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Managing Organizational Upheaval: Summit Session Teaches Alliance Managers How to Ease the Pain of Blistering Change

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Friday, July 10, 2020

The 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit may have officially concluded last Thursday, but registrants will have the opportunity to fill their brains with knowledge for several more weeks through additional sessions that are on demand via the Summit portal.

One of those presentations came courtesy of a pair of partnering pros from legal, tax, and accounting information services firm Thomson Reuters, who weighed in on a predicament which many are finding themselves in, given the current state of the global economy, “Absorbing and Facilitating Change: Managing Your Partner Program Through Organizational Upheaval”

Although the original inspiration for this session was the aftermath of the sale of more than half of Thomson Reuters’ assets to private equity firm Blackstone in 2018, much of what Ben Anderson, CA-AM, JD, Esq., partner asset and licensing program manager at Thomson Reuters, and Susan Cleveland, JD, global strategic alliances manager at Thomson Reuters, shared could be applied to situations that many are facing today thanks to COVID-19.

Anderson and Cleveland explained that they have had their hands full adjusting to their new post-acquisition reality. They have had to change partner agreements, separate domain names, and untangle joint products and services that were embedded into the business. A simple method for gaining approvals—sign-off from the vice president of sales—has been supplanted by a new protocol that entails navigating a labyrinthine org chart and multiple stakeholders. Although Cleveland said the alliance management practice has been buoyed by the buy-in they have received as a result of this face time with officials from all reaches of the company, she acknowledged that the process has forced the group to be less nimble. 

Hit Change Head on

After a brief background on the corporate changes to Thomson Reuters, the presenters put up a slide summarizing advice gleaned from many works of literature about dealing with change in a corporate or professional setting. The common thread among these sources is “hitting change head on. Don’t try to avoid it,” according to Anderson. “You need to prepare and you need to have a positive attitude about it, and you need to be an advocate for change in your organization.” Otherwise, “that valuable time is going to be squandered.”

Employees dodge change for many reasons. Cleveland and Anderson listed fear, incomplete information, inconsistent transparency, project organization, alignment, uncertainty, educating new people, and challenges in communication as some of the reasons why many choose not to deal with it.

The plus for alliance managers is that they are used to dealing with everything mentioned on that slide, Anderson noted. Cleveland recommended tackling fear first. In her company’s case, “People [were] afraid of losing their jobs” after the acquisition. She counseled viewers who may be dealing with similar situations in the current pandemic to “acknowledge the fear and say, ‘Hey, I’m not here to take your job. Yes, things are going to have to change, but I’m here to make this a positive change that helps our organization and helps you do your job better.”

Keep Technology, Org Changes, and Alliance Portfolio Info up to Date 

How do you prepare for change? Start with your technology. Make sure internal database and workflow applications are updated to reflect forthcoming organizational changes, so that contract amendments and terminations can be inputted quickly, for example. It is crucial to update partner portals during these times as well, as many people often miss emails, memos, and other pertinent communication because they are buried in work and moving at a blazing speed in the midst of a crisis.

Next, keep up with structural changes being made in yours and your partner’s organizations that result from major transactions, personnel moves, and the like.

“We’re going to see a lot of organizations change as a result of these changes that are happening to our economy,” said Cleveland. “You need to know who the right people are.”

If you can graphically illustrate a gap in a reconfigured chain of command, it will help corporate powers-that-be make quick adjustments to improve workflow. Otherwise, leaders might be tempted to overreact to a bump in the road and take more drastic measures than necessary.

“People are able to quickly grasp that information and focus on solving a problem, rather than saying— and I always hated hearing this—‘We need to look at this with a fresh lens and completely redo it from scratch.’ That’s how that precious time component can be lost,” said Anderson.

Org charts aren’t the only visuals alliance management needs to prepare as change swirls around a company. Alliance pros should always have illustrations of win-win scenarios; quick wins that partnering can bring in lead generation, marketing, or speed-to-market; and “Negotiating 101” for partner contracts on hand in the event they need to educate employees in other parts of the company who will work on or oversee alliances in some capacity or prove the alliance practice’s value at a moment’s notice. The presenters have also found that it always helps to have materials at the ready that explain the differences between a partner and a vendor.

Punctuating this information with ASAP knowledge has boosted the credibility of the Thomson Reuters alliance group’s educational information.

“I love saying that there’s an organization that dedicates its time just to this subject,” said Anderson.

“Best practices are critical, but back it up with data. It’s a 1-2 punch,” added Cleveland. These presentations should be tailored around your company’s preferred success metrics, whether that be revenue, margins, or other statistics.  

“Radical Transparency,” Joint Clients Help Hammer Home Messaging

When communicating internally during organizational upheaval, both presenters endorsed a policy of “radical transparency,” which entails keeping critical information related to partner agreements and initiatives up to date and accessible to everyone in the company—Cleveland leans on a “smart sheet” that tracks every single phase of onboarding a new partner, for example. She also noted that this approach flies in the face of the perception that hoarding information helps retain power.   

Communicating externally to partners is slightly more nuanced. Alliance managers often know about developments that haven’t been publicly disclosed. They must be mindful not to share sensitive information, and know at all times what has already been put in writing. However, don’t waste a minute in getting details to partners once information has been approved for external consumption, and be careful in phrasing your updates.

“Words matter,” reminded Cleveland.

Anderson urged listeners to “become best friends with your external communications team” more than once during the presentation. The communications department can, and should, inform partners about major company transformations just as they would other key constituents, such as employees, investors, and the general public.

It also essential to align partner and client communication. It is understandable if clients need to get information first. However, too much lag time between informing clients and partners often makes the latter “feel out of the loop,” in Anderson’s observation.

And make sure to communicate through multiple channels—email, phone, portal, Slack, etc. Different people rely on different media for primary communication.

Cleveland urged virtual Summit attendees to recruit joint clients to share their endorsement of company developments, wherever possible, to boost credibility of the message.

“Joint clients talk,” she said. “They can help us evangelize when there are these changes.”

Either way, Anderson advised session viewers to “continue to advocate for your partners,” regardless of what is going on internally.

The presenters concluded the session with their key takeaways. Cleveland stressed that change isn’t new, and it’s inevitable.

“Have a positive attitude around change,” she urged, adding that a negative attitude can hamper the morale of those in your orbit. “We’ve all been in those meetings where that one person brings it all down.”

Anderson suggested that alliance pros look at change as an opportunity. They might get to try new things that could benefit them in the long run.

“If things are going to be done in a new way, then look at the positive,” he said. “If you start early, if you are prepared for that transition, you will come out on top.”

Again, this session is available to Summit registrants in the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit portal, along with more than a dozen other prerecorded presentations and video of all three days of the live event itself. Summit content will be accessible until August 18. 

Tags:  accounting information services  alliance management  Ben Anderson  communications team  COVID-19  legal  onboarding  partner agreements  Partner Program  partnering  partners  radical transparency  Susan Cleveland  tax  Thomson Reuters 

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Five Ways to SCORE Big When Overcoming Obstacles and Conflict in Alliance Relationships (Part Two)

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Thursday, April 12, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Part One of this blog post covers how Candido Arreche, CA-AM, global director of portfolio & partner management at Xerox Worldwide Alliances, explained Xerox’s SCORE framework for improving alliance relationships in his 2018 ASAP Global Alliance Summit workshop “Onboarding Your Partner: Understanding How to Design a Partnership that Works.” Xerox adopted the framework to help overcome and make sense of cultural and relationship challenges in alliances, he explained. The template has five important plateaus:

  • Select: (target the right partners)
  • Connect (implement business and personal drivers)
  • Onboarding (create a very structured, easy onboarding process)
  • Revenue (take on and understand the sales)
  • Execute (be on task; take what doesn’t work and make it work)

Part Two of this blog post continues Arreche’s description of how the framework works through implementation.

Most alliance relationships hit a snag. The SCORE tool alerts us when a rough point is coming, Arreche explained. Before Xerox implemented this tool, the company’s partner success rate was a dismal 30 percent. Now it’s over 70 percent, he added. Alliance professionals in large organizations sometimes become enamored with building complex tools. What we really need is something like the SCORE model to focus on the process. It’s simple to use with clear standards. Our tools are typically one-sheeters outlining the steps an alliance manager needs to take and understand what we do every day, he said.

It should be leveraged to everybody working in the alliance. It’s all about continuous improvement with all relationships in the alliance: “SCORE creates a common language that gives alliance partners an easy ways to adapt their course,” he said.

You can ask useful questions with each step of SCORE. Take Select, for example: How do you know how to select the right alliance partner? Then there is Connect, which is probably the most important step. At Xerox, for example, we want our alliance and channel managers asking questions about matching business and personal drivers, Arreche explained. You can ask questions about misaligned objectives—from building a strategy session to building a joint business plan to key performance indicators and metrics. There are two types of drivers in any relationship. Business drivers, which are about the goals for being together, and personal drivers. What are the personal drivers, and how do you understand what’s important to Nathan and what important to me? How do you build trust and make sure the end goals are aligned? Which raises the question of Onboarding. If Nathan is new in the company, what are his drivers? He wants to make this work. He wants to show he has room for promotion and ascending in the company and that his new hire was a good idea. He wants to create brand awareness in his organization. How do you uncover his personal drivers in a fast, easy, simple way to get alignment with both parties? It’s important to set business and personal drivers to get commitment and maximize Revenue. “What’s tough is Execution. How are you going to make it work? What performance measures do we have? What is the timeline for execution?”

When you have SCORE for enhancing communication by designing and asking key questions, you improve relationships, which makes it easier to create and align strategy, he concluded. 

Tags:  alliance relationships  alliances  business driver  Candido Arreche  collaboration  Conflict in Alliance Relationships  connect  Cultural combinations  execute  onboarding  partner management  partners  revenue  SCORE  Select  Xerox Worldwide Alliances 

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Five Ways to SCORE Big When Overcoming Obstacles and Conflict in Alliance Relationships (Part One)

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, April 11, 2018

“Every partnership is bringing two cultures together,” explained Candido Arreche, CA-AM, global director of portfolio & partner management at Xerox Worldwide Alliances. He was reminding the audience at his workshop “Onboarding Your Partner: Understanding How to Design a Partnership that Works” about the challenges associated with cultural mergers. The energized presentation recently took place at the 2018 ASAP Global Alliance Summit,  “Propelling Partnering for the On-Demand World: New Perspectives + Proven Practices for Collaborative Business,” in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA.

Cultural combinations can be potentially explosive or provide pressure that can act as catalysts for progress and innovation. How you manage them will make the difference in the outcome. Alliances are all about relationships among people, he pointed out, while recalling a trade magazine article that stated that 80 percent of marital relationships are in divorce, separation, or undergoing counseling. In the world of alliances, 50 to 70 percent are in jeopardy. “If we are going to spend time and money to run alliances, we want to make sure they execute,” said the Six Sigma Black Belt.

He then illustrated an emergency landing to drive home his point: US Airways Captain Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger III’s historic landing on the Hudson River in 2009. The “miraculous” touchdown took place when both engines failed after a run-in with a flock of Canada geese shortly after takeoff.  Sully’s quick thinking under pressure resulted in a hair-raising yet smoothly executed landing that saved all 155 passengers on board.

“How do we execute a landing on a body of water where all passengers survive, which has never been done before?” Arreche then asked. “What was going on? What was going through the pilot’s mind? And how did he execute on it? He was communicating with the airport control tower while under a lot of pressure trying to do what was best for the passengers.”

Sully made great decisions based on three fundamentals that pilots follow, which are similar to how we build frameworks, he purported.

  • They have to aviate—they need to get from point A to point B and keep the plane in the air.
  • They have to navigate—the pilot needs to know the parameters and where he is going.
  • They have to communicate—they need to know how to work the tools to communicate.

Sometimes when we are under severe pressure in our relationships, we seem to not perform. But we need to keep our lives and the alliance going and navigate through the challenges. We need to figure out how to move quickly and overcome resistance, he said. Several years ago, Xerox adopted a framework called SCORE to help overcome and make sense of what’s happening with these types of challenges, he explained. The template has five important plateaus:

  • Select: (target the right partners)
  • Connect (implement business and personal drivers)
  • Onboarding (create a very structured, easy onboarding process)
  • Revenue (take on and understand the sales)
  • Execute (be on task; take what doesn’t work and make it work)

For an explanation of how SCORE can be used to enhance communication and seamless execution in your alliances, see Part II of this blog post. 

Tags:  alliances  business driver  Candido Arreche  collaboration  Conflict in Alliance Relationships  connect  Cultural combinations  execute  onboarding  partner management  partners  revenue  SCORE  Select  Xerox Worldwide Alliances 

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