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Supplier-User Collaboration Requires More Than Advanced Technology—Alliance Management Is Needed, Too

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The World Economic Forum (WEF) issued a white paper this month calling for all players along the manufacturing chain to expedite the adoption of advanced digital technologies that enhance the collaborative supply chain. WEF has given the industry plenty of homework in the directives it detailed in the document:

  • Mine artificial intelligence (AI), predictive analytics, and machine learning technologies to reduce material consumption and increase resource efficiency
  • Utilize electronic labels, such as an integrated electronic display or a machine-readable code that links to a webpage (e.g., QR code), in order to foster the seamless movement of products across different regions that each have their own unique information and labeling requirements
  • Leverage digital twin technology to combat fraud
  • Use the potpourri of “it” technologies—blockchain, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), edge computing, predictive analytics, etc.—to increase supply chain network agility so that organizations don’t miss a beat when faced with natural disasters, new tariffs, social instability, equipment or infrastructure failure, or any other unforeseen events that can disrupt operations
  • Remanufacture, reduce, reuse, and recycle parts wherever possible

WEF’s report is dotted with success stories from household names, including Foxconn, Ralph Lauren Corporation, Apple, and General Motors.

Now, nobody’s disagreeing with WEF’s premise; there’s an urgency for component suppliers, assembly manufacturers, final-product producers, and users to adopt these technologies—those who don’t will perish. However, we were struck by the relative simplicity of the use cases put forth in WEF’s paper. This isn’t to say that the achievements of the aforementioned brands came easily or that they implemented these technologies handily, but the case studies consisted largely of linear one-to-one relationships.

In reality, many of the increasingly complex products and services that manufacturers are trying to deliver today depend on an ecosystem of multiple deeply intertwined partners. As Russ Buchanan, CSAP, vice president of global channel strategy alliances and operations at Xerox and ASAP’s chairman emeritus, noted in a recent discussion about sourcing in the new economy, there can be as many as five or six vendors delivering a single smart vehicle, heart monitor, or other interactive device. Each of these partners has its own large network of suppliers and subcontractors. That is a lot of moving parts!

With each of these players bringing an essential part of a solution, a collaborative supply chain needs more than just these wonderful technologies themselves to deliver transformative solutions.

“The sourcing community is definitely being very sophisticated in some cases in managing their suppliers like alliance partners,” said Buchanan. “Increasingly, I find that the people in sourcing need these [alliance management] skills. When they start to work with a supplier, they’re trying to get more than just the lowest possible cost of commodity, the primary mission of most sourcing agencies. Increasingly, what you hear us asking our suppliers for, and what we hear our customers asking us for is, ‘Do more than that. Give me good value, but also give me innovation. Help me change my business. Help my transformation be more competitive in enhancing my customers’ experience working with us.’”

There is a much deeper degree of codependency between alliance members working together to construct solutions of this nature than the average supplier in a company’s network. This interdependency makes it much harder to switch suppliers in the face of a political revolution, seven-on-the-Richter-Scale earthquake, or sudden tariff hike, even if your predictive analytics algorithm is recommending and providing the blueprint for a change. That digital twin will certainly help the partner ecosystem synthesize a voluminous amount of data into actionable direction on how to maintain and enhance physical assets, systems, and processes, but it won’t help you iron out disagreements between each partner over how to implement changes.

As the degree of mutual dependence increases in manufacturing partnerships, the less effective advanced digital technologies will be in enhancing collaboration without good old-fashioned “soft skills,” particularly those set forth in The ASAP Handbook of Alliance Management. After all, conflict management, issues identification, and risk mitigation are integral parts of managing an alliance. Andrew Eibling, CSAP, vice president of business development and alliance management at Enable Injections, Inc., said it takes more backroom interaction to maintain a healthy relationship once you make the leap from run-of-the-mill supplier to strategic ally—or “Vegas-rules discussions,” as he framed it, where “you can have conversations with somebody about the partnership, but what we talk about stays here.”

In other words, supply chain collaboration has in many cases risen to a level of sophistication that requires more than just state-of-the-art software to drive industry-changing outcomes.

Be sure to check out the forthcoming editions of Strategic Alliance Monthly and Strategic Alliance Quarterly in Q4, which will feature deeper explorations of the evolving relationship between alliance managers and the sourcing and procurement functions as the latter more and more often find themselves managing their supplier relationships like alliances.  

Tags:  alliance managers  alliances  Andrew Eibling  artificial intelligence (AI)  Enable Injections  manufacturing partners  partner  predictive analytics  Russ Buchanan  sourcing and procurement  Strategic Alliance Monthly  Strategic Alliance Quarterly  supplier relationships  World Economic Forum  Xerox 

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Partnering the Future: Our Community’s Ahead-of-the-Curve Thinkers Pave the Path Forward

Posted By Michael Leonetti, CSAP, Monday, March 11, 2019
Updated: Saturday, March 9, 2019

Want to know what the future holds for your organization? Go to an ASAP conference or read ASAP Media publications. It’s been that way since the first ASAP Global Alliance Summit in 1999—but two decades later, at the 2019 Summit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, it feels different. As the future of business rapidly unfolds before us in this partnering everywhere world, it seems our thought leaders are on the cusp of just about everything.

Last fall, I kicked off three conferences in three months on two continents, each time ticking off essentially the same list of trends that now are accelerating alliances and transforming how we partner. On Tuesday, March 12, I welcome alliance management’s best and brightest at the Summit’s opening and my list of game-changing topics remains pretty much the same:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) software learns to learn
  • Internet of Things (IoT) on the edge
  • Public cloud innovation
  • Cyber security, distributed trust, blockchain, data protection and privacy (in particular, Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR)
  • Med tech, organ on a chip, and bio printing
  • Agile partnering and agile technologies
  • Consumers and their tools (social media) and immersive customer experience (CX)
  • Amazon and Alibaba

For alliance managers in biopharma, I also added the volatility of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the US—and healthcare costs everywhere; the co-pay accumulator and the consolidation of patient access; the inevitable convergence of e-services; the role of gene therapy as an economic change maker; digital therapeutics; and new antibiotic discoveries.  

Then, each time after I ticked off this list—at the ASAP BioPharma Conference in September, at the October ASAP Tech Partner Forum, and in November at the ASAP European Alliance Summit—I found myself sitting back in wonder, listening as speaker after speaker boggled my mind. Heading into spring at this month’s Summit—and heading into summer at the June 19, 2019 ASAP Tech Partner Forum in Santa Clara, California, hosted by Citrix Systems—the ride gets even wilder, and more relevant, current, and provocative.

We’ve had CEOs onstage talking about combining Cambridge, Massachusetts, life sciences and Silicon Valley technologies into software-based, FDA-approved therapeutics that replace pills. A global alliance manager who manages a $5 billion public-private partnership dedicated to accelerating the innovative medicines pipeline. Chief alliance officers from software, artificial intelligence, and robotics companies that are partnering at light speeds to automate everything they can, from clerical work and automobile driving to marketing, sales, and even alliance management itself.  

I was amazed to hear in an IoT session the back-and-forth between speakers and audience about regulatory efforts, like GDPR, to stick the data privacy genie back into the bottle. “What about privacy?” ChromaWay’s Todd Miller asked the panelists.  Scott Smith, founder of Fathym, surprisingly replied:

I think people will eventually give up privacy. Go back 100 years, when we all lived in small villages. We lived with no privacy whatsoever. I think that today's privacy issue grows out of [Orwell’s] 1984 and the ‘70s when we were concerned about Big Brother and the CIA, but I think in comparison with human history, today's concern over privacy is an anomaly. I think we’d be shocked at what they already know. … I was sitting next to a 20 year old when Snowden came out. She said, "I thought everyone already knew this.”

There’s a reason we’re so on top of things in the ASAP community: We’re in the middle of it. We didn’t have to do a dissertation on it (though we do have a plethora of PhDs in our ranks). We’re seeing, hearing it, living it every day. That’s why we build our leadership muscle—the topic of the Q4 2018 Strategic Alliance Quarterly cover story. We’ve got to be strong and flexible to pave the road to the future through our partnerships.

Ready for our next mind-blowing workout? Join me and attend at least one of the next three events already on the calendar in this year—the March 11-13, 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, the June 19, 2019 ASAP Tech Partner Forum, and the September 23-25, 2019 ASAP BioPharma Conference. You’ll return to your daily tasks with profound new insights—and a brain that’s just bulging with newfound leadership muscle.

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 Q4 2018 Strategic Alliance Quarterly.

Tags:  Agile partnering  Alibaba  alliance management  alliance managers  Amazon  Artificial intelligence (AI)  bio printing  blockchain  customer experience  Cyber security  distributed trust  GDPR  healthcare  Internet of Things (IoT)  Med tech  organ on a chip  Public cloud 

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