she’s part of the alliance management team now and was a driving force in the creation of the dashboard. Its objectives are twofold: to serve as a communication tool with senior executives, and to encourage collaboration among all stakeholders in an alliance and across alliances. In addition, it provides financial analysis with KPIs, outlines key activities, and identifies operational and financial risks.

The dashboard itself involves two deliverables: a “strategic and synthetic document” intended for the executive suite; and specific, individual dashboards shared by alliance managers with their respective umbrella teams and the head of franchise.

Primarily, Golléty said, “It’s a help for us when we want to understand better the financial [picture].”

After one year of experience, the dashboard has proven itself to be a useful tool and, in addition to giving executives a vivid picture of the operational and financial implications of alliances, it has increased awareness within the company of alliance management issues.

But of course there’s room for improvement: future goals include involving more partners in data collection, and adapting this first version of the dashboard to emerging specific needs.

In conclusion, said de la Tour with some humor, “We hope we have been able to prove that at Ipsen we have the right tool and the right team to be your partner in the very near future.”

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Flag Wavers: Getting the C-Suite on Your Side

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 11/21/2013

On Thursday afternoon at the 2013 ASAP BioPharma Conference, in their presentation “Listening In on the C-Suite: And Getting Senior Executives to Carry the Alliance Flag,” Mary Jo Struttmann of Astellas US and Jeff Shuman of The Rhythm of Business showed how Astellas implemented several tools and processes to rationalize its alliance management operations and measure and monitor how well they are delivering value and how they could be improved.

Noting that alliances are “conceptually easy but operationally hard,” Shuman led off by arguing that alliance managers’ real job is to lead and get alignment, realize the strategic intent of their alliances, and get out in front of potential brushfires—which means not just putting them out but preventing them from happening. Moreover, he added that many alliance professionals complain that “My senior management just doesn’t understand what I do.” But as the world changes and becomes more collaborative, he said, alliance people need to “flip the question” and focus on the strategic issues that are “front and center to the executive suite and focus on their agenda”—a case, perhaps, of Ask not what the C-Suite can do for you, but…

“You’ll be speaking their language and help them make better decisions. It’s absolutely critical to flip the question,” he summarized.

Astellas came out of a merger of two Japanese companies in 2005. Struttmann was hired at that time to manage two critical alliances for the U.S. In 2007, the company added to its portfolio of alliances, and by 2008 started implementing the VitalSigns assessment from The Rhythm of Business to measure its alliances. In 2009, this was followed by a Positive Impact Assessment to get feedback from internal customers.

According to both presenters, alliances should deliver three types of value: financial value (making money), risk mitigation (proactively looking around corners and watching out for problems), and partnering effectiveness (reducing cost of time). Struttmann asked her team to look at these measures and see where they were having positive impact. “We’ve learned a lot through the years—we learned how to do something better,” she said.

Astellas next worked with The Rhythm of Business on a Partner Listening Tour, talking to 30 executives within Astellas, as well as affiliates, different functions, and partners.

“They value the fact that you’re wanting to hear [from them], and they think more highly of you because of that,” Struttmann said. “But you have to be prepared for the feedback. We heard good feedback and bad feedback. People wanted more from us, and it was a good thing. Senior executives were expecting more. Some things hit me in the gut, but we really had to act on it and show that.”

Struttmann and her team looked for patterns and common themes in order to make an action plan. “Don’t take it personally!” she advised. “Look at what we can do to address what we’re hearing. This is our customer, and we have to meet our customer’s needs. And there was a common theme: we needed to take a strong leadership role, be more strategic, and step up to the plate.”

Among the outcomes were that alliances were now discussed in new forums within the company; there were semiannual alliance reviews at the C-level; the organization was engaged in enhancing governance practices; there was a new focus on relationships with governance leaders; alliances were integrated into Astellas’s standard operating procedures (SOPs); and finally, the strategic plan produced was cascaded to all key alliances.

Going forward, the plan is to continue this conversation at the executive level, and get the C-Suite’s help with internal alignment. This is what the presenters meant by getting senior leadership to “carry the flag.”

In conclusion, Shuman emphasized that “You can get better at alliance management. It’s a challenging job, but an exciting job. We’re all collaborating more than we used to be, so it’s a skill set that will serve you well.”

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The Goal of Law Enforcement and Alliance Management: Stay out of the Fire and the Clouds

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 11/21/2013

In his presentation “Law and Order: How Handling a Hostage Situation and Managing Alliances Have a Lot in Common,” Mike Berglund, CA-AM, director of alliance management at Eli Lilly and Company, attempted to draw some parallels to his current alliance management role and his 10-year stint in law enforcement, in which he last served as a sergeant outside of Milwaukee. They are “eerily similar,” he insisted. Conversely, people use to tell Berglund after his police career was over, “At least you’re not getting shot out.” He would often reply, “At least I knew who the bad guys were.”

Throughout the presentation, Berglund sought to discuss how alliance managers could use their vision, judgment, and influence to achieve the balance between staying out of the clouds (i.e., keeping too much distance) and the fire (i.e., being too close to keep a healthy perspective)?

Early in his presentation, Berglund used the example of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing to illustrate a lack of leadership in a crisis situation. Dozens of emergency vehicles that had reached he scene to pick up the thousands of injured citizens found that they couldn't get to the hospital due to gridlocked traffic around the scene. Similarly, when a 29-year-old Berglund once stormed into a house during pursuit of a suspect in Milwaukee, family members of the homeowner started to rush the scene. Instinctively, Berglund rushed to divert the family away, and the suspect he was supposed to focus on eventually fled the scene in the chaos. The commonality to both situations: you might take the wrong actions when you’re “in the fire,” said Berglund.

Berglund went on to outline signs that an alliance management might be too close to a situation: when you are negotiating on behalf of your organization rather than the alliance—i.e., when tunnel vision prevents you from being an ombudsman. Likewise, you might be too far if you only attend governance meetings and distribute surveys, or perhaps you have little awareness of the risks and pending escalations occurring in your partnership; you might also have too much distance if the alliance has stopped delivering business value, the alliance manager is failing to understand the core issues, or stakeholders are overreacting in their responses to situations.

Berglund urged the audience to mull over four takeaways:
  • Ensure the alliance manager’s ombudsman role is understood within your organization-it is all about the asset, not the company
  • Call it like you see it-regarldess of whether your management wants to hear it
  • Communicate why it’s important to be integrated with the team and the alliance
  • Look for “grey space” opportunities to demonstrate leadership ability-getting alignment between United States and Europe activities may not fall to commercial or business development; alliance management can take control and drive this objective to fruition

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How to Keep On Keeping On: Sanofi and Bristol Myers Squibb

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 11/21/2013

The first afternoon session on Thursday at the 2013 ASAP BioPharma Conference, “Long May You Run: Inside the Sanofi-Bristol Myers Squibb Alliance,” examined how a decade-plus collaboration was kept going between, asMike Iafolla of Bristol Myers Squibb put it, “a very American company and a very French company.”

Iafolla and his counterpart at Sanofi,Thierry Saugier, discussed some of the key points and nuances in the alliance, principally involving Plavix, which began in the early 1990s and continued through the loss of patent exclusivity in the United States last year. Like most alliances, the partners in this one were very different: not only from different cultures, but having different investment philosophies, decision-making processes, and approaches to risk, among other areas, according to Iafolla. Yet in the face of both internal and external challenges, Sanofi and BMS teamed up to develop, produce, market and sell what became the second-largest brand in biopharma (though Iafolla acknowledged that it will likely soon be passed in that position).

By 2011, Plavix was a “mature brand,” in Iafolla’s phrase, and the two companies had to face and plan for LOE, or loss of exclusivity, and figure out how and whether the alliance would keep going beyond that point. After negotiations, they were ultimately successful, and the alliance was restructured in 2012, with Sanofi now managing the business and paying royalties to BMS.

So how did they do it? According to Iafolla and Saugier, the key points for managing the alliance successfully included:
  • Managing changes within both companies—ensuring continuity and history, and keeping an archive of key data and decisions.
  • Senior management commitment—steering committee included, with relationships built and nurtured early before crises happen.
  • Effective, rapid dispute resolution—not relying only on the contract and governance committees, but also on alternative or parallel mechanisms, and involving legal as appropriate and not in a “paranoid” manner. (As Saugier noted, going to arbitration or litigation means “losing control” over the asset and the alliance.)
  • Clear alliance and business objectives—a recognition that the contract is important but it doesn’t operationalize the alliance, and, as Saugier said, “Sometimes you have to ‘shake the coconuts’ and challenge the status quo.”
  • Culture and people—as Iafolla noted, “you can’t get anything done without good people, and while you always have “brilliant experts,” it’s good to make sure the soft skills are there too to manage the alliance and that in any dispute, you discern between strongly held positions and bad behavior.
  • Watch areas where either company holds a casting vote—it should be used sparingly and with transparency.
Finally, both Saugier and Iafolla stressed that keeping a “permanent dialogue” going and establishing and maintaining trust are number-one priorities.

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Big Pharma Alliance Management Heads Discuss Arbitration and How to Avoid It at BioPharma Conference

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 11/21/2013

Arbitration is a rare occurrence in alliances. Normally, disputes are resolved through operating committees, the Joint Steering Committee, or perhaps two very highly placed executives from each organization. However, if all else fails, many contracts build in arbitration as the ultimate step for forcing and agreement when formal dialogue cannot produce a resolution.

In a 2013 ASAP BioPharma Conference panel session titled “Arbitration: How to Avoid It—and What to Do When You Can’t,” four leaders of the alliance management functions of big pharmaceutical organizations—Dr. Robert Wills, Ph.D., vice president of global alliance management at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson; Dr. Varavani Dwarki, CA-AM, vice president of global alliance management at Sanofi; Andy Hull, vice president of global alliance management at Takeda Pharmaceuticals; and Jason Powell, CA-AM, general manager of global pipeline marketing at AbbVie—entertained several questions related to avoiding arbitration, managing the process when it is required, and dealing with the aftermath of a decision.

Here are some highlights from the panel, which was moderated by Wills.

What role does alliance management play before a dispute makes it to arbitration, and who is involved when it escalates to executives?

This is where the equity you have earned by building a strong relationship with your alliance manager counterpart pays off, according to Powell. The use of “off-the-record” or “sidebar” conversations is critical to getting to the bottom of a situation and keeping the relationship on track as the dispute escalates.

Hull pointed out that legal, functional leaders, and Joint Steering Committee members have been engaged by the time arbitration is in sight. Everyone knows the consequences of arbitration can be very negative, so there is a great incentive to “give it another shot” before going to arbitration.

Dwarki’s main takeaway: keep the asset the primary focus while the process takes shape. Neglecting the asset’s interests is “the worst thing you can do.”

If negotiations have gone down to the 11th hour, a change in scenery for senior executives can help diffuse emotions, according to Wills. It’s human nature to react differently when the partner executive is in the same room versus when you’re alone in your office where your anger can potentially fester. He likened it to the difference between “blowing whistle in a dog’s face” as opposed to blowing it while the dog’s head is sticking out the window, happily breathing in fresh air.

Now, you’re in arbitration. What do you do with teams and people involved?

Although people usually associate arbitrations with tension and ill feelings, Hull actually felt it could have a positive effect in two circumstances: 1) if both companies are so far apart after objective analysis that an unbiased party thinks a 50-50 compromise is unrealistic, and 2) if a compromise would be unfair. To Hull. An independent third party expert “isn’t the worst thing in the world” at this point.

Wills and Powell stressed the importance of limiting the number of people deposed and involved in the arbitration, wherever possible. The alliance manager will play a big role in the arbitration because he or she has the most knowledge of the relationship. Sometimes the alliance manager will lead the arbitration efforts with the lawyers running the process, according to Wlils. Powell added that the alliance manager has to maintain a strong relationship with the alliance manager counterpart, so that the healing process proceeds much faster after the arbitration.

Hull made the point that managing the legal process as an arbitration takes its course can be much easier for disagreements concerning specific functional areas. However, if the dispute is central to the joint working committees, that added layer of legal involvement during the arbitration period can get tricky.

How do you instill in alliance team members that they need to be careful as the legal process takes its course?

Wills recounted that Janssen’s legal warned employees that careless communications can lead to a deposition and/or jail time, which got everyone’s attention.

The panel also agreed that it was imperative to find ways to communicate without legal without putting your organization in hot water. Wills recounted that the “redlining [of documents by legal] got so dysfunctional.” On the flip side, he later warned of potential ramifications of ignoring legal altogether—he recalled an instance in which four sentences destroyed an entire case.

Dwarki suggested a good alliance manager will sit with the legal team and do more than just wordsmith. He noted that root causes of the arbitration went well beyond the actual arbitration issue, and was often the result of other underlying factors in the relationship. The alliance manager was critical in providing this insight, both to the legal team managing communications and the alliance team dealing with their counterparts while the process took shape.

How do you implement changes that have mandated by an arbitration decision?

Powell said he starts by pulling the core team of six or so people together to assess the situation in the aftermath. If people are not speaking the language of “let’s move forward,” getting the alliance back on track may not be as tough as you might think. However, if bitter feelings linger, a formal “relaunch” of the partnership may help move things forward again.

Again, Hull reminded the audience that having an objective person weigh in can help with a relaunch; the objective ruling is not always “a bad starting point.”

In Dwarki’s observation, the joint assessment of the decision and why it happened should “percolate down” starting with a crisp dialogue between the Joint Steering Committee members. “Transparency” is a much better way to move forward, he added.

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