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Keeping It Relevant, Keeping It Real: Summit Session Tackles Promoting Joint Marketing Initiatives amid COVID-19

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Thursday, July 23, 2020

“Enterprises are being tested. People are being tested. Certainly, strategic alliances are being tested.” As Mark Reino, principal and founder of Merit Mile, spoke, a quote from Cengage CEO Michael Hansen about the importance of staying ahead of the curve in these trying times appeared on the screen. A few moments later, Andrea Katsivelis, global strategic marketing advisor at Microsoft, shared anecdotes accompanied by screen shots of young children, dogs, and cats making unsolicited cameos in work-related Zoom meetings and Microsoft conferences. Shortly thereafter, a Warren Buffett quote graced the screen offering the silver lining that we will all be better off in the long run after we overcome the interruptions to our normal ways of doing business that have been forced upon us.

Reino and Katsivelis were setting the tone for the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit session “Are Your Alliance Marketing Strategies Destined to Boom or Bust?” They were about to spend the next half-hour reviewing some of the basic tenets of joint marketing, but first they wanted to remind viewers that we have to play the cards we are dealt and make sure our marketing programs account for the current climate.

“We learn how to block out the noise and accommodate. It’s a lot to handle. It’s the elephant in the partnership virtual room, and we keep on working through it,” said Katsivelis.

Flexibility Helps Stretch Shrinking Marketing Dollars, Resources

With that, it was time for the audience to feast on the meat and potatoes of joint marketing. Reino began by emphasizing that alliance marketers, like many of us, are being asked to do more with less—or “more with flexibility,” he said, trying to put a positive spin on it. “More partner alliances. Fewer dollars to support them. Quicker timelines and limited access to people and resources.”

Joint marketers also face tactical challenges. According to Merit Mile’s own research, 55 percent of executives felt that the development of substantive joint messaging is the toughest part of creating a business plan, while 40 percent cited limited access to subject matter experts (SMEs) as the biggest obstacle in plan execution. On top of that, companies are facing a talent shortage; there aren’t enough specialized joint content marketers to perform essential marketing tasks, such as joint messaging and sales enablement. Moreover, 54 percent struggle to produce memorable messaging, 42 percent encounter bottlenecks in joint marketing/sales programs, and 40 percent do not have access to creative teams.

Katsivelis concurred that joint messaging, in particular, is “a struggle.” “Finding those key points that resonate can be like finding a unicorn,” she said, before reiterating that these hurdles are compounded by the fact that alliance portfolios aren’t shrinking. More than half of organizations expect to increase or maintain the same number of alliances in 2020, yet nearly half of people are still using traditional tools like spreadsheets and email instead of modern digital transformation tools to manage these large stables of partnerships—14 percent have no formal process or tools at all.

Content to Address the Customer’s Problem

How should marketing partners solve these challenges? Reino started with an idea that, on the face of things, should go without saying.

“Having a plan and executing it might seem simple enough, but the data indicates that four in 10 companies do not have a COVID-19 plan or a crisis communications plan in general,” said Reino. In addition, 23 percent are not communicating externally or don’t know how.

One of the most important tools for bringing plans to fruition: content that resonates with prospects and customers, which Katsivelis proceeded to address in greater depth.

“No one wants to be pitched on how great your company and alliance is, or how your widget is the best,” she cautioned. Rather, the goal is to get your prospect to connect with a story or image that resonates in a “lasting and meaningful way.”

To spark this relationship, it helps to address the customer’s problem or need, and then back it up with customer success stories. On a more granular level, Katsivelis stressed the importance of sprinkling keywords related to the business problems you are solving into the title, opening paragraph, headings, and tags to help your content gain SEO traction. Most important, both partners must align on what exactly the customer need is and how the partners can remedy it together.

Storytelling is particularly critical in email marketing, the method of customer communication leveraged by 65 percent of Merit Mile’s survey respondents. However, Katsivelis emphasized not looking at any single piece of communication in a vacuum. No single ad, blog post, or web page will sustain a marketing campaign, but “a planned series of connections that inform [the prospect]” will create and maintain a steady drumbeat as long as every piece of content starts with the business challenge, not the alliance’s joint solution. Katsivelis called this process feeding the “conversation funnel with your content.”

Third Parties Are the First Choice for Delivering Your Message

Dotting your content with contributions from thought leaders is paramount. Once you identify the appropriate experts for your marketing plan, be aware that each might present different opportunities and constraints in working with them. Some are very busy and need help creating content. Others are excellent writers but not necessarily dynamic speakers. Many have large social networks and lots of followers to leverage.

Third-party experts are pivotal to your marketing campaigns as a whole, not just your content, as both presenters explained later in the presentation. Tech bloggers, journalists, industry analysts, customer advocates, and independent SMEs lend added credibility to your messages that inherently cannot be earned by even your most respected company executives.  

“The notion of credible industry leaders extending your message to targeted audiences is here to stay. From the agency standpoint, the number of these types of requests for paid media have increased nearly tenfold over the last two years,” said Reino, who added that influencer marketing isn’t just for consumer audiences anymore; B2B companies that don’t engage independent influencers will get left behind.

The Road to Salesperson Adoption Is Financially Driven

Joint marketers must also bake internal and external communication into their plans to highlight alliance successes. Reino outlined four elements of driving alliance program awareness: 1) energize audiences with fun materials, 2) educate both external and internal audiences on how your programs will help them strategically, 3) recognize high performers and success stories at appropriate moments—Reino urged viewers to be judicious in doling out praise, however—and 4) create incentive programs that drive the financial structure of the alliance program.

To that last point, Reino reminded the audience that the sales department has many solutions to sell, so it is up to the alliance team to make joint solutions a higher priority. Sales accelerators, special compensation plans, employee recognition and rewards, and hands-on assistance from the alliance team in joint planning and coselling are just some examples of tools alliance marketers can use to whet salespeople’s appetites.

“This audience is largely financially driven,” Reino said.

Show You Care When You Share

Of course, as Reino and Katsivelis said at the outset of the session, these principles need to be contextualized in today’s socially conscious climate. According to Metric Mile’s survey, 41 percent of people feel socially responsible messaging has a positive impact on alliances, which is why organizations must get COVID-19 messaging right. Katsivelis said Microsoft has actively touted its recent partnerships that help identify and track coronavirus cases. The organization has also actively engaged its own employees to make sure they are safe and give them a sense of community in this time of remote work and social distancing. By contrast, in looking at her own inbox, Katsivelis swore that most organizations “have missed the mark” in their coronavirus-related communication in that they talk the talk about caring about their customers but don’t get into “what they can do to help or provide new information that can be relevant to me.” 

Companies have also seen recent opportunities to align with the growing Black Lives Matter movement or Pride Month in June. Either way, if companies decide to connect with particular segments of the population, content and social media engagement should be developed and delivered through the lens of those audiences.

“Are Your Alliance Marketing Strategies Destined to Boom or Bust?” wasn’t the only source for marketing knowledge at the first-ever virtual ASAP Global Alliance Summit. Check out our coverage of veteran Citrix marketer Liz Fuller’s on-demand session on creating marketing moments. Or better yet, use your Summit registration credentials to watch “Integrated Joint Alliance Marketing Best Practices: How to Establish Joint Marketing Moments That Drive Impact” in its entirety, as well as several other presentations that are chock-full of tricks of the trade for optimizing your alliance portfolio.

Tags:  alliance  alliance program  Andrea Katsivelis  best practices  Cengage  COVID-19  Joint Marketing Initiatives  Mark Reino  Merit Mile  Michael Hansen  Microsoft  modern digital transformation  strategic alliances 

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Cross-Industry Panel Imparts Insights for Executing David-Goliath Partnerships

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Thursday, June 25, 2020

Big company–small company alliances are a fact of life in some industries. You see them in tech when Global 1,000 technology vendors integrate innovative functionality from smaller startups that fill gaps in their offerings, or when Big Pharma organizations team up with biotechs to develop promising compounds into marketable drugs. Also known as “David-Goliath” alliances, these relationships can contain many hidden land mines if people aren’t careful. Just ask ASAP president and CEO Michael Leonetti, who has led alliance groups in Big Pharma organizations in his career.

“Quite honestly, I’ve seen [this dynamic] kill many an alliance in my time,” said Leonetti in the lead-up to a panel session titled “Managing Power Imbalances: How to Navigate Partnerships Between Large and Small Organizations,” one of the highlights of the second day of this year’s ASAP Global Alliance Summit. 

Moderated by Jessica Wadd, partner at Vantage Partners, this well-rounded panel of seasoned alliance professionals from multiple industries brought a wealth of past and present perspectives from both ends of these types of collaborations:

  • Steve Pessagno, Alliance director and head of global alliance management operations, at GSK
  • Amy Walraven, founder, president, and chief strategy officer at Turnkey Risk Solutions
  • Joy Wilder Lybeer, senior vice president of enterprise alliances at Equifax
  • Troy M. Windt, associate vice president of global alliances and external relations at Reata Pharmaceuticals

“Cultural Diagnosis” Reveals What Might Ail a Collaboration of Big and Small

In kicking off the discussion with an overview of each panelist’s alliance portfolio, Lybeer noted that Equifax relies on smaller outfits to supplement its offerings in ways the company can’t do on its own, She added that the exercise of evaluating a variety of big and small partners “allows us to develop our understanding of potential coopetition, areas where we can supplement our capabilities, or find new routes to market.”

Walraven agreed with Lybeer that smaller companies have plenty of opportunities to complement larger organizations’ offerings with niche “cohesive enhancements.” 

Pessagno, who works with a number of GSK’s R&D-centric alliances with small entities, extolled the virtues of conducting a “cultural diagnosis” at the outset of the relationship to determine how the organizations are and aren’t aligned. This process usually unearths what truly matters to the collaboration as a whole, and these priorities that emerge are eventually woven into the governance and operational elements of the partnership, including the periodic health checks.

Asked what her organization looks for in a larger partner, Walraven cited domain expertise, a strong reputation, and a shared vision of where the fraud, risk, and credit markets, areas in which Humaitrix competes, are heading.

When do you know when you as a smaller organization might have trouble coping with the power imbalance? Windt said to pay attention to the latter’s adaptability right from the start. Since a large firm has lots of processes, can it tailor an alliance structure to fit a partner that might only have two points of contact? He recounted instances where an alternative structure was inserted into the contractual language only to see the large company “migrate back to one way of doing things.”    

Dealing with Outsized Expectations

At one point, Wadd wondered if the panelists ever got excited about a David-Goliath partnership, only to be disappointed when it didn’t fulfill its promise. The panel had no shortage of stories. Walraven spoke of a past partner that showed tremendous enthusiasm about her organization when it was brought in at a late stage of negotiation, but ultimately revealed itself to have little grasp of her company’s value proposition and business model as the collaboration unfolded. The parties tried retooling their joint client deliverables multiple times only to pull the plug on the project after a succession of misfires.

“You really want to make sure that you align ahead of time and that everyone has the same understanding before you set expectations about deliverables with the client,” she said.

Lybeer counseled viewers to identify “pink flags” quickly and abandon an initiative early if the team’s gut feeling is that it will never get onto the right course. She did, however, remind viewers that “the first idea is rarely ever the best idea,” and that oftentimes you don’t necessarily have to walk away from the partner altogether after one failed joint venture.

“As long as we are able and willing to learn and work together, we will find that next innovative idea together,” she said.

Plodding Behemoths Test Nimbler Smaller Companies’ Patience

What should small companies understand about their larger counterparts when evaluating a potential collaboration? Pessagno warned startup and SME alliance professionals that there is a good possibility some of the people in the negotiation stage will disappear after the launch of the partnership. He urged larger corporations to “deal with this transparently” and make some effort to guard against an “asymmetry in the governance.”

Even after some of the initial negotiators drift away, Pessagno acknowledged later in the panel discussion that the larger company’s team might still be four times the size of the smaller counterpart’s, and that the latter will have to endure cumbersome governance and operational processes at times. He recommended that the “Goliath” in the relationship assign a single contact person to the small company’s alliance manager and let the former liaison with the rest of the team and manage the bureaucracy.

In addition, Pessagno implored smaller collaborators to dispel the idea that their larger counterparts have tons of resources to dedicate to their activities. All alliances are competing for a finite amount of resources, even in big companies.

Tech Teams Need Alliance Management Principles

Walraven and Lybeer were asked specifically about analytics-based David-Goliath alliances. The big takeaway: remember that technology partnerships entail more than just technology. Lybeer once handed a technology alliance to the tech team and said, “Good luck to you.”   

“Mistake, mistake, mistake,” she lamented. “Alliance management competencies are a thing.”

The tech team didn’t understand escalation processes and collaboration models, which ended up delaying the activities of the partnership considerably.

Walraven exhorted alliance teams to look at everything through the technical, strategic, solution, and practitioner lenses. Also, take into account that each client and prospect will similarly imagine a joint solution differently.

“Everybody will see it through a different perspective,” she said.  

Alliance Skills Will Help Small-Company Personnel for Life

As the panel concluded, the panelists offered some final takeaways. Walraven reiterated that rigorous work aligning stakeholders on execution strategy up front would ultimately make it “easier to deliver to the client.”

Lybeer urged virtual attendees to strike that balance of being tough without compromising a collaborative mindset.  

“Let’s make sure we’re hard on the hard issues, but not so hard on each other,” she advised.

She echoed her earlier sentiments that you can always walk away from a project that isn’t meeting KPIs without abandoning the partnership entirely.

Most important, according to Windt, work with your HR department to teach collaborative skills and alliance management principles to everyone working on the partnership who may not have an alliance management background. In fact, lobby to make it a permanent part of employee training programs, wherever possible.

“They will serve you well as a person and an employee for the rest of your life,” he said.

Remember, Summit registrants can find this panel, a plethora of sessions from the first two days of the conference, and several prerecorded presentations on demand in the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit portal.  

Tags:  Alliance  alliance management  alliance professionals  alliance skills  Amy Walraven  collaborations  Cultural Diagnosis  enterprise  GSK  Jessica Wadd  Joy Wilder Lybeer  operations  partnership  Reata Pharmaceuticals  skills  Steve Pessagno  Troy M. Windt  Turnkey Risk Solutions  Vantage Partners 

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On the Eve of Disruption: Summit Keynote Will Explore How Digital Transformation Affects Nearly Every Industry

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Tuesday, April 7, 2020

“Disruption,” in addition to being a much-used term in the business press, is a two-edged sword: an exciting prospect if you’re the one doing the disrupting; not so much if your company or industry finds itself being disrupted and forced to scramble and adapt. Some disruptions may be temporary—as, we fervently hope, will be those spawned by COVID-19—while others are likely here to stay.

It’s these more lasting and far-reaching effects that will be the subject of a keynote address at the ASAP Global Alliance Summit, now scheduled for late June, to be given by Steve Steinhilber, global vice president of ecosystems and business development at Equinix. The presentation, titled “Creating Alliances and Digital Ecosystem Capabilities in an Increasingly Platform Enabled and Interconnected World,” will examine how the speed and scale of information technology growth and new global platforms will enable—and even necessitate—the digital transformation of nearly all businesses, creating many new business models in the process.

According to Steinhilber, the speed and rate of disruption varies by industry, but many existing value chains are already under significant disruptive threat. Industries that are “content sensitive or highly inefficient value chains” have already experienced this disruption, he said, as whole segments of the value chain have been eliminated. These industries include advertising, newspapers, movies, and retail, as well as the travel industry, including hotel bookings and other reservations services.

Others are either just starting out on this journey or find themselves somewhere in the middle. Steinhilber cited the automotive and transportation services industries as examples of verticals that are just beginning to experience the waves of change, while “all layers of the IT industry and also the satellite launch industry” are in the midst of ongoing disruption.

According to an IDC survey, by 2022—less than two years away—at least 60 percent of global GDP will be digitized, with growth in every industry driven by digitally enhanced offerings, operations, and relationships. And according to McKinsey, digital ecosystems will account for more than $60 trillion in revenue by 2025, or more than 30 percent of global corporate revenue. As we’ve seen—and if you haven’t already, check out our cover story on ecosystems in the Q1 2020 issue of Strategic Alliance Quarterly for more on this trend—these disruptive forces are enabled by an explosion of information technology delivered via platform-enabled companies monetized by new business models. These platform models are proving to be much more profitable than product pipeline business models, and also offer accelerated time to market for new products and services and create new ways to share the wealth. This has directly translated into massive growth in platform companies’ market capitalizations.

These new ecosystem- and platform-based models have significant implications for how partnering frameworks and practices are changing, said Steinhilber, requiring “a blend of both strategic, high-touch partner management as well as low-touch engagement via new tools and systems.” And as organizations as a whole struggle to adjust and adapt, today’s—and tomorrow’s—alliance and partnering professionals will need to change their ways, too.

“They’ll still need conventional strategic alliance skills in order to manage complex, highly strategic relationships,” Steinhilber said. “But they’ll also need to have the ability to build programmatic models to engage companies that are wanting to innovate on top of the platform. This means implementing new financial models such as revenue sharing, deploying tools to automate partner engagement and management, developing dashboards that can manage rapid scaling, and being able to ensure the quality of what partners are offering on your platform.”

Curious to learn more? Me too! Stay tuned for more information on this and other outstanding presentations to be offered at the upcoming ASAP Global Alliance Summit. 

Tags:  alliance  digital ecosystems  Digital Transformation  disruptive  ecosystem  engagement  Equinix  frameworks  IDC  IT industry  McKinsey  partner  partnering professionals  platform-based models  satellite launch industry  Steve Steinhilber  strategic relationships  value chains 

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It’s Here: New Handbook Supplement Covers IT Partnering Principles and Practices

Posted By Michael Leonetti, CSAP, Saturday, February 29, 2020

Nothing remains static for long—not in alliances and partnering, and not in most industries today. Take your eye off the ball, and you may miss an important trend with far-reaching implications. Drift away from strategy and lose focus, and your competitive edge may be eroded as well. Continue doing things “the way we’ve always done it” and you might find yourself eclipsed, left in the dust by more innovative, less hidebound competitors.

Standing still is not an option—nor is sticking your head in the sand. Here at ASAP we’ve been busy moving forward, looking ahead, and responding to both the latest partnering trends and what many of our members have been asking for. So we’re thrilled to announce the release of our new IT supplement to The ASAP Handbook of Alliance Management: The ASAP Guide to Information Technology Partnering, now available in electronic format.

Most of our ASAP members already know about The ASAP Handbook of Alliance Management—some of them even contributed to it! Since its publication, the Handbook has proved a valuable, comprehensive resource for alliance professionals and their teams, providing a wealth of information, guiding principles, and best practices that take readers through the stages of the alliance life cycle and beyond, into emerging areas of alliance practice.

One of those emerging areas is information technology—a huge part of all our lives and one whose effects and implications go way beyond the “usual suspects” in Silicon Valley. As Forrester’s Jay McBain tells us in the Q1 issue of Strategic Alliance Quarterly, today, “every company is becoming a technology company.”

What does that mean for alliance professionals? What adjustments will they need to make to their thinking and vision going forward? What roles will they play in this massive digital transformation happening everywhere, across industries? How will they manage, orchestrate, and navigate the complex technology partnerships that encompass everything from multipartner go-to-market efforts to vast platform ecosystems (and everything in between)?

We set out to find the answers to those questions—and many more—and present them in a form that our members can readily and easily use. Hence the publication of The ASAP Guide to Information Technology Partnering, which contains the latest and most advanced thinking on leading, managing, and deriving revenue from alliances, partnerships, and complex ecosystems in the high-tech field. This supplement has been specifically tailored to the needs of the IT field and its pressures, concerns, and fast-moving trends. To create it, we reached out to a wide range of ASAP members and others—respected alliance leaders, successful consultants, industry analysts, widely published researchers, and more—to collect and synthesize their knowledge and insights. The result is the compilation and distillation of that thinking, from academic research to real-world, in-the-trenches experiences and proven partnering principles.

The ASAP Guide to Information Technology Partnering explores the challenges of working in a continually changing IT landscape marked by ecosystems, strategic alliances, channels, and other partnering arrangements. It’s a world of competition, collaboration, coopetition, and constant technological disruption, where agility and speed are essential and the next big innovation is likely to hit the market tomorrow.

This supplement and updated guide dives deep into such critical subjects as:

  • The evolution of the IT channel
  • The rise, spread and functions of ecosystems  
  • How ecosystems relate to the Alliance Life Cycle
  • The role of alliance professionals as ecosystem orchestrators and facilitators
  • Collaboration and competition in IT partnering
  • Revenue-generating, customer-focused go-to-market guidelines and collaborative selling methodologies
  • Alliance metrics in an ecosystem context
  • Today’s alliance professional as entrepreneurial leader, driver, and strategic visionary
  • Alliances as an essential enterprise function in the high-tech world

In addition, it features descriptions of best practices, frameworks, and checklists for IT partnering; key questions and qualities that are essential for IT alliance professionals today; resources for further reading; a helpful glossary; and fillable online worksheets and forms.

We’re pretty confident that The ASAP Guide to Information Technology Partnering will soon be required reading for anyone who is embarking on or transitioning into an alliance management role in technology, and that it will aid more experienced practitioners with advanced insights as well. Along with another Handbook update for the biopharmaceutical field—coming soon—this supplement, I think, represents a welcome addition to our growing storehouse of helpful and thought-provoking content for our ASAP member community.

How do you get a copy? Easy. Right now you can purchase copies for yourself and your team at the introductory special member price of $47.20 per copy. Just visit our website at https://www.strategic-alliances.org/page/store click on the Publications button and scroll down to The ASAP Guide to Information Technology Partnering. And let us know what you think—we value your feedback, and your thoughts and concerns are greatly appreciated! It’s what makes the ASAP community such a powerful vehicle for networking, knowledge, and education for all of us

Tags:  Alliance  Alliance Life Cycle  alliance professionals  collaborative selling  ecosystems  entrepreneurial leader  go-to-market  high-tech  IT channel  IT partnering 

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The Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (ASAP) and allianceboard partner to elevate alliance management through technology

Posted By Kimberly Miller, Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Alliance technology has become an imperative for alliance professionals – ASAP and allianceboard are teaming-up to combine resources, best practices, and technology to support ever-evolving collaboration models.

This month, ASAP and allianceboard announced a technology and knowledge partnership that will combine ASAP resources and best practices with allianceboard’s purpose-built alliance management software solution.

The partnership between ASAP and allianceboard will create value in:

  • Offering special subscription packages for ASAP biopharma member organizations
  • Providing ASAP membership benefits to allianceboard clients
  • Integrating ASAP resources and best practices into the allianceboard platform
  • Jointly developing resources for the benefit of the alliance management community

“Our partnership with allianceboard supports ASAP’s mission to elevate the alliance management profession and to amplify its impact.  This enables ASAP to extend our resources through the allianceboard digital platform to our biopharma members and to provide these benefits to an even broader audience. allianceboard was designed from the ground-up around the needs of alliance management so this is a natural fit for our biopharma members,” said Mike Leonetti, President and CEO of ASAP.

“ASAP’s thought leadership in alliance management combined with their extensive resources have had a tremendous impact on the evolution of alliance management over the past two decades. Our clients globally recognize how much our solution, built around best practices, has become a game changer for them. We are excited to join forces with ASAP in our common mission to support organizations in achieving their growth and innovation goals through strategic alliances,” said Louis Rinfret, founder and CEO of allianceboard.

Benefits for ASAP members and allianceboard clients https://www.allianceboard.com/asap-allianceboard-partnership

ASAP membership overview

https://www.strategic-alliances.org/page/membership

allianceboard overview

https://www.allianceboard.com

About ASAP

The Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (ASAP) is the leading global professional association dedicated to the formation, implementation, and transformation of alliances, collaborations and business partnerships. ASAP provides its members forums for networking and professional development along with access to tools and resources, while working to elevate and promote the discipline of alliance management. Founded in 1998, ASAP is a non-profit global professional membership organization with over 2,250 members representing over 35 countries across the globe. Membership represents a cross-sector of industries including high tech, biopharma, finance, insurance, and retail to name a few.

About allianceboard

allianceboard is a purpose-built, easy-to-use alliance management platform for alliance professionals. allianceboard has been developed to give alliance managers a state-of-the-art tool that’s simple and scalable – to stay on top of it all, show organizational impact and easily collaborate with partners for innovation and growth.

Tags:  alliance  alliance managers  Allianceboard  best practices  management platform  partnership  resources  tools 

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