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AI Is Simple—Until It’s Not

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Thursday, March 26, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Selling? Easier Said Than Done

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

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

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

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

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

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Alignment, Agility, and ‘Leadership IQ’ | Alliance leaders always have driven alignment. But what do we do differently, as disruption accelerates?

Posted By Michael Leonetti, CSAP, Wednesday, November 27, 2019

As an alliance leader, I used to spend 70 percent of my time not working with partners, but working on aligning internally. The concept of creating value through partnering was brand new for our leaders. We’d never walk into a meeting without a pre-meeting. Building alignment stole time away from creating new value with partners—yet it was critically important to delivering the value intended when the alliance was created.

Much has changed in alliance management—but driving alignment remains a central task of alliance leaders.

Indeed, research indicates the highest performing alliance leaders are “ambassadors” who bridge boundaries both internally as well as externally. They focus “on dialoguing with superiors and other stakeholders, proactively putting themselves on the agenda of their leaders, and managing behaviors,” according to Dave Luvison, CSAP, PhD, professor at Loyola University Maryland.

That makes sense—but what about time for externally facing alliance management?

Applying agile principles to partnering reflects a broad understanding in our profession that alliance management cannot afford to accrete more bureaucracy and process. Instead, how can we simplify the activities and processes of driving alignment so that partnering can become more agile? That seems essential to proceed effectively in the ecosystem—where it’s just not possible for there to be 100 percent alignment.

Complex models once helped us describe, in comprehensive detail, the complicated work and rich value created in the alliance management function. Alliance leaders have always looked for simplified means to explain the complexity of partner value creation. Back in the day, we used our STAR model to define Situations, Tasks, Actions, and Results—simplifying our alignment discussions as much as possible.

Today, partnering leaders look to jettison complexity wherever they can, seeking shortcuts in the traditional alliance lifecycle and technologies to further streamline alliance activities. It is the embodiment of Albert Einstein’s famous admonishment: “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” At its roots, then, agility is about changing how we think.

“Growth is a thinking game,” said Salesforce evangelist Tiffani Bova, author of Growth IQ. I would add that alliance management is a thinker’s profession. As our profession both expands and evolves in direct response to pervasive disruption, our most critical and differentiating skill remains our “leadership IQ.” It defines how we understand the transformation of business and its implications for partnering practice.

“In the advancing era of artificial intelligence, companies need to create all the pieces—and alliances—necessary to make it easy to adapt for the advancement of products,” said Bruce Anderson, IBM’s general manager, high tech/electronics industry. “You need to ask how your company should be thinking about alliances in this accelerating business approach,” he emphasized. “Alliances have become fundamental to the idea of strategy.”

Anderson’s and Bova’s points reinforced each other in a powerful way, I thought. How we think, the choices (and sequence of choices) we make, and how quickly and efficiently we can make decisions all matter. Alliance managers must improve their “leadership IQ” to better understand the big picture of disruption, how it will create value or threaten loss of market share—and how, “in this accelerating business approach,” they will drive alignment accordingly.

Tags:  accelerating  agile  aligning creating value  alliance leader  alliance management  alliances  artificial intelligence  Bruce Anderson  Dave Luvison  drive alignment  Growth IQ  IBM  leadership IQ  Loyola University Maryland  partnering alliance  partners  strategy  Tiffani Bova 

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Covey Got It Just Right: ‘Sharpen Your Saw’ in 2019—Because the Faster Partnering Moves, the More Learning and Professional Development Matters

Posted By Michael Leonetti, CSAP, Saturday, March 9, 2019

We recently did some research into ASAP’s Certified Strategic Alliance Professionals. Going back to 2010, we found that fully 90 percent of CSAPs—nine out of every 10 recipients—remain active members in the association. That tells me that that CSAPs are leaders who think seriously about our profession, who want to ensure this is an enduring profession, and who can do the hard, heavy lifting it takes to be at the top of their game.

In other words, our CSAPs are still reinvesting, following the late Stephen Covey’s advice: “We must never be too busy to take time to ‘Sharpen the Saw.’”

Covey’s seventh habit of highly effective people borrows from ancient wisdom traditions as well as modern insight into the importance of renewal. It reminds us to take regular breaks in our personal lives, and to periodically re-sharpen the skills and knowledge that keep us on the forefront of our profession. This essential saw-sharpening only happens when we engage deeply in the alliance management community and participate in its events.

Just how sharp does the learning get? Check out our Strategic Alliance publications’ coverage of the November 8-9, 2018 ASAP European Alliance Summit in Amsterdam—and join me in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for the March 11-13, 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Agile Partnering in Today’s Collaborative Ecosystems.”

Both of these international events exemplify how our community collectively sharpens the saw—how we continually reflect, reexamine, and renew the content of our learning. ASAP events are an eye-popping confluence of brilliant and diverse people—typically a 50/50 mix of ASAP veterans and newcomers. Our content gets richer and more nuanced with every conference as it updates tried-and-true alliance management fundamentals with the bleeding edge of practice.

The alliance lifecycle—as presented in the ASAP Handbook of Alliance Management: A Practitioner’s Guideremains very relevant “blocking and tackling.” But—as we push across industry boundaries and into ecosystem partnering, agile practices, organizational collaborative capability, and even partnering process automation—it’s obvious that so many things around the alliance lifecycle must be agile. One partnership may skip lifecycle steps two, three, and four; another alliance might start at one, continue through three, and then go to market.

We’ve talked for years about partnering going beyond alliance management. Now we’re in the “perfect storm” as the partnering everywhere model comes to life. Ecosystem partnering is everywhere—in technology, in life sciences, even in jewelry, where open innovation networks fuel innovation for Swarovski, as I learned last fall in Amsterdam. Classic channel partnerships are in decline, cloud partnerships are accelerating, and the whole field of partnering is getting much larger, much more complex.

Look at digital therapeutics—I’ve been predicting at ASAP conferences that IT companies would be the healthcare partners of the future. Now we have life science member companies partnering with big data and analytics and launching therapies approved by the US Food and Drug Administration that are primarily software based, while tech companies’ business models evolve to be able to deliver safe, reliable healthcare-related services. In telecom, 5G speeds will create new networks and mobile capabilities that we’ve never seen before—requiring partners we’ve never seen before. And artificial intelligence—what organizations and processes will become our partners in the future because of the advances of AI, and how will that again change the complexity of our alliances? 

Amidst this perfect storm, ASAP is a perfect conduit for everyone who leads collaborations to learn how to do it better and evolve “the how” every day in practice. So sharpen your saw. Invest in your community through ASAP, and invest in yourself through ASAP’s professional development events and publications.

Stephen Covey got it just right: “‘Sharpen the Saw’ means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have—you.”

Visit http://asapsummit.org for the most up-to-date agenda for March 11-13, 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, and register for the event, at. See the ASAP Media team’s comprehensive before, during, and after coverage of the 2019 Summit in Strategic Alliance publications and on the ASAP blog. 

Michael Leonetti, CSAP, is president and CEO of ASAP and executive publisher of ASAP Media and Strategic Alliance publications. A previous version of this article appeared in Q1 2019 Strategic Alliance Quarterly

Tags:  5G  agile practices  alliance lifecycle  alliance management  artificial intelligence  ecosystem partnering  healthcare-related services  mobile  organizational collaborative  Partnering  Professional Development  telecom 

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