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Driving Through Spaghetti: Navigating the “Chaos” of Biopharma/Digital Partnerships

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Wednesday, September 16, 2020

There are many things biopharma alliance professionals do well, and many areas where they shine. Partnerships between life sciences companies and digital organizations, however, while on the rise, remain the new frontier for alliance management. And to give alliance professionals their due, it’s often their organizations that are caught flatfooted by the demands and challenges that lie along the biopharma/digital divide. In fact, greater involvement by alliance groups might help operationalize and execute on these partnerships such that they fulfill their purposes and create more of their intended value.

That’s one of the assessments provided by Stu Kliman, CA-AM, and Ben Siddall, both partners in Vantage Partners, in their presentation, “Enhancing Partnerships Between Life Sciences and Digital Organizations,” on day two of the 2020 ASAP BioPharma Conference. (Vantage Partners is a platinum sponsor of the conference.)

In introducing Kliman and Siddall, ASAP president and CEO Michael Leonetti, CSAP, noted that this is “a topic that we’ve been talking about for a number of years at ASAP.” The two presenters agreed, with Siddall adding that what has changed in the three or four years since he and Kliman began facilitating such partnerships and doing presentations on the subject is the sheer proliferation of these alliances—to the extent that they can no longer fit on one slide anymore.

The trend is part of “an increasingly complex ecosystem, with biopharma at the center,” according to Siddall. The question, he said, is “How do we take advantage of all these relationships and manage [them] in a coherent way?” It can be done, he added, but due to the number of relationships involved, and the breadth and longevity of those relationships, “it’s a struggle.”

Changing Mental Models

Kliman mentioned that when biopharma people hear the word “partnering,” they have “a mental model for what that means,” which may be “somewhat narrow and [something that] happens linearly—the classic drug development and commercialization process.” But digital partnerships are a different animal. As Kliman put it, they tend to be “more invasive and more involved for alliance management than is typically the case.”

Kliman gave a couple examples of such partnerships, such as Concerto AI and BMS, and GE and Roche, before noting that there are often so many internal and external players and stakeholders involved, and so many different activities across the alliance life cycle, it can be challenging to coordinate all those functions and activities. “All that looks easy on a slide, but it’s hard to make all the pieces fit,” said Siddall.

And whose job is it, anyway? Both Kliman and Siddall, in different ways, made the case for alliance management groups to perform this difficult task.

Even in a “traditional” biopharma alliance, there is great complexity and a number of functions involved, and alliance managers tend to move among the different functions as needed to communicate and coordinate activities and ensure alignment, in addition to working closely with their opposite numbers at the partner company. With a biopharma/digital partnership, however, the number of functions increases and may include things like AI, tech suppliers, virtual trials (often international in nature), and more.

The Spaghetti Slide

Displaying a slide showing a veritable spider web of lines drawn between all these different functions, Siddall noted, “You see how complex the map looks. You’ve got this spaghetti.” Throughout the presentation, this was referred back to as “the spaghetti slide.”

Notwithstanding this complexity, said Kliman, “We believe the alliance management group is very well positioned to own these activities” and be the “change management driver” in digital partnerships. Other functions are simply not prepared to do it, he said.

Yet significant organizational challenges remain. Recent Vantage research shows that 74 percent of biopharma respondents said their organization has an explicit digital strategy—but 52 percent say that internal stakeholders are not clear about how to effectively engage their key digital relationships. What’s more, only 15 percent of respondents said their company has clear and operationalized approaches to manage digital relationships differently from more transactional vendor relationships.

“So how do you do this well?” Siddall asked. He cited what he called “three critical enablers.” To be successful, he said, organizations must:

  • Align decisions with strategy (“What’s the purpose? Why are we doing this?”)
  • Embed a cross-functional operating model to speed execution
  • Build the skills to enable agile collaboration

“Everybody’s Doing It”—but Not Everybody’s Doing It Well

Many companies simply ask, “Which partner does X?” he said, and then “get a list of big names.” This is the wrong approach. Rather, they should start with their overall strategy and ask, “What are we trying to do?” And, given the number of activities and functions involved, they also have to ask themselves, “How do we actively manage all that chaos, and make it strategic?”

In fact, Siddall said that alliance professionals not only need to manage the chaos, but they might need to create some as well. In so doing, they’ll need to avoid what has sometimes been the biopharma response to digital organizations’ ways: “That’s not how we do it here.”

Kliman acknowledged that the challenges of the biopharma/digital divide can make for a “differentially uncomfortable situation.” “As alliance managers, we like control,” he said. But there are far more digital partnerships now than just a couple years ago, and the number is expected to continue to rise. So get used to it—the future is here.

“The size and diversity of digital portfolios has grown,” Kliman said. “Folks have woken up to the implications for their organization. We see organizations bellying up to the [digital] bar.” Or as Siddall said, “Everybody’s doing it now.”

And although some of the skills needed for digital partnerships may be different, Siddall said it requires a “mindset shift” rather than reflecting a “skill set conflict.”

We Need a Navigator

Finally, Siddall’s pitch for greater involvement by alliance management in digital partnerships highlighted alliance managers’ role as “navigators” of different relationships, especially their ability to help partners navigate biopharma organizations and surface differences.

Kliman said he wouldn’t argue what alliance managers should or should not do, but the fact remains that companies need to have an approach to managing these partnerships—and who will be accountable to drive alignment around executing the operating model?

“It makes good sense with a portfolio of digital relationships that alliance management has a role to play,” he said.

Check back in this space for more coverage of the 2020 ASAP BioPharma Conference, and remember that the online showcase on Vimeo gives you all the livestream sessions in real time—and later, once they’re archived, in case you missed one—as well as all the on-demand content, sponsors’ messages, and more!

Tags:  agile  alignment  alliance management  alliances  Ben Siddall  collaboration  cross-functional  Digital  internal stakeholders  Life Sciences  Partnerships  portfolio  relationships  speed execution  strategy  Stu Kliman  Vantage Partners 

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Keeping It Together: Summit Roundtable Examines How Acquiring Companies Integrate Alliance Portfolios

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Friday, September 4, 2020

M&A has been a hot topic recently, which is why a good portion of the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit agenda was dedicated to it. One roundtable discussed broadly what alliance managers need to be aware of if they want to dip their toes in the M&A waters. Another took the conversation to a more granular level. In “Big Pharma M&A Alliance Portfolios,” Adam Kornetsky, consultant for Vantage Partners, moderated a discussion between senior alliance professionals employed by household names in the industry about what to do with alliance portfolios in the run-up to and immediate aftermath of an acquisition, both from the acquirer’s and the acquired company’s perspectives.   

Definition of Success: You Know It Don’t Come Easy

Before getting into the specifics, Kornetsky asked the panel to outline what a successful acquisition and integration looks like. Chris Urban, head of alliance and integration management at Amgen, asserted that success is defined differently with each transaction. Sometimes the principal goal is to drive top-line revenues; in other instances it’s for bottom-line savings that result from synergies between the acquirer and acquiree. In some cases, the motivation behind a transaction is to meet a specific safety, regulatory, compliance, or other type of functional requirement.

“It is the most critical thing to define the measures of success and it’s not as easy as it sounds. It may sound easy in the beginning, but you quickly find after the announcement that each of the functions starts to view their own vision of what’s important through their own lens,” he said. He gave the example of a top-line-growth-focused Amgen acquisition in which the company had to stress to the alliance team that “synergies weren’t a part of the deal.”

A more immediate measure of success is the seamless transition of activities to the appropriate business owners by the integration team. Jeff Hurley, CA-AM, global alliance management lead at Takeda, stressed the importance of introducing the alliance portfolio very early on in the acquisition discussions. The more complex the integration, the higher the risk of alliances veering off course. It is important to actively manage partner assets and capabilities so that the value of collaborations is preserved (i.e., they continue to produce intended outcomes) throughout the transition.

“Alliances aren’t necessarily the driver of one of these types of transactions, but they are a key consideration in terms of how well the integration goes,” he said.

Set Goals, Work the Phones, and Tie Up Loose Ends

What sorts of things should alliance managers working in the soon-to-be-acquired company prioritize prior to deal closing? First and foremost, according to Hurley, is to understand the acquiring company’s strategic rationale for the transaction. From there, alliance managers must prepare a wealth of information for incoming senior leadership from the buyer organization. They must provide a 30,000-foot overview of the portfolio and how it might sit within the new organization, as well as a detailed breakdown of the individual partnerships themselves. They should also address enterprise-, function-, and asset-level questions; proactively identify and manage risks specific to the acquisition; and calculate the effort it will take to transition the partnerships through the integration process and beyond.

Mark Coflin, CSAP, vice president and head of global alliance management at Takeda, counseled listeners to provide a two- to three-year outlook for each alliance and specify the goals and expected outcomes at the end of years 1, 2, and 3. In the short term, expect concerned, if not panicked, phone calls and emails from partners wanting to know what is going on. Contact direct alliance counterparts and senior leaders directly—by phone or videoconference rather than email or text, if possible—and communicate all shareable details. Second, tie up important loose ends that don’t require input from the new company.

“Internally, as best you can, think about what the key decisions are—any key, critical, stage-gate decisions that are required—and do your best to try and take care of those decisions, if you can, in advance of the close,” he said.

Cloudy Forecast Around the New Home?

Similarly, the acquiring company has plenty of work to do before close. It must review the contracts for each partnership, especially if a data room is involved, in order to identify antitrust and other legal risks and determine if there is flexibility to make changes to these collaborations if some are desired by the new company, according to Dana Hughes, vice president of integration management and alliance management at Pfizer. The new owner also has to figure out where each partnership fits within its organization, a trickier proposition for a large organization like Pfizer that counts 200 relationships in its portfolio. Will it fall under commercial, business development, regulatory, R&D, or another part of the company?

“Finding that right home is actually part of our deal model because that’s how we know we’re going to be effective in actually rolling out the changes we want to implement to create that full opportunity for patients,” said Hughes, who deals with commercial alliances at Pfizer.

Hughes also added that alliance managers should expect to rely on their experience working in a cloudy environment with scant available information.

“The lack of knowledge is kind of a normal condition for integration,” he warned.

Control what you can control by conducting as much research on the acquired asset’s partnerships and having extensive dialogue with counterpart alliance managers. Wherever possible, name the lead of each alliance team, prep those alliance heads, and build a team around them in advance, so that everyone can hit the ground running when the deal is finalized.  

Urban urged acquirers to tier concerns and address high-priority matters first, such as potential conflicts or antitrust considerations that might require firewalling certain parts of the organization from an alliance’s affairs. Second, identify critical upcoming milestones and address them with “hyper care”; treat these matters with urgency and spare them from the lengthy onboarding process. Lastly, the buyer must recognize which of the acquired entity’s partnerships will be resource-intensive and take measures to ensure that these alliances don’t impede existing collaborations.

A Steady Dossier of Information Keeps Things from Going Sideways

Once the acquisition is complete, there is no excuse for failing to maintain continuity.

“Being acquired and closing an acquisition does not mean that everything starts going sideways,” said Coflin.

Coflin advised alliance managers at acquired entities to determine which senior leaders and alliance personnel need to be briefed on partnership affairs in consultation with the new parent company. Prepare a package on all alliances in the portfolio and rate them on a high-medium-low risk scale based on the number of critical decisions that need to be made and the financial stakes of the collaboration.

Again, focus on immediate priorities and make upcoming decisions. Hurley exhorted alliance pros to do whatever is necessary to make immediate deliverables, and associated action items, visible to relevant executives from the company taking over. He also seconded the comprehensive dossier on each alliance espoused by Coflin.

“It’s more than just an onboarding document. ‘Here’s all the key information that you need to know in order to step into this right away,’” he said.

Special Handling: The Hyper-Care 20 Percent

Hurley added that an internal and external communications strategy should be a primary focus. In particular, someone has to determine who is going to say what to the partner and when.

Coflin said that there are limits to what can be shared with partners before the deal is consummated. However, alliance leads had better be ready to answer immediate postdeal questions.

“This is the way it was. What has changed? What can you expect over the first 90 to 100 days as a typical period of time? How are we going to move through things, say, 100 days into the future?” he said.

From the acquirer’s perspective, Urban suggested that the Pareto principle normally applies in most acquisitions—80 percent “falls very, very naturally into the engine you have built.” The other 20 percent calls for delicate handling. Urban gave a number of examples. A company founder who personally managed an alliance with Amgen’s acquired asset was granted more senior-leadership access than might otherwise have been considered appropriate. The aforementioned partnerships with critical milestones on the horizon and alliances that present antitrust concerns also fall into this fifth of the portfolio requiring “hyper care.” Urban strongly advised stakeholders to overcommunicate plans for these collaborations to incumbent partners because “the partnerships they have with the company we may be acquiring [could be] existential for them.”

But First: Do No Harm

Hughes touched on the human and practical elements of integrating acquired assets postdeal.

“It might be as simple as something like, ‘First, do no harm,’” he said.

Wherever possible, protect ongoing operations and keep disruptions to existing processes to a minimum, to the extent that is possible. Understand how relationships work within individual alliances before making changes, and be transparent about why a decision was made to radically restructure an alliance. Clarity around goals and a carefully crafted process around replacing existing personnel are paramount. Some HR and retention issues are unavoidable.

“We had a habit of making sure things run just as it is for a while so we can observe and learn before we start replacing the individuals who might be involved,” said Hughes, before adding that you always have to be respectful of the new colleagues and the relationships—and trust—that they have built with the partners throughout the process. “[Retention issues] are always present when it comes to an integration situation, both before close when people start bailing out or after close or after their lockup has ended a couple of months later.”

The panelists shared more great wisdom, including an invaluable framework for merging portfolios during the first two months following an acquisition, throughout the roundtable. Summit registrants were able to view the roundtable and hear each expert’s parting thoughts, and discover the comparison Urban was making when he invoked the famous Mike Tyson quote, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched.” (And in case you missed it, for even more on M&A alliance integration check out our article “A Process, Not an Afterthought,” in the Q2 2020 Strategic Alliance Quarterly.)

Tags:  Acquisition  Adam Kornetsky  alliance  alliance portfolio  Amgen  Chris Urban  collaborations  compliance  Dana Hughes  integration  Jeff Hurley  Mark  partner  partner asset  Pfizer  regulatory  Takeda  transaction  transition  Vantage Partners 

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School of Thought: Three Case Studies Illustrate How to Train Your Alliance Pros

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Sunday, August 16, 2020

Training is still a priority to corporations around the world, according to research from Vantage Partners. More than $80 billion was spent on all forms of coursework in 2019, but how much of that was dedicated to teaching formal alliance best practices? Not much, according to Ben Siddall, partner at Vantage Partners, who revealed that the same research found almost half of companies invested zero or few resources in teaching collaboration skills.

Siddall and his fellow partner at Vantage Jessica Wadd took some of their time to talk about the benefits of making this investment in their on-demand 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit session “Alliance Management Skill Building: Case Studies Across Industries,” where they presented a trio of case studies showing that successful collaborative training can take many forms.

Before delving into the actual use cases, Wadd shared that organizations that are best-in-class in executing collaborations have devoted resources—usually on a large scale—to fostering the following skills within their employees: creative joint problem solving, managing emotions, collaboration, communication, influence, conflict management, change management, and facilitation. She outlined three broad categories of skills to help companies tailor training to the needs of their troops: 1) analytical (i.e., technical knowledge), 2) behavioral (i.e., mindset-oriented), and 3) blended—talents that require a mix of the first two skills. As Wadd and Siddall would subsequently reveal, the organization’s overall training objectives, as well as the company and department culture, often dictate which format and skill-development exercises are best for a given situation. 

Come Together: Salespeople Gather to Network, Share, and Learn

Wadd outlined the first case study, which saw a $3 billion tech company design a certification program to ensure that its sales-oriented alliance team developed the talents needed to manage a large stockpile of go-to-market partnerships. This organization was at “level 2” on a four-point scale rating organizational collaborative capability, where level 1 signified a low alliance proficiency and a propensity to engage in partnerships on an ad hoc basis and level 4 indicated that collaboration was coded in an organization’s DNA. The organization envisioned moving up two levels by teaching a variety of executives from within and outside of the alliance practice the basic tenets of “Alliance 101,” including partner value creation, coopetition, multiparty problem solving, collaboration and influence, negotiation, matrix usage, and account planning.

This organization determined that in-person training would best fit its sales-centric culture—its charges “craved interpersonal interaction,” Wadd said. Training sessions served as a reunion of sorts where the largely dispersed employee base could gather to experience firsthand “the value of getting together with their colleagues, sharing experiences, networking with each other, and building a knowledge of what others had done,” as Wadd recounted. The actual sessions were organized into four broader tracks:

  1. Alliance concepts and best practices: Alliance management basics, change management, and coopetition
  2. Understanding partner business models and alliance business plans: Customer value creation and value chain analysis, and account planning and strategy development
  3. Advanced collaboration and influence: Multiparty problem solving, negotiation, and general collaboration and influence skills
  4. Roles and responsibilities (in the organization and within the alliance itself): Working in a matrix, coaching, and talent development

Learners were officially certified when they demonstrated competency in these skills, not upon completion of the courses. They were evaluated based on a three-part assessment: 1) a qualitative review by the trainee’s manager or sales leader, 2) a 34-question multiple-choice test, and 3) a presentation of two case studies demonstrating the application of alliance principles in real-life scenarios.

Biopharma AMs Ease into Self-Guided Alliance Journeys

On the other side of the spectrum of training methods was the largely customizable, self-service program architected by a level-3 $30 billion global pharma company that relied on partnering for growth. These alliance managers were proficient in the basics of alliance management, but they were increasingly engaging in early-stage partnerships, a departure from the largely late-stage collaborations the team was used to. With a decentralized team scattered in multiple geographies, this pharmaceutical giant took the opposite tack of the previous use case and created a library of prerecorded webinars and an accessible central alliance toolkit that provided a “baseline and discipline in how they engaged in alliance relationships,” according to Siddall.

Prospective students could assess their training needs through surveys and self-assessment tools. Employees had different needs depending on the types of alliances they worked on and the particular skills required for their respective engagements. Each individual could mine this central repository of virtual real-time learning sessions, classroom sessions, self-guided learning, one-on-one coaching, and community-based learning to create “their own learning journey out of that landscape,” said Siddall. “Folks were able to tailor what they needed and how they got it to their specific constraints, all within the construct of the core alliance management tools, processes, and playbook.”

Pharma Company “Layers” AM, Leadership, and Governance Training on Thick

Another biopharma company was looking to advance its alliance practice from a level-2 standing and become the coveted “partner of choice” in its market. With most of the employees engaged in its partnerships centrally located in a few offices, the company opted for a classroom style and a syllabus designed for alliance professionals. It decided to “layer” leadership training on top of the basic alliance curriculum, and then codeliver the entire offering to the rest of the organization in an “open enrollment” format, in Wadd’s retelling.

Within a few years, the course was heavily attended by alliance first-timers and other employees whose managers felt that they could benefit from learning core collaborative competencies. These classes were eventually complemented with online learning resources, as well. The program evolved to cater to specific governance needs across the alliance portfolio. Although they were not required, executives who were appointed to committees were urged to take courses that were conceived specifically for these roles, as well as half-day sessions that took place a few times a year where committee appointees could network, share ideas, learn from each other, and enhance their skills.

Integrating alliance training for all levels and roles in this fashion “makes sense when you have a limited budget,” in Wadd’s estimation.

Three Different Ways to the Next Level

Each of these three use cases relied on very different means to train alliance managers and non-alliance personnel in the core tenets of alliance management, yet they each molded stronger alliance managers and elicited better results from their collaborations. The certification program expanded the number of tools in the team’s arsenal, engaged employees from other departments, and increased the value of the portfolio to the point where alliances now contribute 40 to 50 percent of the company’s domestic revenue growth. The biopharma giant’s self-administered training similarly expanded the role and visibility of alliance management within the organization. More important, the efficient use of resources ensured that the practice could “optimize the use of [its] scarce central alliance expert time and apply [it] only to the highest-value challenges [it] faced,” said Siddall. The last training helped the alliance management team better defuse potentially volatile situations, reduced the number of escalations to senior governance committees, and produced better resolutions of the issues that were brought to senior management. The alliance practices of the first two organizations have reached level-4 status, while the latter pharmaceutical company has moved from level 2 to 3.

Although these case studies make it crystal clear that there is no “single silver bullet” for alliance training, Siddall outlined a few common principles in achieving collaborative training goals among them:

  1. Think about the learning journey as a process, not an event. “You can’t create collaboration, influence, [and] the kinds of complex skills alliance managers need at a one-time event with no prework, no follow-up, [and] no action learning,” said Siddall.
  2. Make sure all subject matter is contextualized. “Generic content will not be as impactful. Folks won’t develop the skills, and they won’t be as engaged,” counseled Siddall.
  3. Instructors should have real-world expertise and speak the same language as attendees.
  4. Emphasize practical application. Siddall recommended a “learning laboratory” format where students apply concepts to real-world scenarios.
  5. Think carefully about format,” Siddall exhorted, hypothesizing that analytical-category learning outlined by Wadd earlier in the presentation might lend itself to self-guided tools, while behavioral and blended training may necessitate live, interactive sessions.

“Alliance Management Skill Building: Case Studies Across Industries” is one of about two dozen 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit sessions available on demand to Summit registrants. ASAP members and Summit registrants can access great knowledge like this that applies to all industries and all phases of the alliance life cycle.

Because in the world of alliance management, the learning never stops. 

Tags:  alliance best practices  Alliance Management  Alliance Pros  alliances  Ben Siddall  biopharma  case studies  certification  collaboration skills  Jessica Wadd  partner  portfolio  resources  Skill Building  Vantage Partners 

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Cross-Industry Panel Imparts Insights for Executing David-Goliath Partnerships

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Thursday, June 25, 2020

Big company–small company alliances are a fact of life in some industries. You see them in tech when Global 1,000 technology vendors integrate innovative functionality from smaller startups that fill gaps in their offerings, or when Big Pharma organizations team up with biotechs to develop promising compounds into marketable drugs. Also known as “David-Goliath” alliances, these relationships can contain many hidden land mines if people aren’t careful. Just ask ASAP president and CEO Michael Leonetti, who has led alliance groups in Big Pharma organizations in his career.

“Quite honestly, I’ve seen [this dynamic] kill many an alliance in my time,” said Leonetti in the lead-up to a panel session titled “Managing Power Imbalances: How to Navigate Partnerships Between Large and Small Organizations,” one of the highlights of the second day of this year’s ASAP Global Alliance Summit. 

Moderated by Jessica Wadd, partner at Vantage Partners, this well-rounded panel of seasoned alliance professionals from multiple industries brought a wealth of past and present perspectives from both ends of these types of collaborations:

  • Steve Pessagno, Alliance director and head of global alliance management operations, at GSK
  • Amy Walraven, founder, president, and chief strategy officer at Turnkey Risk Solutions
  • Joy Wilder Lybeer, senior vice president of enterprise alliances at Equifax
  • Troy M. Windt, associate vice president of global alliances and external relations at Reata Pharmaceuticals

“Cultural Diagnosis” Reveals What Might Ail a Collaboration of Big and Small

In kicking off the discussion with an overview of each panelist’s alliance portfolio, Lybeer noted that Equifax relies on smaller outfits to supplement its offerings in ways the company can’t do on its own, She added that the exercise of evaluating a variety of big and small partners “allows us to develop our understanding of potential coopetition, areas where we can supplement our capabilities, or find new routes to market.”

Walraven agreed with Lybeer that smaller companies have plenty of opportunities to complement larger organizations’ offerings with niche “cohesive enhancements.” 

Pessagno, who works with a number of GSK’s R&D-centric alliances with small entities, extolled the virtues of conducting a “cultural diagnosis” at the outset of the relationship to determine how the organizations are and aren’t aligned. This process usually unearths what truly matters to the collaboration as a whole, and these priorities that emerge are eventually woven into the governance and operational elements of the partnership, including the periodic health checks.

Asked what her organization looks for in a larger partner, Walraven cited domain expertise, a strong reputation, and a shared vision of where the fraud, risk, and credit markets, areas in which Humaitrix competes, are heading.

When do you know when you as a smaller organization might have trouble coping with the power imbalance? Windt said to pay attention to the latter’s adaptability right from the start. Since a large firm has lots of processes, can it tailor an alliance structure to fit a partner that might only have two points of contact? He recounted instances where an alternative structure was inserted into the contractual language only to see the large company “migrate back to one way of doing things.”    

Dealing with Outsized Expectations

At one point, Wadd wondered if the panelists ever got excited about a David-Goliath partnership, only to be disappointed when it didn’t fulfill its promise. The panel had no shortage of stories. Walraven spoke of a past partner that showed tremendous enthusiasm about her organization when it was brought in at a late stage of negotiation, but ultimately revealed itself to have little grasp of her company’s value proposition and business model as the collaboration unfolded. The parties tried retooling their joint client deliverables multiple times only to pull the plug on the project after a succession of misfires.

“You really want to make sure that you align ahead of time and that everyone has the same understanding before you set expectations about deliverables with the client,” she said.

Lybeer counseled viewers to identify “pink flags” quickly and abandon an initiative early if the team’s gut feeling is that it will never get onto the right course. She did, however, remind viewers that “the first idea is rarely ever the best idea,” and that oftentimes you don’t necessarily have to walk away from the partner altogether after one failed joint venture.

“As long as we are able and willing to learn and work together, we will find that next innovative idea together,” she said.

Plodding Behemoths Test Nimbler Smaller Companies’ Patience

What should small companies understand about their larger counterparts when evaluating a potential collaboration? Pessagno warned startup and SME alliance professionals that there is a good possibility some of the people in the negotiation stage will disappear after the launch of the partnership. He urged larger corporations to “deal with this transparently” and make some effort to guard against an “asymmetry in the governance.”

Even after some of the initial negotiators drift away, Pessagno acknowledged later in the panel discussion that the larger company’s team might still be four times the size of the smaller counterpart’s, and that the latter will have to endure cumbersome governance and operational processes at times. He recommended that the “Goliath” in the relationship assign a single contact person to the small company’s alliance manager and let the former liaison with the rest of the team and manage the bureaucracy.

In addition, Pessagno implored smaller collaborators to dispel the idea that their larger counterparts have tons of resources to dedicate to their activities. All alliances are competing for a finite amount of resources, even in big companies.

Tech Teams Need Alliance Management Principles

Walraven and Lybeer were asked specifically about analytics-based David-Goliath alliances. The big takeaway: remember that technology partnerships entail more than just technology. Lybeer once handed a technology alliance to the tech team and said, “Good luck to you.”   

“Mistake, mistake, mistake,” she lamented. “Alliance management competencies are a thing.”

The tech team didn’t understand escalation processes and collaboration models, which ended up delaying the activities of the partnership considerably.

Walraven exhorted alliance teams to look at everything through the technical, strategic, solution, and practitioner lenses. Also, take into account that each client and prospect will similarly imagine a joint solution differently.

“Everybody will see it through a different perspective,” she said.  

Alliance Skills Will Help Small-Company Personnel for Life

As the panel concluded, the panelists offered some final takeaways. Walraven reiterated that rigorous work aligning stakeholders on execution strategy up front would ultimately make it “easier to deliver to the client.”

Lybeer urged virtual attendees to strike that balance of being tough without compromising a collaborative mindset.  

“Let’s make sure we’re hard on the hard issues, but not so hard on each other,” she advised.

She echoed her earlier sentiments that you can always walk away from a project that isn’t meeting KPIs without abandoning the partnership entirely.

Most important, according to Windt, work with your HR department to teach collaborative skills and alliance management principles to everyone working on the partnership who may not have an alliance management background. In fact, lobby to make it a permanent part of employee training programs, wherever possible.

“They will serve you well as a person and an employee for the rest of your life,” he said.

Remember, Summit registrants can find this panel, a plethora of sessions from the first two days of the conference, and several prerecorded presentations on demand in the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit portal.  

Tags:  Alliance  alliance management  alliance professionals  alliance skills  Amy Walraven  collaborations  Cultural Diagnosis  enterprise  GSK  Jessica Wadd  Joy Wilder Lybeer  operations  partnership  Reata Pharmaceuticals  skills  Steve Pessagno  Troy M. Windt  Turnkey Risk Solutions  Vantage Partners 

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It’s Nearly Here! ASAP’s Virtual Summit About to Start

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Saturday, June 20, 2020

Have you registered yet? I hope so, because it’s almost here. ASAP’s first-ever virtual Global Alliance Summit begins Tuesday, June 23, with livestream sessions running June 23–25 and on-demand sessions available—well, on demand, anytime you want to view them.

As usual, the leading lights in alliance management and partnering will be sharing their insights with the ASAP community, along with some special guests who will provide a look into aspects of the partnering landscape you may be less familiar with.

People like Dr. Louis B. Harrison, MD, FASTRO, of the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla. He’s the chair of the center’s radiation oncology department, but he also happens to be its chief partnership officer, and he’ll be talking about the kinds of partnerships a cancer center engages in and the challenges and opportunities that arise from those engagements. He’ll be leading off day one of the Summit, along with Tiffani Bova, growth and innovation evangelist at Salesforce, whose presentation, “The Untapped Gold Mine of Building Trust, Unconventional Affiliations, and Iteration-Based Partnerships,” looks to be a highlight.

And by the way, aren’t you itching to know the winners of the Alliance Excellence Awards? I know I am, and fortunately the waiting is almost over as these exemplary partnerships will be showcased on the first day as well, with Ard-Pieter de Man, CSAP, PhD, professor at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and coauthor of the recent book How to Survive the Organizational Revolution, handing out the awards.

Day two will see a presentation by Steve Steinhilber, global vice president ecosystem development at Equinix—and an alliance and ecosystem veteran with years of experience at Cisco under his belt—called “Creating Alliances and Digital Ecosystem Capabilities in an Increasingly Platform-Enabled and Interconnected World.” This will be followed by what should be a fascinating panel discussion moderated by Jessica Wadd of Vantage Partners and featuring panelists from across industries, “Managing Power Imbalances: How to Navigate Partnerships Between Large and Small Organizations.” (Does that sound like a perennial topic of interest?) Finally, Wednesday will also boast a talk by Carl DCosta, worldwide general manager of partner success at Blue Yonder, “Foundation for Partner Success in the Digital World.”

Thursday kicks off with another panel, this one moderated by Jan Twombly, president of The Rhythm of Business, dealing with commercial-stage alliances in biopharma and their challenges and featuring nearly a who’s who of pharma alliance leaders: ASAP’s board chair Brooke Paige, formerly vice president of alliance management at Pear Therapeutics; David S. Thompson, chief alliance officer at Eli Lilly and Company; and Andrew Yeomans, global alliance lead at UCB. In addition, Larry Walsh, CEO and chief analyst at The 2112 Group, will speak on how to include everyone in the sales process in today’s interconnected, omni-channel, partnering-everywhere world, while Dan Rippey of Microsoft and Amit Singh of WorkSpan will give an inside look at how Microsoft’s partner-to-partner (P2P) program works to connect the ecosystem and power business growth and competitive advantage.

OK, that’s the three days in a nutshell—but that’s just the livestream content. Did I mention on-demand sessions? The list is extensive, and you’ll want to check a good number of them out. Like these:

  • Session 301: “The Profit Power of Collaboration,” by Robert Porter Lynch, The Warren Company
  • Session 403:  “Resiliency in Alliance Management: How Amgen-UCB Managed the ‘Roller Coaster Ride’ of a Long-standing Alliance,” by Tracy Blois, Amgen; and Alistair Dixon, UCB
  • Session 404: “Integrated Joint Alliance Marketing Best Practices: How to Establish Joint Marketing Moments That Drive Impact,” by Liz Fuller, Citrix
  • Session 501: “How 5G Will Transform and Disrupt Business and Partners,” moderated by Stacy Conrad, TPx, with panelists Manoj Bhatia, Verizon; Pradeep Bhardwaj, Syniverse; and Andreas Westh, Ericsson
  • Session 503:  “Marketplaces: The New Buying Centers in the Age of As-a-Service,” by Glen Kuhne, Ingram Cloud Blue; and Roger Williams, Citrix
  • Session 504:  “The Strategic Partner Executive of the Future and the Skills Needed for Success,” moderated by Norma Watenpaugh, Phoenix Consulting Group, with panelists Rafael Contreras, ServiceNow; Jim Chow, Google Cloud; and Greg Fox, WorkSpan
  • Session 602: “Demystifying the Ecosystem: An Interactive Conversation,” by Claudia Kuzma, Protiviti; and Nancy Ridge, Ridge Innovative
  • Session 702: “Big Pharma M&A and Alliance Portfolios,” moderated by Adam Kornetsky, Vantage Partners, with panelists Mark Coflin and Jeff Hurley, Takeda; Dana Hughes, Pfizer; and Chris Urban, Amgen
  • Session 703: “Absorbing and Facilitating Change: Managing Your Partner Program During Organizational Upheaval,” by Ben Anderson and Susan Cleveland, Thomson Reuters

And while there’s nothing like “being there”—in this case virtually—whether you’re able to participate in the livestream presentations, on-demand sessions, and interactive roundtables that are part of this year’s Summit, you’ll want to check this space during the coming days and weeks, as my colleague Jon Lavietes and I will be blogging both livestream and on-demand sessions to give those who missed it a taste of what’s going on. We hope to whet some appetites for more of this kind of programming, as well as to showcase some of the great content on offer at this year’s virtual Summit.

So tune in, and stay tuned! 

Tags:  Amit Singh  Blue Yonder  Carl DCosta  Dan Rippey  Equinix  Larry Walsh  Louis Harrison  Microsoft  Moffitt Cancer Center  Salesforce  Steve Steinhilber  The 2112 Group  The Rhythm of Business  Tiffani Bova  Vantage Partners  WorkSpan 

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