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What’s an Alliance Manger To Do When a Blockbuster Biopharmaceutical Product Is Built on a Shaky Alliance Foundation?

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Friday, September 25, 2015

What do you do when you have a blockbuster product, but a few key alliance building blocks are missing and the cornerstones are misaligned? “Blockbuster Product, Fragile Alliance: Leading the Drive for Change” answered this critical question in a dynamic presentation given by Christine Carberry, CSAP, senior vice president of quality, technical operations, program and alliance management at FORUM Pharmaceuticals and chairman of the ASAP Board of Directors, and Jan Twombly, CSAP, president of The Rhythm of Business, Inc., and a member of the ASAP executive and management committee, at the 2015 ASAP BioPharma Conference. Twombly agreed to delve more deeply into the topic with a few key questions during an interview after the conference.

 

What are the signs of a fragile alliance?

Your alliance is achieving revenue targets and its clinical milestones. But any bump in the road such as a regulatory hiccup, can cause significant problems. The attorneys are always involved, its tit-for-tat, and people describe being ambushed in governance committee meetings. So you have a fragile situation because you have a relationship between the partners where they don’t trust each other and don’t feel they are working in the best interest of the alliance. Whenever you don’t have that solid underpinning, you might have external success but not the foundation to deal with the inevitable problems.

 

Why should an executive care as long as your blockbuster alliance is achieving its objectives?

The question from most people in the room is, “My executive realizes we have a fragile situation, but how willing are your governance committees to deal with the hard work of establishing or re-establishing that foundation when you are making your numbers?” The implications of not moving the alliance forward because you don’t have the underlying foundation can be significant. I have seen situations where there were delays upwards of a year with things that really didn’t make sense, disagreements where it would always come back to haunt you. A blockbuster product generates over one billion a year, so there is big money at stake, and if left unaddressed, you are likely to be leaving value on the table. Biopharma products have a reasonably definite lifecycle, and every day you don’t move forward, you are losing a day of market exclusivity because your patent has a finite life, and once your patent expires, generic drugs can come into the marketplace. You also might be creating an opening allowing competitors to get ahead, costing market share. You need to convince the people who should be enrolled in improving the collaboration that there is a significant risk being posed to the alliance when you don’t have that foundation to tackle problems in a collaborative way. You need to get at the root cause—because it is really important for the alliance manager to enroll senior level management and the governance committee to address them. If you don’t address them when things are going well, you won’t be prepared when something negative happens. It’s important to have strategies for raising awareness. That is really the key.

 

What strategies can an alliance professional use to improve the situation?

An absolute prerequisite is that leaders from each partner agree that change is necessary and urgent—and that it starts with them.  You then need a champion to use the core alliance skills of influence, getting people on board, bridging differences, convening the right people, facilitating the right kinds of conversations, and leading people to the conclusion that the status quo is not acceptable. Then you have to move quickly. It can be as simple as rechartering your governance committees, getting them to think about how they act and behave, and asking how it makes them feel—that’s all of the soft stuff you know you  need to do, but people resist.

Carberry and Twombly’s presentation also recommended the following practical steps: 

  • Re-examine governance—Structure, membership, performance standards; rethink the decision making process
  • Re-examine work allocation—project team structure, responsibilities, membership; is collaboration being forced where it isn’t necessary?
  • Establish new behavioral standards—recharter revamped teams/committees and hold them to it
  • Have an aligned and current vision and strategic plan (the “North Star”) and use it to build a “one-team mentality”
  • Meet more frequently and have more face-to-face meetings—eliminate updates and focus on, discuss, debate and decide formats
  • Launch a branded “Campaign for Exponential Success”—leadership, communication, awareness and understanding, accountability at all levels

Tags:  alliance manager  biopharma  Blockbuster product  Christine Carberry  collaborative  FORUM Pharmaceuticals  governance  Jan Twombly  market share  marketplace  partners  performance standards  recharter  The Rhythm of Business 

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Overcoming the Curve of Conviction: How to Increase Value by Getting from Negotiation to Collaboration

Posted By Cynthia Hanson, Friday, September 11, 2015

“To Collaborate or Not To Collaborate?” That is the question Mike Berglund, CA-AM, alliance director at Eli Lilly and Company, asked the audience at the 2015 ASAP BioPharma Conference held Sept. 9-11 at the Revere Hotel off the Boston Common.  “Are We Negotiating or Collaborating? Increasing Alliance Value through Collaborative Decision Making” was the topic on stage as Berglund prompted the audience to consider three case scenarios that presented alliance management challenges when working with partners.

 

Decision-making roles are complex, especially in alliances, and become even more complicated when the decision is intricate or embedded, Burglund emphasized. “You as individual have certain attitudes, beliefs, and values that effect how you make decisions. It is a lot easier for me to ask if you will go out and buy a loaf of bread vs. change a specific brand of car or attend a different college. You willingness to change the buying pattern will be different.”

 

How to get to collaboration in a world of culturally entrenched views, tastes, and opinions is one of the challenges alliance managers face in the decision-making process, he indicated. Its about the Conviction Curvea framework of personal buying perspective: “In the alliance world, where you are in this curve will dictate how likely you are to change. If you are going into a governance meeting, the further to the right [on the Conviction Curve] you are, the more difficult it will be to change that position and the more resources and energy it will take.”

 

It’s like a sculptor molding a lump of clay, he added. At first, he or she has the ability to mold it into whatever structure desired, but over time, the clay hardens and becomes more difficult to change. “Working across two companies, with their positions embedded in their respective organizationsit’s hard to change. And you will see that exemplified in alliance management,” he warned.

 

A critical point for alliance managers to consider is the importance of understanding your potential partner and responding appropriately to their behaviors to get to that point of collaboration. Negotiation is all about winning, while collaboration is preferable because its jointly created value that can determine the tone of the relationship, he reminded the audience. Build the alliance from within the alliance and push it outward, he advised. “When you deploy this kind of culture and process, its being organically driven within our organizations.”

 

After challenging participants to consider three very different case scenarios, he asked in one case: “What were the factors that led this alliance to result in a joint decision?” He then drove home the value of using “company pre-meetings to understand your own convictions and then using that information to design the meeting. Choose the right people for the job, make sure that whatever is going into governance meetings has been jointly agreed upon by the parties, and eliminate the opportunity for walk-ins. You really want to limit that discussion, and push it out of governance meeting,” he advised. “Even more important, sit down and talk about company differences. You don’t have to agree, but you need to agree on how you present your different sides,” he added.

 

Then evangelize these norms with the working teams. If you have this kind of behavior in teams, collaboration will be the norm, he concluded.

 

Learn more on this topic in the recently published Q3 2015 Strategic Alliance Magazine editorial supplement article “Choose Wisely: Increase Alliance Value through Collaborative Decision-Making,” sponsored by Eli Lilly and Co. and co-authored by Berglund and Lilly’s Chief Alliance Officer David Thompson, CA-AM.

Tags:  alliance management  alliance manager  alliances  collaboration  conviction curve  Eli Lilly and Company  governance  Mike Berglund  negotiation  partners  pre-meetings 

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The Benefits of Having the Alliance Manager, Attorney, and Business Developer Coordinated at the Negotiation Table—and Beyond: A Panel Discussion with Bayer HealthCare

Posted By Cynthia Hanson, Friday, September 11, 2015

You’ve assembled a great team and negotiated what seems to be a good deal with a partner. But if you are Bayer HealthCare, before you seal it with your legal teams, what do you need to consider before launching into what might be a 10- or 15-year arrangement?

 

“We’re talking about a process that needs alliance management, legal writing, and business development,” said moderator Ben Gomes-Casseres, CSAP and author, consultant, and professor at Brandeis University. “A mix of disciplines is probably what our message is here today. Claudia’s job is to get the deal, Karen’s is to live the deal, and John’s is to paper it over and make it legal. Three functions that are very important to coordinate,” he added, referring to the three panel members at the  2015 ASAP BioPharma Conference practical how-to session “Making the Link between Alliance Deal and Alliance Life”—Claudia Karnbach, vice president and head of business development and licensing, specialty medicine, Karen Denton, CA-AM, director of alliance management, and John A. Calvo, senior counsel.

 

In the traditional business model of biopharma alliances, a lot of handover and passing of the baton took place after the deal was inked. But companies like Bayer are evolving toward a more integrated approach, Gomes-Casseres said.  “If we can have the same people around the table negotiating and launching the deal, and get the same team doing due diligence and managing the alliance, it all helps with stronger alliance and consistency.” 

 

“You need to look at the deal through the lens of the contract,” added Calvo from the legal perspective. “Do we have mechanisms in the contract, how are we going to deal with lifecycle development? Those are the kinds of things you need to think about early on, because at negotiation, it’s really too late. … Just as we build in a mechanism for joint value, you need to look for disconnects such as if the parties are sharing expenses 50/50, but one party holds the decision-making.”

 

“Building on what John just said, we now have model where the alliance manager is pulled into the deal early,” said Karnbach. “We saw how this would benefit us in renegotiations. We are striving to have very few renegotiations. If you do direct development, at times things are changing quite fast and what you put in the contract is outlived tomorrow. What we have to do is build with transparency, common interest, and common value with the partner.”

 

“I am the main beneficiary here,” observed Denton from her alliance exec’s perspective. “I get a deal that is much more future-proof and manageable. The alliance is much easier to put into place.”

 

“I am the second beneficiary because I don’t have to jump into renegotiation,” added Karnbach. “I can only try to encourage all of you to incorporate this model because it will improve the [long-term] deal you do with other partners.”

 

“There has been a lot of change in mentality among alliance managers and attorneys,” said Denton. “When I first came into alliance management, we sat in different camps. If problems came up in alliance management, alliance managers would see it one way and legal would see it another way. John and I now meet every week—we are in the same tent and work together, to each other’s strength.”

 

Calvo concurs.  “We now discuss alliance issues when they are minor issues, before they blow up.” And one of the key benefits is the continuity: “In the past, everything was so siloed.”

 

But can bringing in the alliance manager at an early stage be disruptive? asked Gomes-Casseres.

 

“You need the consistency of people bringing stability and knowledge, not migration,” answered Karnbach. “Loss of knowledge can be avoided by having a person at the table and living the alliance later on.”

 

Denton recounted a positive partnering experience she had involving a very fast launch with a full team around the table in less than two weeks.

 

“That ability to hit the ground running can be valuable to both the company doing the deal and the partner company as well,” she said. “Listening to the parties’ needs and interests is necessary to structure the deal, but even more important when you start to live the deal. So when you are living the deal, you have to have an eye on the partners’ interests.”

Tags:  2015 ASAP BioPharma Conference  Alliance Deal  Alliance Life  Alliance Manager  Bayer HealthCare  Ben Gomes-Casseres  Brandeis University  Claudia Karnbach  John A. Calvo  Karen Denton  renegotiation 

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How Three Pharma Alliance Leaders Manage Shifting Partner Priorities and Other Challenges in Mature Alliances

Posted By John W. DeWitt, Wednesday, March 4, 2015

As alliances mature, partner priorities inevitably evolve over time—and partners’ commitment levels can diverge. A new licensing deal can be perceived as competing, and trust can undermine established relationship. Alliance execs can be challenged to restore alignment and avoid or manage challenges. Ron McRae, CSAP, director of alliance management at Janssen—Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, led a panel discussion Wednesday morning, March 4, at the 2015 ASAP Global Alliance Summit in Orlando, Fla. USA. The discussion explored several commonplace scenarios that each panelist has grappled with, sharing guidelines and lessons learned in the process. 

One scenario explored the ramifications when “Company E” has a new deal that could be perceived as competitive to an alliance product jointly marketed with “Company F” for the past five years. Company F has expressed concerns about Company E’s commitment to the product and alliance—and fears potential leaks of confidential information to or by Company E’s execs working on the new product. Fundamentally, “it’s an issue of trust,” McRae said in teeing up this scenario for discussion. 

“There’s always a gray area,” responded Richard Wilson, executive director, global strategic alliances, business development and licensing, Novartis Oncology. “There’s obviously competition here—and when you talk to researchers in the organization, they just want to do what’s best. That’s one area where the alliance manager has to be there—and where the head of research couldn’t understand. That’s where firewalls need to be in place and the alliance manager needs to own that.” 

However, he continued, “Turns out, it was not a competing product. So lessons learned—I would have addressed early on that this isn’t a competing product. Don’t blow up things until you know the story. Yes, there are gray areas, but hopefully the contract will make these situations few and far between.” 

Gray Hulick, senior director, global alliance management, at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, focused on managing the new product announcement in a manner that protects the longstanding partnership. 

“As an alliance manager, you should be really connected with your deal team and know this deal is coming. What sort of communications plan can we put in place so our current partner understands what was announced?” she explained. “There’s a need for a pretty specific communications plan. The issue is, you can’t talk to your current partner about deal you’re about to announce. So in our case, the press release goes out in Japan at 2 a.m. Then, at 2:15 a.m., an e-mail communication goes out to the partner. Being transparent with that partner is really important.” 

When there’s a perception of an internally competing program, she added, “The instinct of most folks is to bury their heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist,” she said. Instead, alliance executives should “encourage folks to discuss it outwardly, openly, and be transparent about it.” 

McRae weighed in, noting that “I certainly have dealt with this. We have to be mindful about how this is going to impact the partner. I like this concept: We implement some sort of a hotline [for our established partner], in anticipation of something that might be seen by them as a negative communication.” 

The panelists also discussed the importance of firewalls and guidelines for management of each partner’s proprietary information, as well as being careful with internal employee transfers to competing alliances. “If employees are coming from a competing alliance,” for instance, “they may not be able to share as much as you thought they could share,” McRae said. 

Some guidelines recommended by the panel: 

  • Disseminate cautionary instructions to both parties’ personnel who possess confidential/proprietary information
  • Avoid overlapping personnel
  • Contemporaneously record the independent development of alliances’ own products
  • Limit personnel access to meetings that include relevant presentations/discussions
  • Limit/generalize information that is captured in common databases
  • Closely limit and control electronic access, e.g. to team portal web sites where confidential information may reside
  • Review the firewall requirements annually by team—and as needed for new team members

Tags:  2015 ASAP Global Alliance Summit  alliance manager  competitive  CSAP  global alliance management  Gray Hulick  Janssen—Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & John  Novartis Oncology  Richard Wilson  Ron McRae  Takeda Pharmaceuticals 

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When a Good Alliance Hits Bad Times, an Effective Joint Working Session Can Resolve Serious Challenges

Posted By John W. DeWitt, Thursday, October 9, 2014

Any alliance can flounder despite the best intentions of each party involved, according to Stuart Kliman, CA-AM, partner at Vantage Partners. What matters is how the parties work together to uncover the causes and resolve the challenges. A joint working session—bringing together key stakeholders from both alliance members—can be a highly effective means of tacking challenges head-on and strengthening alliance relationships in the process.

 

Kliman discussed how to manage an effective joint working session during the Wednesday, Sept. 24 ASAP Netcast Webinar sponsored by Vantage, “We Have an Alliance Issue: How to Structure and Facilitate Joint Working Sessions Where Issues are Complex and Feelings are Raw,” available now for ASAP Members in the Member Resource Library . The alliance manager plays a crucial role, not surprisingly, because he or she must “construct and facilitate an effective working session that deals well with the challenges in a way that allows the parties to reach good, impactful, and actionable answers,” Kliman explained. The working session must meet the key interests of the parties involved, by developing “creative, value maximizing solutions.” Participants must feel that they are treated fairly—not just by the outcome, but by the process. Working relationships should be enhanced when folks have a greater understanding and acceptance of the realities of each other’s experiences and data. And there should be clarity of commitments with key next steps in place. 

Kliman’s presentation walked attendees of the webinar through a four-step process: 

  1. Define the problem. What are the observable symptoms? What does the desired future state look like?
  2. Generate possible diagnoses. What are possible underlying causes of the gap between the current state and the preferred future state? What obstacles might be preventing success?
  3. Brainstorm general approaches. What are some possible approaches to dealing with the most likely underlying causes? Which set of approaches will we pursue?
  4. Develop specific action ideas. What are the action items for the selected approaches? What are the ways to implement them? Who does what, when?

Kliman then spent the remainder of his formal presentation discussing a case example of a large biopharmaceutical company that hit a roadblock in its partnership with a small biotech company. The relationship was struggling with over-budget development costs and lagging enrollment—and a lot of finger-pointing and frustration on both sides. The four-step process uncovered specific concerns—such as the both the biotech and large pharma company feeling surprised and alarmed by each other’s decisions, and with alliance teams being concerned about upper management making decisions outside of the alliance governance structure.

The process ultimately guided the partners to redefine and augment their communications pathways and protocols while institutionalizing relationship checkpoint and a cadence of informal and formal assessments and health checks for the partnership. An archive of all ASAP Netcast Webinars is available to members as a benefit of membership in the ASAP Member Resource Library. An overview of all previous webinars can be found on ASAP’s public facing website.

Tags:  alliance manager  effective joint working session  Stuart Kliman  Vantage Partners 

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