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Collaboration: Easier Said Than Done

Posted By Jan Twombly, CSAP, President, The Rhythm of Business, Thursday, December 12, 2019

The following blog was originally posted by ASAP corporate member and Education Provider Partner,  The Rhythm of Business.

Collaboration is a business buzzword that everyone thinks they know what it means and how to do it, but few truly do; yet it has never been more important than it is today. In addition to the lack of collaborative skills and mindset would-be collaborators also face a Collaboration Paradox— the systems, processes, and policies that have enabled success in the past reinforce barriers impeding success in today’s ecosystem-based collaborative business models. Developing the necessary capability—the mindset, skillset, and toolset for intra- and inter-organizational collaboration—is a work in process for most organizations. This capability also needs a backbone to latch itself to—the culture, policies, and processes of a leadership system that enable and encourage collaborative ways of working.

As a business concept du jour, collaboration means everything from open office concepts to electronic documents that multiple people can work on simultaneously, to team work. These are all elements of collaboration, but they fail to adequately define it. Collaboration is a risk sharing and resource leveraging strategic behavior that necessitates coordinating activities and exchanging information for mutual benefit. It requires an environment of trust, transparency, and respect. It is a comprehensive way of thinking and acting that takes proficiency in multiple skills. It is not a single skill and certainly not a technology.

Companies that are successful in becoming digitally-enabled and customer-obsessed—and therefore prepared to compete as we enter the 2020s—are those best able to collaborate internally and externally. For example, MIT Sloan Management Review’s research finds that: “A focus on collaboration—both within organizations and with external partners and stakeholders—is central to how companies create business value and establish competitive advantage.”[1] According to a study by SAP, “Digital winners tend to have more managers with strong collaboration skills than lower performing companies. In addition, 74 percent of these top performing companies plan to actively nurture the concept of collaboration within their organizations over the next few years.”[2]

Despite collaborative skills becoming ever more the imperative, the reality of collaborative execution is far more challenging than the data would have you believe. In a study from Capgemini, approximately 85 percent of executives believe that their organizations easily collaborate across functions and business units, whereas only a little over 40 percent of their employees—who are actually on the front-lines of collaboration—agree.[3] A Harvard Business Review article on collaboration sheds light on this collaboration gap:

Leaders think about collaboration too narrowly: as a value to cultivate but not a skill to teach. Businesses have tried increasing it through various methods, from open offices to naming it an official corporate goal. While many of these approaches yield progress—mainly by creating opportunities for collaboration or demonstrating institutional support for it—they all try to influence employees through superficial or heavy-handed means, and research has shown that none of them reliably delivers truly robust collaboration.[4]

Does this mean that, while collaboration works in theory, it can’t be practically applied? Not at all. But the question does strike at the heart of the problem—collaboration is easier said than done.

Let’s look at a simple example. A company we were engaged with instituted a campaign to improve collaboration amongst sales teams. The company spent a lot of time, effort, and money on a program intended to promote collaboration within the teams. When the results were evaluated, the program’s sponsors found that level of collaboration hadn’t improved at all.

Our analysis quickly identified why that was the case. The teams’ performance was evaluated by rank-ordering each of the team members from best to worst. And, using the existing performance criteria, the individuals at the top received a number of “rewards” for their success, while the folks at the bottom of the rankings lost their jobs. Clearly, the evaluation process encouraged an “everyman for himself” approach that was exactly the opposite to the desired increase in team collaboration.

That’s the collaboration paradox at work—rewarding the traditional approach while investing to get the desired increase in collaboration. Despite focusing on collaborative skill building, the company neglected to adjust their employee evaluation and reward system—elements of the leadership system—to support collaboration. Leadership worked to change the evaluation system to reward collaboration and our subsequent analysis demonstrated both increases in collaboration and sales performance.

This is but one example of attempts to foster collaboration falling flat because the leadership system was built for competition among team members, not collaboration. Until companies evolve their leadership systems, collaboration as a strategic behavior will remain easier said than done.

[1] David Kiron, “Why Your Company Needs More Collaboration,” MIT Sloan Management Review, Fall 2017

[2] Virginia Backaitis, “Collaboration Leads to Success in Digital Workplaces,” SAP Survey, 2017

[3] “The Digital Culture Challenge: Closing the Employee-Leadership Gap,” Capgemini Digital Transformation Institute, 2018

[4] Francesca Gino, “Cracking the Code on Sustained Collaboration,” Harvard Business Review, November-December 2019.

Tags:  collaboration  collaboration paradox  collaborative skills  Jan Twombly  leadership system  The Rhythm of Business 

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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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The Perfect Storm Meets the Perfect Ship: The Changing Face of Partnering in Tech and Biopharma

Posted By Michael Leonetti, CSAP, Wednesday, October 30, 2019

In most industries, change is now so rapid that we often have trouble seeing through the fog of day-to-day demands in front of us. The effects we experience, react to, and feel most keenly may be local—our jobs, our companies, our partners, our industries—but the bigger picture behind it is global, and the frequent wind shifts of global trade, the interconnected worldwide economy, and changing consumer and customer behavior cannot always be foreseen. Instead of being able to ride out the proverbial “calm before the storm,” we have to navigate our way through a series of storms, each one seemingly more disruptive than the next.

            This is certainly no less true in the fields of biopharma and technology partnering, two industries from which so many of our ASAP members hail.

            The technology sector is still undergoing a transition from traditional channel management to ecosystem management, from multipartner alliances and channels to ecosystems of hundreds of partners at various levels—all very challenging to keep tabs on, much less manage and oversee. Go-to-market efforts that formerly might have involved just two or three companies may now be mounted by 10 or 15 ecosystem partners—or more—leveraging their strengths and customer knowledge to sell solutions together.

            The sea change is happening in biopharma as well. The space has seen increasing partnerships between technology and biopharma companies, like those involving digital therapeutics startups, service providers, diagnostic companies, and even ecosystem-like multipartner deep engagements—all as pharma companies must still maintain their excellence in asset-based product partnerships in order to remain competitive.

            Even the language can get confusing. Alliances? Partnerships? Relationships? Ecosystems? We’ve heard from some who say they “don’t do alliances—it’s just partnering now.” Others may prefer the term alliances to partnerships from a legal or perhaps philosophical standpoint. Still others put the emphasis on ecosystems as the direction everything is heading.

            What’s going on? How to make sense of these shifting winds and rolling waves of disruption? Is there a perfect ship that can make way through the perfect storm?

The passage through these choppy seas is not always clear, but I believe the ASAP community—our “ship,” if you will—is perfectly positioned to illuminate the fog, avoid the icebergs, and take advantage of the opportunities provided amid all these developments. Here’s why:

  • Throughout its two-decade-plus history, ASAP has been driven by its mission to collect and promote the best partnering practices of both biopharma and tech companies, along with other industries that utilize partnering to create value.
  • Early on, ASAP predicted and began to prepare its members for frequent, if not routine, partnerships between health care/biopharma and tech companies.
  • We know that complex ecosystems and multipartner relationships require modified, agile best practices to be successful. ASAP has long been working tirelessly to provide solid education and actionable guidance in these areas.
  • We now have the opportunity to take advantage of the partnering skills as defined in The ASAP Handbook of Alliance Management and supplement these learnings with other informative insights that continue to be unveiled throughout all of ASAP’s media and publications—including Strategic Alliance Quarterly, Strategic Alliance Monthly and Weekly, and ASAP Netcast Webinars.
  • Finally, there’s the unparalleled access to education and networking provided by ASAP conferences and other events, such as the upcoming European Alliance Summit in Amsterdam (Nov. 14–15) and the Global Alliance Summit in Tampa (Mar. 16–18, 2020).

It’s all there and yours for the taking. Want to get on board with the latest partnering practices in the technology and health care/biopharma industries? Look no further than this seriously skilled community of practitioners—“our ship.” Together, we’re setting a course for the future of alliances and partnering.

Tags:  Alliance  biopharma  channels  collaboration  diagnostic companies  ecosystems  Go-to-market  health care  multipartner alliances  partner  partnering  service providers  technology  therapeutics startups 

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ASAP and WorkSpan Announce a Partnership to Strengthen Their Collaboration and Grow the Ecosystem Community

Posted By Kimberly Miller, Monday, September 30, 2019
Updated: Monday, September 30, 2019

WorkSpan and the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (ASAP), two organizations that are deeply engaged with alliance and ecosystem professionals, are proud to announce a new partnership designed to grow and enhance both organizations’ abilities to deliver world-class services to these communities.

WorkSpan is the category leader for Ecosystem Cloud where alliance, channel, and ecosystem leaders connect, co-create, co-market, co-sell, measure, and scale with their ecosystem partners in a single, secure network to grow business together.  ASAP is the only nonprofit, professional association and community which certifies and is dedicated to elevating and promoting the profession of alliance, partnerships, and ecosystems management. 

Over recent years, ASAP and WorkSpan have collaborated on a number of engagements, joint marketing activities, event sponsorships, and joint communications.  

In order to strengthen and deepen that collaboration, today the organizations announce a new partnership, working together on a number of dimensions with the intention of delivering greater service to our shared communities of alliance and ecosystem professionals.

The partnership covers a number of strategic programs in five primary dimensions including:

  • Global and local chapter events
  • Training and certifications(strategic-alliances.org)
  • Online community (AllianceAces.com)
  • Content around alliances and ecosystems
  • Alliance and ecosystems best practices

Through this partnership, WorkSpan and ASAP see the opportunity to strengthen each organizations’ mission and provide greater opportunities for ASAP to deliver high-quality resources to alliance professionals and grow to support additional programs in the future.

 

“ASAP and WorkSpan are ideal partners that support ASAP’s goals to develop, educate, and grow its community of practitioners, in addition to helping them identify the best processes andpractices to manage their partnerships and ecosystems successfully,” said Mike Leonetti, president and CEO of the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals.

 

“We’ve always had the highest regard for ASAP as a professional association and have enjoyed collaborating with Mike and the ASAP Board over the years.  We look forward to a strong partnership that will deliver immediate benefits to the alliance and ecosystem professionals’ community.”  said Amit Sinha, co-founder and chief customer officer, WorkSpan.

 

The partnership is managed by WorkSpan’s Vice President of Marketing, Chip Rodgers and Mike Leonetti of ASAP. As part of the agreement, Mike Leonetti will join the Alliance Aces community board and Greg Fox, WorkSpan general manager for the communications & networking industry, will join the ASAP advisory board.

 

About ASAP

The Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (ASAP) is the only professional association dedicated to elevating and promoting the profession of alliance, partnerships, and ecosystems management. Founded in 1998, the organization provides professional development, networking, and resources for cultivating the skills and toolsets needed to manage successful business partnerships. ASAP’s professional certifications include the Certificate of Achievement-Alliance Management (CA-AM) and Certified Strategic Alliance Professional (CSAP).  Find out more about key ASAP events, webinars, and other content at http://www.strategic-alliances.org.

 

Link to the announcement by WorkSpan 

About WorkSpan

WorkSpan is the Category Leader for Ecosystem Cloud.  With Ecosystem Cloud, our customers are capturing a disproportionate share of the Ecosystem Economy — and you can too.  Join the WorkSpan network where alliance, channel, and ecosystem leaders connect, co-create, co-market, co-sell, measure, and scale with their ecosystem partners in a single, secure network to grow business together.

 

WorkSpan is a privately held company backed by Mayfield and is growing its network of global enterprise customers including SAP, Cisco, Microsoft, Accenture, Google, SAS, VMware, NetApp, Nutanix, NTT Data, Lenovo, and others.

Tags:  alliance  Amit Sinha  collaboration  ecosystem  partnership  strategic programs  WorkSpan 

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Where Hope IS the Strategy: Customizing Alliance Management to Fight Deadly Disease

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Monday, September 30, 2019
Updated: Friday, September 27, 2019

      Andre Turenne began his Wednesday keynote address at the 2019 ASAP BioPharma Conference , held Sept. 23­–25 in Boston, by reminding everyone why biopharma companies form partnerships in the first place: to more effectively find and create new medicines and treatments that will improve patient health outcomes—and in some cases, with the fervent hope of one day preventing or arresting the progress of currently untreatable diseases.

      Turenne, since July 2018 the president and CEO of Voyager Therapeutics, started off his keynote presentation, “Fit for Purpose Alliance Management: Why Customization Matters,” by telling the story of Kyle Bryant, an inspirational and determined young man who was diagnosed at age 17 with Friedreich’s ataxia (FA). The diagnosis of FA, a progressive and eventually fatal disease, means that Bryant will gradually lose motor function and speech. But he has been making the most of his life in the meantime, among other things founding and directing a cross-US bike ride called rideATAXIA—billed as “the world’s toughest bike race”—to benefit the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA), and with his friend Sean Baumstark cohosting a podcast, Two Disabled Dudes.

      Bryant is also the subject of an award-winning 2015 documentary, The Ataxian, which shows how he participated in and ultimately completed the grueling cross-country bike ride. Turenne showed the audience the trailer for the film, in which Bryant said of the debilitating disease, “There’s a way to fight it. And there’s always hope.”

      Turenne and his company are trying to translate that inspiring attitude into a forward-thinking strategic vision. Through their commercial collaboration with Neurocrine Biosciences, Voyager Therapeutics is working on treatments in the areas of Friedreich’s ataxia and Parkinson’s disease (PD). In addition, the Voyager pipeline includes a partnership with Abbvie around treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and related conditions.

      Around 6000 people in the US have FA, which is being targeted by gene replacement therapy. About a million Americans have PD; they lose the ability to produce dopamine, which controls motor function, so the goal is to mitigate that loss to help restore motor activity.

      Especially for a small company like Voyager, “collaboration is of the utmost importance,” Turenne acknowledged. “Who we choose to work with and how…has a huge bearing on what we do. And no two collaborations are alike, so we need a customized approach to alliance management.”

      Turenne may be the rare example of a CEO who came up through the ranks of alliance management and business development, but as ASAP president and CEO Mike Leonetti said, he’s “living proof” that it is possible. Or as Turenne explained, “The phenotype of a CEO is changing as the industry is changing. If you talk with VCs, there is no fixed stereotype of what a CEO should be.”

      Perhaps Turenne’s AM/BD experience also contributes to his keen interest in partnering with companies that “punch above their weight in the execution of this function.”

      In Turenne’s thinking, the key factors when considering forming an alliance are:

  • Each company’s size, strategy, and areas of focus
  • The partnered program’s relative importance to each company
  • The other company’s (your potential partner’s) alliance management experience and organizational setup
  • The evolution of any of the above factors for either company over time

      As Turenne put it, “We’re only as good as the way we can work together.” And while he said he doesn’t like to talk about companies with less alliance management expertise as the “weak link,” the success or failure of a given alliance often boils down to the level of the least experienced player. How to bridge that gap to “customize and calibrate the relationship” then becomes the big challenge.

      Add to that a burgeoning biopharma industry that is far from static, and change must be assumed—and anticipated and planned for in advance. The original setup of the alliance, however well structured, may no longer apply given changing market conditions, turnover in either organization, or companies’ shifting strategies, so alliance managers must be agile enough to pivot and adapt to these altered states.

      Among the trends Turenne has seen that have significant implications for biopharma alliance management are:

  • Well-capitalized biotechs seeking to collaborate with smaller companies
  • Big pharma companies trying to “act smaller” and be more nimble and flexible
  • The massive movement of talent across the industry, which means a greater cross-fertilization of alliance management approaches throughout biopharma

      After a dozen years at Genzyme—where he established the alliance management function—and later its eventual acquirer Sanofi, Turenne came on board at Voyager in 2018 already convinced of the importance of alliance management and the need to tailor and customize its application to the partnerships at hand. And having been in senior positions in companies large and small, he has some thoughts on how big and small companies can partner effectively.

      One key is to understand and acknowledge each company’s experience with partnering and how each one works. Ideally then each company can stretch toward the other and meet in the middle in terms of establishing their joint partnering capability.

      “Any effort in a humble way [for a bigger company] to share experience with the smaller partner can have a big impact,” Turenne explained. The larger partner can try to flex to meet the needs of the smaller partner so the gap between them is lessened. At a conference whose theme was “Bridging the Many Divides,” Turenne’s words certainly resonated.

      When he looks into the future, Turenne hopes that the partnership with Neurocrine around FA and PD will still be active in five years. But will they succeed in helping patients with these serious conditions? Turenne feels that Voyager’s continuing efforts to enhance and customize its alliance management capabilities will “improve our chances of making a big impact for patients.” 

Tags:  Alliance Management  André Turenne  biopharma  capabilities  collaboration  Friedreich’s ataxia (FA)  Kyle Bryant  partnerships  patient health outcomes  rideATAXIA  strategy  Voyager Therapeutics 

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