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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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The ‘Boundary Bridger’: How Leadership Style Drives Alliance Team Performance

Posted By John W. DeWitt , Tuesday, March 12, 2019

“The alignment challenge is not unique to strategic alliances,” commented veteran alliance manager Timothy B. Steele, president of ARM Partners in Leesburg, Virginia, as he kicked off the closed-door, invitation-only ASAP Leadership Forum on Monday, March 11—opening day of the 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Indeed, leadership teams typically are aligned only 17 percent on any given topic, according to research by SchellingPoint that builds upon the work of Thomas Schelling, the late behavioral economist who (with Robert J. Aumann) received the 2005 Nobel Prize in economic sciences “for having enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis.”

SchellingPoint’s “analysis of 230 collaborations uncovered that teams are aligned on only 17 percent of their peer’s views of their collaboration,” according to Michael Taylor, SchellingPoint’s chief executive. Research further indicates that about 60 percent of senior leaders’ time is spent securing alignment across the leadership team.

Steele and his co-facilitator, Loyola University Maryland professor Dave Luvison, CSAP, PhD, described this aspect of leadership as “a boundary-bridging role.” Alternating between presentation and robust discussion with the group of veteran alliance leaders, Steele and Luvison presented leadership models and emerging research identifying the critical role of boundary bridging and other key leadership behaviors.

“When we look at the job of alliance leadership, we talk a lot about focus on the customer, Steele said, “but if you don’t have this boundary-bridging role,” instead of being a chief alliance officer (CAO) with a seat at the CXO table, you might end up on the menu. Your alliance skills might make you able to cope with ambiguity, but “don’t be ambiguous about having clear mission and mandate, because [building alignment] is one area of alliances where you don’t want to deal with ambiguity. Get it crisp and clear—the less ambiguity you have the better off you are.”

Research into leadership styles of product management teams—according to Luvison, an excellent analog for alliance management—supports the notion that you should “push alliance metrics to the CXO suite [so that it is] leveraged across the business,” Steele continued, adding that that boundary bridgers integrate the alliance agenda into annual corporate planning and involve business P&L owners into key partnering dynamics and decisions.

The science indicates that boundary bridger CAOs establish a “North Star” to guide their teams, a concept advanced by The Rhythm of Business and McKinsey, Steele noted. Furthermore, boundary bridgers demonstrate high emotional intelligence and are able to “feel the headwinds and tailwinds happening in your business,” Steele said. “Think about being up on the balcony, watching yourself dance, anticipating what your partner’s next move is.”

Fundamentally, Luvison said, boundary bridgers understand that just doing a good job does not alone drive success. Research exploring how particular leadership styles improve performance of teams has identified three types of leaders. The first type of leadership style describes leaders primarily engaged in task-focused behavior, “managing and driving the team to perform, making sure every executional aspect of the alliance is done properly. The second type are scouts, who see themselves as responsible for bringing resources to the team. The third type are ambassadors focused on dialoguing with superiors and other stakeholders, proactively putting themselves on the agenda of their leaders, and managing behaviors.”

According to preliminary research findings, Luvison said, “ambassador-led teams outperformed [the two others], especially when combined with task behaviors.” Interestingly, he continued, “Frequency of communications was less important than the nature of the boundary-bridging activities. Ambassadors created the opportunity to promote the team, secure resources, and protect it from interference.”

In other words, successful boundary bridgers also demonstrated traits of the other two types of leaders.

The facilitators then asked the two-dozen or so senior alliance execs in the room how they would describe their leadership style and how much time they spend on boundary bridging. General consensus in the room: 50 percent, if not more, of their time is spent on internal alignment across boundaries.

“It’s a full-time challenge to do this. It’s not just something you can do and be done,” commented one pharmaceutical alliance leader.

“I find I have to be task-oriented even when being ambassador,” said another senior pharma business development and alliance leader.

A leader in a large high-tech company with an immature alliance practice commented that, “since it’s a new alliance management function at our company, the ratio is much higher. We have to do the WIFM—‘what’s in it for me?’—lots of meetings, lots of time spent,” the exec explained. Her boss “spends 90 percent of his time as ambassador and is more networked than most senior leaders at company,” she continued, adding, “But we do split duty—you can evangelize, but you can’t deliver the goods if you’re not executing.”

Another leader commented that “it’s a fallacy that software will solve the problem, that [you can]manage by software, manage by milestones, and forget about alignment. Then you are managing instead of leading. And if leaders are not leading, managers default to tactical.”

Stay tuned for more of ASAP Media’s coverage of the Leadership Forum and other seminal leadership discussions at the 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit.

Tags:  ARM Partners  boundary bridgers  communication  Dave Luvison  McKinsey  stakeholders  strategic alliances  The Rhythm of Business  Timothy B. Steele 

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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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Increasing Strength through P2P Muscle Building (Part 2): Cisco and SMART Partnering Execs Delve into the ‘Value Exchange Challenge’ at 2018 ASAP Tech Partner Forum

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Monday, October 15, 2018

2x, 5x, 10x. How can companies gain extra oomph and advantage in the emerging multi-partner, multi-industry ecosystem? That’s the central theme of the session “Value Exchange Challenge: Building the New P2P Ecosystem Partnering Muscle” being offered at the 2018 ASAP Tech Partner Forum, “Reimaging Part­nering in a Disruptive World,” on October 17 at the Four Points by Sheraton, San Jose Airport, San Jose, California. The session will be presented by two speakers: Lorin Coles, CSAP, CEO, Alliancesphere, and principal, SMART Partnering; Kashif Abbasi, senior director, partner sales acceleration, global partner organization, Cisco Systems, Inc. I had the pleasure recently of talking at length with Coles, an animated and crisp speaker, about the driving force behind the session and the accompanying Cisco case study. Part two of our discussion follows.

ASAP Media: How does Cisco Systems enter into this value exchange equation as a case study?

We will lay out an example to understand the transformation Cisco is going through according to customer needs. Their new market model is built around new consumption and outcome-based models that go to market. At Cisco, they had to go beyond selling recurring software. It was no longer about landing the deal. It was about consumption and adoption in the entire customer lifecycle, and adoption to expansion to renewal. What they had to realize was that they had to help orchestrate the ecosystem and scale out this capability. They needed a scaling engine where they had different programs, different pipelines of enablement, automation, and sales acceleration. One of their areas of sales acceleration that is co-delivered with Alliancesphere is called ACES, which stands for Accelerating Cisco Ecosystem Sales, to take the complexity out and accelerate muscle building. ACES@Scale co-develops this methodology for its use partnerships and a framework to accelerate multiparty solution sales. It’s a proven methodology to sell Cisco architecture through 100% ready solutions with a faster time to booking. The key is bringing packaged solutions to market for their channelmulti-partner solutions all the way to resellers.

What else will you be covering in this session?

We will close it off by talking about the future of co-selling, which is all around the customer, the buyers, and the solutions. And it’s really about empowering the partners to exchange value from both the buyer and seller journey to help all parties realize the desired business outcomes. We will provide point of view on complexity of solutions versus buyer dynamics. Based on different co-selling scenarios, we will determine the best way to work with your partners. It’s a muscle that needs developing at all levels of organizations: from the executive team to management to the frontline - not just the sellers or tech team. The whole organization has to begin to work and operate differently.

What is driving the change, this need for a P2P muscle-building approach?

The change in the market and what customers are looking for: real solutions to solve problems in more proactive ways that eliminate the friction and focus on their needs and deliver to their outcomes. This kind of capability muscle is incremental. Building out the muscle and muscle memory becomes more effective the more you do itit gets stronger and stronger. It will become the core to the future of business. We’re going to look at it from a market and customer view, what it could mean to the audience, and then open it up to a Q&A session.

See part one of this blog and follow the ASAP Media team’s ongoing coverage of the October 17, 2018 ASAP Tech Partner Forum on the ASAP Blog at www.strategic-alliances.org.  Learn more and register for the ASAP Tech Forum at http://asaptechforum.org

Tags:  Alliancesphere  Cisco Systems  cross-functional  digital transformation  enablement  engagement  execution  Kashif Abbasi  Lorin Coles  P2P  partner  partnering  SMART Partnering  The Rhythm of Business  value creation 

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