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Successful Transitions: ‘How to Optimize Value and Gracefully End Alliance Relationships’

Posted By John W. DeWitt, Tuesday, March 27, 2018

You’ve probably got a process for kicking off an alliance. What about when it’s time to end the alliance relationship? On Tuesday, March 27, at the 2018 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, two veteran partnering executives tackled the topic of “How to Optimize Value and Gracefully End Alliance Relationships.” This session combined the insights and perspectives of Ron McRae, CSAP, director of alliance management at Janssen Biotech, and Steve Twait, CSAP, vice president of alliance and integration management at AstraZeneca.

As it so happens, “AstraZeneca and J&J are working through a transition right now,” Twait noted. “While we didn’t turn it into a case study, we were able to pull in some learnings from that. And while the two of us coming together was serendipity for the conference, we actually have some history and current projects that our companies are working on together.”

Prior to the 2018 Summit, I asked the two of them: Why do you feel that the topic of graceful exits and transitions is important to delve into more deeply? What inspired the two of you to invest your time into sharing your case examples and insights?

“Alliance management professionals typically have toolkits with practices and tactics for kicking off an alliance. There is a lot of excitement and commitment to that phase of the alliance lifecycle. However, the same is not generally true when it is time to end the alliance relationship.  Alliances come and go, but successful management of an alliance transition requires both timely and effective planning as well as flexible problem-solving capabilities at all levels. It also may require a fair amount of persuasion to ensure commitment as colleagues want or need to move on to new responsibilities,” McRae noted.

If it’s over, why does the transition matter so much? “It is important to eliminate or minimize any customer disruption to preserve asset value and even reputations of the partners,” McRae responded. “In the biopharma industry, it can even have life or death consequences depending on the indications of the product and/or availability of other medical options.”

In these cases, “the connection to patients is something we need to think about,” Twait noted. “You’ve got patients relying on the product, as you transition it to the other company, so you need to make sure you keep the patient in mind and don’t interrupt what they need.”

Even when lives don’t hang in the balance, “we should also keep in mind that we want to make sure we manage these situations as effectively as possible, as we may have another ongoing or future alliance opportunity with the partner,” McRae added.

Twait and McRae emphasized that the toolkit for graceful exits is not entirely unfamiliar.

Many of the same governance structures and tools utilized during other phases of the alliance lifecycle can be used during transitions or terminations, but the emphasis of some may change and new ones may still be needed—for example, alliance transition agreements and their components,” McRae explained.

More to the point, because of their relationships and skillsets, alliance executives are the right people at the right time during a transition.

“Alliance management is uniquely positioned in most organizations to maintain that value as the asset shifts hands from one partner to the other, because of existing relationships externally and internally, as well as our persuasive mindset and commitment,” McRae said. “Having led several transitions, we have experienced a number of lessons learned that we are sharing with our alliance management colleagues to help them anticipate and navigate similar situations.”

To be clear, this is not about when “alliances go bad.” It’s about timely, well-managed, intentional transitions.

“Transitions are part of any alliance,” Twait said. “Up front, we say this isn’t talking about when an alliance fails for technical reasons, but more about taking a thoughtful approach to how you transition something that’s been unbelievably successful—you’ve had a longstanding partnership but eventually it made sense for one company to manage the asset. Our focus is more on key learnings when, because of any number of reasons, the time is right for you to transition.”

McRae and Twait provided a number of such examples.

“Some of Ron’s examples involve a very mature alliance transitioning into a different phase,” Twait explained. “Some of the examples I provided are transitions, even divestments, where AstraZeneca is transitioning a product to another company because we are, for whatever reason, focusing our efforts in other areas.” Getting the transition right makes a crucial difference because you’re “leveraging years of relationships if it’s happening after a long relationship,” he continued. “You have people who have invested years in a product, business, and patients.”  

Tags:  alliance executives  alliances  AstraZeneca  governance structures  Janssen Biotech  Ron McRae  Steve Twait  transition 

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An Unambiguous Call to Action: Preview the Q1 2017 Strategic Alliance Magazine

Posted By John W. DeWitt, Saturday, February 11, 2017

From the cover to The Close, the Q1 2017 issue of Strategic Alliance Magazine tackles the critical topics that matter in today’s increasingly complex collaborations—and serves as a call to action for partnering executives to step out of their comfort zone, sound the call for professional alliance management, and continuously build their organizations’ capability to collaborate everywhere. For example, in our regular column “The Close,” I share a recent conversation with top Cisco executive and collaboration leader Ron Ricci. While “comfort with ambiguity” is an oft-cited trait of alliance executives, I argue (with support from Ron) that there’s nothing ambiguous about your CEO recognizing that digitization demands collaboration if your company is to succeed. Get a jump start reading this issue—full text of “The Close” follows below.

“THE CLOSE: An Unambiguous Call to Action,” from Q1 2017 Strategic Alliance Magazine

In Genevieve Fraser’s Q1 2017 Member Spotlight on Celgene, she and Jeremy Ahouse, CSAP, PhD, discuss how his alliance team includes “the kinds of people who can live with ambiguity and difference even as they get things done.” I’ve often heard comfort with ambiguity cited as an important trait of partnering executives. I got to thinking: Do I know any “ambiguous” alliance executives?

Most partnering professionals I know strike me as grounded, clear-as-a-bell communicators who don’t hesitate to share their point of view and who often can be very directive. I surmise that it’s precisely a lack of personal ambiguity that helps alliance execs lead amidst ambiguity. In a nutshell, it takes confidence to collaborate.

You feel that confidence within Ron Ricci, co-author of The Collaboration Imperative and a longtime Cisco senior executive focused on collaboration as an organizational capability, who joined a 90-minute conference call with ASAP’s advisory board in January. Ricci and Norma Watenpaugh, CSAP, principal of Phoenix Consulting Group, discussed the just-published ISO 44001, the International Standards Organization’s standard for “collaborative business relationship management systems.” (See in-depth coverage forthcoming in eSAM Plus, ASAP blogs, and future Strategic Alliance Magazine articles.) Ricci believes the ISO standard—which aligns to ASAP’s alliance management frameworks—will help propagate a common language for business collaboration, inside and among organizations. Ricci and the many leaders he interacts with see partnering and collaborative ability as central to grappling with the pace of a rapidly digitizing world.

“I spend all day long talking to senior executives of diverse governments and companies around the world about their collaboration opportunities,” says Ricci, vice president of customer experience services at Cisco, whom I spoke to recently. “Speed is the most important thing they need to move their businesses [according to] every leader I’ve met with over the last five years on this topic of collaboration. And companies see collaboration as the means to get speed.”

Talking to Ricci is an unambiguous look into how the C-suite views partnering and collaboration today—and the opportunity this represents for alliance management.

“Digitization and the ability to connect anything has taken the notion of speed and actually made it a potential carnivore of companies,” Ricci explains. “Take the technology trend of standardization and connect to the broader business trend of digitization—now we have a market moving almost at the pace of Moore’s Law. In 18 to 24 months the way you make money serving your customers can evolve. … So the way organizations collaborate and work together might need to be the most important capability they need to survive in the 21st century.”

This is an unmistakable call to action for all alliance professionals. It’s time to evangelize the value of this profession like never before. Recent ASAP, Vantage Partners, and other studies present unambiguous data on how professional alliance management drives success and financial performance of partnerships. As exemplified by our cover story, “The Partner-Everywhere Imperative: A Practitioner’s Guide,” and numerous sessions at ASAP conferences, the ASAP community is on the forefront of extending and adapting alliance management frameworks, practices, and tools to the new, increasingly complex collaborations that now proliferate across industries and sectors.

“How do you survive in a world where risk is growing faster than growth?” a Fortune 500 CEO recently asked Ricci. “You have to operate at an uncommon level of speed, adaptability, and flexibility,” Ricci responds. “And if there’s a better way to do that than collaboration, please tell me.”

And if there’s a better resource for collaboration success than your alliance team, the ASAP community, and the alliance management profession, please tell me.

Tags:  alliance executives  alliances  ASAP Conferences  Celgene  collaboration  C-suite  Fortune500  Jeremy Ahouse  Partner-Everywhere  Ron Ricci  Strategic Alliance Magazine  The Collaboration Imperative  Vantage Partners 

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