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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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Increasing Strength through P2P Muscle Building (Part 1): Cisco and SMART Partnering Execs Delve into the ‘Value Exchange Challenge’ at 2018 ASAP Tech Partner Forum

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Thursday, October 11, 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 one  of our discussion follows.

ASAP Media: Why is value so central to your presentation?

Lorin Coles: The core of all partnering and partnerships is really about value and trust. When two companies come together, they are looking for where and how they can help each other create greater value for the customer. That’s a value exchangeit occurs at multiple levels with multiple people in alliances. Partnerships in the past had specific way that they did it. Now, because of digital transformation and the speed, scale, and scope of change, it’s more complex than ever to create contextually relevant value for your partners and customers because there are new buyers, and the solutions are more complex. If there is no value, it’s difficult to partner. Value is the cornerstone in everything we do. The value exchange is where and how we are going to partner together.

How can companies build Partner-to-Partner (P2P) ecosystem partnering muscle?

Partnering evolves over time just like sports evolves over time. You need to go from enablement to engagement to execution. You do that by working cross-functionally at multiple levels with companies.

It’s important to understand the different personalities of your partner and the audience, the difference between partner types, and the functionthe marketing, sales, and product people and the roles they play in the partnership. And more importantly than ever, you need to understand the value exchange.

Building that new muscle is something a lot of people can’t do because it takes connecting dots that others don’t see. It’s important to determine if you are a novice, intermediate, advanced, or expert when building up this muscle. Companies are becoming more and more dependent on partnering and need to learn how to partner in more proactive ways than before. They need to understand when and where to bring in partners, how to leverage partners. The process is different than before because it’s across an ecosystem.

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.

See the remainder of our discussion with Lorin Coles in part two of this article and follow the ASAP Media team’s ongoing coverage of the 2018 ASAP Tech Partner Forum on the ASAP Blog at www.strategic-alliances.org. Learn more and register for the 2018 ASAP Tech Partner 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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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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