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Driving Through Spaghetti: Navigating the “Chaos” of Biopharma/Digital Partnerships

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Wednesday, September 16, 2020

There are many things biopharma alliance professionals do well, and many areas where they shine. Partnerships between life sciences companies and digital organizations, however, while on the rise, remain the new frontier for alliance management. And to give alliance professionals their due, it’s often their organizations that are caught flatfooted by the demands and challenges that lie along the biopharma/digital divide. In fact, greater involvement by alliance groups might help operationalize and execute on these partnerships such that they fulfill their purposes and create more of their intended value.

That’s one of the assessments provided by Stu Kliman, CA-AM, and Ben Siddall, both partners in Vantage Partners, in their presentation, “Enhancing Partnerships Between Life Sciences and Digital Organizations,” on day two of the 2020 ASAP BioPharma Conference. (Vantage Partners is a platinum sponsor of the conference.)

In introducing Kliman and Siddall, ASAP president and CEO Michael Leonetti, CSAP, noted that this is “a topic that we’ve been talking about for a number of years at ASAP.” The two presenters agreed, with Siddall adding that what has changed in the three or four years since he and Kliman began facilitating such partnerships and doing presentations on the subject is the sheer proliferation of these alliances—to the extent that they can no longer fit on one slide anymore.

The trend is part of “an increasingly complex ecosystem, with biopharma at the center,” according to Siddall. The question, he said, is “How do we take advantage of all these relationships and manage [them] in a coherent way?” It can be done, he added, but due to the number of relationships involved, and the breadth and longevity of those relationships, “it’s a struggle.”

Changing Mental Models

Kliman mentioned that when biopharma people hear the word “partnering,” they have “a mental model for what that means,” which may be “somewhat narrow and [something that] happens linearly—the classic drug development and commercialization process.” But digital partnerships are a different animal. As Kliman put it, they tend to be “more invasive and more involved for alliance management than is typically the case.”

Kliman gave a couple examples of such partnerships, such as Concerto AI and BMS, and GE and Roche, before noting that there are often so many internal and external players and stakeholders involved, and so many different activities across the alliance life cycle, it can be challenging to coordinate all those functions and activities. “All that looks easy on a slide, but it’s hard to make all the pieces fit,” said Siddall.

And whose job is it, anyway? Both Kliman and Siddall, in different ways, made the case for alliance management groups to perform this difficult task.

Even in a “traditional” biopharma alliance, there is great complexity and a number of functions involved, and alliance managers tend to move among the different functions as needed to communicate and coordinate activities and ensure alignment, in addition to working closely with their opposite numbers at the partner company. With a biopharma/digital partnership, however, the number of functions increases and may include things like AI, tech suppliers, virtual trials (often international in nature), and more.

The Spaghetti Slide

Displaying a slide showing a veritable spider web of lines drawn between all these different functions, Siddall noted, “You see how complex the map looks. You’ve got this spaghetti.” Throughout the presentation, this was referred back to as “the spaghetti slide.”

Notwithstanding this complexity, said Kliman, “We believe the alliance management group is very well positioned to own these activities” and be the “change management driver” in digital partnerships. Other functions are simply not prepared to do it, he said.

Yet significant organizational challenges remain. Recent Vantage research shows that 74 percent of biopharma respondents said their organization has an explicit digital strategy—but 52 percent say that internal stakeholders are not clear about how to effectively engage their key digital relationships. What’s more, only 15 percent of respondents said their company has clear and operationalized approaches to manage digital relationships differently from more transactional vendor relationships.

“So how do you do this well?” Siddall asked. He cited what he called “three critical enablers.” To be successful, he said, organizations must:

  • Align decisions with strategy (“What’s the purpose? Why are we doing this?”)
  • Embed a cross-functional operating model to speed execution
  • Build the skills to enable agile collaboration

“Everybody’s Doing It”—but Not Everybody’s Doing It Well

Many companies simply ask, “Which partner does X?” he said, and then “get a list of big names.” This is the wrong approach. Rather, they should start with their overall strategy and ask, “What are we trying to do?” And, given the number of activities and functions involved, they also have to ask themselves, “How do we actively manage all that chaos, and make it strategic?”

In fact, Siddall said that alliance professionals not only need to manage the chaos, but they might need to create some as well. In so doing, they’ll need to avoid what has sometimes been the biopharma response to digital organizations’ ways: “That’s not how we do it here.”

Kliman acknowledged that the challenges of the biopharma/digital divide can make for a “differentially uncomfortable situation.” “As alliance managers, we like control,” he said. But there are far more digital partnerships now than just a couple years ago, and the number is expected to continue to rise. So get used to it—the future is here.

“The size and diversity of digital portfolios has grown,” Kliman said. “Folks have woken up to the implications for their organization. We see organizations bellying up to the [digital] bar.” Or as Siddall said, “Everybody’s doing it now.”

And although some of the skills needed for digital partnerships may be different, Siddall said it requires a “mindset shift” rather than reflecting a “skill set conflict.”

We Need a Navigator

Finally, Siddall’s pitch for greater involvement by alliance management in digital partnerships highlighted alliance managers’ role as “navigators” of different relationships, especially their ability to help partners navigate biopharma organizations and surface differences.

Kliman said he wouldn’t argue what alliance managers should or should not do, but the fact remains that companies need to have an approach to managing these partnerships—and who will be accountable to drive alignment around executing the operating model?

“It makes good sense with a portfolio of digital relationships that alliance management has a role to play,” he said.

Check back in this space for more coverage of the 2020 ASAP BioPharma Conference, and remember that the online showcase on Vimeo gives you all the livestream sessions in real time—and later, once they’re archived, in case you missed one—as well as all the on-demand content, sponsors’ messages, and more!

Tags:  agile  alignment  alliance management  alliances  Ben Siddall  collaboration  cross-functional  Digital  internal stakeholders  Life Sciences  Partnerships  portfolio  relationships  speed execution  strategy  Stu Kliman  Vantage Partners 

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The Virtuous Cycle in Alliance Management—a Summit Spotlight Exclusive (Part 2)

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Updated: Monday, March 4, 2019

“The alliance manager’s role is to understand the importance of timing,” advises Christine Carberry, CSAP, in Part One of ASAP Media’s interview with the seasoned alliance manager and former chief operating officer of Keryx Biopharmaceuticals (now a subsidiary of Akebia Therapeutics). Carberry, who also previously served as chair of the ASAP board of directors, will be providing a leadership spotlight plenary session, “Collaborate-Create: The Value of the Virtuous Cycle,” at the 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Agile Partnering in Today’s Collaborative Ecosystem,” March 10-13 at the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. ASAP Media’s conversation with Carberry continues below.

Carberry’s role for six months of her year working for Keryx was as co-leader of integration planning with counterpart Akebia. Early on, she realized that her role wouldn’t continue with the new organization. She is philosophical about it. “You are working on trying to have everybody see the value of the merger—employees in the companies, investors, and shareholders. Yet people know you are not going to be part of it,” she explains of the challenge. “It’s about taking the time, if you can, to explore and not think that you have to jump right back into doing exactly what you were doing. Each experience leads to another.”

Alliance mangers are seekers of “the high road” trying to rise above conflict and egos, and keeping everyone focused on the common goal.  “You’re really a navigator,” she adds. “One of the criticisms that we’ve heard is alliance managers need to think of themselves much more broadly. And think of themselves as the people always looking for a portfolio of alliances and expanding value, not just be within the confines of agreements that you have today. That’s the challenge I want to give to the audience [at the Summit] in thinking about how we can have a greater impact by making better, stronger connections between ideas and resources, creating better conditions for collaboration. Your alliance portfolio is dynamic, and I think that alliance managers can create more value by really understanding that one alliance is one piece of a company portfolio and needs to align with company strategy.”

Before her one-year stint with Keryx, Carberry spent three and a half years with FORUM Pharmaceuticals (formerly EnVivo Pharmaceuticals) and 26 years with Biogen, where she stated out in an entry-level position during a time when genetic engineering was “scary science.” Biogen was a Fortune 500 international company that brought several drugs to patients “that changed their lives,” she adds. 

Despite being in transition between jobs, Carberry has “a very full plate.” In addition to her spotlight plenary session, as chairman emerita of ASAP, she will attend the Summit board and advisory meetings and will lead a roundtable about alliance management in a crisis situation. “It’s similar to what I’ve done in other transitional periods. It allows me to increase involvement in leadership roles,” she says.

Learn about Carberry’s talk and other leadership sessions and register for the 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit at http://asapsummit.org. 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.  

Tags:  Akebia Therapeutics  Alliance Excellence Award  alliance manager  Christine Carberry  conflict  digital  expanding value  Keryx Biopharmaceuticals  partnership  Patheon  strategic partner  technology  Thermo Fisher 

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The Virtuous Cycle in Alliance Management—a Summit Spotlight Exclusive (Part 1)

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Updated: Monday, March 4, 2019

“There is a time and purpose for everything. So the alliance manager’s role is to understand the importance of timing.” Thus advises Christine Carberry, CSAP, a seasoned alliance manager and former chief operating officer of Keryx Biopharmaceuticals (now a subsidiary of Akebia Therapeutics). Carberry, who also previously served as chair of the ASAP board of directors, will be providing a leadership spotlight session “Collaborate-Create: The Value of the Virtuous Cycle” at the 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Agile Partnering in Today’s Collaborative Ecosystem,” March 10-13 at the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

A virtuous cycle connects right ideas with right resources in the right timing, she continues. “Timing is part of creating the right environment for collaboration and pulling those pieces together and then generating value,” Carberry explains. “That value often generates new ideas that just feed back into it. Growing new ideas may mean you need different kinds of resources. You may have an idea on how to improve a patient’s experience in a clinical trial. From that, you may come up with an idea that there’s a way to make that experience better using technology. Now you need different resources and skillsets to improve the patient experience in a digital way.”

Carberry’s talk is based on 30 years of management experience. Right now, she is between companies after Keryx Biopharmaceuticals and Akebia Therapeutics merged in December. The two companies are under consideration for a 2019 ASAP Alliance Excellence Award for their handling of a supply disruption where patients could not obtain a jointly manufactured drug. Access resumed after the companies teamed togetherfrom the C-level to the operational teamsto create a quick, viable solution.  

 

 “We had to navigate this partnership when Patheon merged with Fisher, and Keryx with Akebia,” Carberry explains. “Traditionally, biopharma companies treat CMOs as vendors, not as collaborators. … Applying all of the ASAP approaches and tools to the CMO I think creates a much stronger partnership, and it was demonstrated in this supply disruption situation. We needed high levels of trust with CEO engagement. It wasn’t business as usual. It was requiring people to go above and beyond,” she continues. “Agile is a good word for it. That willingness to be flexible and agile is less likely to happen if you are treating your CMO as a vendor rather than as strategic partner. “

 

See the ASAP Blog for Part Two of this interview with Christine Carberry, CSAP. Learn about Carberry’s plenary talk and other leadership sessions at the 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, and register for the event, at http://asapsummit.org. 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.  

Tags:  Akebia Therapeutics  Alliance Excellence Award  alliance manager  Christine Carberry  digital  Keryx Biopharmaceuticals  partnership  Patheon  strategic partner  technology  Thermo Fisher 

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New ASAP Corporate Member Bridge Partners Helps Industries Connect for More Successful Partnering

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Tuesday, December 20, 2016

This is one in a series of blog posts welcoming seven new corporate members into the ASAP fold. Bridge Partners practices “the art and science of business transformation” by helping customers address challenges, adapt to change, empower teams, and win in the marketplace. Channel transformation is one of the most crucial challenges enterprises need to address, says Chase Morgan, a partner at the company. Bridge Partners specializes in technology sector trends and provides deep, hands-on experience in alliance strategy, business planning, joint sales initiatives, enablement, and analytics. The company also provides specialized practices in the following areas: sales and channel; digital; operations and technology; people and change; product and solution marketing; program and project leadership. Morgan provided the following additional information about the new ASAP corporate member:

What inspired your team to join ASAP at the corporate level?
I was fortunate to be an ASAP member when I ran global ISV [independent software vendor] relationships at a large software company. Because we are serious about our channel transformation practice, it only made sense to join ASAP. It's the place to be to obtain valuable information on partnering practices.

How do you anticipate the ASAP corporate membership benefitting you and your team?
ASAP is the perfect gathering place to network and for consultants to exchange ideas with the most experienced alliance leadership in the world. We strive for continuous learning and are committed to providing service back to the communities with which we engage. We also look forward to developing new relationships with potential clients and partners and enhancing the ones we have through ASAP best practices.

 

Please share a bit of additional background information on your company. 
Since 2006, Bridge Partners has distinguished itself as a national leader in business consulting with offices in Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin. The quality of our work is nationally recognized, and the company consistently ranks as one of the fastest growing businesses in America. It has made the Inc. 5000 list for five consecutive years. Our real-world experience and unwavering commitment to services means our client’s business successfully moves forward under a highly skilled management team.


What sets Bridge Partners apart from similar consulting companies?
 

Bridge Partners has a unique collaborative business model that connects local knowledge with a national presence. We deliver results for a wide range of companies: from Fortune 50 to start-up; technology and manufacturing to healthcare and transportation. Our consultants deliver insightful strategy, meticulous planning, and creative thinking.

Tags:  alliance  analytics  Bridge Partners  Channel transformation  Chase Morgan  collaborative business model  creative thinking  digital  enablement  joint sales initiatives  leadership  marketing  marketplace  network  planning  strategy 

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What’s Brewing in the 2016 Biopharma Conference Beaker? | Part 2

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, July 19, 2016

In a recent interview, ASAP CEO Mike Leonetti, CSAP, provided a sampling of what’s to come at the 2016 ASAP BioPharma Conference. He offered insights into the changing landscape for partnerships and how alliance managers and others need to adapt, as well as a preview of speakers and cutting edge sessions and workshops. 

What about ASAP? What’s brewing in the beaker and will be shared at the conference?

We will be unveiling, and introducing the author of, ASAP’s new study “The Economics of Alliances, Social Capital, and Alliance Performance,” which is scheduled for release after the conference as ASAP’s 6th State of Alliances study. You can read a preview of the study and view some of the research data in the upcoming Summer Strategic Alliance Magazine. Dr. Shawn Wilson, the author, has worked with ASAP to provide financial and economic return on investment (ROI) analytics that are a direct outcome of alliance/partnership management excellence.

What are some of the cutting edge, not-to-be-missed sessions you recommend?

While every session is going to be fantastic, the session that discusses digital or tech partnering capabilities, “New Partnerships between High Tech and BioPharma and the Alliance Management Practices to Support Them,” led by Russ Buchanan, CSAP, head of corporate alliances, Xerox Corporation, and “New Partnerships Between High Tech and BioPharma and the Alliance Management Practices to Support Them,” facilitated by Donna Peek, CSAP, director, partner enablement & operations at SAS Institute, will be timely. The unveiling of ASAP’s research and “Applying the Latest Alliance Management Research to Your Partnering Practice,” by Shawn Wilson, in conjunction with Stuart Kliman, CA-AM, who is presenting Vantage Partners’ research findings, should not be missed.  I think the sessions on “Strategic Perspectives on a Partnership's First 100 Days” offer a new twist on partnering with new players. Another session on partnering in China addresses the crucial need to understand and learn about that country, “A New Model for Western and Chinese Pharmaceutical Partnering,” by Brent Harvey, CA-AM, director, alliance management at Eli Lilly and Company.

Every year ASAP provides workshops for the alliance management toolbox. What’s new in the box this year?

There are several fantastic “Tools and Techniques” pre-conference workshops, the CA-AM and CSAP prep workshops, the Eli Lilly and Company “Alliance Management, Tools and Techniques, “ which never fails to draw rave reviews, as well as one from Candido Arreche, CA-AM, global director of portfolio & partner management, six sigma black belt at Xerox Worldwide Alliances, on “How to Resolve Conflict in Your Alliance.” New to ASAP is the workshop “Next Generation Alliance Management, Lean and Agile,” facilitated by Lynda McDermott, CA-AM, president of Equipro International, and Annick De Swaef, CSAP, president of Consensa, which will preview ASAP’s new corporate alliance management and certification program designed to offer a customized workshop for a company wishing to quickly add to its partnership capability and value creation.

To view the program and download brochure information, go to www. asapweb.org/biopharma.

Tags:  Alliance Management  Annick DeSwaef  Brent Harvey  Candido Arreche  certification  Consensa  digital  Donna Peek  Dr. Shawn Wilson  Eli Lilly and Company  Equipro International  Lynda McDermott  partnership  Russ Buchanan  SAS  Stuart Kliman  Vantage Partners  Xerox Worldwide Alliances 

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