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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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The Tsunami Effect of AI on Partnering—Part 1 of the 2019 ASAP Summit Keynote Address

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Friday, March 22, 2019

How do you align for the era of smart?  “Let’s put smart to work” was the mantra Bruce Anderson chose for his keynote address “Partnering in the AI Era: An Essential Shift from Value Chains to Business Ecosystems” at the recent 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Anderson is IBM’s global managing director, global electronics industry, and he painted a vision that appeared highly relevant to alliance managers and their associates in the packed room.

“In my world, with the scope of clients, there is almost [always] an alliance idea that happens several times a day,” Anderson said, setting the stage for his address. “We put a lot of structure around that. I have seen that structure help us define these alliances and what they could do.”

The market is moving so fast from a linear to dynamic approach that you need to ask how your company should be thinking about alliances in this accelerating business approach, he stated. “IBM figured out a long time ago you have to partner, and the real value of companies like IBM is to bring the pieces together to create business value. That’s where the ecosystem comes into play.”

Anderson then provided some context: Design cycles for hardware took years, but now technology development is going faster and faster. As companies come into this space, they need to leverage what they’ve created by “reaching out to a broader ecosystem to create value. The approach is getting more open,” he pointed out. “This is only going to accelerate. The change is not only how products are brought together, but also how they partner in the marketplace.”

In this climate, alliance managers need make sure ideas are aligned “because a lot of thought went into the idea of strategy to get momentum for the alliance in the company. We use the word cognitive. You can use the world AI. We think about augmented intelligence and using data to make life—at work and at home—better. This is done most effectively in the Cloud. So there has been a lot of change for us since the ‘80s. But the context for what this is useful for is industries.”

In the advancing era of artificial intelligence (AI), companies need to create all the pieces—and alliances—necessary to make it easy to adapt for the advancement of products, he said. “Alliances have become fundamental to the idea of strategy. How has IBM shifted over the years?” he then asked, flashing a slide of a revenue chart IBM put together years ago with the overarching header “Over 50% of IBM revenue will come from Cloud and Cognitive Solutions in the near future.” Anderson then followed with a slide on AI “emerging across ecosystems … everywhere,” that was broken into three categories:

  • AI-enabled engagement
  • AI-enabled analytics
  • AI-enabled operations

AI seems to have an unlimited number of applications, and Anderson talked about a small handful of which IBM has been partnering on: digital farming, block chain (which prevents waste), mapping the microbiome, sensor detection of pathogens, and radical recycling. A discussion then took place about the multiple benefits of AI in IBM’s Food Trust.

Stay tuned for more of ASAP Media’s live, onsite coverage of this session and others from 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit. Cynthia B. Hanson is managing editor of ASAP Media and Strategic Alliance publications. 

Tags:  AI-enabled engagement  alliance managers  Artificial Intellegence  block chain  Bruce Anderson  Cloud  cognitive Solutions  design cycles  digital farming  ecosystem  global electronics  IBM  partner 

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