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We Can’t Afford “Business as Usual”: Rethinking and Reimagining Alliance Management in the Age of COVID-19

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Friday, September 25, 2020

“It’s clear that over the last eight, nine months things have changed significantly. There really is no going back. The status quo is no more. Everything that has been done in the past can, and in many instances must, be rethought.”

That was the sobering pronouncement by Jeff Shuman, CSAP, PhD, at the outset of the presentation “The Silver Lining: Reimagining Alliance Management to Focus on What Matters Most Now,” on day one of the first-ever virtual 2020 ASAP BioPharma Conference, just concluded. Shuman and his copresenter, Jan Twombly, CSAP, are the principals of The Rhythm of Business, and both they and their keen insights into alliance management are quite familiar to the ASAP member community.

Shuman was referencing the many changes wrought by COVID-19—but according to Twombly, the healthcare ecosystem was being transformed already, before the pandemic, and this process has continued and even accelerated. It’s largely a combination of three factors, she noted:

  • New technologies: including platform therapies, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Shifting economics: more value- or outcomes-based models, changes in government and payer reimbursement policies creating pricing pressures, and a shift in focus from treatment to prevention and cure
  • Empowered patients: reflected in greater consumer experience expectations, the rise of mobile technologies, and the ups and downs of public perceptions of the biopharma industry

In addition, new business models have been emerging due to all of the above factors, plus a declining return on investment in research. These models, according to Twombly, tend to be more patient outcomes focused, more predictable, at lower cost and higher volumes, and—similar to tech industry initiatives—easier to terminate or iterate early (which applies to both programs and partnerships).

“At every step of the way, we see that it is a significantly partnered model that has emerged,” Twombly said.

A Silver Linings Playbook of Coping Strategies

This represents an opportunity and part of the “silver lining” for those like Twombly and Shuman who believe that partnering is a key route to innovation and better patient outcomes, but there remains a thorny problem: resources. More to the point, the lack thereof for alliance management. Limited resources can result in alliances that are essentially “unmanaged,” or managed by people who have no experience in the role, and adds significant risk and potentially lost value to the equation as actual alliance managers are overwhelmed and forced to develop various “coping strategies,” including becoming reactive rather than proactive in their activities.

“If you’ve got 10 or 15 alliances that you’re managing, you can’t possibly have your finger on the pulse of the alliance,” Twombly said, before putting out polling questions online to the audience to canvass their experience of unmanaged alliances, alliance managers having to be reactive, and the like.

“Across the board there are challenges,” she summarized, as these unhappy conditions seemed to resonate with much of the audience given the poll results that were appearing in real time. And now such issues have become magnified as the number of partnerships—and new partner types—focused on tackling COVID-19 alone has multiplied, and at speed.

“New Urgency” to Reimagine Alliance Management Practices

Given these developments and the economic and societal uncertainties that accompany them, “It really becomes clear,” Shuman said, “that there is a new urgency to rethink how alliance management is done and by whom. When you throw COVID-19 on top of already busy schedules, it’s really time to reimagine alliance management.”

So how do we do that rethinking and reimagining? First we have to understand the big picture of our organization’s alliances, Shuman said. What is the portfolio? What alliance management services are required for the various alliances? And what resources are available to them?

“In 20 years of being involved with ASAP, one of the refrains we hear all the time is, ‘We don’t have enough resources,’” Shuman said. “That’s a real challenge.”

To meet that challenge, Shuman and Twombly said, alliance managers need to apply agility to their alliance practice. Not exactly software agility, but agile principles: what matters most now. There are various elements of this process, but the overarching one is to focus on the North Star: “What is it we’re really trying to do?” Shuman explained.

Three key areas Shuman highlighted in this regard were resourcing the alliance portfolio, increasing the agility of alliance management practices, and adapting the alliance management organization to these new requirements. “By this time we know what works and what doesn’t, and what we want to do is take time out of the process. With all the pressure worldwide to develop a [coronavirus] vaccine, there’s bound to be myriad changes to the processes we have always used, to do a faster job of getting to that North Star,” he said.

Journey Through the Front Door

Resourcing decisions need to be part of a coherent and transparent governance process, according to Twombly, “across the board.” The profile of a given alliance then dictates what services are needed. “We call this a front-door process—part of the stable backbone, and collaborative leadership process, that any alliance requires,” she said.

Alliances can thus be segmented into complex, typical, and simple. A “simple” alliance might be a research alliance that doesn’t need a lot of management per se, but can be overseen by project managers. More complex alliances with many moving parts and requirements might then get the lion’s share of attention from more experienced alliance managers and leaders. Twombly recommended applying expertise and alliance management focus to each segment as needed, and having a standard way to resource each segment.

The bottom line? “We have to do things differently and smarter,” Twombly explained. She also referenced the first day’s keynote and panel led by CEO Rusty Field of Upsher-Smith and his colleagues, which described alliance management as a “mindset” rather than merely a group or department.

“Partnering is an organization-wide initiative, not just for the alliance management team,” Twombly elaborated. The key is for alliance professionals to work to engage the rest of the organization and get them involved. “No doubt about it—it’s a journey,” Twombly added.

There’s No Going Back

So what are the steps toward reimagining alliance management? Shuman outlined five:

  • Define your destination, i.e., your North Star
  • Build a “destination back to the present” plan and work backwards from that goal
  • Determine the first steps that will have an impact
  • Enroll a small number of stakeholders who are champions for change
  • Grab the license you have now to fix what’s broken, improve what’s inefficient—and own it!

Alliance management must be rethought and reimagined because the older processes within organizations—and not only for alliance management—were created for “what used to be normal,” Shuman concluded. “We’re never going back there to the way business was done. We’re going to go to the next normal. So stick with it. Make it happen. The one thing you don’t want to do is continue with business as usual.”

Tags:  alliance  Alliance Management  collaborative leadership  governance process  Jan Twombly  Jeff Shuman  Rusty Field  The Rhythm of Business  Upsher-Smith 

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Mashup or Culture Clash? When Biopharma and IT Meet Up in Digital Health Alliances

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Monday, August 3, 2020

It’s generally accepted that the alliance management profession is entrenched in IT and biopharma more deeply than in other industries. In these vertical markets, no business can sustain significant growth without developing an alliance practice and a deep portfolio of partnerships. No one company could develop a full stack of hardware, software, and cloud services on its own and still keep pace with the blisteringly fast tech sector, nor could a single pharmaceutical entity complete the entire drug life cycle solo for an entire portfolio of drug candidates.

Yet for many years these industries have operated largely in separate spheres based partly upon vastly different alliance principles. This is starting to change with the advent of digital health, an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of initiatives that utilize digital technologies to advance and streamline patient care in the form of preventive treatment, hyperpersonalized medicine, more accurate drug discovery, and a more efficient patient-provider relationship, among other applications. (See “Digital Health at the Crossroads,” Strategic Alliance Quarterly, Q4 2019, for more on this rapidly expanding area.)

Suddenly, cross-industry alliances are popping up everywhere, from GE Healthcare’s Edison intelligence platform (see “It’s the Data—and a Lot More,” Strategic Alliance Quarterly, Q1 2020), to the alliance between AstraZeneca and Flex spinoff BrightInsight, to the myriad data-driven pharma collaborations hard at work today. Now, Big Pharma, biotechs, and academic medical researchers are increasingly mingling with tech-industry startups, midsize companies, and Global 1,000 enterprises, necessitating the coalescence of these two alliance cultures.

Mind the Gaps

In their on-demand 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit session “The Alliance Management Mashup: Bridging a Digital Divide,” the proprietors of alliance management consultancy The Rhythm of Business laid out a common alliance framework that would help digital health partners on both sides better understand each other and function together more successfully.

Or course, to close gaps, you must first identify them. According to Jeff Shuman, CSAP, PhD, principal at The Rhythm of Business, the most glaring of these disparities is the timeline in which these industries innovate and bring solutions to market. In tech, companies develop products iteratively through agile processes in order to bring offerings to market in the tightest of windows—the “next big thing” can become yesterday’s news in a hurry. By contrast, it can take up to a decade to commercialize a therapy thanks to a stricter regulatory climate and pharma’s more methodical drug-development processes, although Shuman noted that today’s exceptional circumstances have led to some COVID-19 research being conducted in an “accelerated manner” using iterative techniques.

“‘Move fast and break things.’ That may help promote innovation, but it’s not a good principle when people’s health and lives are at stake,” said Shuman, referencing the famous operating philosophy Mark Zuckerberg used to take Facebook to stratospheric heights. Not a great recipe for pharma, to say the least.

Tech and biopharma differ in many other ways as well. Generally speaking, tech is solution-centric while the pharma market revolves around products. Tech solutions are code-driven, while pharmaceutical offerings involve complex manufacturing processes that are “highly customized for each drug and drug formulation, often requiring a dedicated cold chain to get from factory to patient,” said Shuman.

Technology products are peddled in large part through channel sales and collaborative selling efforts, while pharmaceutical firms spend lots of resources comarketing and copromoting joint products. Tech companies—particularly software vendors—can sell and distribute products through distributors, resellers, and system integrators,  or by “white labeling” their products­ via OEM agreements. Patients buy drugs from pharmacies, while pharma companies often rely on combination therapies. Where new subscription-based business models are predicated on the “land, adopt, expand, and renew” approach, pharma’s product-based life cycle management is usually expressed in the form of “new indications and new formulations.”

Disparities Extend to IT, Pharma Alliance Practices

Alliance portfolios, partnerships, and alliance manager roles look much different in these industries as well. Pharma alliances are negotiated individually and often underpinned by detailed long-term contracts with multiple subagreements, while tech partnerships can often be grouped along a particular area of focus and covered by blanket contract terms that apply to an entire partner program. Today, technology companies partner on platforms around common APIs, while pharma companies license individual assets. The pharmaceutical industry banks on partnerships at all stages of the drug-development life cycle, from research to commercialization, while tech usually partners when it is time to go to market.

Just about everything a tech alliance manager does is in the name of driving revenue—in fact, alliance practices are expected to generate new streams. Although revenue generation is a major imperative to pharma alliance managers, it is secondary to risk mitigation and maximizing the value of joint assets; pharma managers spend more time monitoring contract compliance—determining when amendments or entirely new agreements are necessary—than their tech counterparts do.

Tech alliance managers must earn the commitment of partner resources, while pharma contracts usually spell out resource obligations. Instead, biopharma alliance managers focus their energy on giving higher-ups “all the data they need to make smart decisions,” according to Shuman. Given the distributed nature of tech alliance management, the alliance division must actively engage field sales to get salespeople to actively shop an alliance solution. In biopharma, the field “doesn’t have choice,” in Shuman’s words.

Reconcilable Differences

How do you actually reconcile these differences? Jan Twombly, CSAP, The Rhythm of Business’s president, illustrated the answer with an anonymous case study where a Big Pharma corporation and a technology outfit leveraged the latter’s IoT platform to codevelop apps and medical devices and collect real-world evidence (RWE) from patients that would ultimately enable highly personalized care. Their business model rested on software subscriptions paid for by the biopharma entity to the tech company, which is “different from what biopharma companies are used to,” said Twombly. A collaborative framework was established in several key areas—the two organizations settled on joint development, cocommercialization, and revenue sharing arrangements. However, the pharma company was tasked with deciding what it wanted in the device, what the device would do, and what outcomes it would produce, while the tech company determined how to take the platform itself to market.

On a broader level, the companies needed to align on the intended outcomes, regulatory pathway, decision-making processes, and go-to-market messaging. This turns out to be easier said than done. Pharmaceutical companies are used to applying software to internal processes but not to product development, nor are they well versed in working with tech companies in a true vendor-relationship capacity. On a practical level, IT and pharma alliance managers have drastically different titles and functions.

“It may be challenging to engage in stakeholder mapping and getting the right people in the meetings,” said Twombly.

Extensive regulatory-, safety-, and quality-related processes are new to tech, which forced the IoT vendor in this case to rely on the pharmaceutical company’s expertise.

“[Pharmaceutical companies] should be in the lead when it comes to determining what the regulatory pathways are going to be,” said Twombly.

Lighter and Leaner Governance, Stronger Champions, and More Listening

Both entities needed to reimagine the governance process and the role of their joint steering committee (JSC).

“Governance-through-committee doesn’t work all that well in a lean tech company,” said Twombly, before noting that this presented an opportunity for the biopharma alliance managers to try on a lighter, “more agile” governance where teams met more frequently but for less time.

Governance is especially important in ensuring transparent decision making; it may require especially rigorous stakeholder management and a different decision hierarchy from what either side might be used to. In particular, the parties must devise a governance structure that helps partners align on evidence standards so that the tech company can produce data that will “pave that [regulatory] pathway” to meet the biopharma entity’s standard.

Senior leadership champions are especially important in getting stakeholders to understand the value of digital health partnerships and engage in the new modus operandi required for their execution. To foster collaboration, Twombly spoke of “listening to understand,” a process that involves creating a “common language with shared meaning” that helps leverage each party’s strengths. 

Follow the North Star—and Respect Culture’s Hearty Appetite

Twombly urged partners to boil down their discussion of desired outcomes to three points: 1) Align on a North Star—“know what it is that you are trying to produce, know what the outcome is that you want from this partnership, and keep everybody focused on achieving it”; 2) Agree to milestones and metrics; and 3) Make status against plans visible to all.

Twombly also reminded the audience of the old saying that “culture eats strategy for lunch.” To remedy cultural differences, she recommended that tech alliance pros assume the best of intentions on the part of their biopharma counterparts and speak up and provide alternatives when something won’t work in their environment. On the flip side, pharma companies need to explain their world, with visual aids showing how their organizations work, wherever possible. As with all alliances, everyone must celebrate successes and learn from mistakes.  

Twombly closed with a series of “tips and traps.” For the former, she outlined the following:

  1. Take time to understand how each partner innovates, goes to market, and what partnership looks like to them.
  2. Understand your counterpart’s focus, job, and core responsibilities.
  3. Use the alliance management foundation to decide how to bridge differences—the toolsets provided by ASAP “give you a common baseline which you can work from.”

The three traps to avoid?

  1. Allowing stakeholders to think that a digital health partnership is like all the others—“you’re really going to have to adapt new behaviors and ways of looking at things” because the status quo will not suffice, warned Twombly.
  2. Make sure each side appreciates and leverages what the other brings to the alliance.
  3. Don’t fail to champion your partner and partnership.

Above all, Twombly exhorted companies on both sides to recognize the high stakes and the game-changing potential of these collaborations.

“The promise for digital health is significant for both technology and biopharma companies, never mind the patients,” she said. “Allow these new therapies, applications, and ways of developing drugs to thrive.”

If you registered for the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, don’t miss out on the bounty of career- and partnership-boosting tips and tricks from some of the profession’s most senior practitioners. The three days of live Summit sessions, plus more than a dozen prerecorded presentations, are available to you on demand until Aug. 18. Log on to the Summit portal soon to access them before they’re gone! 

Tags:  Alignment  alliance practice  alliance principles  Biopharma  biotechs  cloud services  cross-industry alliances  Digital Health  digital technologies  drug candidate  Jan Twombly  Jeff Shuman  metrics  milestones  North Star  partners  partnerships  pharmaceutical  software  The Rhythm of Business 

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A Virtual Event, but a Rich, Living Community—Thanks to You!

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Wednesday, July 1, 2020

What a day! And what a Summit!

Thursday, the final day of the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, was filled with highlights, and served as a resounding demonstration that the ASAP community is alive and well and that the whole organization and its members and staff are supremely flexible and able to pivot from an in-person gathering to a very successful virtual event.

Flexibility and agility, in fact, were two of the recurring themes of this year’s Summit, and its last day was no exception. The day’s livestream programming began with an in-depth panel discussion, “Biopharma Commercial Alliance Management Challenges,” skillfully moderated by Jan Twombly, CSAP, president of The Rhythm of Business, and featuring eminent panelists Brooke Paige, CSAP, former vice president of alliance management at Pear Therapeutics and ASAP board chair; David S. Thompson, CSAP, chief alliance officer at Eli Lilly and Company; and Andrew Yeomans, CSAP, global alliance lead for UCB.

Aligning Around the North Star

Commercial alliances are the go-to-market phase of biopharma partnering, and thus there’s often a lot riding on their success or failure. The panelists discussed various aspects of delivering value from commercial alliances given the business risks, human risks, and legal uncertainties; the prospect of misalignment between partners; the perils of operating in different geographic regions with their varying cultures and regulations; the need for speed and flexibility; and other pitfalls.

Amid such challenges, alliance managers have to keep their eyes on the prize—or, as Paige put it, “It always goes back to the basics: providing alignment by constantly pointing to the North Star of the alliance.”

Twombly noted that bringing partners together to hash out a commercial strategy to maximize value coming from the alliance—and then implementing it effectively—is always “the crux of the matter.”

Yeomans, citing an alliance that operated in China as well as other experiences, said the constantly accelerating speed of events means that even the most experienced alliance managers end up “learning on the job.” “Things are so much more immediate in the real world,” he said. “A lot of things can happen fast.”

More than one panelist mentioned the human element in these alliances—from training alliance professionals to dealing with human risk and misalignment. “It comes down to, do you have the right people?” Paige said. “You have to have the right people with the right mindset” to make the alliance work effectively.

Driving alignment, according to Yeomans, happens in “three buckets”: formal (contract terms), semiformal (governance), and informal, which includes both performing regular health checks and doing the internal work of alignment to “get your own house in order.” In this way issues get turned around and resolved, and escalation is avoided. “This is where alliance management can really come to the fore and add value,” he said.

He also urged alliance managers to work toward achieving a “complementary fit” in the partnership and to “be a conduit” between global and regional representatives and between partners. “Be adaptable and be ahead of the curve. In this way you become almost the go-to person,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Yeomans said he could “wholeheartedly recommend” getting into commercial alliances. “Venture forth. Go forth and conquer!” he exhorted.

Influencers, Referral Partners, Resellers, and Customers

The next presentation in today’s livestream was also concerned with go-to-market partnering, albeit geared more toward the tech industry—but with broader applicability as well. Larry Walsh, CEO and chief analyst of The 2112 Group, spoke on “Making Everyone a Part of the Sales Process”—and by “everyone” he meant not just resellers, but also influencers and referral partners. All have a role to play, and if handled correctly, all contribute to the eventual sale and the booking of revenue.

In fact, the customer should also be included in this continuum, as a satisfied customer could be converted into an influencer, or even a referrer, according to Walsh. He quoted one of his “heroes,” Peter Drucker—no doubt a hero to some others in the ASAP community—who said, “The purpose of a business is to create a customer.”

“That’s why we have channels,” Walsh elaborated. “You try to create points of sale as close to the customer as possible.”

Walsh reminded the audience that the oft-mentioned “customer journey” is in reality just “part of the totality of their experience,” in which even if they’re not buying your brand, they’re still making judgments on it one way or the other. Thus it’s important to try to effectively engage everyone along the continuum from influencers to referrers to resellers to customers because, while expectations should not be overestimated, successful referral programs can be very effective. “Referrals have a lot of power!” Walsh enthused.

Since customers who are happy with a product or solution can become influencers, and influencers can become referrers, and a referral partner may even seem to be a sort of “lightweight reseller” in Walsh’s phrase, this seems to ring true. It also dovetailed with something that Tiffani Bova of Salesforce said on the first day of this year’s Summit: “Your greatest sales force is your customers and partners advocating on your behalf.”

Partner to Partner in the Ecosystem Cloud

“Customers and partners” was a theme of the day’s final presentation as well. Amit Sinha, chief customer officer and cofounder of WorkSpan, and Dan Rippey, director of engineering for Microsoft's One Commercial Partner program, gave a presentation with the lengthy title “How the Microsoft Partner-to-Partner Program Is Disrupting How Technology Companies Are Leveraging the Power of Ecosystems to Grow Their Business, Acquire New Customers, and Gain Competitive Advantage.”

It’s a mouthful, no doubt, but Sinha and Rippey provided some great insights into, first, how WorkSpan uses its Ecosystem Cloud product to help alliance managers, channel partners—really anyone who puts partners together and seeks to manage and keep track of a multipartner ecosystem—both collaborate better and gain greater visibility into the tasks, activities, processes, pipelines, workflows, etc., that are creating value.

Sinha noted that traditionally, “a lot of partnering is meeting people.” Current conditions certainly make that challenging—our Summit being no exception—but he said that with Ecosystem Cloud, remote work becomes more possible and effective and “we can scale even in COVID times.” In addition, as partnerships become more multi-way and complex, these tools become even more necessary. “It’s shifting toward an ecosystem,” he said. “It’s multipartner.”

Among the major partners in this ecosystem is Microsoft, which is where Rippey comes in. As Microsoft has shifted over the years from selling products to selling more solution-based offerings, it has also shifted from an emphasis on individual partnerships—or “pick a partner to work with the customer,” as he said—to more collaborative solution creation and selling arrangements involving multiple partners.

Microsoft realized that it needed to encourage partner-to-partner—or P2P—collaboration in order to push the company forward and grow the ecosystem. It needed to “embrace multiparty conversations,” in Rippey’s words. “In some cases Microsoft just gets out of the way. It really puts the partners at the center of the conversation.” In other cases, Microsoft comes back to the table as needed, but either way, he said, “This puts the partner in the lead.”

When a new solution is discussed, the first question is, “Did somebody already build this?” In that case those partners can be pulled in to tailor the solution to the new end customer in mind. Otherwise, “is this an opportunity,” Rippey said, to design something new?

He noted that while Microsoft doesn’t always have to lead these discussions, they seem to be fruitful in any case, and the P2P program has led to “exponential growth.” Some of its new capabilities will be “lighting up for our partners next year,” he said. “It is Microsoft’s joy to see those partners succeed, [often] without needing our help.”

New Thinking at the New Breakfast Table

This does not come without new thinking, or at times “uncomfortable” negotiations or conversations, Rippey admitted. But he said it forces a large enterprise like Microsoft to be “putting [our] startup hat on again” and to get out and “hustle at all tiers of the ecosystem.” As is often the case in the IT world, some of Microsoft’s competitors are also involved, because “we’re better together.”

And while the P2P platform—just like a social media site—is in need of “moderation,” as Sinha put it, so that there are rules and community norms and some structure, it’s also important to be fairly straightforward about your company’s needs, capabilities, and interests.

“A negotiation is designed to be uncomfortable,” Rippey said. “Be up front, be blunt about what you need, and be OK to say, ‘It looks like we’re misaligned here.’”

Both Sinha and Rippey commented on the need for speed, agility, and flexibility in working with partners, especially in the current pandemic conditions.

“The nature of collaboration has always been getting together to do things,” Sinha said. “Getting together in a room, in each other’s offices, to do joint business planning. Now we have to do more remote collaboration.”

Rippey noted that Microsoft itself had to transition its usual annual “show” from in-person in Las Vegas to virtual this year, which he said was “incredibly hard to do.” But, he added, “It’s not about the show, it’s about the conversations in the hallways. You walk into breakfast and you have nothing, but you sit down next to someone and you walk out of breakfast and you have something—a connection, a business card. It’s really hard to do digitally, and you can’t do it without a platform. We’re providing that new breakfast table.”

Here’s hoping we can all meet again before long over breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a beverage to share insights and stories and to make connections. But until that time, it’s nice to know that we can meet virtually as members of the ASAP community and still get the benefits of sharing all the great wisdom, information, and learning that so many have been able to contribute.

Tags:  aligning  Alliance Management  Amit Sinha  Andrew Yeomans  Biopharma  Brooke Paige  channel  cloud  Commercial  Dan Rippey  David S. Thompson  ecosystem  Eli Lilly and Company  Influencers  Jan Twombly  Larry Walsh  Microsoft  Referral Partners  The 2112 Group  The Rhythm of Business  UCB  WorkSpan 

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Making Adjustments: ASAP Global Alliance Summit Now in June!

Posted By Michael Leonetti, CSAP, Monday, March 9, 2020

We’ve all had the experience of an unexpected event that suddenly threw a wrench into our alliances or our lives. Depending on the nature of the event, its magnitude, and how close to home it hits, we generally do our best to understand how the landscape has changed, adjust to the implications, make accommodations, and move forward. Reality may defy our hopes and expectations, but we pick up the pieces, dust ourselves off, and keep getting up in the morning amid the now-altered environment.

So it is with the coronavirus, or COVID-19, whose effects worldwide have already proven serious. Our hearts go out to all those who have been directly affected by this virus, especially the families of those who have died from it around the globe. In addition, this contagious disease—and the fear of it—has already had a significant economic impact, including declines in business and vacation travel and the cancellation or postponement of a number of conventions, conferences, and trade shows in various industries. Most organizations have been forced to respond in some way, whether to shift events to alternative dates or from physical to virtual, to curtail travel to safeguard their people, or to try to limit the damage to their bottom line. Or all of the above.

We at ASAP have faced these challenges as well, resulting in the difficult decision to reschedule our Global Alliance Summit, which had been scheduled for next week, to June 23–25 in Tampa, Florida. In the great scheme of things this move may barely register, but for a member organization like ours, as you can imagine, it’s a big deal. Shifting the Summit to new dates has required a huge and immediate lift on the part of ASAP staff and board, which is ongoing as I write this.

The good news is, the show will go on! I’m very happy that we were able to secure the original conference venue, the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel, for our late-June dates. I’m even more pleased to report that at present, nearly 75 percent of our presenters, panelists, and moderators have confirmed that they’ll be there.

What this means is that we’ll still have a terrific program, as planned—a program that, as always, includes presentations by some of the alliance and partnering profession’s best and brightest minds and leading lights, including these:

  • A keynote presentation by Steve Steinhilber, global vice president, ecosystems and business development, at Equinix: “Creating Alliances and Digital Ecosystem Capabilities in an Increasingly Platform Enabled and Interconnected World.” Steve ran alliances at Cisco for a number of years, and while there authored the influential book Strategic Alliances: Three Ways to Make Them Work (2008). He was also among those interviewed for our Q1 2020 cover story in Strategic Alliance Quarterly on the rise and far-reaching effects of ecosystems in nearly every industry, and his insights into this important and growing area are sure to be valuable and applicable to any industry.
  • A fascinating panel moderated by Adam Kornetsky of Vantage Partners titled “Big Pharma M&A and Alliance Portfolios: What’s at the End of the Rainbow?” This interactive discussion will feature panelists including Mark Coflin, CSAP, vice president and head of global alliances at Takeda Pharmaceuticals; Dana Hughes, vice president of integration management and alliance management at Pfizer; and Jeffrey C. Hurley, senior director, GBD global alliance lead at Takeda. These longtime ASAP members will share their recent M&A experiences, provide insights into how alliance portfolios have been managed through the transaction process, and engage participants in sharing additional perspectives critical for unlocking and maximizing the full value of an alliance portfolio.
  • A presentation by Dan Rippey, director of engineering for Microsoft’s One Commercial Partner program, and Amit Sinha, chief customer officer and cofounder of WorkSpan, called “How the Microsoft Partner-to-Partner Program Is Disrupting the Way Technology Companies Are Leveraging the Power of Ecosystems for Business Growth, Customer Acquisition, and Gaining a Competitive Advantage.” With the rise of ecosystems has come the increasing deployment of partner-to-partner (P2P) programs, and Microsoft’s may be the largest on the planet, connecting partners directly with each other to deliver value to customers without Microsoft’s intervention. Powered by WorkSpan Ecosystem Cloud, this program increases profitability by selling solutions from one or more of Microsoft’s partners, achieving faster time-to-market by leveraging prebuilt joint solutions, closing larger deals, and reaching more customers by co-selling with other Microsoft partners for a bigger joint pipeline. This new model of partnering has wide applicability and Dan and Amit’s description of how it works is a must-hear.
  • Another terrific panel moderated by Jan Twombly, president of The Rhythm of Business, called “Biopharma Commercial Alliance Management Challenges.” Panelists will include Brooke Paige, CSAP, ASAP board chair and former vice president of alliance management at Pear Therapeutics; and David S. Thompson, CSAP, chief alliance officer at Eli Lilly and Company. In the long life of a successful biopharma alliance, the commercialization phase brings its own particular challenges and problems. This panel promises to be a lively discussion of such topics as how alliance managers deliver value in a commercial alliance, considerations for driving alignment in local geographies and at a corporate level, aspects of alliance governance to get right to maximize value, and much more.

I’m not indulging in hyperbole when I say that these are just a very few of the highlights. Again,  more than three-quarters of the original Summit agenda is planned  to remain intact—including preconference workshops, single-speaker presentations, illuminating panel discussions, and of course, valuable networking opportunities.

We know there are many factors governing decisions on where to travel and why—especially under current conditions. But we’re confident that even after shifting to the June dates, we’ll be fielding a stellar lineup at the Summit in Tampa—one you’ll want to be present for. If you haven’t registered yet and/or for whatever reason were uncertain about attending in March, you now have some extra time to decide.

Additionally, the Renaissance has set up a new block of rooms at our discounted rate of $219.00+ per night. To book your room for the new conference dates, please click on the link below:

https://www.marriott.com/event-reservations/reservation-link.mi?id=1583953400577&key=GRP&app=resvlink

Let’s all try to plan for normal again! Won’t you join us? I hope to see you in Tampa!

Tags:  alliances  Amit Sinha  biopharma  Brooke Paige  Dan Rippey  Dana Hughes  David Thompson  Ecosystems  Eli Lilly and Company  Equinix  Jan Twombly  Jeffrey Hurley  Mark Coflin  Microsoft  P2P  partners  Pfizer  Steve Steinhilber  Takeda  The Rhythm of Business  Vantage Partners  WorkSpan 

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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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