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Q4 Strategic Alliance Quarterly Sourcing Outtakes: The Power of the First Draft, Ever-Changing Tech Standards, Customers and the Cloud, Value vs. Discounts

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Wednesday, December 11, 2019

In our upcoming issues of Strategic Alliance Monthly and Strategic Alliance Quarterly, we will examine the changing nature of supplier collaborations in today’s business world. In a lengthy feature for Strategic Alliance Quarterly, we dive deep into how advanced digital technologies are transforming sourcing and procurement managers’ jobs such that they now need alliance management skills and practices to effectively carry out their responsibilities. Meanwhile, a feature in our next edition of Strategic Alliance Monthly explores how a company can become a preferred supplier in the eyes of its partner.

As is the case with just about every piece we put together for ASAP’s publications, there were plenty of great insights left over from our interviews with experts from the ASAP community that don’t appear in either article. Here are just a few of those nuggets.

Alliance Agreements and the Power of the Pen

Andrew Eibling, CSAP, vice president of business development and alliance management at Enable Injections, Inc., made it known several times during our conversation that he felt that, in pharma, the procurement division was generally a parking lot for nonstrategic partnerships. In other words, wind up with a procurement manager as your point of contact and odds are that you have almost zero chance of having any real influence over the partner organization’s affairs. In that discussion, Eibling noted that initial contract negotiations offered a sign of how a partner will view your organization and relationship. The goal is to agree on a contract that hews closer to the principles set forth in The ASAP Handbook of Alliance Management rather than a boilerplate supplier agreement, and the best way to ensure this is to compose the first draft for the partner’s review.

“Somebody has the power of the pen. Who drafts the agreement first? Everyone wants to take the first pass because that becomes the substrate you’re going to work from,” said Eibling. He added that an alliance agreement “tends to be more bidirectional versus what we would get from a monodirectional supplier agreement [where] you will do what’s on the schedule according to the terms we agreed to, and that’s that.”

Are We a “Standards Fit”?

An important element to assembling a tech alliance that we didn’t end up exploring in great depth in the feature was the layer of complexity added by the number of disparate standards for emerging technologies, such as cloud and IoT, competing in the marketplace. Companies putting together a smart tractor, for example, have to find partners that are not only a feature/function fit and a cultural fit but also a “standards fit,” so to speak—that is, they base their systems on technical protocols that align with your IT architecture.

“Things are moving so fast. You might get a standard out there and get everybody to adopt it, but then some new technology comes along that disrupts it all. You’ve spent all this money on standardization and it didn’t endure. That’s one of the reasons why, as a supplier, you need to know what your customers’ sourcing strategies are, and if you’re going to be compatible with the direction they are going in,” said Russ Buchanan, CSAP, vice president of strategic alliances at Xerox and ASAP’s chairman emeritus.

As an example, Buchanan talked about how companies that base their technology on proprietary standards want to be sure to avoid getting entwined with organizations that are placing their chips on open source models.

“OK Google: I’m Seeing Other Cloud Companies”

Subhojit Roye, CSAP, vice president and head of alliances at Tech Mahindra Business Services, singled out the three cloud Goliaths—Google, AWS, and Microsoft—as another potential source of complexity in constructing an alliance. One or more of those vendors may pressure the manufacturer to make it the exclusive cloud platform for the new product or service, but in many cases decent portions of the OEM’s customer base may be split among each of the three cloud leaders. The manufacturer can’t risk alienating a portion of its clients. Thus, the sourcing manager may need to stand up to a powerful market mover, something alliance managers have been doing for years.

“Suddenly, if you’re the procurement manager you have to explain to Google, ‘I’m sorry, but customers are demanding that we have to talk with all three companies,’” Roye said.

Don’t Nickel-and-Dime a Valuable Relationship

More than one interviewee stressed that lower prices are no longer the end game for sourcing and procurement managers. Overall value is the buyer’s main goal. Roye explained the situation in greater detail.

“The procurement function is becoming more and more strategic. The chief marketing officer is becoming critical. Chief customer service officer, the head of sales, and the CEO are suddenly banking on the procurement officer to say, ‘Listen, those days are gone. Don’t nickel-and-dime the vendor. Don’t ask him to give us a $10 item for $6. We’d rather get more value for $10. We’d rather pay him $12 to make sure he’s happy with us, he gives us our products on time—we don’t wind up with a screw-up on Thanksgiving or during the winter holidays—or he doesn’t switch at the last minute and go to a competitor.”

Remember, this is just what hit the cutting room floor. Be sure to check out the next issues of Strategic Alliance Monthly and Strategic Alliance Quarterly for more great insights into alliance management vis-à-vis the sourcing and procurement functions in today’s corporate landscape. 

Tags:  alliances  Andrew Eibling  AWS  Cloud  digital technologies  Enable Injections  Google  IoT  Microsoft  procurement  relationship  Russ Buchanan  Sourcing  Strategic Alliance Quarterly  Subhojit Roye  Tech Mahindra Business Services  Tech Standards  transforming sourcing  Value vs. Discounts  Xerox 

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Alignment, Agility, and ‘Leadership IQ’ | Alliance leaders always have driven alignment. But what do we do differently, as disruption accelerates?

Posted By Michael Leonetti, CSAP, Wednesday, November 27, 2019

As an alliance leader, I used to spend 70 percent of my time not working with partners, but working on aligning internally. The concept of creating value through partnering was brand new for our leaders. We’d never walk into a meeting without a pre-meeting. Building alignment stole time away from creating new value with partners—yet it was critically important to delivering the value intended when the alliance was created.

Much has changed in alliance management—but driving alignment remains a central task of alliance leaders.

Indeed, research indicates the highest performing alliance leaders are “ambassadors” who bridge boundaries both internally as well as externally. They focus “on dialoguing with superiors and other stakeholders, proactively putting themselves on the agenda of their leaders, and managing behaviors,” according to Dave Luvison, CSAP, PhD, professor at Loyola University Maryland.

That makes sense—but what about time for externally facing alliance management?

Applying agile principles to partnering reflects a broad understanding in our profession that alliance management cannot afford to accrete more bureaucracy and process. Instead, how can we simplify the activities and processes of driving alignment so that partnering can become more agile? That seems essential to proceed effectively in the ecosystem—where it’s just not possible for there to be 100 percent alignment.

Complex models once helped us describe, in comprehensive detail, the complicated work and rich value created in the alliance management function. Alliance leaders have always looked for simplified means to explain the complexity of partner value creation. Back in the day, we used our STAR model to define Situations, Tasks, Actions, and Results—simplifying our alignment discussions as much as possible.

Today, partnering leaders look to jettison complexity wherever they can, seeking shortcuts in the traditional alliance lifecycle and technologies to further streamline alliance activities. It is the embodiment of Albert Einstein’s famous admonishment: “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” At its roots, then, agility is about changing how we think.

“Growth is a thinking game,” said Salesforce evangelist Tiffani Bova, author of Growth IQ. I would add that alliance management is a thinker’s profession. As our profession both expands and evolves in direct response to pervasive disruption, our most critical and differentiating skill remains our “leadership IQ.” It defines how we understand the transformation of business and its implications for partnering practice.

“In the advancing era of artificial intelligence, companies need to create all the pieces—and alliances—necessary to make it easy to adapt for the advancement of products,” said Bruce Anderson, IBM’s general manager, high tech/electronics industry. “You need to ask how your company should be thinking about alliances in this accelerating business approach,” he emphasized. “Alliances have become fundamental to the idea of strategy.”

Anderson’s and Bova’s points reinforced each other in a powerful way, I thought. How we think, the choices (and sequence of choices) we make, and how quickly and efficiently we can make decisions all matter. Alliance managers must improve their “leadership IQ” to better understand the big picture of disruption, how it will create value or threaten loss of market share—and how, “in this accelerating business approach,” they will drive alignment accordingly.

Tags:  accelerating  agile  aligning creating value  alliance leader  alliance management  alliances  artificial intelligence  Bruce Anderson  Dave Luvison  drive alignment  Growth IQ  IBM  leadership IQ  Loyola University Maryland  partnering alliance  partners  strategy  Tiffani Bova 

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“Conductor of the Orchestra”: How Alliance Managers Harmonize Organizational Complexity

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Thursday, November 14, 2019

In “matrix organizations”—those working on multiple, complex, often large-scale projects with at least two chains of command—building and maintaining the alliance function “all comes down to leadership.” That was one of the key observations made by Lucinda Warren, who delivered the opening day keynote address at the ASAP European Alliance Summit on Nov. 14 in Amsterdam.

            Warren, vice president of business development, neuroscience, Janssen Business Development at Johnson & Johnson Innovation and also an alliance management veteran, called her talk “Leadership and Skills in Managing an Alliance in a Matrix Organization.” In an enterprise running multiple projects across multiple functions—and with multiple partners—who will tie it all together? Who will serve as the voice of the alliance and be the advocate for the partner, as needed?

            The alliance manager, of course.

            Some of the challenges, issues, and important insights that come with matrix organizations and their increased partnering complexity, Warren said, include:

  • “Alliances are not projects,” and thus alliance managers are not project managers, although the roles are often confused.
  •  Alliance managers create value; project managers deliver value.
  • Alliance management is critical throughout the product or asset life cycle; project management is critical at certain specific points.
  • When resources are stretched, alliance functions don’t always solve for it.
  • Alliance management is one function, but real collaboration requires the coordination and participation of multiple experts from various functions.
  • Who are the decision makers going to be? This question must be looked at from both internal and external perspectives.
  • Alliance management proactively identifies potential risks and seeks to mitigate them.

Warren further noted that having an alliance creates a sort of alliance “tax” on organizations—since all decisions and most information must be shared with the partner, it can double or even triple the time it takes to perform many actions, which can increase costs. Alliance managers need to help navigate these activities and act as the “conductor of the orchestra”: being familiar with all the instruments that are playing and making sure that each one—and all of them together—is “tuned perfectly for the ear.” They don’t know how to do each job, but (to switch to an electrical metaphor) they know which circuits need to be reset.

            They need to navigate not only their own organization but also the partner’s—otherwise they (and others) will be operating in a “black box” in which the partner’s challenges and motivations may remain unknown and/or misunderstood. Communication is thus imperative—about timelines, how decisions are made, how governance is to be conducted, etc.

            Which brings us to the critical role of leadership. As Warren said, “The value of the alliance function needs to be woven into the fabric of the organization.” Thus alliances and alliance management must be integrated into business strategy and operations—with full senior leadership backing and engagement. With increasing reliance by matrix organizations on partnering, everything that is done influences future collaborations and thus should be tilted toward attracting more partners going forward. Benchmarks must be established, with the goal of being a more successful partner.

            Warren said that alliance management is “more important than ever before,” and that the alliance manager is often “the CEO’s right-hand man,” the one who knows everything that’s happening, internally across functions and at the partner organization. Since these functions—and partners—typically speak different languages, the alliance manager’s job is to bridge divides for a common goal, bring everyone together in an unbiased and objective way, and not take sides.

            Or not take sides, except as the advocate for and representative of the alliance itself. “If we’re successful, people forget there’s a collaboration,” Warren concluded. “No fires are burning, nobody’s getting sued. It’s a thankless job, but [when done well] people seek you out as an expert who can triage. You’re the driver of organizational capability enhancement.”

Tags:  Alliance manager  alliances  CEO  Cindy Warren  collaboration  creating value  leadership  life cycle  matrix organization  mitigate risk 

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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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Here’s to Another Alliance Launch

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Thursday, October 31, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Alliances win—and the profession of alliance management advances—when we partner together to meet the challenges ahead.

     In this “best of the past” issue of Strategic Alliance Quarterly, we’re actually embarking at the same time on a new voyage into the future. So I thought it would be a good idea to introduce—or reintroduce—myself to ASAP members and readers.

     It’s been my good fortune recently to be named editor in chief of this magazine and senior editorial consultant to ASAP. Some of you might remember me from my time editing and writing for what was then Strategic Alliance Magazine from its first issue in Q2 2011 until early 2014. I was also involved in editing the 2013 ASAP Handbook of Alliance Management: A Practitioner’s Guide, supporting the editorial team so skillfully led by Norma Watenpaugh, Ard-Pieter de Man, Dave Luvison, and others.

     My experience has largely been in the realms of writing and editing—copyediting, proofreading, and production editing for book publishers; and writing for and serving as editor or managing editor of a couple of quarterly magazines and one weekly newspaper. 

     Late last year I was thrilled to be asked to work with ASAP once again and write two (so far) updates to the Handbook: a supplement on IT partnering (completed) and another on biopharma alliances (in progress). Throughout the process of interviewing ASAP members and other alliance leaders for these supplements over the last few months, I was struck time and again by how knowledgeable, insightful, and far-seeing the members of this community are.

     These senior executives, consultants, researchers, and analysts drove home for me a number of important points. One is that alliance professionals need to transition from being merely “managers” who do what they’re told to leading as big-picture strategic visionaries who take an entrepreneurial view of partnering as they guide their alliances to fruition. Another is that they need to take responsibility for their own careers and take charge of their collaborations, working in multiple directions at once to educate and align senior leaders, get stakeholder buy-in, and achieve a sense of trust with partners, among other mission-critical activities.

     This is certainly easier said than done, and as one alliance leader told me, alliance managers typically end up “wearing many hats on one head,” accountable to people above and below them—not to mention laterally, in diverse functional areas—in their organization, as well as to their counterparts at partner companies.

In addition, these already busy, time-constrained folks somehow need to “see around corners” in their partnerships, their company, and their industry in order to know what’s coming next and help decide how their organizations—and their partnering strategies—will need to adjust, pivot, or even about-face to meet the challenges. This is especially true in the fast-moving world of technology partnering, but it applies as well to biopharma and practically any other sector you can name.

     As one IT industry analyst put it: “The whole world has blown up, and now it’s landing and settling. The head of alliances will be the most important person in any company in the next ten years. It’s going to create winners and losers, and complete disruption. But alliances win!”

     All the more reason for today’s companies to have not just an alliance management function, but a partnering strategy. More to the point, any corporate strategic vision should include partnering and alliances as part of the way business gets done, as a key route to competitive success in this age of ecosystems, complex supply chains, new markets, and ever more volatile conditions. The people and companies that can get that strategy nailed down and take it to market will be the most successful in a time of disruption.

     That, of course, is where ASAP comes in, drawing on the collective wisdom of its members in order to lead, educate, and set the agenda for the profession. I’m incredibly pleased to once more be partnering with ASAP in this endeavor, and as we launch our alliance, I invite you to be a part of it. Contact me anytime with article ideas and submissions, suggestions for blog posts or other content, and questions or comments about what we’re doing. And if you see me at BioPharma in Boston, the European Alliance Summit in Amsterdam, or next year’s Global Alliance Summit in Tampa, come up and say hello!

Michael J. Burke is editor in chief of Strategic Alliance Quarterly and senior editorial consultant to ASAP. He can be reached at mburke@strategic-alliances.org.

Tags:  alliance management advances  Alliances  Ard-Pieter de Man  big-picture strategic visionaries  BioPharma Conference  challenges ahead European Alliance Summit  Dave Luvison  Global Alliance Summit  IT industry  Norma Watenpaugh  partner  partnering strategy  profession  Strategic Alliance Quarterly 

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