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Make a Decision! Now More Than Ever, Alliance Decision Making Is Critical. Game Theory Can Help

Posted By Michael J. Burke, 23 hours ago

Most of us have probably worked on teams and within hierarchies where decisions were hard to come by: slow to be made due to fearful, indecisive leaders, or requiring multiple hoops to jump through to get approvals. It can have a crippling effect on projects and partnerships, and everyone becomes frustrated when things don’t move forward in a timely manner.

Now, with so much uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be even more difficult to get decisions made. With teams spread out and working remotely, it can be challenging even to pull key decision makers together, much less to formulate a coherent strategy. But for every challenge there’s an opportunity, and for every problem there’s a potential solution. It turns out that game theory may hold some of the answers to this dilemma.

“How can we best make decisions?” Harm-Jan Borgeld, PhD, MBA, CSAP, asked in a recent ASAP Netcast webinar. “There is now an opportunity. Now is the time for alliance leadership.”

Borgeld is vice president and head of alliance management at Merck Healthcare KGaA, based in Darmstadt, Germany, and he copresented the webinar with Professor Stefanie Schubert, PhD, CA-AM, professor of economics at SRH University Heidelberg. Titled “Decision Making Beyond COVID-19 Times: Leveraging Your Capabilities by Employing Game Theory,” the May 5 presentation examined how decisions should be analyzed using game theory, how to make decisions more efficiently, and the important steps needed to move from thinking about a decision to implementing it and aligning around it.

Just Decide, Please

Even in the absence of a crisis, Borgeld noted, it’s more important for leaders to be decisive than to actually make “the right decision.” He even cited an article showing that of those CEOs who were fired, one third were let go for making the wrong decision, while the rest—the vast majority—were sent packing for their indecision. The bottom line? Alliance leaders, like other executives, can’t afford to be indecisive.

This becomes even more true under the conditions of COVID-19, according to Borgeld, given the following factors:

  • There is a greater need for speed in decision making now than ever before.
  • The usual ways of “informal influencing,” such as hallway meetings and watercooler conversations with key stakeholders, are currently unavailable.
  • Decisions are now often being made alone or in small groups of two or three.
  • There’s a very uncertain future ahead.

In effect, Borgeld argued, alliance leaders need to do the same things:

  • Negotiate
  • Communicate
  • Influence
  • Look ahead
  • Align
  • Implement

These actions will no doubt be familiar to alliance professionals in every industry, but in COVID-19 times, they’ve all become more challenging. Take alignment, for example. Before the pandemic, aligning with key stakeholders and team members could often be informal, taking place during a coffee break or over lunch, Borgeld said. But “now we need to align in a different way.”

Games People Play

How could game theory assist in this process? Schubert emphasized that “game theory is actually the science of strategic decision making”—a critical skill at any time, but all the more so during a crisis. In addition, the principles of game theory provide “a structured framework for deriving optimal decisions,” she said. This helps avoid situations where decisions are made on the fly without benefit of proper analysis, or conversely, where decisions are not made at all due to organizational paralysis and lack of leadership.

In brief, the application of game theory to a decision means asking these questions:

  • Who are the decision makers?
  • What are their options?
  • What is the timing?
  • What are the payoffs?

Borgeld and Schubert presented a fictitious case study involving Sandra, an alliance manager for Sapphire, a biotech based in China, and Michael, an alliance manager for Diamond, a US-based company. Sapphire licenses a drug product to Diamond under a codevelopment and cocommercialization agreement, and the two companies had planned to conduct Phase II clinical trials beginning on July 1, 2020. But once COVID-19 hit, the timeline for these trials became very uncertain, and the costs the two companies had budgeted for could be way off the mark. So what to do? How can Michael and Sandra make a good decision and align around it?

Schubert showed how, from Michael’s point of view, he needed to look at his options and Sandra’s preferences and decide on the best option based on the potential outcomes, or payoffs. Given this information—and the uncertainties—he and his company prefer to wait six months before deciding, by which time perhaps they’ll have a more accurate sense of how much the trials will cost and whether they can be carried out properly. Thus he needs to steer Sandra toward this decision and convince her to accept it, even though it is not her or her company’s preferred option. It’s not her worst option, either, so with this compromise perhaps they can agree to move forward.

If the outcome is not the one you prefer, as in Sandra’s case, you may need to “change the game you want to play,” Schubert noted, being creative about options and the timing of moves. She also stressed that this represents a simplified version of game theory application; to perform a more detailed analysis, you would need to calculate eNPVs—estimated net present values—including for situations where payments are uncertain, as with COVID-19.

“When you want to apply game theory, you have to focus on the aspects that are really important,” she explained. That also means you need to “put yourself into someone else’s shoes,” figuring out what their preferences will be before you can make your own decisions, taking both their preferred outcomes and yours into account.

Game Theory and Practice

Borgeld also had some tips for how these game theory principles could best be applied in actual alliance management decision-making practice. These include:

  • Look at all options at the same time instead of sequentially, the way you would when buying something on Amazon or eBay.
  • Go to the decision makers, present them with three options and their pros and cons—including one non-COVID option—and get approval for the option you recommend.
  • Be more efficient in conference calls and virtual meetings by paring things down to a “perfect agenda,” using strict time management and making sure to include one “context” slide before giving the options.

“Where you can really shine as an alliance leader is when you put the context there,” Borgeld noted. “And especially in these times when people are [spending] eight, nine, ten hours a day on conference calls, they are really happy when you end early. So try to limit it. I would never recommend a JSC call go on for three hours.”

In addition, Borgeld recommended monitoring the financial status of biotech partners, reviewing the contract’s force majeure clauses (“What could be the consequences? What could happen to us? Also, what could happen to the partner? Discuss it with the partner, and don’t wait too long”), and staying “two steps ahead” by looking at the short-term, midterm, and long-term horizons.

Schubert stressed that “Life is very complicated, and you have to find out what aspects are important, what are the decisions, and who are the players, the decision makers?” Approach the right people in order to decide together, she advised, based on a clear analysis of payoffs and outcomes.

One final thought from Borgeld: Get the meeting minutes out on time! Alignment and implementation are critical, so it’s important once decisions are made to communicate those decisions and send minutes out immediately—the same day if possible to avoid foot-dragging. “If you wait two weeks, people sometimes have second thoughts.”

All in all, it looks like applying game theory to alliance decision making could be a winning strategy.

Tags:  alignment  alliance leaders  alliance managers  decision makers  decision-making  decisions  Game theory  Harm-Jan Borgeld  informal influencing  Stefanie Schubert 

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Strategic Alliance Quarterly Q2 Outtakes: How Alliance Managers Keep Data Alliances from Running Afoul of IP, Privacy Laws

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Saturday, April 4, 2020

We’re deep in the throes of assembling our Q2 2020 edition of Strategic Alliance Quarterly, which means we’ve gathered insights from a number of ASAP members and friends of the community. As is always the case, not every useful tidbit of information we’ve gleaned will make it into the issue. That is where this blog comes in. It gives us a forum to share some tips that may one day come in handy for an alliance professional, and hints at what will hit your mailbox in the coming weeks.

This quarter’s Strategic Alliance Quarterly examines the tenets of IP and privacy law that alliance managers must know when putting together and running a data-driven alliance. The piece is a follow-on to our feature on early AI alliances that appeared in the previous issue. It covers some basics of specific statutes like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and chronicles some broad measures around negotiating initial contracts, handling data at all parts of the alliance life cycle, and driving amendments to the agreement when necessary.

A Template for Expediting Contract Negotiations

In the article, Rita Heimes, general counsel and privacy officer for the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), shared some valuable knowledge around how to determine whether the data at the heart of a partnership is classified as personally identifiable information (PII), and thus subject to GDPR and maybe CCPA regulations. She also outlined how to collect that data and transfer it to partners, when to dispose of it, and ways to limit liability where this new privacy legislation is vague.  

Heimes also had another pointer for alliance managers, who by and large don’t carry law degrees, that you won’t read in the full print story.

“It’s always a good idea to work with qualified counsel in the first instances [of working with data-driven alliances] to create a really robust template, assuming the alliance manager’s employer is in position to start the contract negotiations,” said Heimes. 

In Heimes’s estimation, creating and reusing a template will help alliance professionals learn the basic language of GDPR and CCPA and the entry-level issues they need to address on behalf of their organizations. Moreover, it gives them something concrete to fine-tune with legal if and when a potential partner has redlined a contract proposal or radically changed the initial terms. 

Creeping Toward a Potential Legal Breach

Brian O’Shaughnessy, partner at Dinsmore & Shohl LLP and a former ASAP BioPharma Conference co-presenter, talked about what he called “mission creep” in an alliance that spans several years. In the print version, he expanded on how alliance managers need to convene stakeholders regularly to check whether the alliance’s original purpose is still relevant and whether the current contract still reflects its mission. He spoke about the alliance manager’s critical responsibility for driving contract amendments should a collaboration take a slightly different course from the one charted at the outset of the voyage.

The print version also talks about some of the potential consequences if an alliance manager fails to catch this mission creep in time. The research team “might not be generating the data the other side [intended], or you’re not producing the products that they need,” O’Shaughnessy said by way of example. Or worse, employees executing alliance responsibilities could be using the partner’s IP in a way that’s not contemplated in the agreement—for example, using a diagnostic device to diagnose a condition it wasn’t intended for, a potentially costly contract infringement. Here is a quote that didn’t make the cut that provides a sense of what you will get in the Q2 2020 issue.   

“You don’t want to be the one that has invested millions of dollars and thousands of FTEs (full-time employee) to generate a bunch of information and data only to find out that because you were using that data wrong, or you weren’t complying with certain contractual obligations, now the other side can terminate the agreement, with the result that perhaps you don’t get the benefit you had sought,” said O’Shaughnessy.

Many ASAP members are involved in data-centric alliances around AI-powered drug discovery initiatives, IoT products or services, and new ways to diagnose patients’ illnesses more quickly and accurately, among many other use cases. Don’t miss the ASAP editorial team’s overview of the basics in keeping your data-centered alliance out of legal hot water stemming from IP misuse or privacy violations. Be on the lookout for the Q2 Strategic Alliance Quarterly in June.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already, check out your copy of the Q1 Strategic Alliance Quarterly and absorb the emerging best practices in joint marketing, collaborative selling, and research and development as they relate to AI alliances. 

Tags:  AI alliances  AI-powered  alliance managers  Contract Negotiations  data alliances  data-centered  data-centric  Dinsmore & Shohl LLP  drug discovery  General Data Protection Regulation  IP and privacy law  O’Shaughnessy  Rita Heimes  Strategic Alliance Quarterly 

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The Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (ASAP) and allianceboard partner to elevate alliance management through technology

Posted By Kimberly Miller, Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Alliance technology has become an imperative for alliance professionals – ASAP and allianceboard are teaming-up to combine resources, best practices, and technology to support ever-evolving collaboration models.

This month, ASAP and allianceboard announced a technology and knowledge partnership that will combine ASAP resources and best practices with allianceboard’s purpose-built alliance management software solution.

The partnership between ASAP and allianceboard will create value in:

  • Offering special subscription packages for ASAP biopharma member organizations
  • Providing ASAP membership benefits to allianceboard clients
  • Integrating ASAP resources and best practices into the allianceboard platform
  • Jointly developing resources for the benefit of the alliance management community

“Our partnership with allianceboard supports ASAP’s mission to elevate the alliance management profession and to amplify its impact.  This enables ASAP to extend our resources through the allianceboard digital platform to our biopharma members and to provide these benefits to an even broader audience. allianceboard was designed from the ground-up around the needs of alliance management so this is a natural fit for our biopharma members,” said Mike Leonetti, President and CEO of ASAP.

“ASAP’s thought leadership in alliance management combined with their extensive resources have had a tremendous impact on the evolution of alliance management over the past two decades. Our clients globally recognize how much our solution, built around best practices, has become a game changer for them. We are excited to join forces with ASAP in our common mission to support organizations in achieving their growth and innovation goals through strategic alliances,” said Louis Rinfret, founder and CEO of allianceboard.

Benefits for ASAP members and allianceboard clients https://www.allianceboard.com/asap-allianceboard-partnership

ASAP membership overview

https://www.strategic-alliances.org/page/membership

allianceboard overview

https://www.allianceboard.com

About ASAP

The Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (ASAP) is the leading global professional association dedicated to the formation, implementation, and transformation of alliances, collaborations and business partnerships. ASAP provides its members forums for networking and professional development along with access to tools and resources, while working to elevate and promote the discipline of alliance management. Founded in 1998, ASAP is a non-profit global professional membership organization with over 2,250 members representing over 35 countries across the globe. Membership represents a cross-sector of industries including high tech, biopharma, finance, insurance, and retail to name a few.

About allianceboard

allianceboard is a purpose-built, easy-to-use alliance management platform for alliance professionals. allianceboard has been developed to give alliance managers a state-of-the-art tool that’s simple and scalable – to stay on top of it all, show organizational impact and easily collaborate with partners for innovation and growth.

Tags:  alliance  alliance managers  Allianceboard  best practices  management platform  partnership  resources  tools 

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Supplier-User Collaboration Requires More Than Advanced Technology—Alliance Management Is Needed, Too

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The World Economic Forum (WEF) issued a white paper this month calling for all players along the manufacturing chain to expedite the adoption of advanced digital technologies that enhance the collaborative supply chain. WEF has given the industry plenty of homework in the directives it detailed in the document:

  • Mine artificial intelligence (AI), predictive analytics, and machine learning technologies to reduce material consumption and increase resource efficiency
  • Utilize electronic labels, such as an integrated electronic display or a machine-readable code that links to a webpage (e.g., QR code), in order to foster the seamless movement of products across different regions that each have their own unique information and labeling requirements
  • Leverage digital twin technology to combat fraud
  • Use the potpourri of “it” technologies—blockchain, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), edge computing, predictive analytics, etc.—to increase supply chain network agility so that organizations don’t miss a beat when faced with natural disasters, new tariffs, social instability, equipment or infrastructure failure, or any other unforeseen events that can disrupt operations
  • Remanufacture, reduce, reuse, and recycle parts wherever possible

WEF’s report is dotted with success stories from household names, including Foxconn, Ralph Lauren Corporation, Apple, and General Motors.

Now, nobody’s disagreeing with WEF’s premise; there’s an urgency for component suppliers, assembly manufacturers, final-product producers, and users to adopt these technologies—those who don’t will perish. However, we were struck by the relative simplicity of the use cases put forth in WEF’s paper. This isn’t to say that the achievements of the aforementioned brands came easily or that they implemented these technologies handily, but the case studies consisted largely of linear one-to-one relationships.

In reality, many of the increasingly complex products and services that manufacturers are trying to deliver today depend on an ecosystem of multiple deeply intertwined partners. As Russ Buchanan, CSAP, vice president of global channel strategy alliances and operations at Xerox and ASAP’s chairman emeritus, noted in a recent discussion about sourcing in the new economy, there can be as many as five or six vendors delivering a single smart vehicle, heart monitor, or other interactive device. Each of these partners has its own large network of suppliers and subcontractors. That is a lot of moving parts!

With each of these players bringing an essential part of a solution, a collaborative supply chain needs more than just these wonderful technologies themselves to deliver transformative solutions.

“The sourcing community is definitely being very sophisticated in some cases in managing their suppliers like alliance partners,” said Buchanan. “Increasingly, I find that the people in sourcing need these [alliance management] skills. When they start to work with a supplier, they’re trying to get more than just the lowest possible cost of commodity, the primary mission of most sourcing agencies. Increasingly, what you hear us asking our suppliers for, and what we hear our customers asking us for is, ‘Do more than that. Give me good value, but also give me innovation. Help me change my business. Help my transformation be more competitive in enhancing my customers’ experience working with us.’”

There is a much deeper degree of codependency between alliance members working together to construct solutions of this nature than the average supplier in a company’s network. This interdependency makes it much harder to switch suppliers in the face of a political revolution, seven-on-the-Richter-Scale earthquake, or sudden tariff hike, even if your predictive analytics algorithm is recommending and providing the blueprint for a change. That digital twin will certainly help the partner ecosystem synthesize a voluminous amount of data into actionable direction on how to maintain and enhance physical assets, systems, and processes, but it won’t help you iron out disagreements between each partner over how to implement changes.

As the degree of mutual dependence increases in manufacturing partnerships, the less effective advanced digital technologies will be in enhancing collaboration without good old-fashioned “soft skills,” particularly those set forth in The ASAP Handbook of Alliance Management. After all, conflict management, issues identification, and risk mitigation are integral parts of managing an alliance. Andrew Eibling, CSAP, vice president of business development and alliance management at Enable Injections, Inc., said it takes more backroom interaction to maintain a healthy relationship once you make the leap from run-of-the-mill supplier to strategic ally—or “Vegas-rules discussions,” as he framed it, where “you can have conversations with somebody about the partnership, but what we talk about stays here.”

In other words, supply chain collaboration has in many cases risen to a level of sophistication that requires more than just state-of-the-art software to drive industry-changing outcomes.

Be sure to check out the forthcoming editions of Strategic Alliance Monthly and Strategic Alliance Quarterly in Q4, which will feature deeper explorations of the evolving relationship between alliance managers and the sourcing and procurement functions as the latter more and more often find themselves managing their supplier relationships like alliances.  

Tags:  alliance managers  alliances  Andrew Eibling  artificial intelligence (AI)  Enable Injections  manufacturing partners  partner  predictive analytics  Russ Buchanan  sourcing and procurement  Strategic Alliance Monthly  Strategic Alliance Quarterly  supplier relationships  World Economic Forum  Xerox 

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When Worlds Converge: Digital Therapeutics Meets Biopharma Alliance Management

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Even a year or two ago, the idea of digital therapeutics didn’t stir up a great amount of interest among most participants at ASAP’s BioPharma Conference, according to Mike Leonetti, president and CEO of ASAP. That sort of ambivalence no longer applies, as was evident at the September 23 Leadership Forum that kicked off ASAP’s BioPharma 2019, held Sept. 23–25 in Boston.

            The invitation-only gathering of 20-some biopharma alliance leaders was treated to a glimpse into the future—and a privileged look at a rapidly changing present—by senior executives from two companies that have been fast-tracking prescription digital therapeutics in their own alliance. Alex Waldron, chief strategy officer at Pear Therapeutics, and Joris van Dam, head of digital therapeutics for the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, were introduced by Leonetti and by Brooke Paige, vice president of alliance management at Pear Therapeutics and ASAP’s board chair.

            Waldron and van Dam described digital therapeutics as “software as a therapeutic,” or customer-facing software that helps clinically treat disease. It’s still relatively new, but already has become one of the five modalities of modern medical treatment (small molecule, large molecule, gene, cell, and digital). Whereas traditional biopharma alliances are asset-based partnerships formed on the basis of a molecule, in a partnership around digital therapeutics, the technology product is the asset.

            While we often think of wearable devices when we think about digital therapeutics, perhaps the most common such device is your smartphone. So far Pear and Novartis are experiencing some success around products used to treat depression that occurs with patients who have multiple sclerosis (MS) or schizophrenia, for example.

            Patients’ usage of and familiarity with their own cell phones is a big plus in such treatment, both in terms of access—a phone app is available 24/7, when patients need it, unlike a doctor or psychiatrist—and also adherence to the treatment plan, since the app can remind patients to stick to the program they’re on and help them get going with it again.  Other uses being explored include the treatment of addiction and other types of depression.

            Managing an alliance between a smaller, tech-oriented company and a large pharma company can be challenging, of course—as can any partnership between more traditional biopharma and tech. In this case, Novartis brought its commercial infrastructure, clinical trials expertise, and scientific strengths to the table; Pear brought technology, manufacturing, and ownership of the pharmacovigilance aspect, i.e., safety and data reporting.

            As part of the forum, the 20-plus alliance leaders were asked several questions and polled on their responses. Among the highlights:

  • More than 50 percent said their company had at least one or two digital/nontraditional alliances that were being operated as managed partnerships.
  • More than 50 percent said someone other than alliance management or business development managed these partnerships at their companies.
  • More than 80 percent said they expected their companies to increase the number of these digital/nontraditional partnerships in the next two years.
  • Nearly 70 percent reported the biggest challenges of such partnerships included finding a common language, the lack of alliance management skills, and cultural differences.
  • Fifty percent of respondents felt that these partnerships should be managed by the alliance management group in their organization—but nearly as many acknowledged that they don’t currently have the bandwidth to do so.

            In the roundtable discussion portion of the forum, participants came up with a number of elements or processes in traditional biopharma alliance management that would need to be revised, modified, leveraged, or speeded up to meet the needs of digital and nontraditional partnerships and to take advantage of the potential for innovation. These included:

  • Increasing the frequency of governance meetings and check-ins
  • Speeding up decision-making processes and structures and including more senior people in them
  • Educating senior management and managing stakeholders to ensure senior-level support and alignment
  • Hiring more tech-savvy alliance managers
  • Having more people on board who are well versed in IP issues and the regulatory environment
  • Needing to trust the partner in ways beyond what has been common in the past—including continuous data sharing
  • Hiring more disruptors and fewer people who are invested in protecting “the way we do things here”
  • Establishing clear roles and responsibilities from the outset of the alliance, as early as the kickoff (if not before)
  • Understanding each other better, given the different cultures of tech and biopharma companies

A window into the future indeed, and certainly there will be much more to come on this subject as the numbers of digital and nontraditional partnerships in biopharma continue to increase. And as ASAP BioPharma Conference 2019 continues, stay tuned for more of the latest coverage!

Tags:  Alex Waldron  alliance managers  ASAP BioPharma Conference  clinical trials expertise  commercial infrastructure  digital therapeutics  Joris van Dam  Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research  Pear Therapeutics  scientific strengths  software as a therapeutic 

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