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Collaboration: Easier Said Than Done

Posted By Jan Twombly, CSAP, President, The Rhythm of Business, Thursday, December 12, 2019

The following blog was originally posted by ASAP corporate member and Education Provider Partner,  The Rhythm of Business.

Collaboration is a business buzzword that everyone thinks they know what it means and how to do it, but few truly do; yet it has never been more important than it is today. In addition to the lack of collaborative skills and mindset would-be collaborators also face a Collaboration Paradox— the systems, processes, and policies that have enabled success in the past reinforce barriers impeding success in today’s ecosystem-based collaborative business models. Developing the necessary capability—the mindset, skillset, and toolset for intra- and inter-organizational collaboration—is a work in process for most organizations. This capability also needs a backbone to latch itself to—the culture, policies, and processes of a leadership system that enable and encourage collaborative ways of working.

As a business concept du jour, collaboration means everything from open office concepts to electronic documents that multiple people can work on simultaneously, to team work. These are all elements of collaboration, but they fail to adequately define it. Collaboration is a risk sharing and resource leveraging strategic behavior that necessitates coordinating activities and exchanging information for mutual benefit. It requires an environment of trust, transparency, and respect. It is a comprehensive way of thinking and acting that takes proficiency in multiple skills. It is not a single skill and certainly not a technology.

Companies that are successful in becoming digitally-enabled and customer-obsessed—and therefore prepared to compete as we enter the 2020s—are those best able to collaborate internally and externally. For example, MIT Sloan Management Review’s research finds that: “A focus on collaboration—both within organizations and with external partners and stakeholders—is central to how companies create business value and establish competitive advantage.”[1] According to a study by SAP, “Digital winners tend to have more managers with strong collaboration skills than lower performing companies. In addition, 74 percent of these top performing companies plan to actively nurture the concept of collaboration within their organizations over the next few years.”[2]

Despite collaborative skills becoming ever more the imperative, the reality of collaborative execution is far more challenging than the data would have you believe. In a study from Capgemini, approximately 85 percent of executives believe that their organizations easily collaborate across functions and business units, whereas only a little over 40 percent of their employees—who are actually on the front-lines of collaboration—agree.[3] A Harvard Business Review article on collaboration sheds light on this collaboration gap:

Leaders think about collaboration too narrowly: as a value to cultivate but not a skill to teach. Businesses have tried increasing it through various methods, from open offices to naming it an official corporate goal. While many of these approaches yield progress—mainly by creating opportunities for collaboration or demonstrating institutional support for it—they all try to influence employees through superficial or heavy-handed means, and research has shown that none of them reliably delivers truly robust collaboration.[4]

Does this mean that, while collaboration works in theory, it can’t be practically applied? Not at all. But the question does strike at the heart of the problem—collaboration is easier said than done.

Let’s look at a simple example. A company we were engaged with instituted a campaign to improve collaboration amongst sales teams. The company spent a lot of time, effort, and money on a program intended to promote collaboration within the teams. When the results were evaluated, the program’s sponsors found that level of collaboration hadn’t improved at all.

Our analysis quickly identified why that was the case. The teams’ performance was evaluated by rank-ordering each of the team members from best to worst. And, using the existing performance criteria, the individuals at the top received a number of “rewards” for their success, while the folks at the bottom of the rankings lost their jobs. Clearly, the evaluation process encouraged an “everyman for himself” approach that was exactly the opposite to the desired increase in team collaboration.

That’s the collaboration paradox at work—rewarding the traditional approach while investing to get the desired increase in collaboration. Despite focusing on collaborative skill building, the company neglected to adjust their employee evaluation and reward system—elements of the leadership system—to support collaboration. Leadership worked to change the evaluation system to reward collaboration and our subsequent analysis demonstrated both increases in collaboration and sales performance.

This is but one example of attempts to foster collaboration falling flat because the leadership system was built for competition among team members, not collaboration. Until companies evolve their leadership systems, collaboration as a strategic behavior will remain easier said than done.

[1] David Kiron, “Why Your Company Needs More Collaboration,” MIT Sloan Management Review, Fall 2017

[2] Virginia Backaitis, “Collaboration Leads to Success in Digital Workplaces,” SAP Survey, 2017

[3] “The Digital Culture Challenge: Closing the Employee-Leadership Gap,” Capgemini Digital Transformation Institute, 2018

[4] Francesca Gino, “Cracking the Code on Sustained Collaboration,” Harvard Business Review, November-December 2019.

Tags:  collaboration  collaboration paradox  collaborative skills  Jan Twombly  leadership system  The Rhythm of Business 

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Where’s the Love? Alliance Managers Show Some…to Medical Affairs

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Perhaps one of the less appreciated and less understood roles in biopharma alliances—particularly codevelopment, cocommercial alliances—is that of the medical affairs team, specifically medical science liaisons (MSLs). These field-level folks implement a medical affairs plan and communicate and translate the scientific data from a drug or treatment to health care providers. They own relationships with key opinion leaders (KOLs) and according to surveys are pretty important—the most “clinically useful” people many health care providers deal with.

            “They are translators of the data. They give you the scientific story,” said Mary Jo Struttmann, CA-AM, executive director of alliance management at Astellas. Struttmann participated in a session titled “A Winning Strategy: Show a Little Alliance Management Love for Medical Affairs,” along with Judy Baselice, CA-AM, director of alliance management at Pfizer, and Jan Twombly, CSAP, president of The Rhythm of Business, who moderated the session.

            In addition to being keepers of the scientific narrative, medical affairs people own important relationships with key opinion leaders (KOLs), do professional education, facilitate the creation of publications and presentations at congresses and conferences, get involved in grants and investigator-initiated trials, and at some companies perform other functions as well. They can do what others in a biopharma alliance often can’t: explain the science, interpret the data, describe the mechanism of action of a drug, delve into potential side effects and other questions—all with a primary focus on patient outcomes.

Thus the role of medical affairs is important enough in biopharma that it should be written into the alliance contract, with its own separate budget and work plan, and joint medical affairs committees should be part of that contract and integrated into the governance and work stream teams, according to all three presenters. A number of industry developments, meanwhile, have combined to raise the profile of medical affairs as well, including more payer influence, greater focus on the customer experience, an increased focus on patient outcomes, new medical technologies, and the accelerated pace of scientific discovery.

            Struttmann went so far as to say that in biopharma alliances, there are “three legs of a stool”: commercial, development, and medical affairs. Compliance requirements should keep the scientific areas—including medical affairs—separate from the commercial people, but at the same time there needs to be collaboration and coordination among medical affairs, development, and commercial—a value-added and value-creating role for alliance professionals that ultimately leads to greater value for patients and partners.

            Without adequately acknowledging the role of medical affairs in contracts, there can be significant compliance risk; such agreements may lack definition, enabling either party to overstep boundaries on roles and responsibilities. This includes delineating which activities in the alliance are global and which are territorial or regional, and dividing up who owns each activity accordingly.

In terms of governance, if there is a joint commercial committee, there should also be a joint medical affairs committee, reporting directly to the joint steering committee (JSC). Another best practice is the establishment of a “collaborative leadership team.” This team would be cross-functional and meet perhaps monthly, looking at the alliance as a whole. Representatives from commercial, development, medical affairs, and other areas would be at the table, and in such a model medical affairs can address commercial challenges by acting as a conduit for feedback from health care providers.

By setting up such mechanisms to drive cross-functional work and communication, alliance managers can bring about some positive outcomes in the alliance, including:

  • Creating a single version of “the truth” for ongoing cross-functional work
  • Eliminating the inefficiencies of having one-off conversations or meetings
  • Minimizing the risk of delays due to miscommunication
  • Improving accountability through positive peer pressure

In addition, medical affairs will benefit from these more integrated collaborative structures by:

  • Becoming more aware of commercial challenges
  • Aligning with development on the scientific challenges
  • Acting as a conduit to give insights from health care providers to both development and commercial
  • Facilitating life cycle management planning
  • Creating coordinated engagement plans for KOLs, and…
  • In the end, gaining greater recognition for the importance of medical affairs.

Turnover can be a challenge, as in all alliances, and keeping the medical affairs group separate enough to be elevated and not “washed out” or diluted, as Baselice recommended, but integrated enough to be effective, may be challenging.

But getting this mix of collaboration, division of roles and responsibilities, and coordination right is part of the all-important “last mile of collaborative execution,” as Twombly emphasized. 

Tags:  Alliance Management  Astellas  cross-functional  integrated collaborative structures  Jan Twombly  Judy Baselice  Mary Jo Struttmann  Medical Affairs  Pfizer  The Rhythm of Business 

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Closing the C-Suite's Collaboration Gap

Posted By Contributed by Jan Twombly, CSAP & Jeff Shuman, CSAP, PhD | The Rhythm of Business, Thursday, January 24, 2019

Earlier this month, we presented and recorded a webinar to expand upon our mini e-book that we wrote together with our partner Alliancesphere, Own Your Transformation: A Five-Point Agenda for Creating Your Organization’s Collaborative Leadership System. The key message of the presentation is to urge alliance professionals to take charge of closing the gap between the happy talk about the importance of partnering and the actual ability of organizations to collaborate and partner well in a digital world.

Yes, this is our soap box and it has been for many years. The difference today is all the data reporting C-Suite executives really do believe partnering is important and a core pillar of their growth and transformation strategies. They also think their organizations collaborate and partner effectively. Their employees disagree. Take a look at some data from a recent Capgemini study.[1]   

We’ve witnessed this gap in our work for years and years. For example, in a recent project assessing the current state of an alliance management practice and charting a course for its future, a senior executive told us how important alliances were to the future of the business. We then interviewed one of his senior people ostensibly responsible for an important partner. He told us he’d had only a one-hour call to familiarize himself with the role of an alliance director. No surprise, he didn’t think this was sufficient to allow him to be successful in the role. This may be an extreme case, but it illustrates the gap that exists between the belief that alliances and partnering are critical for growth and the failure to recognize that a system of collaborative leadership must become part of the organization’s culture and operating norms. It is an Achille’s heel of business transformation.

Here’s another example: A company that is remaking themselves to focus strictly on downstream go-to-market activities has outsourced all upstream research and development capabilities except project management to oversee the outsourced service providers. Outsourcing a capability is not about managing a series of projects. It is engaging with third parties to build collaborative relationships that leverage the resources of each party for mutual benefit—to achieve a synergistic relationship where 1+1>3. In other words, the reason for—the essence of— partnership.  

During the webinar, we discussed our five-point agenda for creating a collaborative leadership system that starts with owning your own transformation. You can’t expect to drive change in your organization without demonstrating how you’re changing. Every alliance professional has something in their job description and potentially in their goals and accountabilities, to “create an environment for collaboration with alliance partners,” or something similar. Specifically executing on this piece of the job has always taken a back seat to immediate revenue generation or ensuring a co-development project happens smoothly. No longer. Today—when partnering everywhere in an organization is the recipe for growth—creating that environment becomes an essential part of the job. The collaborative leadership system—the mechanism through which leadership is exercised—is what enables it.

Closing the gap between the partnering and collaboration capability CEOs think their companies have and what they actually have is essential to the digital business transformation powering growth for legacy companies and a core capability for entrepreneurial ventures. Alliance professionals are typically part of the powerful middle of the organization—the Rosetta Stone of the organization—translating senior leadership directives into operational objectives and understanding from the field and other customer-facing personnel the successes and challenges at an execution level, scaling or adjusting accordingly.  Who other than alliance professionals should be leading the charge to close the gap between what CEOs think about their organization’s ability to collaborate and the reality?

[1] Capgemini Digital Transformation Institute, “The Digital Culture Challenge: Closing the Employee-Leadership Gap,” 2018 

Tags:  alliance management  collaboration  collaborative leadership system  digital culture  digital transformation  Jan Twombly  Jeff Shuman  partnering  The Rhythm of Business 

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NOT ‘Business as Usual:’ What the BioPharma Channel Can Glean From High Tech

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Monday, October 16, 2017
Updated: Sunday, October 15, 2017

Partnering isn’t “business as usual” anymore. “Even companies that think they have their practices down are all reinventing what they are doing now because they have to deal with … the increasing speed, scale, and scope of partnering that has become exponentially greater,” emphasized Jan Twombly, CSAP, The Rhythm of Business, Inc., during her session “The BioPharma Channel: Leveraging Practices from the High-Tech World to Drive Success.” Twombly was presenting at the 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference, “Accelerating Life Science Collaborations: Better Partnering, Better Outcomes,” held Sept. 13-15 at the Royal Sonesta Boston, Cambridge, Mass.

“The high tech channel has learned that you are not going to be successful if your channel partners aren’t successful. … You need customized partners to provide local market access. High tech needs new partners because it needs vertical and technical specialization. Some companies do this better than others,” she added. For example, Cisco generates 85 percent of revenues by channel partners. That’s exceptional, considering that the industry average is 39 percent.

The channel is a route to market that is accessed either by communication avenues, a direct sale force, or co-commercializing a product with a partner. It’s about delivering on intended value in a resource-friendly way, she added.  Biopharma usually doesn’t consider the channel as key to growth. Yet market growth trends and future projections from BMI Research indicate that unmet patient needs and the significant growth potential of emerging markets provide significant reason for pursuing a channel strategy, Twombly said, while flashing past market size data and future size projections:

2010: $150 billion
2015: $245 billion
2020: $340 billion
2025: $490 billion

High-tech channel partners are not seeking more automation, Twombly observed.  What they are looking for is:

  • More engagement with field engineers and local sales personnel
  • Greater understanding of corporate priorities
  • Joint planning on strategic opportunities
  • Better understanding of their partners’ strategies and plans
  • More proactive communications, support, and relationship management

So what can the biopharma industry learn from high tech’s successes with channel partnering? Twombly asked.

  1. Take a portfolio approach: Place bets carefully, and manage it as a portfolio from low-touch to high-touch.
  2. Carefully manage the transitions, and ensure partner (and stakeholder) readiness.
  3. Maintain robust measurements, reporting, and action from a 360-degree perspective. We are becoming very data driven.
  4. Make it part of the fabric of the organization from end to end: Bake it in, don’t bolt it on. You need to have a strategy, and the partnering needs to be integrated into various functions of your company.

That’s critical to the entire process, she emphasized:  “Baking it in. … We like using a stakeholder management model. In many instances, you will not have dedicated people. You need to understand the economics; have good reporting and data collection that are able to be monitored; focus on closing the gap between current practice and what stakeholders need to profitably support the channel partners. That is how you will demonstrate value,” she advised.

“Governance is sometimes not in place,” she added. “You want simpler governance because of the nature of the relationships, but still need to have executive and operations levels to formal governance. Make sure you have the right participants engaged, set expectations, and have proper alignment and meetings. Make them good, formal meetings, but create an environment people will want to attend. The quarterly business reviews in high tech are typically all one way. If you really want to build that relationship so the partner can help you with market access and driving the business, you need to make it a two-way meeting.”

Consider conducting partner summits, she concluded. In the high tech world, they are a staple for building relationships by helping partners learn what’s new and where company strategies are headed. Summits provide an opportunity to have all your partners together to learn about common challenges.

ASAP Members can learn more about this provocative and well-attended ASAP BioPharma Conference session in the September 2017 issue of eSAM Plus.

Tags:  alignment  ASAP BioPharma Conference  BMI Research  channel partners  channels  governance  high tech  Jan Twombly  partners  portfolio approach  stakeholder  summits  The Rhythm of Business 

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Twombly & Shuman’s Next Generation Partnering Capability Workshop to Explore How to ‘Think Horizontal: Reimagining Partnering Practices’

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Updated: Monday, February 27, 2017

Ecosystem partnerships everywhere are confronting the brave new world of the fourth industrial revolution. Join the discussion at the 2017 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Profit, Innovation, and Value for the Part­nering Enterprise,” Feb. 28-March 2 at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley, San Diego, California USA, to explore the transformational landscapes emerging on the horizon.

In their interactive presentation Think Horizontal: Reimagining Partnering Practices as Digital Business Transformation Becomes Reality,” Jan Twombly, CSAP, and Jeff Shuman, CSAP, PhD, principals of The Rhythm of Business, reimagine the alliance governance process and introduce an approach common in design thinking to move from where you are today to where you need to be. The session is based, in part, on their recently published eBook, The Power to Partner Everywhere: Why You Need It, What It Is, How to Build It, which was also written by Lorin Coles, CSAP, Alliancesphere.

 “The new challenge for companies is to master the speed, scale, and scope of partnering in the fourth industrial revolution, but many are not prepared, according to Jeff Shuman. “Though technologies of this new eraarti­ficial intelligence, robotics, biotechnology, nanotechnology, the Internet of Things, to name a fewmay be utilized, companies need to reimagine how they do business. To be effective, alliances need to develop a strategic way of working both externally and internally.”  

“Most people think vertically, but the key is to also think horizontally, thus creating a holistic perspective. They need to reimagine partnershipreimagine a new way of partneringbut not just the technology that will inform the change. The governance structure is the horizontal that stretches across the entire organization and allows collaborative interactions in a frictionless manner,” Shuman emphasizes.

“Collaboration is key if an organization is to gain access to currencies each party brings to a relationship. By creating an overarching governance process, you provide the mechanisms that allow partnering activity to flow freely. But to effect that, there’s a need for a cross-functional, interlocking process. It’s imperative to build a system of governance that goes horizontally acrossfrom ideation all the way to go-to-marketa partnership development and execution process that moves seamlessly, frictionlessly from function to function to enablement in the field,” he says.

Designing and building this capability is an iterative, data-driven process that will reshape an organization and how it empowers employees to engage in the ecosystem, creating value for customers, partners, and stakeholders.  The Think Horizontal: Reimagining Partnering Practices” session is designed to help identify and articulate the challenges a company faces in transforming its partnering practices to the horizontal approach needed to support the speed, scale, and scope of partnering required today.  

Tags:  artificialintelligence  biotechnology  Jan Twombly  Jeff Shuman  nanotechnology  partnering  robotics  the Internet of Things 

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