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Talk About a Revolution: Alliances and Social Media

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/6/2013

Social media: What is it? How can it be used to promote alliances? And where to start and how to do it? Those questions and more were addressed this afternoon on day two of the 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, as presenters Kim Tremblay, senior director of global strategic alliance marketing at Schneider Electric, and Candice Kyzer, marketing manager for global strategic alliances at Schneider Electric, laid out the social media landscape for alliance managers in “What’s the Buzz: How the Smart Use of Social Media Can Accelerate Alliance Culture.”

“There are some amazing things that can be done with social media,” said Tremblay, pointing to the emergence in world politics of the Arab Spring—a revolution, as she observed, that was started and accelerated by social media. And while alliance managers may not think of themselves as fomenting revolution in their companies, even their internal and external marketing efforts can be radically transformed by the deployment of a concerted social media strategy—if done properly.

Along with a survey of some of the more popular social media platforms—such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest—Tremblay and Kyzer proceeded to give their six steps for planning and executing a social media effort:
  1. Objectives: What are you trying to do?
  2. Determine platforms: Choose and agree on which media to use (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc.).
  3. Establish measurement tools: Whether free or paid software products measuring sentiment, message amplification, geographic penetration, gender distribution, popularity peaks.
  4. Response management: Need to respond in a timely manner and respectfully.
  5. Execute: “Put on your hard hat and dig in!” exhorted Kyzer.
  6. Monitor and measure: An ongoing process.
Corporate blogging, and collaboration between partners on same, is another key social media platform. Schneider Electric started doing it two years ago, according to Tremblay. Bloggion can deliver content in digestible bits, build blogger “personalities,” and allow the use of a more relaxed style than other corporate communications, including more personal opinions—all in the service of motivating people, copromoting content with partners, and delivering business value.

Regular social media communication helps increase and foster alliance awareness and contributes to alliance culture, according to Tremblay and Kyzer. Schneider Electric does trainings with guidelines for bloggers on writing a good blog, including links, writing to the appropriate length, and avoiding misrepresentation.

But in the final analysis, with all the caveats and steps to follow, Tremblay advised attendees that in social media, alliance managers should just “get out of your comfort zone and take the plunge.” Revolution, anybody?

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Keeping Cool Amid Chaos in the Alliance Hot Seat

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/6/2013

In trying to describe a “day in the life” of an alliance manager, Subhojit Roye, head of alliances at Infosys BPO Limited, came up with a number of metaphors: being in the “hot seat” in the alliance “situation room,” or feeling like “a gladiator in the ring,” among others.

“There were times I didn’t know what I was doing in a meeting, just going from one session to the next and having back-to-back conference calls,” he admitted. “It feels like a madhouse, each time you’re wearing a different hat, sometimes in the same meeting. Sometimes it’s just chaos. So how do I find a method in the madness?”

How indeed. Roye urged the 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit attendees to ask themselves the following questions in this “situation room”: Who am I inside? What role do I play? What game am I playing? And how do I play well?

In addition, a good alliance professional needs to be constantly switching gears—or hats—between the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. “Whatever you did at a transactional or deal level, what does it mean at a strategic level?” Roye explained.

Roye also mentioned the “IDEA” approach to the alliance life cycle: the acronym stands for Identify, Define, Establish, Assess.

A second acronym Roye presented was SMILES—a type of report that uncovers Suspects (potential new partners), Milestones (e.g. a product launch or event, or a partner moving to a new level in the alliance life cycle); Interactions (meetings or calls); Leads; Exits; and Successes. The use of SMILES makes for a unified way for alliance managers to report the status of their alliances, and serves as a framework for thinking and reporting.

Final questions Roye left the audience with were: What are the resources I have? Are these concepts relevant to my situation? If I’m starting from scratch, can I apply IDEA and SMILES as is? If not, can I modify my current systems? How elaborate does my system need to be? Finally, can I share my experience with my peers at ASAP?

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Disruption Eruption—ASAP Toronto Chapter President Examines History, Current Landscape of Market-Disturbing Innovations

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/6/2013

Getting back to some of the insights from the first day of the 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, ASAP Toronto chapter president Phil Hogg, CA-AM, vice president of strategic alliances for Moneris Solutions, closed out the day with his presentation “Next-Wave Challenges, Next-Wave Opportunities: The Impact of Disruptive Technologies on Strategic and Operational Fit,” which traced the history of disruptive innovation, described the main characteristics of such advances, and revealed how this applies to today’s business landscape, particularly in relation to mobile technologies.

Although people associate disruptive innovation today with technology-based products and services such as cloud computing, mobile, and social media, it would be a misconception to think that market disturbance is always technology-based. This became apparent from Hogg’s quick history of this type of market force. He walked attendees through the story of the steel mill industry, which saw over time the dissolution of once-powerful large integrated steel mills that proliferated in the United States last century. Starting in the 1960s, smaller mini-mills ultimately eroded the larger mills margins one steel type at a time, starting with the lower-margin rebar steel type and ultimately usurping the larger mills’ hegemony in every steel category, including angle iron, structural steel, and sheet metal.

The steel mill example illustrated one commonality of most if not all disruptive innovations: they have the luxury of starting with a small lower-margin market. In general, these products and services tend to be affordable, accessible, and effective. In addition, performance thresholds can be lower for disruptors; the first generations of mobile phones had poor sound quality, but the benefit of mobility outweighed the negatives. Moreover, the first entry into these markets usually comes out ahead, whether it be Amazon (online retail), Dell (PC/desktop market), or Toyota (fuel-efficient cars).

One reason established companies fail to combat these forces is that traditional training sometimes fails to prepare them. According to Hogg, business school training emphasizes understanding your best customers and focusing on highest-growth products. However, disruptors can enter the market through products that are essentially rejected by the bigger players. Moreover, the aforementioned lack of similar margin pressure might steer a disruptor to a blind spot on the bigger player’s radar. Hogg used the term “asymmetric motivation”—the principle that one company’s strength is another’s weakness.

How can a big company protect itself? Through acquisition, internal development, and spinoffs such as Intel’s Celeron chip set series aimed at the low-end of that market segment.

“Intel essentially became its own disruptor,” said Hogg.

Moneris, Canada’s largest credit and debit card payment processor, is dealing with mobile devices as a disruptor to its market. It is working with partners on two fronts: for current clients, it is providing its eSELECTplus Mobile option to provide clients the ability to process payments with mobile devices; new customers can select Moneris’s Payd offering, which allows new consumers to download software that provides mobile payment processing.

The bad news for alliance managers? Product life cycles will be in the decline stage. Whatever was used five years ago will soon not be a strategic fit. Operational fit (resource allocation, time dedication, etc.) will erode with some longstanding partners with whom you may have grown comfortable.

On the other side of the coin, “ally” will be the right choice oftentimes following a build-buy-partner analysis since it is frequently a lower-cost avenue to approach a problem. It also provides quick entry into the disruptor’s market. Moreover, the exit strategy is commonly easier.

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Setting Up the Alliance Function

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/6/2013

For a century or more, accounting firms like KPMG provided consulting services, according to Gerry Dehkes, director of alliance management at KPMG LLP. This came to be seen as a conflict of interest, so these consulting practices were largely broken up and separated—with the loss of all their associated alliances. Over the last decade or so some of this consulting business has been built back up. Consequently, said Dehkes, KPMG recognized that it needed a formal alliance management function in order to grow its consulting practice. Dehkes was selected to “stand up” the new alliance practice, starting in October 2010.

The story of this “journey,” as Dehkes termed it, from building an alliance management function from scratch up to optimization of alliances within KPMG, was the subject of a presentation by Dehkes and his colleage David Erlenborn, director of strategic alliances at KPMG LLP, entitled “Laying the Foundation: Setting Up an Alliance Management Function in Your Organization,” this morning at the 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit.

KPMG’s auditing and tax businesses don’t grow that fast, according to Dehkes; its consulting services do. So how to set up the alliance management function for this business and organize it globally? “We viewed this as a people and change problem,” Dehkes said. People and groups within the company needed to act differently: sponsors, alliance partners, and account teams.

Erlenborn added that it was important to be clear about purpose and objectives. “We’re not there to build successful alliances. We’re there to build successful business through alliances,” he explained. KPMG sought to move from a situation of “alliance push” to “sponsor pull”: from a more opportunistic approach to alliances to a more proactive strategy focused on alliance optimization. “Nirvana is getting up to ‘how do I optimize this?’” he said.

To get there, the company took it on as a step-by-step process, using various strategy tools, “cheat sheets,” and a sales playbook. “It was more important that we were using a consistent set of proven tools rather than inventing something new,” said Dehkes.

The “last mile,” according to Dehkes, was the hiring of alliance enablement directors (AEDs). The AED is the single point of contact for an alliance, to get KPMG’s and the partner’s sales teams working together. And among all the process steps and points, Dehkes stressed that it’s important to communicate wins and other successes. “People need to feel this is working.”

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Getting Horizontal in Alliance Ecosystems

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/6/2013

Alliances between two companies are complicated enough—but how do you manage alliances involving multiple partners with sometimes differing objectives? The answer: very carefully.

Christophe Melle, head of strategic alliances and partnerships for Philips Lighting, addressed this subject in “Getting Horizontal: Building Alliance Ecosystems with Partners from Different Industries,” this morning at the 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit in Orlando. Philips, which in addition to lighting also has health care and consumer lifestyles businesses, has been involved in multiparty ecosystems for some years but primarily for standardization purposes, as in the Blu-ray alliance. “We see an emerging trend of multipartner alliances, to serve a customer need and bring a complete solution into the market,” said Melle. “It’s not a new subject, but at Philips it’s growing and it has brought us quite some learning.”

Among the multiparty alliances in which Philips has been engaged are a “Smart Society” program in Almere, Netherlands, with Cisco, IBM, and Liander, involving smart lighting (Philips’s role), the smart grid, an urban operating system, and more. Another project has Philips working with Haworth, Ecophon, and Somfy on thought leadership in achieving enhanced well-being in offices in Europe. This project, just starting to be deployed, seeks to provide more comfort and energy efficiency in European offices at lower cost.

As is often the case with alliances, the opportunities are many and great—but so too are the challenges. “Multiparty alliances are generating much more complexity than one-to-one alliances,” Melle acknowledged. In these complex ecosystems, you’re not always cooperating or collaborating with the same partner, there may be areas of coopetition, and you have to manage trust and credibility while not being exclusive. Schneider Electric is just one of Philips’s many partners, said Melle by way of example. “We can cooperate in some areas, and in some we are competing. How do we manage that? We can’t kill each other, we have to work together.”

The success of multiparty alliances depends on trust, as well as processes and competencies, said Melle. “Right at the beginning, we name the elephant in the room. We put it on the table. If you wait too [long], you will not build trust.” Processes that are key include partner selection tools; clarity on choices, goals, concerns, and benefits; frequency and structure of communication; and a simplified governance model to balance more complex networks. The competencies involved include multiparty diplomacy and influencing; trust and credibility; empathy with multiple perspectives; insights into and understanding of different industries and business models (complementary or overlapping); and the legal issues that can arise out of multiparty and bilateral agreements.

In the Q&A session at the end of the presentation, one audience member mentioned the ecosystems in which Apple is involved, in which that company tends to be the controlling force. How can ecosystems be formed with more equal partners—and what would “equal” mean in that context?

“Equal will not work,” Melle answered. “But each party getting the benefit they want—that’s easier. Everything starts from the customer. What is the driver?”

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