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“We Need Partners—Fast!” Leveraging Partnerships to Respond to Paradigm Shifts

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Friday, November 15, 2019

For old established companies, responding and adapting to market changes and shifts in technology and consumer buying behavior can be especially difficult. When the old ways of doing business no longer bring in the revenue they once did and the once-revered firm struggles to maintain its top market position, entrenched internal processes and stagnant thinking can lead to a steady decline—or worse, an “extinction event” that topples the old behemoth.

            That might have been the case for Philips Lighting, which was spun off by Philips in 2016 with a new name, Signify (but still uses Philips branding for hardware products). Philips began its life in 1891 as Royal Philips, and was a market leader in lighting for at least a century thereafter. According to Ivo Rutten, vice president and head of global strategic alliances for Signify, the history of lighting amounted to approximately “110 years of tranquility followed by four major paradigm shifts in two decades.” He made these and other observations as part of his keynote address on the second and final day of the ASAP European Alliance Summit held Nov. 14–15 in Amsterdam.

            He even went so far as to compare these paradigm shifts to “the meteors that killed the dinosaurs.” The four paradigm shifts were the advent of LED lighting, lighting systems, services centered around lighting, and “light as a language,” involving the increasing use of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.

            A company whose main business was ordinary consumer lighting found that this line of business was no longer so important. “Everything the company was based on was wiped away,” Rutten acknowledged. So in order to deal with these successive meteor strikes—and not to end up as dead as the poor dinosaurs—Signify realized that it “needed partners—fast.”

            And it was all very well to develop new lighting systems, services, and IoT applications and move into B2B. But to get businesses to buy and install them? IT managers at companies would say, “Philips? In my network? No way. I’ll be hacked.” Philips/Signify had no credibility in this area, so it had to seek out partners that would help it gain entry.

            A big one was and is Cisco, which could help with its own reputation in IT to pave the way. Now Signify could say, “You won’t be hacked—just ask Cisco,” Rutten said. Cisco’s credibility in network hardware and Signify’s lighting expertise combined to make a unique and appealing value proposition.

            But in order to partner effectively, Signify had to learn and develop a number of partnering best practices. Among the most important, according to Rutten:

  • Establishing clear objectives for the alliance—e.g., additional growth, alliance-attributable revenue, access to a channel, improved technology
  • Ensuring alignment in both companies, or as Rutten said, “Nail it tight”
  • Set up rigorous processes to run the alliance
  • Get “everyone on the bus” by incentivizing the sales force

Added to these must-haves, Rutten said, were a number of key insights, including:

  • An alliance is not necessarily a “regular business relationship” and may be relatively nontransactional
  • There should be a combined value proposition
  • Both companies must benefit beyond normal business returns
  • The financial impact—and the risk—may go well beyond normal business
  • Partners need to be continually aligned and realigned—which means explaining and re-explaining the what, why, and how of the alliance, internally and externally
  • The alliance should have similar importance to both parties
  • Local sales forces in both companies should become self-motivating

Although not purely transactional, it’s a reality that in an alliance each party must give and get, or as Rutten said, “Their contribution must match our needs.” He noted the importance of creating a balanced first-draft term sheet—“our end and your end”—and putting it in front of the partner before moving on to a dialogue and working out differences, aligning objectives, etc.

            As in other companies, the governance structure of significant alliances involves three tiers: day-to-day alliance management, decision making by a joint steering committee, and C-level interaction by the heads of both companies.

            Such principles and practices are important enough in a one-to-one alliance, such as with Cisco, but even more so when multiple partners are involved, as in the Philips HUE ecosystem, which blends security, lighting automation, the setting of events, tasks, and routines at home, a user-friendly interface that responds to voice or phone commands, and full integration into a smart home.

            To make HUE operational, an ecosystem was needed, involving many partners including Apple, Amazon, Nest, and Bosch, as well as more than 50,000 third-party developers who have so far put up over 900 apps on the Android and Apple platforms. As Signify and its many partners move forward, more use cases will be identified and the whole ecosystem will become an expanding universe—at least until the next meteor hits.

Tags:  alliance management  ASAP European Alliance Summit  B2B  c-level  ecosystem  integration  Internet of Things  IoT applications  Ivo Rutten  joint steering committee  one-to-one alliance  partners  Philips Lighting  platforms  Royal Philips  Signify  strategic alliances 

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The Next Wave in Collaboration? Lessons from Platform Ecosystems, Part 3: From Governance Committees to Governing Principles

Posted By Contributed by Ard-Pieter de Man, CSAP, PhD, Friday, January 11, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2019

In my Q4 2018 Strategic Alliance Quarterly article about the emerging profession of the ecosystem manager, I mentioned that the most extreme examples of ecosystem management were found around platform organizations such as Facebook and Apple. What inspiration can we draw from the way these manage companies their ecosystems? New best practices are emerging that require us to rethink at least four of the tenets of alliance management. In the third and final article in this series on the topic, I discuss the evolution of governance practice and other ways in which ecosystem management is, could, or should influence the evolution of alliance management practices.

Governance: From Committees to Principles

Traditional governance structures contain committees and teams, each with their own tasks and accountability. Such governance structures have been proven effective in building bridges between organizations. Governance structures also had some downsides. With typically three layers of committees in alliances, decision-making could be slow. Moreover, they require much managerial attention, particularly from middle management. With an increasing number of partners, the risk of overloading managers with alliance work becomes real. Further slowing down of decision-making may result. The growth in the number of partners is limited by the capacity of managers to take them on.

Platform based ecosystems coordinate at least a subset of their partners based on principles and standardized governance processes. This increases their capacity to manage a higher number of partners. The developments around smart contracts also may help here in the future: agreed upon rules may be programmed into smart contracts, lessening the burden of governance. Smart contracts may at least partly replace work done by governance committees. An interesting question is whether this will lead to more or less standardization in alliance models.

What does all this mean?

Much of the partnering activity around platforms diverges from traditional definitions of alliance management. It involves new forms of collaboration that may not fit with how ASAP defines alliances. That does not mean it is not relevant for alliance management. First of all, alliances may evolve into or be replaced by these new forms of partnering. Second, companies will increasingly focus on optimizing the entire ecosystem around their platform including clients, suppliers, complementors, app builders, content parties and, of course, alliances. Defining alliances has always been difficult because there are many gray areas. With the rise of new forms of collaboration it is increasingly important for companies to understand all the shades of gray. Third, even though such new forms may be different from traditional alliances, opportunities for learning from them exist. Just like client supplier relationships and public-private partnerships learned from alliances, alliances may learn from platform based ecosystems.

These are reasons to look at collaboration more broadly rather than focusing exclusively on strategic alliances. This does not mean that all best practice developed since ASAP’s inception become irrelevant. It does mean we need to have a better understanding about when they work and when they do not work. Where they do not work we need to develop new best practices that help us ride the next wave of collaboration.

Ard-Pieter de Man, CSAP, PhD, is professor of management studies at the School of Business and Economics of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. A longtime ASAP member, he also is a consultant to companies and not-for-profits.

ASAP Media encourages diversity of thought and opinion as partnering practice and the profession of alliance management continually expand and evolve. To contribute your voice to the conversation, on this or other seminal topics relating to business collaboration, please contact John W. DeWitt, editor and publisher of ASAP Media and Strategic Alliance magazines, at 646-232-6620 or jdewitt@asapmedia.org.

Tags:  alliance  alliance-specific strategy  Ard-Pieter de Man  ASAP European Alliance Summit  ASAP Strategic Alliance Quarterly  governance  John Deere  launching  managing  negotiation  partner selection  Philips Light  planning  structuring  traditional alliance diagnostics  transformation  Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 

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The Next Wave in Collaboration? Lessons from Platform Ecosystems, Part 2: From Diagnostics to Data Monitoring

Posted By Contributed by Ard-Pieter de Man, CSAP, PhD, Thursday, January 10, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2019

In my Q4 2018 Strategic Alliance Quarterly article about the emerging profession of the ecosystem manager, I mentioned that the most extreme examples of ecosystem management were found around platform organizations like Facebook and Apple. What inspiration can we draw from the way these companies manage their ecosystems? Many existing alliance best practices do not fit well with these characteristics of ecosystems. To deal with them, new best practices are emerging that require us to rethink at least four of the tenets of alliance management. In my first article, I address the shift in the alliance lifecycle from phases to “minimum viable partnerships” or MVPs, as Jan Twombly, CSAP, president of The Rhythm of Business, described in her presentation at November 8-9, 2018 ASAP European Alliance Summit. In the second of three blogs on this topic, I examine how monitoring and partner selection are evolving in ecosystems.

Monitoring: From Diagnostics to Data

The standard way of diagnosing alliances is to send surveys to people involved in the alliance and ask them to rate, on a scale, to what extent various success factors are in place. Measures may relate to goals, trust, governance, operational effectiveness, and the like. By creating spider web diagrams, alliance diagnostics visualize where the strong and weak points of an alliance lie. In 2007, my own research into the effectiveness of different alliance tools showed that companies using such diagnostics are more successful than companies that don’t.

Recent technology developments enable us to monitor and diagnose alliances differently. At the ASAP European Alliance Summit, Laurent Valroff, worldwide global alliance lead at Dassault Systèmes, presented a software system developed in-house that ties into the CRM systems of alliance partners to ensure that both sides work on the basis of common information. At the same Summit I also ran into an executive from WorkSpan, a software maker that actually scales such a system in such a way that all ecosystem partners of a company can easily share and get access to relevant alliance information. (To learn more, see the Member Spotlight on WorkSpan in the Q4 issue of Strategic Alliance Quarterly.) From this it will not be a big step to turn the diagnosis and monitoring of alliances into a real-time system.

By following how often partners log in to the system, where they spend the most time, and where they do not spend time at all, a picture emerges of how these relationship are doing. In the future, adding a few diagnostic questions may give results similar to traditional survey based tools, only faster and at lower cost. Whether such systems will be complements or substitutes for traditional diagnostics will remain to be seen, but it is clear that companies are already building the foundations for a new way of monitoring and diagnosing alliances: online and real-time.

Partnering: From Partner Selection to Partner Seduction

Another interesting feature of many ecosystems is the absence of partner selection. Instead, partners are seduced to join platforms by the promise of access to an interesting market. Standard rules apply that each partner must follow. If a partner does not adhere to the rules, that partner will be barred from the ecosystem. In place of partner selection, ecosystems rely on partner seduction followed by partner curation.

This is especially interesting because partner selection is such a key aspect of traditional alliance management. Traditionally, partner selection requires the study of strategic, cultural, and operational fit between partners, because fit predicts whether it will be possible to establish a strong relationship. Ecosystems turn things upside down: “Let’s start working together and find out whether there is a fit.” Again, this speeds up the process and it enables platform organizations to engage in many more partnerships than the traditional method.

In the third and final blog in this series, Ard-Pieter de Man, CSAP, PhD, examines how, in managing ecosystems, the governance process shifts from committees to principles, and then considers what the rise of ecosystems means for the evolving practice of alliance management. De Man is professor of management studies at the School of Business and Economics of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. A longtime ASAP member, he also is a consultant to companies and not-for-profits.

ASAP Media encourages diversity of thought and opinion as partnering practice and the profession of alliance management continually expand and evolve. To contribute your voice to the conversation, on this or other seminal topics relating to business collaboration, please contact John W. DeWitt, editor and publisher of ASAP Media and Strategic Alliance magazines, at 646-232-6620 or jdewitt@asapmedia.org.

Tags:  alliance  alliance-specific strategy  Ard-Pieter de Man  ASAP European Alliance Summit  ASAP Strategic Alliance Quarterly  governance  John Deere  launching  managing  negotiation  partner selection  Philips Light  planning  structuring  traditional alliance diagnostics  transformation  Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 

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The Next Wave in Collaboration? Lessons from Platform Ecosystems, Part 1: From Alliance Lifecycle Phases to ‘Minimum Viable Partnerships’

Posted By Contributed by Ard-Pieter de Man, CSAP, PhD, Wednesday, January 9, 2019

In my recent Q4 2018 Strategic Alliance Quarterly article about the emerging profession of the ecosystem manager, I mentioned that the most extreme examples of ecosystem management were found around platform organizations like Facebook and Apple. These platform-based ecosystems provide a glimpse into the future of alliance management. In fact, the future may already be here—and not just in information technology. At the November 8-9, 2018 ASAP European Alliance Summit, I heard about some fascinating examples of pharma companies that build platforms, use artificial intelligence, and connect an increasing variety of ecosystem partners. Other cases are easy to find: John Deere, not exactly a Silicon Valley start-up, and Signify (previously Philips Lighting) are examples of long-established companies that discovered that the mix of platforms and ecosystems holds great promise. What inspiration can we draw from the way these companies manage their ecosystems?

To answer that question, I focus on three characteristics of platform ecosystems.

  • First, the high speed of developments around platforms. As a consequence of that speed, partnerships need to be set up rapidly and must be easy to dissolve.
  • Second, increased unpredictability of new developments, because of the high diversity of technologies and business models that are introduced into the market.
  • Third, an increase in the number of partners, including many partnerships that are not traditional alliances.

Many existing alliance best practices do not fit well with these characteristics of ecosystems. To deal with them, new best practices are emerging that require us to rethink some of the classic tenets of alliance management. I will discuss four of them.

The Alliance Lifecycle: From Phases to “Minimum Viable Partnerships”

The alliance lifecycle has been one of the foundations of alliance management for more than twenty years. The lifecycle divides the process of alliance management into distinct steps:

  • setting the alliance-specific strategy
  • partner selection
  • negotiation
  • planning
  • structuring and governance
  • launching and managing
  • transformation

This structured process has proved to be very effective. It gives managers an alliance-building framework that ensures relevant issues are dealt with in the right order.

It has one huge drawback, though, in an ecosystem world: it is slow. It may take over a year before all the steps are covered. A second problem is that following all these steps in a strict order makes it difficult to adjust an alliance to changing circumstances. The alliance lifecycle assumes an alliance can be relatively stable for a longer time period and requires episodic instead of continuous change. In an ecosystem world, however, alliances may be in a continuous state of transformation.

Instead of using the alliance lifecycle, alliances may be seen as start-ups that evolve continuously and rapidly. Hence proposals begin to emerge to use the lean start-up methodology for alliances. At the 2018 ASAP European Alliance Summit, Jan Twombly, CSAP, president of The Rhythm of Business, showed how to adapt the firm’s “rhythm of business” methodology—in essence, how to use lean start-up methods—to create “minimum viable partnerships” that do not go at length through all the elements of the alliance lifecycle. This allows for fast partnering and continuous adaptation, and provides an alternative for the alliance lifecycle.

Ard-Pieter de Man, CSAP, PhD, is professor of management studies at the School of Business and Economics of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. A longtime ASAP member, he also is a consultant to companies and not-for-profits. Part Two of this three-part blog series discusses how traditional alliance diagnostics make way for real-time monitoring of partner (or ecosystem) health.

ASAP Media encourages diversity of thought and opinion as partnering practice and the profession of alliance management continually expand and evolve. To contribute your voice to the conversation, on this or other seminal topics relating to business collaboration, please contact John W. DeWitt, editor and publisher of ASAP Media and Strategic Alliance magazines, at 646-232-6620 or jdewitt@asapmedia.org.

Tags:  alliance  alliance-specific strategy  Ard-Pieter de Man  ASAP European Alliance Summit  ASAP Strategic Alliance Quarterly  governance  John Deere  launching  managing  negotiation  partner selection  Philips Light  planning  structuring  traditional alliance diagnostics  transformation  Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 

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Q2 2018 Strategic Alliance Magazine: The Culture of Jazz (Pharmaceuticals); a Massive Dutch Cross-agency Alliance; Award-winners—Past and Present; Three ASAP Fall Events

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2018

When the culture of a company really sings, it’s worth exploring the unifying elements. That’s what John W. DeWitt, ASAP Media and Strategic Alliance Magazine Editor and Publisher, explored in the Q2 2018 issue’s cover story, “Choose Culture First: How to Build a Collaborative Enterprise from the Ground Up—and Treat Every Partner Well.” DeWitt probes the underpinnings of Jazz Pharmaceutical in an interview with Cofounder and CEO Bruce Cozadd, and the company’s head of alliance management, Ann Kilrain. Culture, collaboration, and consistent partnering behaviors are integral to Jazz’s success, which is focused on sleep hematology/oncology solutions. “People judge you all the time, and what’s important is how you behave all the time,” says Kilrain during a captivating discussion that emphasizes how consistency and integrity are interwoven into the company culture. Also in this issue’s Up Front, “The Sound of Success,” President and CEO of ASAP, Michael Leonetti, reiterates that point with The Four Cs of Alliance Leadership: Communication, Culture, Collaboration, Compromise. In collaborative leadership, “leaders model their organization’s values and … can impact the culture of an organization,” he writes.  

A second cover story focuses on managing the collaboration of three big government agencies in The Netherlands. In “How an Alliance Matured from Chaos into Award-winning Order,” Diantha Croese, alliance manager at the Dutch Alliances on Data, and Menno Aardewijn, business consultant at the Dutch National SSA, discuss how they tamed a giant, unwieldy cross-agency collaboration between the Dutch IRA, Social Security Administration, and Statistics Netherlands. The management required incredible perseverance as well as “disruption, adap­tation, and overcoming sizable resistance,” and an intricate framework to establish cooperation and financial order between the agencies. Assigned the task of coordi­nating the collection of data about tax revenues, wages, benefits, and corresponding data for the Dutch gov­ernment, they streamlined financial data for the Dutch society while lowering administra­tive costs for employers and operating costs for the alliance partners.

Two other articles in this issue probe the question of what constitutes ASAP award-winning alliance behaviors. First is an article about the 2018 ASAP Alliance Excellence Awards, where seven companies won the four ASAP awards for remarkable accomplishments and exemplary conduct. The second article zeros in on the winner of the 2018 ASAP Alliance for Corporate Responsibility Award, which was presented this year to Cisco and Dimension Data for their celebration of 25 years of partnering with 25 altruistic service projects. The article highlights company employees and their voluntary contributions around the world, which range from education opportunities for girls in Sudan to community bicycles for school children in Thailand.

The Member Spotlight also focuses on the 2018 Individual Alliance Excellence Award winner Julphar in  “Breaking Boundaries in the Pharmaceutical Industry.” Along with pharmaceutical partner MSD, Julphar strategized to make a major difference in seven therapeutic areas for six countries in the Middle East and North Africa region. Julphar’s strategic alliance team consists of in­dividuals from diverse backgrounds whose combined skillsets and experience are viewed as critical to helping the company develop and sustain strong strategic alliances in a different area of the world to create the unique DUNES alliance.

Looking back, this issue also provides a roundup of the 2018 ASAP Global Alliance Summit in “The In-Demand, On-Demand World of Alliance Management, as Portrayed by the 2018 Summit Speakers.” The article captures the essential points of the keynote address and four plenary talks. Looking forward, “Circumnavigate the Globe this Fall With ASAP Conference Offerings” provides a synopsis of ASAP offerings this fall with a review of seminal topics for the three events: The BioPharma Conference, Tech Partner Forum, and European Alliance Summit.

For some hard-hitting findings, turn to Eli Lilly and Company’s Editorial Supplement “Common Value Inflection Points in Pharmaceutical Alliances.” Finding and understanding key inflection points can reveal a lot about your alliance and help alliance managers make good decisions, the article purports. It then does a deep dive into the topic with corroborating data and methodologies.

Finally, The Close relates a personal story about a former World War II Marine’s experience working at the Ford Motor Company in the 1950s during a time of great transition and innovation. “A Lesson From the Whiz Kids: Change and Teams‘An Inevitable Combination’” points out how teams have played an integral role in every major change throughout history. Whether political upheaval or disruption in business, it takes a combination of inspired leadership, engaged executives, collaboration, and a culture of teamwork to bring about a seismic shift. 

Tags:  2018 ASAP Alliance Excellence Awards  Ann Kilrain  ASAP BioPharma Conference  ASAP European Alliance Summit  ASAP Tech Partner Forum  Bruce Cozadd  Collaborative Enterprise  Culture First  Eli Lilly and Company  inflection points  Jazz Pharmaceutical  Julphar  MSD  Partnering Well  Strategic Alliance Magazine 

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