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Building ‘Leadership Muscle’: Get Your Organization Ready for the ‘Partnering Marathon’

Posted By John M. DeWitt and John W. DeWitt, Thursday, March 7, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Welcome to the new partnering race—where everyone is running as fast as they can, frantically trying to catch up to the customer.

Nina Harding, channel chief at Google Cloud, asked an important question at the October 2018 ASAP Tech Partner Forum in San Jose, California: “So how do you work with your partners when the customers are ahead of the ecosystems?” This is indeed an important question, given that “every single thing we do is new,” according to Pear Therapeutics Founder and CEO Corey McCann. He added, in a keynote at the September 2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference, that risks associated with new ventures “conspire to make partnerships not successful.” Stuart Kliman, CA-AM, partner at Vantage Partners, characterized the current playing field as “one of significant and ongoing change, which is driving new forms of collaboration, new kinds of alliances.”

Being successful on such a competitive playing field requires alliance practitioners to build their “leadership muscle,” the focus of the Q4 2018 Strategic Alliance Quarterly cover story, “Building ‘Leadership Muscle’: Are You and Your Alliance Management Organization Ready to Run the ‘Partnering Marathon’?” Building leadership muscle means giving your leaders the strength, flexibility, and endurance to withstand the breakneck pace of modern collaboration.

Why do you need this muscle? No matter your industry, regardless of the specific drivers, it’s almost certain that:

  1. Your company is “remixing” its build-buy-partner strategies;
  2. Partnering activity, especially nontraditional partnering, is exploding for your company;
  3. Your alliance organization faces an overwhelming workload;
  4. Your partnering strategy and execution require new thinking, skillsets, and tools.

If your company and its partners are evolving to catch the customer, then you should (or already will) be rethinking, reorganizing, and relearning:

  • Rethinking. Alliance leaders must continuously rethink partnering strategy and models in the context of disruption and new competitive threats, which are all-but-continuous now.
  • Reorganizing. If you aren’t thinking proactively about how you are organized and aligned to overall company strategy, you can be sure someone else is—and soon you will be thinking about it too, only reactively.
  • Relearning. Alliance executives require new skills and cross-industry knowledge for the new partners and ecosystems they interact with. Many alliance processes and practices require radical rethinking and streamlining if they are to remain useful for managing at the accelerating pace and exploding scope of partnering activities today.

“When all these things are changing around you, you can’t keep doing business as usual,” said Brandeis professor, consultant, and author Ben Gomes-Casseres, CSAP, PhD. “This means very often a change in company strategy [and] if the organization’s strategy is changing, then the alliance organization should change with that. That is fundamental.”

See the Q4 2018 issue of Strategic Alliance Quarterly to learn more about how alliance leaders are rethinking, reorganizing, and relearning while they build “leadership muscle.” John M. DeWitt is copy editor and contributing writer and John W. DeWitt is editor and publisher for ASAP Media and Strategic Alliance publications.

Tags:  alliance  Ben Gomes-Casseres  channel  collaborative  Corey McCann  cross-industry  Google Cloud  leadership  Nina Harding  partnerships  Pear Therapeutics  Stuart Kliman  Vantage Partners 

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The Rugged Biopharma/Tech Topography—What Alliance Managers Need to Know (Part 2)

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, October 23, 2018

This extremely well-organized session, “Non-traditional Partnerships:  The Changing BioPharma Alliance Landscape and the Implications for the Alliance Professional and Alliance Management Community” held by Stu Kliman and Ben Siddall of Cambridge-based Vantage Partners, started off by outlining the multiple challenges the biopharma industry faces today, many of which are financial. One major solution to those challenges lies in building more relationships across the lifecycle, specifically with tech, the pair pointed out. They described the complex ecosystem of partnerships that are emerging today and how to determine if it’s right for your company to jump into the trend and/or continue to engage in multi-partner collaborations. Also on the docket was a discussion on effective partnering, which requires the capability to make good choices and the ability to execute.

All major biopharma companies are following the route of building a greater partnering base, they explained. Some of the deals are very large—in the hundreds of millions. Some involve very big players that are exploring and investing in the digital health tech space, such as Apple and IBM. Some are much smaller, or combine large and small companies. No matter the size of the companies involved, when entering the field, “You need to be purposeful and execute quickly,” explained Siddall.

And you need to consider “What makes relationships work—what are the leverage points?” added Kliman.  “As we think about this new landscape of partnering, we are already seeing our clients making mistakes.”

One of the really important areas where companies are struggling in this ecosystem is the process of thinking through whether they should be partnering at all. “Should we just have a vendor relationship? What does partnership mean? Through what process are we making that decision? Where does partnering make sense?” said Kliman, ticking off the kinds of questions that naturally emerge.

“To achieve maximum value, biopharmas must select the right partners to address specific needs and manage these relationships in a way that acknowledges these differences,” Kliman emphasizes. It’s very important in the process to consider the differences between pharma and tech, he said, while flashing a slide.

The pharma cycle has:

  • High levels of regulation
  • Very long (five-plus years) “product” development
  • Management and investors familiar with longer development
  • Purposeful and predictable innovation and co-creation
  • Strong functional stakeholders (medical, legal, compliance, finance)
  • Contractual, asset-based alliances with fixed lengths
  • Well-defined commercial negotiation models with “customers” with significant regulation

The tech cycle has:

  • Variability—many markets are not regulated
  • Short to moderate (1-3 years) “product” development
  • Management/investors who tend to expect quick ROI and steady growth
  • Rapid and agile innovation and co-creation
  • Moderate or weak functional stakeholders (legal, compliance, finance)
  • A blend of formal/informal alliances, often with no fixed length
  • Flexible, market-driven customer engagement processes

Also of great importance is the process of thinking through the best possible partner choices and evaluating them according to the meta-criteria of capabilities. Both presenters recommend considering the marketplace and size of the deals and evaluating potential partners from multiple dimensions that go beyond just the financial impact. Vantage recommends doing this with a four-quadrant methodology that analyzes strategic, financial, operational, and relational fits.

“On the back end, we have challenges during execution to consider,” Kliman added. “Pharma and IT are significantly different. If your core expertise is to identify and manage alliance models that manage different partners, that needs to be brought into upstream activities as well.”

“If you are going to enter into this new world, you want to make sure the relationship is purposeful,” Kliman added. A purposeful relationship contains the following criteria, he said. It should be:

  • Purposeful (focused on a well-defined market; meets patient, partner, and company needs)
  • Choiceful (partnership is worth the effort; has the right answer, among other things)
  •  Designed and developed collaboratively (based on a shared vision; focused on joint gain, among other things)
  • Actively managed (with joint oversight; systems reviews; robust metrics)
  • Building over time
  • Assessed

See part one of this session coverage blog and stay tuned for more ASAP Media team coverage from the 2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference. 

Tags:  alliance  Ben Siddall  healthcare landscape  licensing-type alliance groups  partnering  pharma  Stu Kliman  tech  Vantage Partners 

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The Rugged Biopharma/Tech Topography: What Alliance Managers Need to Know (Part 1)

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Business partnering today requires know-how to negotiate nontraditional collaborations for purposes that are different from those of classical business development and licensing (BD&L) alliances. The partnering landscape for biopharma firms is evolving to include a variety of these new kinds of collaborations, according to the session “Non-traditional Partnerships:  The Changing BioPharma Alliance Landscape and the Implications for the Alliance Professional and Alliance Management Community,” led by Stuart Kliman, CA-AM, and Ben Siddall, both of whom are partners at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Vantage Partners. The two took to the floor at the 2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference to provide key insights on the value and challenges these partnerships bring, especially in the area of biopharma/tech collaborations, which are resulting in very different business models. I had the opportunity to talk with Stu Kliman before the session. Here are some of the insights he provided on this hot topic.

ASAP Media: What is the impetus for your session?

Stuart Kliman: This session is about this ongoing theme of new types of collaborations happening in the healthcare ecosystem. It’s really all about how biopharma and tech are doing more and more together—so new and different kinds of relationships. Those relationships have different purposes. They might differentiate the value proposition of a product or a drug or support outcomes-based deals within the healthcare system. Or they might provide real world evidence and value-based pricing models. This session is about some of the differences between pharma and tech and the different kinds of challenges that organizations need to deal with. About the upstream, how do you start to think about creating these kinds of relationships and the key success factors for doing so? This also raises the question about if and how classic business development and licensing-type alliance groups need to evolve to deal with the changed environment.

We can see from the lineup at this year’s ASAP BioPharma Conference that the biopharma/tech partnering relationship is a very hot topic. How pervasive is the interest on the tech side?

Every tech company that’s out there is trying to figure out how to get into healthcare. It’s this world of FitBit. It’s this whole world of software, hardware, and device companies exploring the healthcare world.

This session is an extension of some of the topics you’ve been discussing and advising on for some time.  What’s different in this session?

There is a lot of focus on understanding the healthcare landscape, defining the problems that the healthcare landscape is creating.  For example, there might be things related to better data, trial efficiency, or the context of a specific therapy, or the need to track value. The first thing you need to do is make sure you have thought through what the different problems are, what capabilities you need to partner with, consider different kinds of players that are out there, and be thinking about the right kind of business model to work with them, and how to design overall relationship around that shared vision.  We will spend more time talking about this notion of problem definition and think through tentative problem types. Does that lead to something that feels like an innovative alliance relationship or a more traditional one?

Stay tuned for more of the ASAP Media team’s coverage of this and other sessions at the 2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference. 

Tags:  alliance  Ben Siddall  healthcare landscape  licensing-type alliance groups  partnering  pharma  Stu Kliman  tech  Vantage Partners 

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Ready to Externalize? Start internally.

Posted By Stuart Kliman and Electra Hui, Vantage Partners (ASAP EPP), Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2018

In the past, most companies assumed that the way to create value and, indeed, to win in the marketplace was to have the singular best internal capabilities—from research to innovation to development to manufacturing and beyond. Today, more and more companies know that the best way to bring greater value to customers is by finding, accessing, and taking advantage of innovation wherever it exists—which is, of course, frequently outside the company. They know, in other words, that the key to winning is to “externalize”.

But while the will to externalize is there, and many firms have taken various efforts to do it, most still haven’t truly captured the promise of externalizing. Why? Because while they espouse externalizing as a goal, they haven’t fully embedded the notion of externalization into their internal processes and behaviors. They’re stuck in an outsourcing mindset (at best), focused on ensuring that their internal efforts are as strong as possible and looking to partner only when they believe they have gaps or, perhaps, that there is some unique external capability that they need to leverage. External partners are viewed as a means of fulfilling a specific, targeted function or technology instead of fundamental elements of the company’s strategy.

To successfully capture the value promised by externalization, you need to change the way you think and the way you operate. That means shifting the foundations of the organization from an assumption that you need to win through your own expertise to an assumption that you will win through world-class partnering, broadly defined.

Organizational and Behavioral Drivers for Successful Externalization.
Once you’ve made the mindset shift to winning through partnering, the next step is to embed that mindset into every aspect of the organization—from culture to organizational structure to incentives to processes and tools to skills and behaviors. Otherwise, you’ll have only limited success. Below are just a few of the things organizations need to do to externalize successfully.

  1. Create and communicate a clear and coherent external relationship strategy, so potential partners bring their best opportunities to you. It’s important to proactively, externally communicate the extent and seriousness of your new model and the porousness of your boundaries.
  2. Build the operational interfaces for drawing on external resources. When partnership is baked into operations, companies can move rapidly into new initiatives and markets with a broader set of strategic objectives. This often requires adopting a project mindset, in which internal and external capabilities can be tapped quickly and seamlessly for any given effort, without regard to employment status. It also requires building budgets that account for variable external costs.
  3. Be open to creative, “win-win” partnering structures that get the company access to the best opportunities. Companies must be comfortable with creating fit-for-purpose relationship structures that allow for maximum and fair value creation based on the unique needs of each partner.
  4. Ensure partners feel respected and would want to work with you in the future. When companies move slowly on decisions, de-prioritize partner meetings, or undervalue partner contributions or expertise, those partners aren’t likely to bring their best. When partners feel respected, on the other hand, relationships flourish, and companies are viewed as partners of choice.
  5. Train people on how to manage and engage in external relationships successfully. To make partnerships work, people within your organization need to have solid collaboration, influence, and negotiation skills. Managers must be deft at creating and supporting just-in-time teams that can both leverage and deal with difference.
  6. Address issues with partners in a transparent and collaborative manner. Proactive identification, management, and accommodation of difference—between company and partner strategies, goals, culture, risk tolerance, etc.—has to be part of the organizational DNA.  Both parties need to be committed to experimenting together, working iteratively, and periodically reflecting on what is and isn’t working.

Successful externalization doesn’t happen on its own. Leaders need to explicitly define the change in their organization’s strategic assumptions, articulate the implications for the way people will work and how the organizational model will shift, and—most important—purposefully and methodically move the organization to the new, externalized model. Otherwise, externalization will remain nothing more than a nice idea at best, a failure at worst. 

Tags:  Electra Hui  Externalization  operational interfaces  Organizational and Behavioral Drivers  Partnering structure  partners  strategic  Stuart Kliman  Vantage Partners 

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Building and Sustaining the Alliance-Enabled Enterprise—Through the Lens of Vantage Partner’s Stu Kliman

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

Building broad-based organizational partnering capabilities that are strongly embedded within and across your firm’s partnerships can be daunting in the face of an increasingly complex web of multi-industry alliances. Take your partnering capabilities to a new level with advice on how to manage just this kind of challenge at the 2017 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Profit, Innovation, and Value for the Part­nering Enterprise,” Feb. 28-March 2 at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley, San Diego, Calif. USA.

 

Stuart Kliman, CA-AM, a founding partner of Vantage Partners LLC, and co-author of Vantage’s 2015 study, “Transcending Organizational Barriers—A Cross-Industry View of Alliance Management Trends and Challenges,” will build upon this research in his two-hour long workshop, “Building and Sustaining the Alliance-Enabled Enterprise.”  Kliman manages Vantage’s alliance practice area and is a regular speaker and writer on alliance and key supplier relationship management.

 

This year, Kliman will be co-running the workshop with Julie Shirley, executive, strategic alliances for financial services and technology at Equifax, who will share how the concepts highlighted by Kliman have enabled Equifax’s alliance success. Shirley leads a team of alliance partnering specialists that strives to maximize value from Equifax’s partnerships and to institutionalize partnering and alliance management capability at Equifax. Previously, Shirley was deputy general counsel for Equifax.

 

Organizations need to remain agile to effectively engage in key alliances as new technologies appear that can disrupt as well as assist. Alliance managers, in particular, can help enable an enterprise-wide mindset for driving innovation through partnerships to maximize value for all stakeholders. The session promises to be a highly interactive workshop that addresses a range of challenges while exploring both normative and sub-par organizational approaches for partnering. It will also focus on a framework to assess an organization’s partnering capabilities.

 

The creation of a sustainable, “alliance-enabled” enterprise is key to succeed. “If you have an alliance-dependent strategy, then your entire organization, including, of course, your management team, needs to be focused on supporting it,” according to Kliman.

Organizations must shift from their traditional, inwardly focused foundations to embrace externally focused strategic assumptions for winning, and in the process, embed an operating model and culture befitting a world-class partner.


“A framework for assessing your organization’s broad-based partnering capabilities would look at those aspects of an organization that ultimately lead to behaviors and results—such as core assumptions that the organization has about how it wins, organizational design, key processes and tools, explicit and implicit incentives, roles and responsibilities, and skills,” he adds.


The discussion will focus on the difference between organizations that are designed to succeed at external partnering and those that are not. It also will drill down on how the partnering capability of an organization might be designed in a meaningful and impactful way, and the role that alliance management organizations can play to ensure that their companies are truly prepared to execute a partner-dependent strategy.


“Alliance management organizations far too often are focused on the mechanical aspects of making individual alliances work,” Kliman states. “Instead, they need to be more focused on ensuring that the organization itself is designed to support its alliance dependent-strategy, if indeed that is the strategy the organization has.”


The session also will include roundtable discussions and sharing of ideas across the broader group, during which participants can engage with their colleagues to discuss barriers they've experienced to building a true alliance-enabled organization and brainstorm changes necessary to reach that goal.

Tags:  Alliance Management  alliance managers  cross-industry  partnering  strategy  Stu Kliman  Trends and Challenges  Vantage Partners 

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