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CAO Panel Reflects on Global Summit Opening Plenary

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/5/2013

Although the speakers at the earlier sessions of the 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit’s opening plenary represented vastly different industries and walks of life, a few common threads seemed to emerge across each presentation—changing ecosystems, disruption, and foresight, among others. This was noted in the final portion of the plenary, a roundtable titled, “Dialogue with the CAOs: Provocative Ideas for Elevating Leadership, Performance, and Value” moderated by ASAP Vice Chairman Jack Pearson, CSAP, managing director and chief alliance officer for Alliance Development International.

When asked what struck her the most of the ideas presented throughout the morning, Laura McCluer, director or partnerships and alliances at ANCILE Solutions, said she would heed the advice of keynote Alex Counts, head of the Grameen Foundation, not to “underestimate your capabilities.” She was also moved to issue herself and every other attendee in the IT industry to occasionally take a step back and try think through strategy more deliberately, so that you can “look for what you don’t see.” She explained that folks in IT are constantly in a hurry and that pace moves increasingly fast as executives move up the corporate ladder making it easy to miss opportunities and threats.

Posed with the same question, Harm-Jan Borgeld, head of alliance management at Merck Serono, took to heart Counts’ recommendation not to wait on an ideal prospective partner if they are not seeing the opportunity, a reference to the initial rejections from big banks that led the Grameen Foundation to lend to impoverished populations themselves on a larger scale. Of the plenary’s second speaker Steve Steinhilber, vice president of emerging solutions ecosystems at Cisco, Borgeld said he “could have been one of the nominees” for the Oscars because his performance was so impressive. He echoed the sentiment that companies need to be thinking five to ten years down the road, and added that “sometimes we also need to look 20, 30, 40 years out.”

Struck by Steinhilber’s illustration of the fall of former major giants like the big five record labels that ruled the recording industry for much of the last century until Apple’s innovations eroded their market caps, McCluer took to heart the message not to get too attached to your current partners, even ones with which you have worked hard to form strong bonds.

“You have to be flexible and look at other ways to create value,” she said.

McCluer also realized she had been mistakenly thinking of sustainability as its own industry until Christopher Turner, director of Rio+20 for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and director of state and local government at PricewaterhouseCoopers, showed the audience that everybody is affected by the need for sustainable business. Borgeld, too, noted that we need to look to the past to solve some of the issues related to sustainability, citing the example of Tokyo 150 years ago which had no waste management issues.

As someone who has made a career in the biopharma industry in which agreements are sealed with thousands of pages of contracts, Borgeld was incredulous that a handshake was all that was needed to hatch some of Grameen’s partnerships. His takeaway: “How can we simplify the work we are doing?”

The audience then met in groups to discuss the lessons they learned. One attendee noted that ASAP has to have an eye towards expansion of its membership to include the new players in this cross-boundary/cross-industry model. This new model needs to engage people, particularly senior level executives who need to understand the new ecosystem as it multiplies.

Another asked, “To what extent do alliance managers in organizations have strategic impact?” Since alliance managers often cannot bring new partners in completely on their own, how does an alliance pro assist senior leaders with this process?

“The light is shining on alliance management to take that leadership [in strategic thinking],” the attendee said.

When asked to offer closing thoughts, McCluer told the audience that the new alliance management professional needed to be a creative thinker who can work with new business models—a far cry from the days when alliance management was where “folks went to go when they didn’t know where to go.”

Borgeld recounted several lessons learned from his peers at an invitation-only CAO Roundtable the previous day. His Ipsen colleagues had business development and alliance management functions in equal standing reporting to one level of senior management. At Astellas, the CEO gets involved in committee disputes. Eli Lilly involves alliance management earlier in the contract negotiation process than he was accustomed to seeing. Novartis is always assessing the financial value alliance managers bring. Takeda drove home the notion that alliances will run much smoother if the proper groundwork is laid.

“If you do the first 100 days correctly, the other 200 or 2,000 days will be easier,” he said.

On that note, the plenary closed with perhaps the value proposition that was front-of-mind to most attendees by the end of the morning: lunch.

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How Do Partners Stay Together? A Decade of HP-Microsoft

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/5/2013

Two companies. Two cultures. Two sets of management. Two different fiscal years. Even two different sets of three-letter acronyms. Sound familiar? Could be the story of any alliance—but in this case it’s the Frontline Partnership of Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard, which has endured for a decade so far.

Jack Baratta and Lisa Slim told the story of this long-running alliance in their presentation “Allies for the Long Haul: A Decade Inside the HP-Microsoft Frontline Partnership,” this afternoon as the 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit rolled on here in Orlando. Slim is the director of the Microsoft Alliance Americas Enterprise Group at Hewlett-Packard, while Baratta served in that same role until recently. In her current role, Slim now manages 110 people across the Americas who are working only on this alliance. Both have seen the alliance evolve and succeed during the decade of its existence, overcoming many challenges.

How did they do it? They faced up to their challenges and learned from the “school of hard knocks,” according to Baratta. The challenges and differences between the two companies ranged from “Ugh!” to “OMG!” to “the worst,” as Baratta put it—everything from cultural differences to customer segments, from geographic differences to changes in leadership and other personnel, all the way up to coopetition and acquisitions. The “worst” challenges included value migration, strategic evolution, and changing business models. “The degree of complexity amps up quite a bit,” said Baratta.

Slim talked about the learnings gleaned from this alliance, noting that a big one involved leadership: “You have to inspire and lead your teams to press on and adapt,” she said. The HP-Microsoft “Recipe for Collaborative Success,” Slim noted, included having a consistent joint framework, the right people, cyclical collaborative planning, a focus on execution, communicating value, governance cadence, and self-examination.

The two companies worked with Alliancesphere to help iron out some of the problems in the relationship. “Quite frankly there was some dysfunctional behavior, and we were very determined that people be treated in the right way,” Baratta recalled.

“When the wheels fly off, they can really fly off and completely stall the sales process,” Slim acknowledged. This necessitates having open, “adult conversations” with the partner to straighten things out, said Baratta. In this as in any alliance, problems left unresolved tend to rebound and result in disappointment for the customer; in that case, both partners lose.

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Vision 2050: Summit Speaker Discusses Business, Individual Roles in Creating a Sustainable Future

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/5/2013

Continuing the run of broad-ranging topics with global reach this morning at the 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit in Orlando, Christopher Turner discussed how issues of sustainability figure in business planning, particularly alliances, as we look toward the future both as alliance professionals and citizens of the world. In his presentation, “Everybody Get Together: Creating a Sustainable Future,” Turner, director of Rio+20 for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and director of state and local government at PricewaterhouseCoopers, emphasized that the future is approaching rapidly and with it the looming challenges represented by climate change, depletion of natural resources, disposal of waste, and water and energy efficiency, among others.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), based in Geneva, created an initiative called Vision 2050: what would the world look like in 2050 if its 9 billion people were living sustainably? The WBCSD, in a three-year effort, worked with many companies and interest groups to examine the worst and best cases, and to devise a “trajectory” toward that sustainable view. Vision 2050 assumed two goals: high human development (access to health care, clean water, good living conditions, etc.) and low average biocapacity (or consumption) per person. Within that framework, Turner said, the WBCSD asked: “What are the must-haves? What do businesses need to do in partnership with governments and NGOs to make this happen?”

Many of the programs developed by the WBCSD are “essentially alliances,” said Turner, bringing together on average five to 15 companies for discussion, promotion, and research around these issues, engaging industry along with NGOs, academia, and governments. These programs center around such issues as greenhouse gases, water, cement production sustainability, forestry solutions, electric utilities, efficiency in buildings, and sustainability challenges in urban areas, among others.

Another effort in which the WBCSD has been involved is the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20—so named because it took place 20 years after the first Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro. The 10-day conference on sustainable development, according to turner, didn’t have a lot of money behind it, and drew up no new treaties or rules, but was the scene of a “tremendous shift, a tipping point, from businesses being seen as pariahs, raping and pillaging, as polluters, to where we’re now seen as a protector. Certainly there’s still a lot of consumption, but the [positive] role of business is unquestioned.”

Turner also highlighted the importance of “people who know how to manage alliances and measure them”—such as, most obviously, the many 2013 ASAP Global Summit attendees in the audience. At Rio+20, Turner said, there were “many groups trying to form alliances to drive real action and investment in sustainability, but very little of it worked” due to too many competing interests, and perhaps an insufficient collaborative mindset. “Very few had the skills and ability to drive that collaboration that you need to drive action and real benefits,” he said.

But times are changing around the world, and businesses are seeing both the risk and the opportunity in sustainability concerns. At the same time, their customers, especially the younger generations, are already clued in to these issues and are demanding more eco-friendly products and services, which has an impact on both the marketing of new products and on the development of those products themselves. And while some products, such as the hybrid Toyota Prius, may not “look cool,” it’s becoming clear that “sustainability is cool—efficiency is cool!” Turner said.

Is there a role in all this for alliance managers? Definitely, said Turner. “Think about the alliances you’re running now and the disruptions you’re facing, and put sustainability on that list.”

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Creature Discomforts—Cisco Exec Urges Summit Attendees Not to Rest On Laurels

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/5/2013

Continuing the 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit opening plenary’s theme of thinking outside the box, Steve Steinhilber, vice president of emerging solutions ecosystems at Cisco and author of Strategic Alliances: Three Ways to Make Them Work, began his presentation “The Revolution Will Be Collaborative: How Alliance Models Must Evolve to Compete in a Fast-Changing World” by warning the crowd that “my job [today] is to make you uncomfortable.”

Steinhilber spent the majority of his session imploring attendees to look out for disruption in their respective industries coming in many forms and figure out how to adapt your partner ecosystem accordingly.

“If you haven’t thought [about your partner portfolio] through a new lens [after my presentation], I haven’t done my job,” he said.

Steinhilber painted a short- and long-term business landscape that will see rapid change at a pace that will only increase with time.

“Hold onto your chair,” he said. “Significant value will be created and destroyed as technology and other things come together.”

Steinhilber walked through several industries with value chains that have been radically transformed by technology and other factors over the course of the new millennium, including radio, television, music, cell phones, and retail. The commonalities for the old players that used to rule those industries: they had built strong links and partner ecosystems for their old model, but those strengths became weaknesses because they couldn’t adapt to disruption.

Every industry is either undergoing or will go through either a revolution or evolution in the next few years due to similar forces that took the aforementioned industries by storm—most notably technology, shifting demographics, new services models, deregulation, and growing influence of partnering.

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory,” joked Steinhilber.

He walked through new products and services in automotive (smart cars), manufacturing (integrated digital plant floor systems), utilities (cloud-based energy management), health care (delivery of services to the home via technology), and financial services (capital markets delivery platform in NY, Toronto, and Tokyo) that illustrate the impact these forces are having.

Steinhhilber asked the audience to look at their current partner ecosystems in the following lenses: 1) Can I reimagine where the changes are coming from, and can I reengineer my model around that change? 2) How do I build new value chains?

More specifically, Steinhilber laid out five broad areas of each industry’s partner value chain: R&D, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and support. He urged the audience to answer questions such as are the players along this chain staying the same in five years? Who might be the new players Where do I play in this chain? Where can I use partners to create new control points?

To the latter point, he illustrated five potential “control points” that could be the source of opportunity or disruption:
  • Account control—control based on degree of customer influence by a partner
  • Economic control—control of a significant amount of financial or business impact (e.g., Apple’s influence via iPhone, iPad, and other consumer products).
  • Technology control—“If we can do something better than other players and it’s hard to do and it adds value [to the end customer], we create a control point,” said Steinhilber.
  • Partner landscape control—creating an ecosystem in which others can’t afford not to be participate (Apple’s iPhone, iPad developer ecosystem)
  • Services control—cloud-based models and others that deliver capabilities and services
The last control point is significant because companies can launch even greater value and create new market opportunities once they have deeply penetrated others’ operational model.

Not only should companies assess the changes in their industries as well as the potential new partners that could drive that change in your favor, they should also question whether they are good partners themselves.

“Am I a good date to other companies?” asked Steinhilber.

Steinhilber related Cisco’s experiences of initial resistance encountered by partners which thought these new partnering models would cut into their revenues. He urged audiences to understand their prospective partner’s value proposition and make them understand you are trying to grow the cake so everyone gets a bigger slice.

Steinhilber ended the presentation on a similar note to how he began it.

“Feel uncomfortable,” he urged.

Change is afoot, and it’s probably too close for comfort.

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Summit Begins with Keynote by Grameen Foundation’s Alex Counts

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/5/2013

The 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit kicked off this morning with rousing music and a full house at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. After opening remarks by ASAP president and CEO Art Canter, board chair Russ Buchanan, CSAP, and program chair Jan Twombly, CSAP, the stage was set for the first keynote speaker, Alex Counts, head of the Grameen Foundation, a global microfinance organization that works to alleviate poverty in developing nations by partnering with corporations, governments, NGOs, villages, and various local entities.

Counts spoke about the history of Grameen Foundation, its work, its partnerships around the world, and some of the challenges it faces in forming and managing its own brand of alliances. Founded in 1987 by Counts with $6,000 in seed money from Grameen Bank founder and Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, Grameen Foundation has grown to a $20 million international organization. Running projects from Bangladesh to Ghana and Uganda to Indonesia and beyond, Grameen seeks to alleviate poverty by providing economic opportunity and access to information and health care to poor people in developing nations.

“We often see the poor through their disabilities, from what they lack,” Counts explained. “But another lens is to look at them through what they have—their skills, especially their ability to stay alive. That is a skill that can be capitalized.”

Among its many projects, Grameen Foundation has provided microcredit in Bangladesh, mobile phones to village women to use in business in Bangladesh and Uganda, mobile health care in Ghana, and women’s empowerment programs in the Arab world. To succeed in these efforts, Grameen works through partnerships with companies such as Google, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, and Qualcomm, plus organizations like the Gates Foundation and the World Bank, and local companies and entities—all the way down to the village level.

Grameen's complex alliances experience many of the same successes, failures, and challenges as alliances that operate purely in the business realm. Counts said that the lessons learned from his years of partnering experience include the importance of establishing trusting relationships (while not becoming overly reliant on them), surfacing and acknowledging stereotypes about partners and transcending them, developing champions of the alliance while also anticipating the consequences when those champions inevitably leave, and measuring “the right things” to show how an alliance is delivering value for an organization—and where it is falling short.

Maintaining openness to ambiguity and informality across cultures is also key to Grameen’s partnering successes, as is assuming good intentions on others’ part until convinced otherwise. And in closing, Counts related his “single biggest insight”: “how incredibly important it is to try to see the world through the eyes of the people you’re working with, and other people generally. What does it look like from where they sit? What does their private conversation about you look like?” As Counts noted, taking this approach doesn’t mean you have to agree with your partners’ perceptions, but being honest about differences and even stereotypes “gives deep insight” and can help avoid misunderstandings, reroute alliances that are going “off the rails,” and propel partnerships—whether for-profit or non-profit—to greater maturity and success.

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