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AI Is Simple—Until It’s Not

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Thursday, March 26, 2020

ASAP members, the Q1 2020 edition of Strategic Alliance Quarterly is now in your hands, and we hope you enjoy our feature that examines some of the early tenets emerging around still-nascent artificial intelligence (AI) alliances that now dot all walks of business. Per usual, this blog serves as a vehicle to share some of the thoughtful commentary that didn’t make it into the print feature. The following insights come to you via Bruce Anderson, electronics industry global managing director at IBM. 

We touched briefly in the piece on how vertical-industry expertise is a must for creating some of the more advanced AI applications in the market today. This isn’t true of all AI-enabled products and services—Anderson cited smart speakers, which evolve their communication based on the data they collect throughout their interactions with end users, as an example of an application that doesn’t require much more than the optimization of a set of programming APIs to bring to market.

Those Who Have External Data Use It—Those Who Don’t, Buy It

However, to develop a program for optimizing manufacturing schedules, development teams need more than just base APIs. Anderson noted that an AI algorithm of this nature would in all likelihood need to digest various sets of internal end-user data, plus some external data sources, such as weather (to account for factors like humidity and temperature). In this case, the coding skill and IT knowledge of software developers can only take you so far. They need to collaborate with manufacturing veterans to figure out how to integrate domain expertise that is specific to that manufacturing environment. In many cases, companies may conclude that there isn’t “a [single] package with all of the data I might want. There’s engineering, and perhaps data acquisition, that has to be done,” according to Anderson.

Alliance managers charged with bringing AI innovations to market must get creative and figure out which companies might possess the data sets needed to create a new AI application. Then they must use their deal-making skills to put together win-win agreements that incentivize those data proprietors to share their data sets. (We discuss this new “offering manager” role in depth in the quarterly feature.)

Anderson also spoke about the difference between early back-end technology AI alliances and partnerships designed to bring an AI solution to market—more specifically, how the former is often much simpler than the latter. Bringing together servers, development platforms, sensors, traditional enterprise applications, and data management services that will ultimately power your AI APIs could be just as simple as integrating technology pieces.

“One of the companies involved may not know what you’re using [its product] for. You just know you’re using a lot of it,” said Anderson.

Happy Selling? Easier Said Than Done

But once an ecosystem of partners starts to jointly comarket and/or cosell a product offering, another layer of complexity is added.

“The more people that you get involved, there’s a lot of people who want a slice of the pie—in other words, the revenue—so you start to get complex marketing and selling arrangements,” said Anderson. “You could have a single offering that is jointly developed with somebody else. It could be sold by either of the parties. It could be delivered by either of the parties. There could be a third company in there, as well, if they’re involved in the overall stack.”

The challenge can be summed up in one question: “How do you keep it so that all of the alliance partners are happy?” asked Anderson.

Again, in the quarterly feature we delve into some of the specific issues partners need to sort out in these situations in order to bring orderly, concise, and impactful sales presentations to prospective buyers. Check-out the print issue you received earlier this month! 

Tags:  AI  API  Artificial Intelligence  Bruce Anderson  comarket  cosell  data management services  external data  IBM  innovations  integration  Strategic Alliance Quarterly 

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Keeping Pace with the Internet of Things: Walking the Post-Disruption Walk While Transforming Partnerships

Posted By Cynthia Hanson, Monday, March 23, 2015

Like Mickey’s brooms in the film “Fantasia,” the Internet of Things has multiplied into a labyrinth of complexity accompanied by its companion—disruption. “As disruptive technology takes hold, companies not used to partnering together are forced to do so, and it’s up to alliance managers to forge these alliances as leaders and define the swim lanes between companies,” said Tony DeSpirito, vice president of global alliances at Schneider Electric during the session on “Transforming Partnering Post Disruption” at the 2015 ASAP Global Alliance Summit held at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Florida, USA. 

 

“The greatest challenge we are facing right now as we look forward strategically is issues around the Internet of Things—I’m talking about control systems that operate in the infrastructure. It’s forcing Schneider to partner with different companies we’re not used to. We are being forced to partner with folks that own the digital world. For us, every day, it’s how do we connect the physical world with the digital world? How do we connect Schneider Electric with IBM?” he concluded.

 

For the company worth $30 billion (US) and its 15-person global alliance team, it’s a major puzzle. “Alliance is not core to the strategy of Schneider,” he admits, but digital disruption has forced the company to add an alliance manager to the corporate executive committee.

 

Schneider’s challenge points out a critical alliance question: How do we lead with a velocity of change that is happening at such a rate that is not business as usual? asks  Lorin Coles, CSAP and CEO of the consulting and training company Alliancesphere. “Not doing anything is not acceptable. Companies like IBM are reorganizing from top to bottom. Other companies are trying to change customer buying behavior. If we can solve this customer problem, then the ecosystems and partners support that.”

 

Don’t be afraid. Embrace the change,” chimed in Laura Voglino, general manager of IBM’s ecosystems and social business, who has experienced major disruption and transition at IBM. “It will take you to great things on a personal level because it keeps you vital and great for your companies and in the market.”

 

IBM changed the whole cloud structure with a huge focus and substantial team, she explains. “What really caught us by surprise was the velocity of the transformation and adoption.”

 

More than 90 percent of budgets in data centers are being put into cloud, she adds. The buying behavior of clients is changing, and there is a much greater focus on developers. “We needed to change our view of partnership to catch those cloud developers. We needed to open the scope to have venture capitalists. We needed to work with startups. These guys are bringing a lot of innovation that our clients are very thirsty for. Every time we think of alliances we think of Apple and IBM. But there’s a different level, a different dynamic. We just announced Citibank and IBM partnering, going to the market to activate developers to serve Citibank. This is a different system.”

 

We needed to get people enthusiastic about the start-up guys, ask what the vision is, and ask how to break the inertia of the immediate results. “Inertia is the worst enemy. When you have disruption, the worse you do during disruption time, the better it is to change,” she concludes.

 

With the Internet of Things, if you don’t get revenue, look at the activity or pipeline. And if you don’t have that, then look at lighthouse accounts—those accounts that will bring you revenue in 2016-2018.  “It’s incumbent upon us to stand up and show true leadership. As alliance managers, to be leaders you need to say 100 times to the same people, you will see revenue!” says DeSpirito.  “We don’t need to be the fastest bear. The winner of the Internet of Things is a group of kids in China that developed a remote control way to control forest fires. All of the innovation we are talking about is API [Application Programming Interface].”

Tags:  alliance managers  Alliancesphere  API  Apple  Citibank  cloud  disruption  IBM  Internet of things  Laura Voglino  Lorin Coles  Schneider Electric  start-ups  Tony DeSpirito 

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