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“Ecosystems 101”: Summit Session Demystifies How to Engage in Emerging Shared Model

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Saturday, September 12, 2020

Ecosystems are the topic du jour in alliance management today, a fact that was reflected in the agenda for this year’s ASAP Global Alliance Summit. The Summit track “The Power of the Ecosystem” explored a variety of elements of this evolving partnership model, including a presentation on how to use them to acquire new customers and another that focused on novel capabilities.  Since not everyone is steeped in ecosystems basics, it was only appropriate to feature an overview of sorts on the subject—call it “Ecosystems 101,” if you will. That task was enthusiastically undertaken by Claudia Kuzma, CA-AM, managing director and global ecosystems program leader at Protiviti, and Nancy Ridge, president of Ridge Innovative, who delivered the on-demand presentation “Demystifying the Ecosystem—an Interactive Conversation.”

The presentation began with a video of Ridge standing on the rocky shore of the Pacific Ocean looking down at the variety of marine life in the tidepools around her.

“Subject to harsh environment, this ecosystem is highly competitive, and yet all of these creatures rely on each other to fulfill their purpose and thrive,” she explained, setting up an “ecological metaphor” to which she would return throughout the presentation.

The New Paradigm: Decentralized Platforms Replace Hub-and-Spoke Ecosystem Model

Of course, the “science” of alliance management is similarly accelerating the development of business ecosystems, which Kuzma illustrated with a figure from analyst firm IDC: partners that adopt ecosystem business models will grow 50 percent faster than those that eschew them. So how should executives begin wrapping their minds around the pursuit of an ecosystem play? It helps to understand that technology ecosystems themselves are undergoing a transformation of their own, from a model with a large player at the center—such as Apple and its vast network of developers, accessories, content, and end users—to a “shared model,” a “many-to-many” platform where no one company serves as a hub around which thousands of “spokes” revolve.

Ridge spoke of cloud ecosystems company Tidwit’s automated and distributed “learning and enablement” platform, in which participants join through APIs, data is kept separate and secure, and content is automatically updated and delivered intelligently to users at an optimal time. The Apple model “is very difficult to scale, and requires a lot of capital, both human and financial,” said Ridge. “This shared platform is the new paradigm.”

The pandemic is accelerating the growth of shared ecosystems. Ridge noted that the state of California connected with labs across state and local hospitals to provide drive-through COVID-19 testing. Kuzma cited the example of telemedicine, which has become indispensable in the context of self-quarantining; behind the scenes, many technological parts from different organizations are working together to enable patients to talk with a physician by simply registering and clicking a few links on a mobile device.

Total Solutions: Customer-Focused, Senior Leadership–Approved

A similar trend is taking place in the B2B world. According to Ridge, Salesforce acquired Tableau in order to enable clients to drive insights out of their data that would enable them to “expedite intelligent, connected customer experiences which, again, drove innovation and accelerated it for their users.”  

Ridge continued to hammer the point home that customers are at the center of these ecosystem models—or should be—and that satisfying their needs is often made possible through coopetition.

“Today, total solutions are delivered as managed services. Now, behind the scenes, many of those companies that used to be competitors are working together, but what the customer sees is a complete solution that is brought to them as a seamless experience.”

As she spoke over a slide that listed the building blocks of ecosystems—reaching new customers, building new products and services, enabling more efficient

business operations, educating clients, accelerating innovation, and creating awareness of specific needs—Kuzma stressed the importance of balancing the objectives of the individual company and the group and obtaining executive sponsorship of this new model. 

“That awareness and collaboration, and just showing the organization how the ecosystem contributes to the organization’s greater goals, is really important,” she said. 

Building or entering an ecosystem is easier said than done, though. According to an Accenture survey of 1,200 executives, 40 percent felt their organizations didn’t have the capacity to build out the structure, deliver the value exchange, monitor their roles in the ecosystem, and manage relationships. The biggest barriers: cybersecurity, IP protection, and structuring ecosystem governance. In fact, these were the primary obstacles to telemedicine before COVID-19 created the urgency around the service, Ridge recalled.

Darwin in the Ecosystem: Learn on the Fly, Fail Fast, and Adapt Accordingly

The presenters were setting up the larger point that companies shouldn’t shy away from entering ecosystems because of the technical complexities. Rather, they should get comfortable with learning on the fly, failing fast, and adapting their ecosystem model over time.

“There’s going to be risks and failures along the way,” said Kuzma, who added later in the presentation, “It never feels good to fail, right? But we always learn something from it. When we embrace those learnings and we advance forward that’s when we begin to see those roots of innovation.”

“Adaptive programs are going to be so important. Folks are going to have to build programs that can adjust over time, but also dynamically,” said Ridge. “Not all species survive, but the ones who do have that adaptive, responsive mindset.”

How do you go about selecting ecosystem partners? First, identify the market opportunity—the customer need that has yet to be filled. From there, align with the dominant player in that space, “the core player [that] can really set the pace, driving innovation and pushing the rest of the participants to coevolve and stay relevant,” advised Ridge. From there, you can start to layer infrastructure providers and service delivery partners that will build out the end-user experience.

A Rising Tide Delivers Growth, If Not Comfort

Keep in mind that the more diverse the set of players in your ecosystem, the faster you will churn out novel solutions.

“The more diverse your perspective, the greater your innovation is going to be and the broader the market that you are likely to engage with. Unlike the old models where companies used to operate as competitors in their separate silos, today the new environment disregards that competition in favor of contribution and collaboration, meeting the needs of end user,” said Ridge. “A rising tide raises all boats.”

Kuzma then laid out a roadmap for assembling an ecosystem strategy ordered in the following steps:

  • Awareness – How are your customers accessing your products and services?
  • Landscape – Who are you working with today?
  • Strategy – Based on your strategic drivers, whom should you partner with?
  • Framework – Develop KPIs, policies, procedures, communication, and change management.
  • Align – Are your partners in position to deliver on your goals and the customers’ needs?
  • Source – Add talent and technology that aligns with business objectives.
  • Innovate – Enhance the customer experience—what needs to change?
  • Optimize – “The sky is the limit,” said Kuzma.

In making this journey, Ridge urged senior leaders to prioritize innovation and engage stakeholders in sales, marketing, finance, legal, and other parts of the business “to lay out that roadmap first internally under that leadership guidance to reach beyond the enterprise to the market at large.” She added that you may not have to recreate the wheel—an ecosystem might already exist that is right for your organization and accepting new members.

Ridge closed by echoing Kuzma’s endorsement of the “fail-fast” mentality.

“There’s no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone,” she said.

Find out how Protiviti’s 2020 ASAP Alliance Excellence Award–winning “i on Hunger” program exemplifies how ecosystems can not only deliver great customer experiences but also change the world, in the estimation of both presenters.

(For the full story of i on Hunger and the other ASAP Alliance Excellence Award winners, don’t miss “Paragons of Excellence” in the Q3 2020 Strategic Alliance Magazine, coming to inboxes and mailboxes soon. The Q3 edition will also have a “Focus on Ecosystems,” which will consist of three articles on this business model that is fostering digital transformation and evolving the alliance management discipline.)

Tags:  alliance excellence awards  alliance management  Claudia Kuzma  Ecosystems  I on hunger  innovation  Nancy Ridge  partnership model  Protiviti  Ridge Innovative  stakeholders  Tidwit 

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The Road to Alliance Excellence: Upsher-Smith’s Journey

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Thursday, September 10, 2020

When a company relies heavily on partners and partnering for its success, it’s natural to assume some sort of “intelligent design”—i.e., that an intentional, coherent plan or program has been or is being put in place to promote and maintain alliance management and further that company’s strategic objectives via partnering. But what should such a program look like? How do you get an initiative like that off the ground? And how do you achieve executive buy-in to ensure that the alliance management program is nurtured and supported, rather than left orphaned and floundering?

These and other questions will form the subject of a keynote presentation by Rusty Field, president and CEO of Upsher-Smith Laboratories, LLC, called “Fostering Organizational Excellence in Alliance Management: The Upsher-Smith Vision Brought to Life,” at this month’s first-ever virtual ASAP BioPharma Conference, to be held September 14–16, 2020. His address will take place on the first morning of the conference and will be immediately followed by a panel discussion with some of Field’s Upsher-Smith colleagues involved in alliance management.

Upsher-Smith is a midsize pharma company based in Maple Grove, Minn., part of Japan-based Sawai Pharmaceutical. Its products include both generic and branded medications used to treat seizures, migraines, and other conditions. Like other companies of its size—and many throughout the biopharma ecosystem—Upsher-Smith more than gets by with a little help from its friends. In fact it depends on “the strength, depth, and daily execution of partnerships” to fulfill its goals, according to its website.

C-Suite Support of Alliances: “There Is No Other Way”

So what’s the formula? How does such an organization operate its alliances at a high level and achieve its objectives?

“Operational excellence in alliance management begins with the creation of strong working relationships with all of our partners, at every level of the organization,” Field explained. “From the start, leadership and team members need to understand and be sensitive to different work cultures and ways of doing work while at the same time developing a road map to leverage these differences to create new synergies. Measurably strong, collaboratively driven relationships ensure that we have the trust, transparency, and shared commitment required to achieve short- and long-term goals.”

In order to make that happen, getting senior executive buy-in and backing is a must, Field acknowledged.

“An organization-wide alliance management initiative absolutely requires the support of C-suite members in order to flourish,” he said. “There is no other way. As president and CEO, I believe that providing support to our executive team is critical, so that they will feel empowered to establish and grow a company-wide commitment to creating and capitalizing on synergies with key partners.”

The Appropriate People with the Appropriate Mindset

Alliances, of course, can look different depending on what type of partnership we’re talking about and what the objectives are. As they say, if you’ve seen one alliance, you’ve seen one alliance. In biopharma this diversity can include research and development, quality assurance, supply chain or manufacturing alliances, commercialization alliances, and more. So how does a company—or does a company—establish a uniform alliance management program that cuts across different functions and types of alliances?

“Every function in our organization stands to benefit from the principles of alliance management, including our commercial, technical, and supply chain areas,” Field said. “That’s why Upsher-Smith didn’t establish a new department for alliance management. Our approach instead involves creating and nurturing an organization-wide mindset that ensures the appropriate involvement of the appropriate people at the appropriate stages within the initiation, development, and commercialization phases of our alliances. The particulars of how this plays out may vary, but the underlying principles remain the same.”

The Collaborative Journey and the Road Ahead

As most alliance professionals know, the road to alliance management excellence and the solid and successful establishment of such a collaborative mindset can be a long one, full of detours and speed bumps along the way. But Field feels confident that he and Upsher-Smith are on the right path in their alliance management journey.

“It truly is a journey, and we are always building upon our experience and key learnings,” he said. “I am extremely proud of how committed our team is to the alliance management initiative, and how it has become a part of the culture here at Upsher-Smith. Going forward, our mission will be to continue to strengthen our global partnerships and to optimize programs critical to the company’s growth.”

As noted, immediately following Field’s presentation will be a panel discussion featuring Field and four of his Upsher-Smith colleagues:

  • Blake Boston, manager of procurement and sourcing
  • Mike McBride, CA-AM, vice president of partner relations
  • Gary Mackinnon, ASQ CQIA, CQPA, CQA, CPGP, and CMQ/OE, director of external quality
  • Jarrod Midboe, PMP, CCRC, director of clinical affairs and vendor/alliance management

If you haven’t already, be sure to register for the 2020 ASAP BioPharma Conference, Sept. 14–16. Registration entitles you to view any and all of the three days of livestream programming as they occur, as well as the half dozen on-demand sessions at any time. This year, our Virtual Coffee Cafés, Virtual Hallway Discussions, and Conference Roundtable Discussions promise to make the conference as interactive as it can be short of an in-person event. So we’ll see you there!

Tags:  Alliance Management  Blake Boston  procurement  Rusty Field  sourcing  Upsher-Smith Laboratories 

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The “Absolutely Critical Thing”: Pharma Alliances Needed Now More Than Ever

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Friday, September 4, 2020

In this era of COVID-19, we often talk about the challenges that come with sheltering in place, remote work, and social distancing. It’s tougher to read a room on videoconference; new employees often can’t get the deep, hands-on training and onboarding they need without their mentors literally by their side; and many professionals simply hate not being able to have a coffee or a drink with their colleagues in person. 

The Alliance Manager’s Challenge

Meanwhile, alliance managers in the pharmaceutical industry have other unique obstacles to overcome as well.

“The inability to get into a room together has made complex transactions very, very hard, except the whole system requires people to do complex transactions, and requires people to have alliances and to be able to manage them,” said Ed Cox, executive vice president of strategic alliances and global head of digital medicine at EVERSANA.

However, where there are challenges, there are also opportunities. On that score, Cox wants alliance managers to embrace the moment and let the chance to put our economy, our lives, and our public health back together again galvanize them.

“You can go a lifetime and the things that you do [for a living] can never be one of the most critical things in a moment for your civilization, but that’s what is happening. Strategic alliances in pharma are this absolutely critical thing in keeping our civilization moving forward,” he said. “That’s exciting.”

That excitement and sense of mission are sentiments Cox hopes attendees of his upcoming ASAP 2020 BioPharma Conference keynote presentation, “Strategic Alliances Within Pharma: Why the World Needs Alliance Management More Than Ever,” will come away with.

No Question, Pharma Alliances Are Exponentially More Complex

And make no mistake, the initiatives at the center of biopharma alliances are usually more complex than those in other industries, and by orders of magnitude. Where the purchase of a basic commodity represents the simplest of transactions—no previous relationship with the seller or any intimate knowledge of the product is required—biopharma alliances by contrast lie on the opposite end of the spectrum.

“Life sciences products are more complex by factors. If you think about the due diligence of a licensing transaction for a pharmaceutical product, there are between 100 and 150 entire lines of questioning—not questions, lines of questioning—and the truth is there should be another 100 that the person doesn’t know to ask,” said Cox, who will outline a four-point scale illustrating the range of transaction complexity in his BioPharma Conference session.  

Given this complexity, trust, always an evergreen topic in ASAP circles, has never been more essential.

In Normal Times or Today’s “Radically More Dramatic” Turbulence, Trust in Alliances Is Essential

“In even the most normal circumstances, you need strategic alliances to hold very complex transactions together because the products and asset class are incredibly complex. If you do not believe or you do not know the person on the other side has yours and their relationship first and foremost in their mind, then it is impossible to do these types of transactions. That is in the normal era. In an era of COVID, it is radically more dramatic,” said Cox.

Cox, who is involved in dozens of alliances in all stages of the pharmaceutical product life cycle at EVERSANA, hopes his presentation will spark a lively Q&A and discussion during the latter half of his session. But, again, his real mission is to create impassioned alliance managers who are eager to use their skills and relationships to battle COVID-19. While he has the benefit of working for a company that fosters a strong alliance culture, Cox recognized that not every alliance manager is so fortunate.

“There have been times that alliance management doesn’t always feel as appreciated as they could. They don’t feel that it is viewed as it should be,” said Cox. “If ever there was a time for alliance management to be viewed as critical as it always was, it’s now.”

The first-ever virtual ASAP BioPharma Conference will take place Sept. 14–16. Cox will deliver “Strategic Alliances Within Pharma: Why the World Needs Alliance Management More Than Ever” on Wednesday, Sept. 16, at 1:00 p.m. Register for the BioPharma Conference today to catch this presentation and many other great sessions!

Tags:  alliance  alliance management  complex transactions  digital medicine  Ed Cox  EVERSANA  life cycle  pharmaceutical  strategic alliances  transaction 

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School of Thought: Three Case Studies Illustrate How to Train Your Alliance Pros

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Sunday, August 16, 2020

Training is still a priority to corporations around the world, according to research from Vantage Partners. More than $80 billion was spent on all forms of coursework in 2019, but how much of that was dedicated to teaching formal alliance best practices? Not much, according to Ben Siddall, partner at Vantage Partners, who revealed that the same research found almost half of companies invested zero or few resources in teaching collaboration skills.

Siddall and his fellow partner at Vantage Jessica Wadd took some of their time to talk about the benefits of making this investment in their on-demand 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit session “Alliance Management Skill Building: Case Studies Across Industries,” where they presented a trio of case studies showing that successful collaborative training can take many forms.

Before delving into the actual use cases, Wadd shared that organizations that are best-in-class in executing collaborations have devoted resources—usually on a large scale—to fostering the following skills within their employees: creative joint problem solving, managing emotions, collaboration, communication, influence, conflict management, change management, and facilitation. She outlined three broad categories of skills to help companies tailor training to the needs of their troops: 1) analytical (i.e., technical knowledge), 2) behavioral (i.e., mindset-oriented), and 3) blended—talents that require a mix of the first two skills. As Wadd and Siddall would subsequently reveal, the organization’s overall training objectives, as well as the company and department culture, often dictate which format and skill-development exercises are best for a given situation. 

Come Together: Salespeople Gather to Network, Share, and Learn

Wadd outlined the first case study, which saw a $3 billion tech company design a certification program to ensure that its sales-oriented alliance team developed the talents needed to manage a large stockpile of go-to-market partnerships. This organization was at “level 2” on a four-point scale rating organizational collaborative capability, where level 1 signified a low alliance proficiency and a propensity to engage in partnerships on an ad hoc basis and level 4 indicated that collaboration was coded in an organization’s DNA. The organization envisioned moving up two levels by teaching a variety of executives from within and outside of the alliance practice the basic tenets of “Alliance 101,” including partner value creation, coopetition, multiparty problem solving, collaboration and influence, negotiation, matrix usage, and account planning.

This organization determined that in-person training would best fit its sales-centric culture—its charges “craved interpersonal interaction,” Wadd said. Training sessions served as a reunion of sorts where the largely dispersed employee base could gather to experience firsthand “the value of getting together with their colleagues, sharing experiences, networking with each other, and building a knowledge of what others had done,” as Wadd recounted. The actual sessions were organized into four broader tracks:

  1. Alliance concepts and best practices: Alliance management basics, change management, and coopetition
  2. Understanding partner business models and alliance business plans: Customer value creation and value chain analysis, and account planning and strategy development
  3. Advanced collaboration and influence: Multiparty problem solving, negotiation, and general collaboration and influence skills
  4. Roles and responsibilities (in the organization and within the alliance itself): Working in a matrix, coaching, and talent development

Learners were officially certified when they demonstrated competency in these skills, not upon completion of the courses. They were evaluated based on a three-part assessment: 1) a qualitative review by the trainee’s manager or sales leader, 2) a 34-question multiple-choice test, and 3) a presentation of two case studies demonstrating the application of alliance principles in real-life scenarios.

Biopharma AMs Ease into Self-Guided Alliance Journeys

On the other side of the spectrum of training methods was the largely customizable, self-service program architected by a level-3 $30 billion global pharma company that relied on partnering for growth. These alliance managers were proficient in the basics of alliance management, but they were increasingly engaging in early-stage partnerships, a departure from the largely late-stage collaborations the team was used to. With a decentralized team scattered in multiple geographies, this pharmaceutical giant took the opposite tack of the previous use case and created a library of prerecorded webinars and an accessible central alliance toolkit that provided a “baseline and discipline in how they engaged in alliance relationships,” according to Siddall.

Prospective students could assess their training needs through surveys and self-assessment tools. Employees had different needs depending on the types of alliances they worked on and the particular skills required for their respective engagements. Each individual could mine this central repository of virtual real-time learning sessions, classroom sessions, self-guided learning, one-on-one coaching, and community-based learning to create “their own learning journey out of that landscape,” said Siddall. “Folks were able to tailor what they needed and how they got it to their specific constraints, all within the construct of the core alliance management tools, processes, and playbook.”

Pharma Company “Layers” AM, Leadership, and Governance Training on Thick

Another biopharma company was looking to advance its alliance practice from a level-2 standing and become the coveted “partner of choice” in its market. With most of the employees engaged in its partnerships centrally located in a few offices, the company opted for a classroom style and a syllabus designed for alliance professionals. It decided to “layer” leadership training on top of the basic alliance curriculum, and then codeliver the entire offering to the rest of the organization in an “open enrollment” format, in Wadd’s retelling.

Within a few years, the course was heavily attended by alliance first-timers and other employees whose managers felt that they could benefit from learning core collaborative competencies. These classes were eventually complemented with online learning resources, as well. The program evolved to cater to specific governance needs across the alliance portfolio. Although they were not required, executives who were appointed to committees were urged to take courses that were conceived specifically for these roles, as well as half-day sessions that took place a few times a year where committee appointees could network, share ideas, learn from each other, and enhance their skills.

Integrating alliance training for all levels and roles in this fashion “makes sense when you have a limited budget,” in Wadd’s estimation.

Three Different Ways to the Next Level

Each of these three use cases relied on very different means to train alliance managers and non-alliance personnel in the core tenets of alliance management, yet they each molded stronger alliance managers and elicited better results from their collaborations. The certification program expanded the number of tools in the team’s arsenal, engaged employees from other departments, and increased the value of the portfolio to the point where alliances now contribute 40 to 50 percent of the company’s domestic revenue growth. The biopharma giant’s self-administered training similarly expanded the role and visibility of alliance management within the organization. More important, the efficient use of resources ensured that the practice could “optimize the use of [its] scarce central alliance expert time and apply [it] only to the highest-value challenges [it] faced,” said Siddall. The last training helped the alliance management team better defuse potentially volatile situations, reduced the number of escalations to senior governance committees, and produced better resolutions of the issues that were brought to senior management. The alliance practices of the first two organizations have reached level-4 status, while the latter pharmaceutical company has moved from level 2 to 3.

Although these case studies make it crystal clear that there is no “single silver bullet” for alliance training, Siddall outlined a few common principles in achieving collaborative training goals among them:

  1. Think about the learning journey as a process, not an event. “You can’t create collaboration, influence, [and] the kinds of complex skills alliance managers need at a one-time event with no prework, no follow-up, [and] no action learning,” said Siddall.
  2. Make sure all subject matter is contextualized. “Generic content will not be as impactful. Folks won’t develop the skills, and they won’t be as engaged,” counseled Siddall.
  3. Instructors should have real-world expertise and speak the same language as attendees.
  4. Emphasize practical application. Siddall recommended a “learning laboratory” format where students apply concepts to real-world scenarios.
  5. Think carefully about format,” Siddall exhorted, hypothesizing that analytical-category learning outlined by Wadd earlier in the presentation might lend itself to self-guided tools, while behavioral and blended training may necessitate live, interactive sessions.

“Alliance Management Skill Building: Case Studies Across Industries” is one of about two dozen 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit sessions available on demand to Summit registrants. ASAP members and Summit registrants can access great knowledge like this that applies to all industries and all phases of the alliance life cycle.

Because in the world of alliance management, the learning never stops. 

Tags:  alliance best practices  Alliance Management  Alliance Pros  alliances  Ben Siddall  biopharma  case studies  certification  collaboration skills  Jessica Wadd  partner  portfolio  resources  Skill Building  Vantage Partners 

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Managing Organizational Upheaval: Summit Session Teaches Alliance Managers How to Ease the Pain of Blistering Change

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Friday, July 10, 2020

The 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit may have officially concluded last Thursday, but registrants will have the opportunity to fill their brains with knowledge for several more weeks through additional sessions that are on demand via the Summit portal.

One of those presentations came courtesy of a pair of partnering pros from legal, tax, and accounting information services firm Thomson Reuters, who weighed in on a predicament which many are finding themselves in, given the current state of the global economy, “Absorbing and Facilitating Change: Managing Your Partner Program Through Organizational Upheaval”

Although the original inspiration for this session was the aftermath of the sale of more than half of Thomson Reuters’ assets to private equity firm Blackstone in 2018, much of what Ben Anderson, CA-AM, JD, Esq., partner asset and licensing program manager at Thomson Reuters, and Susan Cleveland, JD, global strategic alliances manager at Thomson Reuters, shared could be applied to situations that many are facing today thanks to COVID-19.

Anderson and Cleveland explained that they have had their hands full adjusting to their new post-acquisition reality. They have had to change partner agreements, separate domain names, and untangle joint products and services that were embedded into the business. A simple method for gaining approvals—sign-off from the vice president of sales—has been supplanted by a new protocol that entails navigating a labyrinthine org chart and multiple stakeholders. Although Cleveland said the alliance management practice has been buoyed by the buy-in they have received as a result of this face time with officials from all reaches of the company, she acknowledged that the process has forced the group to be less nimble. 

Hit Change Head on

After a brief background on the corporate changes to Thomson Reuters, the presenters put up a slide summarizing advice gleaned from many works of literature about dealing with change in a corporate or professional setting. The common thread among these sources is “hitting change head on. Don’t try to avoid it,” according to Anderson. “You need to prepare and you need to have a positive attitude about it, and you need to be an advocate for change in your organization.” Otherwise, “that valuable time is going to be squandered.”

Employees dodge change for many reasons. Cleveland and Anderson listed fear, incomplete information, inconsistent transparency, project organization, alignment, uncertainty, educating new people, and challenges in communication as some of the reasons why many choose not to deal with it.

The plus for alliance managers is that they are used to dealing with everything mentioned on that slide, Anderson noted. Cleveland recommended tackling fear first. In her company’s case, “People [were] afraid of losing their jobs” after the acquisition. She counseled viewers who may be dealing with similar situations in the current pandemic to “acknowledge the fear and say, ‘Hey, I’m not here to take your job. Yes, things are going to have to change, but I’m here to make this a positive change that helps our organization and helps you do your job better.”

Keep Technology, Org Changes, and Alliance Portfolio Info up to Date 

How do you prepare for change? Start with your technology. Make sure internal database and workflow applications are updated to reflect forthcoming organizational changes, so that contract amendments and terminations can be inputted quickly, for example. It is crucial to update partner portals during these times as well, as many people often miss emails, memos, and other pertinent communication because they are buried in work and moving at a blazing speed in the midst of a crisis.

Next, keep up with structural changes being made in yours and your partner’s organizations that result from major transactions, personnel moves, and the like.

“We’re going to see a lot of organizations change as a result of these changes that are happening to our economy,” said Cleveland. “You need to know who the right people are.”

If you can graphically illustrate a gap in a reconfigured chain of command, it will help corporate powers-that-be make quick adjustments to improve workflow. Otherwise, leaders might be tempted to overreact to a bump in the road and take more drastic measures than necessary.

“People are able to quickly grasp that information and focus on solving a problem, rather than saying— and I always hated hearing this—‘We need to look at this with a fresh lens and completely redo it from scratch.’ That’s how that precious time component can be lost,” said Anderson.

Org charts aren’t the only visuals alliance management needs to prepare as change swirls around a company. Alliance pros should always have illustrations of win-win scenarios; quick wins that partnering can bring in lead generation, marketing, or speed-to-market; and “Negotiating 101” for partner contracts on hand in the event they need to educate employees in other parts of the company who will work on or oversee alliances in some capacity or prove the alliance practice’s value at a moment’s notice. The presenters have also found that it always helps to have materials at the ready that explain the differences between a partner and a vendor.

Punctuating this information with ASAP knowledge has boosted the credibility of the Thomson Reuters alliance group’s educational information.

“I love saying that there’s an organization that dedicates its time just to this subject,” said Anderson.

“Best practices are critical, but back it up with data. It’s a 1-2 punch,” added Cleveland. These presentations should be tailored around your company’s preferred success metrics, whether that be revenue, margins, or other statistics.  

“Radical Transparency,” Joint Clients Help Hammer Home Messaging

When communicating internally during organizational upheaval, both presenters endorsed a policy of “radical transparency,” which entails keeping critical information related to partner agreements and initiatives up to date and accessible to everyone in the company—Cleveland leans on a “smart sheet” that tracks every single phase of onboarding a new partner, for example. She also noted that this approach flies in the face of the perception that hoarding information helps retain power.   

Communicating externally to partners is slightly more nuanced. Alliance managers often know about developments that haven’t been publicly disclosed. They must be mindful not to share sensitive information, and know at all times what has already been put in writing. However, don’t waste a minute in getting details to partners once information has been approved for external consumption, and be careful in phrasing your updates.

“Words matter,” reminded Cleveland.

Anderson urged listeners to “become best friends with your external communications team” more than once during the presentation. The communications department can, and should, inform partners about major company transformations just as they would other key constituents, such as employees, investors, and the general public.

It also essential to align partner and client communication. It is understandable if clients need to get information first. However, too much lag time between informing clients and partners often makes the latter “feel out of the loop,” in Anderson’s observation.

And make sure to communicate through multiple channels—email, phone, portal, Slack, etc. Different people rely on different media for primary communication.

Cleveland urged virtual Summit attendees to recruit joint clients to share their endorsement of company developments, wherever possible, to boost credibility of the message.

“Joint clients talk,” she said. “They can help us evangelize when there are these changes.”

Either way, Anderson advised session viewers to “continue to advocate for your partners,” regardless of what is going on internally.

The presenters concluded the session with their key takeaways. Cleveland stressed that change isn’t new, and it’s inevitable.

“Have a positive attitude around change,” she urged, adding that a negative attitude can hamper the morale of those in your orbit. “We’ve all been in those meetings where that one person brings it all down.”

Anderson suggested that alliance pros look at change as an opportunity. They might get to try new things that could benefit them in the long run.

“If things are going to be done in a new way, then look at the positive,” he said. “If you start early, if you are prepared for that transition, you will come out on top.”

Again, this session is available to Summit registrants in the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit portal, along with more than a dozen other prerecorded presentations and video of all three days of the live event itself. Summit content will be accessible until August 18. 

Tags:  accounting information services  alliance management  Ben Anderson  communications team  COVID-19  legal  onboarding  partner agreements  Partner Program  partnering  partners  radical transparency  Susan Cleveland  tax  Thomson Reuters 

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