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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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Partnering Superheroes | Who Better to Combine Collaborative Leadership Skills with Strategic Vision and Ride Them All the Way to the C-Suite?

Posted By Mike Leonetti, CSAP, Friday, April 17, 2020

Superhero movies are definitely, as the kids say, “a thing.” They’re fun and exciting, a great way to liven up a long winter night. But do superheroes really exist, and could they have any relevance for us in terms of business strategy? I didn’t think so, but recently I was part of three conversations that changed my mind.

 

First, I spoke with Elizabeth Gazda, CEO of Embr Labs, in anticipation of her upcoming Leadership Forum talk at the ASAP Global Alliance Summit. Embr Labs makes a wearable bracelet that can raise or lower your skin temperature to help with stress reduction and anxiety and improve sleep and focus. Before joining Embr, Liz cofounded a fintech and a music technology startup, and worked at some of Boston’s first “unicorns,” like ATG and m-Qube.

 

Liz made the point that the collaborative leadership and critical thinking skills needed in the C-suite are very close to those of the alliance management competency profile. Liz believes partnering “superheroes” can and should be showcased in their organizations as potential future CEOs. In her view, alliance management is the perfect preparation for executive leadership, especially as more and more companies undergo digital transformation via partnerships and seek to nurture and reward collaborative entrepreneurial excellence.

 

A second conversation took place in early February in Boston, at an ASAP New England chapter meeting whose theme was “Taking the Next Step: Critical Skills for Aspiring Alliance Executives and Organizational Leaders.” Moderated by Mai-Tal Kennedy of Vantage Partners, the discussion featured panelists Lou Shipley, former CEO of Black Duck Software and a lecturer at Harvard Business School and MIT; Christine Carberry, CSAP, board member at the UNH Entrepreneurship Center; and Andrew Hirsch, CFO and head of corporate development for Agios Pharmaceuticals.

 

All of them highlighted both the difficult job alliance managers have and its relevance for future career success. Lou in particular noted the number of alliance management “superstars” at his previous organization, including one who combined the roles of alliance management, business development, and investment banking expertise—superhero skills indeed. This individual directed the ultimate spinoff of the company and saved it close to $10 million. How’s that for adding value?

 

The third conversation was Jay McBain’s January 30 ASAP webinar, “Top 10 Channel and Alliances Predictions for 2020.” This presentation, an outgrowth of Jay’s influential research for Forrester, highlighted key trends affecting not only the tech world but most industries, as nearly every company, he says, is fast becoming a technology company. (See our cover story in Strategic Alliance Quarterly on ecosystems, for more of Jay’s and other experts’ timely insights and analysis of this exploding phenomenon.)

 

Among these trends is what Jay calls the “trifurcation” of the IT indirect sales channel into an influencer channel, the familiar transactional channel, and a retention channel. He noted too that with such heavyweights as Microsoft and Salesforce bringing hundreds or thousands of new partners into their ecosystems every month, a great partner experience is quickly becoming as important as a great customer experience when companies look strategically to their future.

 

With this heightened awareness of the interrelated issues of customer and partner experience—especially the complex retention phase—how are we going to manage all these relationships and ecosystems? What sort of superheroes will be needed to lead behemoths like Microsoft, Google, Salesforce, IBM, and others into the partnering-everywhere world?

 

I think you know the answer. Who better than alliance professionals? As Jay said, they’re the ones with the right résumé to be ecosystem managers and orchestrators—not only in IT, but in biopharma, manufacturing, consumer goods, and across industries. These partnering specialists, collaboration leaders, and strategic visionaries have the capabilities, the skills, and the superhero savvy to get it done—the same attributes that make them ideal candidates for the C-suite.

 

So what’s holding us back? Despite an abundance of evidence, not enough companies have grasped the full implications. I see many organizations focused on the transaction—and not applying partnering best practice in the retention phase of sales partnerships. As Jay argues, some of them—even among the Fortune 500—will end up losers, sticking their heads in the sand and refusing to adapt to an oncoming future where customer satisfaction is increasingly delivered through a great partner experience (Px).

 

Alliance professionals can make Px a reality right now. The lessons of past partnership failures should be enough to rally today’s C-suite leaders to seek success in the massive partnerships their organizations will undertake. In addition, organizations must begin grooming their best alliance managers for the C-suite and other positions of leadership in the future—even as they’re employing them for partner and customer retention in the present. We have the tools, the skills, and the people to get the job done; what’s needed is a true focus and consensus that partnerships are difficult and require best practices and trained professionals to make them successful. That and a hardy band of partnering superheroes—with or without the cape.

Tags:  alliance professionals  Black Duck Software  Christine Carberry  collaborative leaders  c-Suite  ecosystem  Elizabeth Gazda  Embr Labs  Google  Harvard Business School  IBM  Jay McBain  Lou Shipley  Mai-Tal Kennedy  Microsoft  MIT  partnerships  Salesforce  UNH Entrepreneurship Cen  Vantage Partners 

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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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‘Running on Ice’: Creating a Winning Partnering Team When the Odds Are Against You—Part 2

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, March 13, 2019

“Just getting on the track was a challenge,” Donna Peek, CSAP, vice president, global alliances at Genpact, said during a creative session “Cool RunningsThe Road to Building New Alliance Capability” co-led by her colleague Scott Valkenburgh, CSAP, vice president, global alliances leader. She was further explaining their analogy of their process of building a winning bobsledding team, much as was done for the 1988 Olympics by a Jamaican team (see Part 1 of this blog for background on the movie used to frame for their session).  The analogy was particularly near and dear to Peek’s heart because her grandmother is Jamaican, she said, while modeling her yellow jacket worn for the event. Peek continued to describe Genpact’s challenging experience transitioning into a partnering mindset where they created teams capable of “running on ice.”

“Our organizations are filled with sellers with no partnering experience. We didn’t know how to think about partnering. So we created a  quick and easy checklist to answer the existential question: To partner or not to partner?” explained Peek to rippling laughter throughout the room. The list highlights the following key questions:

  1. Should we consider partnering?
  2. Will partnering increase the likelihood of winning?
  3. Can we team with this partner?
  4. What are my options other than partnering?

We eventually “had in place the owner, experienced coaches,  growing team, strategy. Now we needed uniforms, equipment, etc.,” she further explained. “And you can’t win races without money. That means getting sponsors and establishing partner programs. … In doing that, we work with all the key stakeholders,” she continued, and then talked about areas in need of alignment with the strategy:

  • Marketing
  • Legal
  • Services lines: “We created our Blueprint 2.0 to … understand their strategies and align with our strategies.”
  • Risk/compliance: “We created a vendor governance office at Genpact—not the most ‘partner friendly’ processes.”
  • Sales and the CRM system: “The very first order of business when contemplating partnering, where we looked at fields to tag partners [in our CRM system to] capture data about partnering.” 

Prepping the training track is another important component, added Van Valkenburgh. “The  challenge is to achieving the “perfect slide”—a bobsledding term. When bringing a bobsled onto the track, and getting people to push it, you need to ask: “How do we know the track is running well and consistent?”

Peek and Van Valkenburgh experienced “the antithesis of what every alliance professional experiences,” he observed. “Senior leadership was behind it, but then you get to the other 89,000 people. So you get the funding, support, and visibility, and then you realize there is  concrete underneath [the snow], and someone melted the ice. ... It’s really apparent on the track that that is concrete, not ice,” he joked. “We are a company of entrepreneurs, but a company of entrepreneurs with 90,000 people is a lot of train wrecks. Systems and processes really matter. So how do you combine that track with the entrepreneurial spirit?” he asked. “The last part was, we don’t have a track. If I don’t produce the results, building out the track doesn’t matter. How do we build this track and get the culture behind it?”

What was one of the best tools Genpact used to reconfigure the organization? An alliance maturity model, said Van Valkenburg.  “Most of us have these complex models, these spider webs. What we created was [a simple] six things.

“If you can get the maturity level to advance, the growth potential is huge,” he noted. “This can be difficult for one-on-one partnerships, but multi-tenancy partnerships are even harder. … You have to spend as much internal time with [your organization’s leaders] building a true connection. Once they believe you are going to build a bobsled team, you are in. Your team skillset matters. The involvement of the leadership matters,” he concluded. “The celebration is with the team, not just the alliance partners.”

Stay tuned for more of ASAP Media’s comprehensive coverage at the 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit.

Tags:  alliance professionals  alliances  Donna Peek  Genpact  Global Alliance Summit  partner  partnering mindset  partners  Scott Van Valkenburgh  team 

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Summit Panel Discusses ‘Herding Your Lawyers’—How to Turn Attorneys into Collaborators Using New Tools and Tricks of the Trade

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Tuesday, March 27, 2018

At the 2018 Global Alliance Summit, attorney Bill Kleinman, a partner at Haynes & Boone, LLP, leads an intriguingly titled panel discussion on “Herding Your Lawyers: Turning Negotiators into Collaborators.” Law schools prepare lawyers as zero-sum negotiatorsnot collaborators, Kleinman asserts. But when alliance professionals can turn their attorneys into collaborators, it benefits their partnerships. Kleinman’s panel includes two seasoned alliance managers to help him demonstrate approaches, techniques, and tools for negotiating collaboration: Nancy Breiman, CSAP, director, global alliances at IBM, and Bernie Hannon, CSAP, strategic alliance director, Citrix.  The panel plans to use interactive tools for negotiating a strategic alliance to prepare for a mock negotiation between a municipal lighting supplier and an artificial intelligence company for smart cities lighting. For the March 2018 edition of eSAM Plus and for this blog post, I had the pleasure of interviewing all three session leaders about their insightful session before the 2018 Summit, whose theme is “Propelling Partnering for the On-Demand World: New Perspectives + Prov­en Practices for Collaborative Business” and will be held March 26-28 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA. The following article continues the conversation that begins in eSAM Plus.   

How can these techniques and tools be applied in multi-party collaborations?

Bill Kleinman: I’ve set up the tools for a two-party alliance, but I have used them in multi-party alliances. I have used them in five- and six-party alliances.

Nancy Breiman: Using these tools, even if it’s only with two parties, has incredible value. But I have tried to work in partnerships where there are multiple parties involved, and no one has figured that out yet. It’s very challenging on multiple fronts. Where I’d like to test the waters on this is with IBM’s blockchain ecosystem strategy. With blockchain technology, you have to have multiple parties in the ecosystem. It’s the nature of the beast.

Kleinman: Multiple parties are exponentially harder. But one of the tools we look at, which we call alliance swim lanes, permits as many partner lanes as we want.

Breiman: But then you will have five sets of KPIs, five sets of IPs, etcetera, to deal with.

Kleinman: It’s definitely a multiplier.

Hannon: The more complexity, the more need for structure. What Bill is proposing here for a two-party agreement is all the more critical when it involves multiple parties. It speaks to the need to come up with something that is structured and allows for the same discovery and results when multiple parties are involved. That is so much harder to achieve without tools. I wouldn’t even attempt to do a multi-party collaboration without tools like this.

What are some of the other collaboration challenges this session will address?

Breiman: There is no way to separate the legal construct and thinking from the alliance construct. A good alliance manager will have both party’s needs top-of-mind. You need to represent your own company while being sensitive to the needs of other partners. The legal team needs to be part of the team up front and part of the collaboration process. I don’t think they are separated.

Hannon: If you can avoid some of the trial-and-error aspect of the maturation process, you are going to be in a better position to produce better partnerships sooner.

Breiman: Bernie and I together have a lot of years of alliance management under our belts. For new people, its hard to bring them into the business because its one of those roles where maturity, seniority, and experience are needed. New alliance managers without a lot of world experience can avoid a lot of the pitfalls using these tools.

How do you apply these techniques and tools in your alliance management positions?

Kleinman: I’ve probably been using these tools over the last 10 years, and they have developed over time. They are based on things that I have come up with and read about in literature.

Hannon: I am just learning about this process in this engagement with Bill and Nancy. I have a very forward-looking view of this. A lot of the negotiations I’ve been involved with until now were done the old-fashioned way. Things have changed enough in these industries that we need to find new outcomes. Partnerships tend to be more enduring when founded on objectives and outcomes that are perhaps more mutually desirable than in the past.

The views represented by Nancy Breiman and Bernie Hannon are their own and do not necessarily reflect their company’s perspectives. For more information on this and other Summit sessions, go to http://asapsummit.org/.

Tags:  alliance  alliance professionals  Bernie Hannon  Bill Kleinman  Citrix  Collaborators  Haynes & Boone  IBM  Lawyers  Nancy Breiman  Negotiators  partnerships  techniques  tools 

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