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GE Healthcare CDO Outlines Vision of Precision Health Using AI

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Wednesday, September 16, 2020

In the third and final session of the second day of the 2020 ASAP BioPharma Conference, medtech took center stage. Derek Danois, chief data officer at GE Healthcare, outlined his company’s nascent efforts to transform basic healthcare delivery models in his presentation “Artificial Intelligence in Clinical Care Delivery and the Opportunities to Accelerate Your Development and Commercial Strategy.”

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the principal tools at the heart of a larger movement in the healthcare industry around “precision health.” The concept is simple: Rather than prescribing medications based on a set of generic symptoms, doctors will integrate lots of relevant data, such as genetic profile, family history, and environmental factors, in designing a custom treatment plan. Precision health will be built on precision diagnostics, therapeutics, and monitoring (e.g., wearables).

Data: the Source Code for AI and the Key to Early Detection

With the overarching mission of precision health explained, Danois showed the audience a video that told a story set in the future where a woman detects a lump on her breast, sends the self-exam directly to her doctor right from her bathroom, gets scheduled for a consult immediately, and is put through a battery of tests at the healthcare facility while doctors and technicians analyze the resultant data. The verdict: they caught a malignancy early enough to expect a full recovery. 

The video is meant to inspire, said Danois, but it also conveys GE Healthcare’s vision for the future.

“What can we do to intervene now in helping to spot the early signs of diseases? How can we intervene in a little bit more of an effective manner? How do we help patients feel less fearful and engage more with their clinicians?” he said. “We’ve got to start thinking even earlier. We have to start thinking about the data that is being collected around the world that allows us to think about this journey. Data truly is the source code for AI.”

AI, Danois explained, has to be educated, taught, and trained over a long period of time in order to be effective. For example, an AI program must be exposed to a trusted radiologist’s annotation of a tumor on an x-ray over and over again before it can learn to recognize a similar tumor on its own and become a “true companion source” and a reliable second opinion for doctors. 

Leaping Regulatory and Economic Hurdles to Make Leaps in Precision Health

The technological piece is one challenge. There are also regulatory, economic, and administrative obstacles to contend with. Healthcare providers are generating loads of valuable data, but this information is fragmented around the world, making it difficult to get the right data in the hands of clinicians at the right time. Moreover, hospitals still aren’t convinced that the cost-benefit ratio is in their favor yet. They still haven’t seen enough evidence of positive long-term outcomes, plus there’s a question as to whether health insurance plans will reimburse for AI-based treatments. Even if a health provider is sold on a new concept, it is difficult to deploy it in a highly regulated industry like healthcare.

Still, despite the hurdles that still need to be cleared, nobody disputes that the payoff is going to be transformative, to say the least, down the road in terms of fluid and effective healthcare delivery. Danois likened where we are today in digital health to the first iPhone more than a decade ago. Back then, there were only a few apps, but everyone saw tremendous possibilities. Now, we perform many of our day-to-day functions on our phones. Healthcare can get to the same place, in Danois’s view.

“It starts with understanding and thinking about the various data content that exists in these organizations. How can those be made available for, not just research but practical product development, AI development, collaboration with industry partners,” he said. “Thinking about how those can be turned into AI applications that can be deployed in the right workflows, what challenges exist from a security and privacy perspective? And then thinking about how those get injected into intelligent applications that can be deployed either on the devices in hospitals right now, or they can be deployed in a hybrid model using cloud infrastructure.”

Ultimately, said Danois, we need to get to a point where doctors don’t even think about the technology behind AI-powered apps and devices, where all it takes is a simple Internet connection in order to take advantage of them.

Alliances, of course, are a must if we are going to get there. GE Healthcare realized early that it couldn’t do it alone, despite the great investment it made into AI technology, software engineering, and data science. (For more details about GE Healthcare’s Edison AI platform, see “It’s the Data—and a Lot More,” Strategic Alliance Quarterly, Q1 2020.)

“We needed to open our technology. We needed to create an ecosystem. We needed to create the landing platforms for other partners to work with us. We’ve been encouraging others to think about doing similar things,” he said. “When you can have ethically compliant ecosystems, when you can think about what each party brings to that challenge and help solve it, and that there’s a known entity at the end of that workflow stream, either in the provider or the patient, that will allow us to take advantage of these tools and technologies and leverage these delivery models, we know that we can achieve amazing precision outcomes.”

The FDA’s Position on AI in Healthcare Devices

With that, Danois fielded a few questions from the audience. The first dealt with privacy and security concerns that come with AI apps and devices. Danois explained that these apps are like any digital health technology in that they are designed “in a thoughtful way” to do a task.   

“These get deployed into an already-existing, highly regulated environment for medical devices, whether it is in the US, in Europe, or for most other countries around the world. There’s some regulatory process where these devices need to be approved from a technology point of view, both physical and digital hardware. Those AI applications will exist in those environments,” he said, before adding that the FDA’s position is that if you incorporate AI into an existing piece of hardware, you must treat the new product as an entirely new device. You can create a separate AI app instead, but whatever you produce must be delivered in a “in cybersecurity-hardened and technically thoughtful way.”

Danois was also asked if the partnering language and mindset is different in these partnerships, given the disparities between tech and pharma corporate and alliance cultures. He responded first by making an important distinction between pure technology ventures that are focused solely on creating AI apps and services and medtech initiatives which use diagnostic tools and technologies to deliver AI-powered services. The latter already undergo a rigorous three- to five-year approval process—Danois cited pet scanners as an example. His larger point was that many collaborations are already comfortable with the longer-term regulatory and alliance cycles.

Danois had plenty more to share during his presentation. ASAP BioPharma Conference registrants can review “Artificial Intelligence in Clinical Care Delivery and the Opportunities to Accelerate Your Development and Commercial Strategy” anytime this week and beyond to benefit from his knowledge and expertise. They can also enjoy a dozen other prerecorded on-demand presentations, as well as the rest of this week’s completed livestreamed sessions.

Keep checking this blog for updates from the conference throughout this week!

Tags:  AI  AI-based treatments  alliance culture  Artificial Intelligence  Clinical Care Delivery  Derek Danois  diagnostics  FDA  GE Healthcare  health  partnering  partnerships  pharma  strategy  tech  therapeutics 

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Revamped Bayer Alliance Practice Relieves Partnering Headaches

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Saturday, August 29, 2020

Five years ago, Bayer’s R&D alliance management group knew it needed changes. Even though its core partners were happy in their collaborations with the 150-year-old pharmaceutical and over-the-counter medicine institution, the external perception in the broader pharma community landed in the lower tier, according to its internal research.

The R&D group embarked on changes to its alliance practice in order to improve its function and achieve three larger organizational objectives: 1) deepen the company’s understanding of the mechanisms of diseases that were getting increasingly complex; 2) broaden its drug portfolio into new modalities, technology, and external innovation; and 3) make its operating model more flexible, in general.

Bayer was contending with a variety of changes in its operating environment. First, the number of alliances—and the number of people from outside the organization working on Bayer initiatives—was growing fast. Moreover, the company was engaging in new types of collaborations, such as digital health partnerships, in which it found itself in the unfamiliar position of being the inexperienced party. Partners increasingly had their own alliance networks playing roles in Bayer collaborations, which added a new layer of complexity to the management of these collaborations.

Two Bayer executives shared the story of the company’s still-in-progress alliance management makeover in an on-demand 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit session, “Enabling Strategic Change—Cultural and Alliance Capability Development,” which took viewers through the internal and external changes that were made in order to modernize its alliance practice and improve its standing within the broader pharma partner community.

Bayer’s New Training Regimen Comes Up ACEs

The first step in upgrading Bayer’s organizational alliance capability was to overhaul alliance manager training. More specifically, the practice instituted highly tailored individual plans; executives were coming to alliance management from a variety of areas (e.g., marketing, R&D, business development, etc.) and each had different strengths, weaknesses, and bodies of knowledge.

Bayer complemented this individualized training with its Alliance Community Excellence (ACE) initiative, which brought in outside experts, sometimes from unusual places, to hold court on facets of alliance management. Michael Kennedy, PhD, director of strategic alliances in Bayer’s Business Development & Licensing group, spoke of one instance where a former FBI trainer taught alliance managers how to identify and neutralize lying and deceit. The ACE program also placed an intense focus on external networking, including deepening the alliance group’s interaction with the ASAP community. As part of the ACE program, the alliance management practice also set up a help line so that nobody in the organization felt like they were on an island. 

“Who are you going to call? It’s not Ghostbusters. It needs to be somebody within our broad alliance community that people can call, either as an alliance manager running into some challenging topics and wanting to discuss it or somebody on an alliance team. They can pick up the phone and call one of us alliance managers for help,” said Kennedy. 

Complementary Principles, Competencies Go Hand in Hand

Bayer structured its training into six core competency categories: 1) alliance know-how, 2) collaboration, 3) joint problem solving, 4) organizational agility, 5) flexibility, and 6) conflict management, and developed curriculum for executives of different levels (e.g., rank-and-file team members vs. alliance leaders). Each of these areas consisted of three to five individual skills. Kennedy explained that the organization sees synergy between these areas and that they can be broken down into three complementary pairs—organizational agility helps optimize alliance know-how, flexibility aids collaboration, and conflict management is an inevitable part of joint problem solving.

Kennedy walked the virtual audience through a set of foundational principles grouped into two broad categories—1) “Establish,” which dealt with structure and process, and 2) “Practice,” guidance around mindset and culture—that similarly went hand in hand with each other. Each alliance needs resources—namely, the right people, capacity, and investment—but they are useless if partners don’t have access to Bayer leaders. (Resources represent an “Establish” principle, while access comes from the “Practice” category.) Governance, another “Establish” principle, is nothing without alignment, which Kennedy defined in this context as “speaking with one voice.” Communication, both in terms of timing and consistency, to partners and the public at large is paramount, but problem-solving capabilities will eventually be necessary when it breaks down. For years, Bayer struggled to acknowledge partners’ differences, but in recent years the company has strived to safeguard the value joint initiatives are expected to bring to allies. Carry out all of these principles, and Bayer partnerships will generate execution and trust.

“[Execution and trust] really are the foundational pieces of our partnering principles,” said Kennedy.

A New Alliance Culture: Play to Win vs. Playing It Safe

Of course, principles and competencies only go so far if a corporate culture isn’t designed to optimize them. Bayer had a lot of work to do in this area, according to Christoph Huwe, CSAP, PhD, director of strategic alliance development for R&D Open Innovation & Digital Technologies at Bayer. First, the company had to stop operating in silos. To that end, it adopted the mantra “assets over function,” recounted Huwe in describing the new collaborative mindset that encouraged employees engaged in alliances to prioritize activities that were necessary to advance a drug candidate to a clinic or patient. Bayer relaxed its traditionally “top-down” command-and-control model, so that its employees had the freedom to execute accordingly without having to run every decision up the ladder within the company.

Bayer similarly loosened its risk-averse ways to enable the alliance practice to “play to win and learn over playing it safe”—according to Huwe, the organization was previously less inclined to make mistakes. From a strategic standpoint, Bayer’s mentality switched to one of “science over process.” That is, instead of trying to force a drug to work for a preplanned indication, it would follow the science and pursue another indication if initial research showed the asset was better suited for it.  

Cards on the Table: Alliance Game Players Learn Practice’s Four Pillars

Of course, culture starts at the top, so the alliance practice puts its senior leaders through rigorous team and individual training to lead by example and accept what Huwe characterized as “very candid feedback about inconsistencies” in what they preach and what they do vis-à-vis partner initiatives. Midlevel management retraining was also critical, according to Huwe, since the majority of people working on alliance engagements reported to executives at this level.

Since senior executives usually developed the company’s alliance strategy in advance, it was up to the alliance practice to rebrand itself and communicate the new vision to the rest of the organization through “game-ified” cross-functional team-based exercises. For example, the alliance practice created a board game that was divided into the four pillars of Bayer’s internal culture—collaboration, experimentation, customer focus, and trust. About a dozen players would break into smaller groups where they would be asked to discuss whether actions detailed on playing cards were “blockers or drivers” of these four cultural mainstays. The smaller groups would ultimately reconvene to share and discuss their findings in one large discussion.

Huwe said the alliance management team also instituted new “health-check–style surveys,” which measured “awareness, agreement, involvement, and impact,” to make sure the new culture was taking root. Huwe placed a special emphasis on the “agreement” piece.

“You have to have an understanding if the organization is really on board because if they aren’t you have to think of ways to get them there,” he said. “Senior leadership will be much ahead of the rest of the organization in their agreement to the process, so they need to understand that we’re not quite there yet, and they have to continue to work with the rest of the organization to get there.”

Out of Its Comfort Zone and into Global Pharma Networks

Bayer also embarked on several new measures to improve its reputation as a partner externally.

“We’re trying to leverage the partner’s strengths and capabilities and not trying to turn them into more like Bayer. This is causing us to get out of our comfort zone and expand the way that we think and the way that we work with partners,” said Kennedy.

Case in point, Bayer previously had a company policy limiting press releases to deal signings and phase 3 or later. However, the company has recently relaxed that internal standard to accommodate partners that were eager to issue announcements detailing successes in earlier stages of the drug development cycle. In addition, the normally process-driven company has taken steps to become more flexible. For example, it cut the number of steps in its governance process to approve a deal by more than half.

Bayer has in some cases chosen to collocate employees at partner sites, and it has also opened up business and innovation centers in regions around the world considered hotbeds of pharmaceutical activity, such as San Francisco, Boston, Osaka, Beijing, Singapore, and Berlin.

“We’re going to where the networks are already existing and not asking people to come to Bayer [headquarters],” said Kennedy, who added that the company can now take partners to these sites to give them an up-close look at Bayer’s affairs.

The company has established effective online platforms, hosted more partnering events, and increased its conference presence, even bringing actor Michael J. Fox to one show to speak about the company’s efforts around Parkinson’s disease. Today, half of the company’s top 10 products come from partner initiatives, accounting for more than half of Bayer’s revenues.

The opening slide of Kennedy’s roadshow presentation now says it all: “Bayer is a partnering company.”

Huwe and Kennedy had more to share about Bayer’s partnering transformation, so make sure to use your Summit registration information to catch the full presentation in the Summit portal. While you’re there, peruse more than 20 other insightful sessions from the first-ever virtual ASAP Global Alliance Summit.

Tags:  alliances  Bayer  Christoph Huwe  collaborations  Digital Technologies  Global Pharma Networks  Michael J. Fox  Michael Kennedy  Open Innovation  partnering  partners  strategic  transformation 

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5G: Overhyped, or a “Fairy Tale” Come True?

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Friday, July 17, 2020

Ready or not, the future is coming. In some ways, it’s already here.

So it is with 5G, the latest generation of mobile connectivity. The promise of this technology, and its implications for consumers, businesses, and partnering, were among the topics discussed in one of the many on-demand presentations that form this year’s ASAP Global Alliance Summit.

“How 5G Will Transform and Disrupt Business and Partners,” moderated by Stacy Conrad, director channel sales, TPx, featured three panelists:

  • Pradeep Bhardwaj, senior strategy director, Syniverse
  • Manoj Bhatia, CSAP, partner business development (technology alliances), Verizon
  • Andreas Westh, CSAP, director global partnering strategy, Ericsson

“Once upon a Time” Is Now

After a short introduction by Conrad to set the stage, Bhardwaj began by noting, “The story of mobile has been nothing short of a fairy tale. We have come a long way since the start of the first generation of mobile technology in the early ’80s.” Each generation of mobile technology has come with its own advancements, he added—including texting, Web browsing, and video—and 5G is no different.

For Westh, 5G brings with it “a lot of opportunities” for both consumers and businesses. These include connected smart homes, low-cost Internet of Things (IoT) technology, enhanced live event experiences, gaming, wireless virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), remote robotics, connected vehicles, and connected logistics for business. Westh views 5G as an “innovation platform” where “different companies come together and cocreate.”

Bhatia sees 5G’s impact as primarily occurring in three areas: mobile connectivity for business, new consumer services such as home broadband, and big industry services that will help enterprises digitalize and leverage IoT technologies, for example.

Of this last category, he said, “This is an area [where] everybody has been working for a while, trying to get new innovations. But with 5G, the speed, latency, moving massive amounts of data in a much more efficient way—that’s where the new challenge and the new excitement comes in.”

“A Complete Paradigm Shift”

Asked by Conrad whether 5G has been overhyped, the panelists seemed to agree on a resounding “no.” If anything, they suggested that perhaps the technology’s potential has been underestimated.

“The hype is very justified,” Bhardwaj maintained. “It’s a complete paradigm shift.”

Bhatia chimed in that when speed can be “magnified and amplified” anywhere from 10x to 100x over 4G, and latency reduced as much as 10x (avoiding delays in the movement of large amounts of data), “the hype is understandable.”

Furthermore, he said, “All businesses struggle not just in the transport of data but also in managing these big chunks of data. And that’s where 5G will actually help.”

“Cut All the Cables”

Westh said, “There’s huge interest from the business side, not just consumers. It opens up a lot of opportunities. We see a lot of interest from partners from different companies who want to leverage 5G for their businesses.” He added that his company, Ericsson, recently released the results of a survey predicting that mobile data consumption will increase 4x in the next couple of years, which has both business and consumer implications.

Looking at different verticals where 5G will have an impact, Bhatia mentioned healthcare—in particular noting contract tracing for the coronavirus, collection and analysis of public health data, the use of AR/VR in diagnosis, and telehealth. (And about the changes wrought by COVID-19 worldwide, he said, “We’re all going through this crisis. We’re all gathering the strengths, the technology, and the ideas to solve this problem more efficiently, so we are better prepared for this kind of crisis in the long run.”)

Westh mentioned advances in entertainment, including enhancing the experience around live concerts, shows, and sporting events—and even consuming entertainment safely at home. In these areas, he said, 5G will help remove or reduce capacity constraints, interference, and connectivity issues. Westh added that one of Ericsson’s goals is to “cut all the cables”—which means that professional cameras at live events will be able to get into spaces where it hasn’t been feasible up to now.

Bhardwaj took on the manufacturing sector, where he said that 5G could greatly improve both process and production automation, as well as connectivity and logistics, robotics, and other functions.

Partnering in 5G: From Small Islands to Super Ecosystems

Not surprisingly, the promise of 5G has spawned any number of new and innovative partnerships involving multiple players. “The foundation has been there,” Bhatia said, noting the prominence of technology and systems integrator partnerships, which he called “small islands.” But 5G, he predicted, will bring “a super set of ecosystems” with it, along with the incubation of a “new round of innovation—[creating] something that was unimaginable before.” Verizon itself is working with many startups on 5G projects, as well as with device makers like Samsung, and investing in “labs for new ideas.” But Bhatia warned that any such efforts must provide real, beneficial, “significant change,” or else it’s simply “hogwash.”

Westh agreed that partnerships are already an important element in the creation of new 5G use cases for consumers and businesses. “It’s a collaborative game,” he said. “It’s an ecosystem and a value chain [for] cocreation. We’re just at the beginning with 5G. It’s a long journey.”

If you registered for the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, don’t forget that all conference sessions—both livestream and on demand—are available for viewing from now through August 18, 2020, on the conference showcase.

Tags:  5G  Andreas Westh  AR/VR  channel sales  diagnosis  Ericsson  Manoj Bhatia  mobile  mobile connectivity  partner  partnering  Pradeep Bhardwaj  Stacy Conrad  strategy  Syniverse  technology  telehealth  TPx  Verizon 

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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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How Do You Build the Partner Executive of the Future?

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Monday, July 6, 2020

The rapid pace of change over the past few months has had everyone scrambling to keep up and adjust to whatever the “next normal” is—if it even makes sense to talk about “normal” at all these days. This has been true in every industry, but perhaps nowhere more so than in information technology, where the disruptions and changes were seemingly constant even before the coronavirus pandemic hit and the beat goes on accordingly.

As part of the on-demand content available to those registered for the just-concluded ASAP Global Alliance Summit, a panel was convened to discuss just how today’s technology alliance and partnering leaders can weather these frequent storms, be proactive in responding to partnering trends, act strategically, and think multiple steps ahead as they face so many uncertainties every day.

Moderated by Norma Watenpaugh, CSAP, CEO and founding principal of Phoenix Consulting Group, the panel—“The Strategic Partner Executive of the Future and the Skills Needed for Success”—also featured:

  • Rafael Contreras, area vice president, global operations, strategy and chief of staff at ServiceNow
  • Jim Chow, enterprise cloud solution evangelist and strategic partnerships/channel executive at Google
  • Greg Fox, CSAP, formerly general manager of networking and communications/vice president of alliances at WorkSpan

Watenpaugh began by outlining a list, put out by Pearson Learning and the Society of Human Resource Managers, of what makes a “star partner/alliance manager.” They must be:

  • Able to lead and influence
  • Willing to take initiative with little or no oversight
  • Strategic and global thinkers seeking and creating opportunities
  • Dynamic, creative, independent thinkers
  • People-oriented with high empathy
  • Highly cooperative, preferring to work in teams
  • Effective at networking across organizational boundaries
  • Able to flex rules to get things done
  • Capable of dealing with high levels of ambiguity

About the last quality, Watenpaugh commented: “In particular, in today’s business climate, especially in the last three to five months, we’ve had to use this muscle a lot, because it is a very disruptive, uncertain market, and being able to navigate through it is key.”

And that’s a lot. But that may not be the half of it.

Being a “Connector” Is No Longer Enough

Jim Chow of Google spoke of what he called some of the “more traditional mindsets and skills of alliance leaders, [versus] mindsets and attributes of what I believe is the partner of the future.” Among these necessary changes in attitude were going from a “built to last” mindset to “built to adapt,” “walking the talk” on digital transformation, and having alliance managers go from just being a “people person” to acting as the “CEO or general manager of the alliance,” someone who can think and operate strategically and also bridge generational and other divides. And as much as anything else, they need to embrace change.

“How do I think about change differently?” Chow asked. “Not just, ‘It’s going to come up and I’ll have to deal with it,’ but actually build change into the process. The market is moving faster now than anything I’ve seen in technology in the last 10 years.”

Chow was emphatic about the kind of mind shift alliance managers need to embrace and own if they want to succeed in tomorrow’s world. “In the past,” he said, you’d hear “‘I’m an alliance manager, I’m just a connector.’ That is no longer enough. You need to be owning the business, driving the business, helping partners as an executive, directing them to realize the value of the partnership, guiding them and telling them where to go.”

He also advocated for “evangelizing solutions” with more of a launch-iterate–fail fast approach, which he said has worked for Google, Amazon, and other high-tech heavyweights. “You’re not going to get it perfect coming out of the gate,” he advised. “You don’t know what you don’t know, and there’s not time to find out to make it perfect. So you do your best to launch what makes sense quickly, rapidly and aggressively get feedback from your customers and partners, and iterate and launch until you get it right.”

It’s All Ecosystems Now

Greg Fox, formerly of WorkSpan, said that alliance managers—including prospective ones—need to understand the shift from traditional one-to-one alliance models to ecosystems of multiple partners. He cited research from IDC, Accenture, and Forrester showing the importance and disruptive power of ecosystems, including that companies in ecosystems are growing 50 percent faster than those that are not part of one.

He also said that alliance and partnering managers need to be able to orient themselves around build-with, market-with, and sell-with frameworks, and to connect with all tiers of an ecosystem; to emphasize creating a great partner experience as much as a great customer experience; and to adopt digital tools to drive collaborative business relationships, since traditional tools are no longer enough given an ecosystems context.

Fox stressed that much of what he and the others were discussing, from business trends and speed of change to the capabilities needed by those who seek to manage partnerships and ecosystems, goes beyond the usual realms of IT and biopharma and extends into other industries, from insurance to agribusiness to retail and more.

From Legacy Leftovers to Listening Channels

Rafael Contreras of ServiceNow proposed another idea that cuts across many industries and verticals: not allowing “comfortable legacy ideas to dictate your strategy.” And given that change and evolution are continuous, as he put it, “A lot of things that have worked before need to take that step forward.”

Time horizons in many cases also need to change. “We’ve challenged a lot of our alliance managers to think beyond the 12-month range of commissions and quotas,” Contreras said, “and really start to focus on that long-term business objective.”

Another golden piece of advice Contreras provided was “never build in a vacuum.” He urged, “You need the feedback from the ecosystem, from the alliance managers, you need the business to share its feedback to you as well.” At his company, this is done via “listening channels,” councils, trainings, surveys, and other means. All of it helps in understanding partners’ and customers’ pain points, problems, and requirements, and what would constitute success for them.

Where Do Alliances Fit?

Acknowledging that partnering and alliance management are not always recognized or understood in organizations, and may report to numerous divisions ranging from marketing to sales to even human resources, Watenpaugh asked the panelists to suggest where in an enterprise alliances might best fit.

Chow took the first run at the question. “I think the best place in the organization—as long as the executive team views alliances and partners and channels as critical—is as a direct report to the CEO or general manager of the business. Then the partnerships or alliances team has a seat at the table for all the highest-level strategy in the organization. That’s ideal.” This is not always the reality, of course, and as he said, it can be dictated by “power dynamics or who’s running the show.”

“Regardless of where it reports,” Fox chimed in, “it has to look at how outcomes can best be achieved—whether revenue, or customer success, or accelerating times to market.”

Said Contreras, “It comes down to the objectives desired: What kind of experience are you trying to have with partners?”

Lucky to Be on a Wild and Crazy Ride

Toward the end of the panel presentation, Watenpaugh commenced a “lightning round” in which she asked the panelists what advice they would give to someone who says they want to be an alliance manager.

Fox: “Excellent! Welcome to the profession. Now, get ready for a wild and crazy ride!”

Chow encouraged asking why—if they want to have an impact on strategic alliances, then “great.” They’ll need energy, patience, and persistence, because it’s a difficult job in which “you don’t control a lot,” so often all you have at your disposal is “influence.” But if they say they’re a “people person” and they think it would be cool to work with partners, then “find something else to do.”

Contreras said that he had actually hired some budding partner managers right out of school, and felt that they were very “lucky” given the kind of exposure they get right off the bat.

“You’re not going to get this in almost any other department,” he explained. “You’re talking to entrepreneurs, founders, people who have taken the risk and the leap to start new businesses—and their business model depends on your alignment with them and their business objectives.”

So the partner leader of the future had better buckle in, put the strategic thinking hat on, wear the ecosystem pants, and get ready for a wild and crazy ride. Because the future gets here fast these days.

Tags:  channels  Ecosystem  enterprise cloud  Google  Greg Fox  information technology  Jim Chow  Norma Watenpaugh  pandemic  partner exec  partnering  Rafael Contreras  ServiceNow  technology alliance 

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