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ASAP’s Summit Kicks Off with Partnering as a Path to Growth, Even—or Especially—in a Pandemic

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Day one of ASAP’s first-ever virtual Global Alliance Summit got off to a great start today, with opening remarks by ASAP president and CEO Mike Leonetti and board chair Brooke Paige, along with two fascinating keynotes and the ASAP Alliance Excellence Awards presentation.

Leonetti began by thanking everyone not only for gathering together virtually, but for “sticking with us” as both the date and format of the Summit had to be changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. He also noted that alliances and partnerships everywhere are still working hard and driving business growth, as well as “saving the world” by collaborating in efforts to combat and mitigate the effects of COVID-19. He also reminded everyone that “even though we can’t get together, we can learn from each other” via ASAP tools and publications, 365 days a year, and that the goal of all our partnering efforts is “not only to survive the new normal, but to thrive and prosper.”

Paige also acknowledged that “the world looks completely different now from when we were last together,” but said that given the economic and health challenges of the pandemic, “there has never been a better time for alliance management.” She felt that alliances and partnerships actually have “an incredible role” to play in countering the pandemic and its effects.

Fighting Cancer and Learning to Be a Good Partner

This remark was reinforced by the first keynote this morning, given by Dr. Louis B. Harrison, MD, FASTRO, vice president, chief partnership officer, and chair of the radiation oncology department at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla. “A Cancer Center’s Experience Developing Clinical Partnerships and Alliances: Opportunities and Cautions” showed how a top-flight US cancer research center has used partnerships to increase patient access and provide more widespread cancer treatment in various communities—especially important now, given the greatly reduced travel due to COVID-19.

Dr. Harrison admitted that he is not an alliance professional and is still “a rookie” when it comes to alliance management, but stressed that “we can’t just do business the way we used to” and that it’s up to institutions like his center to do their best to learn to “be a good partner” in order to further the goal of better and more widespread health care. And in any partnership, he said, “They have to want you, you have to want them, and you have to behave in such a way that you bring it all together in a win-win.” (For more on Dr. Harrison and his work, see my June 8 ASAP blog post, “‘A Commonality of Spirit’: How a Cancer Center Partners to Help More Patients.”)

Music to the ears of the assembled alliance management multitudes tuning in to ASAP on Vimeo for this virtual Summit, no doubt. Similarly, the next keynote also hit some familiar notes, but with variations appropriate to the different times in which we find ourselves these days.

Get Smart and Get Growing

Tiffani Bova is a growth and innovation evangelist at Salesforce, as well as the author of the book Growth IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices That Will Make or Break Your Business (Portfolio/Penguin, 2018), the host of the What’s Next! podcast, and a frequent contributor to Forbes and other publications. Her presentation, “The Untapped Gold Mine of Building Trust, Unconventional Affiliations, and Iteration-Based Partnerships,” aimed to shed some light on what might be the best path or paths to the “New Future,” as she put it.

Bova challenged companies to ask themselves: “If we could do anything now, what would it be, in order to get us to this new future?” In her view, this should be subdivided into three phases, or tracks:

  1. Stabilize the business by mitigating short-term risks.
  2. Get people back to work—not necessarily back to the office, but productively employed as much as possible.
  3. Get back on track to growth, and remember that your customers and partners are going through this same journey as well.

In looking toward and navigating future growth, Bova highlighted four “focus areas” businesses can use. These are:

  1. Experience: This includes creating and delivering a beneficial experience to customers, partners, and the supply chain.
  2. Innovation: Noting that the pandemic-related shutdowns of retail and other businesses demonstrated a prior lack of investment in innovation, Bova pointed to shifts to digital, agility, use of communications, and ecosystems as ways of promoting innovation. (She also noted that “digital transformation” doesn’t mean just technology, but actually should be viewed through the lens of “people and process.”)
  3. Trust: Saying that studies have shown that businesses and consumers don’t trust brands—especially in the way they use their data—Bova posited trust as the “barometer” or “backbone of the relationship” between businesses and their customers and partners.
  4. Values: An important component of a brand in attracting employees, partners, and customers. At Bova’s own company, Salesforce, establishing values has meant supporting communities, using technology for good, and providing “help for everyone,” especially in the current conditions. This includes direct investments, having a 90-day no-layoff pledge, and collaborating with some of its partners such as AWS, Google, and Apple to provide aid to communities.

Pivoting and Partnering in the “New Future”

For Bova, “partnering in the new future” will mean maximizing existing business; entering new markets, regions, and industries; and launching new products. “This is not a time to cut back on costs,” she said, but rather represents an opportunity to leverage existing assets and capabilities to pave the way for future growth.

In looking back over the weeks and months of the pandemic, Bova said there’s been “a burst of learning” since early March, when the US along with many other parts of the world began in one way or another to shut down. One of the lessons has been “how quickly we needed to pivot,” she acknowledged, saying that using partnerships and coopetition are two of the ten paths to growth laid out in her book, Growth IQ. Even pre-COVID-19, more than half of CEOs saw creating new partnerships as a viable path to growth, but most of them also said that fewer than 60 percent of those partnerships have proven to be effective.

Bova added that the tenth path to growth in her book is “unconventional strategies,” and these include establishing partnerships with “unlikely bedfellows” and “disrupting current thinking.” She encouraged CEOs and other senior leaders to think seriously about what kinds of partnerships would help get them through the three phases of stability, getting back to work, and getting back to growth, and not to be swayed by some of the rumored downsides of partnerships: e.g., that they are too big and unmanageable, or that partnering means “we don’t make any money,” or that “we don’t own the customer.”

Tying some of these strands together, Bova asserted, “Your greatest sales force is your customers and partners advocating on your behalf.” If indeed partnering is one of those “unconventional strategies” she recommended, it looks like it’s one that, handled with care and best practices, should start propelling more enterprises down the path of future growth.

Keep checking this blog for more to come on the ASAP Global Alliance Summit, including the Alliance Excellence Award winners, highlights of the livestream presentations, and on-demand sessions as well.

Tags:  advocating  Apple  AWS  customers  experience  Google  Growth IQ  innovation  Louis B. Harrison  Moffitt Cancer Center  partner  Partnerships  Salesforce  supply chain  Tiffani Bova  trust  values 

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“Golden Minutes”: How International SOS and Workplace Options Coalesced to Help Clients Quickly in Moments of Crisis

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Later this month, we will publish the next profile in our series of exclusive online articles examining the 2020 ASAP Alliance Excellence Award nominees. Over the course of the last four months, ASAP members have read the inspiring stories of Banistmo and Reciclar Paga’s groundbreaking recycling program in Panama, PTC’s series of system integrator–run IoT demo centers, the transformation of Blue Yonder’s alliance program, and the versatile Deloitte-Genpact alliance that is ready to storm the marketplace. (ASAP members can read these pieces in the previous four issues of Strategic Alliance Monthly, which can be accessed via the association’s Member Resource Library.)

In a few weeks, ASAP members will learn how International SOS and Workplace Options teamed up to bundle the former’s medical and security services with the latter’s emotional support offerings to deliver comprehensive services to globally mobile workforces in dozens of countries. As readers will discover, this collaboration isn’t just delivering complementary resources to customers—it is eroding the stigma around acknowledging and treating mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD, that is still prevalent in many cultures around the world.

If we could do it all over again, we might have considered running this piece in the most recent issue of Strategic Alliance Monthly—in putting this feature together, we learned that May is mental health awareness month. However, while hindsight may be 20/20, foresight is one of this blog’s main functions. As we do with many of our Strategic Alliance Quarterly features, we thought we would dedicate this post to some fascinating facts about the International SOS–Workplace Options alliance that didn’t make the cut in the forthcoming June edition of ASAP’s monthly online-only outlet.

Harmonized Work Styles Result in Smooth Client Service

In ASAP circles, talk often turns to how to make two organizations work seamlessly as one. More specifically, we oftentimes speak abstractly about recognizing and reconciling the different “worldviews,” “assumptions,” or “organizational cultures” that companies bring to the table. These themes came up often in the discussion of how these two organizations harmonized their operations. Sally Wang, group vice president of global partnerships and alliances at International SOS, discussed the differences between how her organization’s medical personnel and Workplace Options’ counselors tackle patient cases.

“Our doctors are not psychologists or social workers, who specialize in mental health. Workplace Options counselors aren’t doctors.  You tend to look at the situation from different perspectives,” she said.

The two sides must be in lockstep because time is of the essence with inbound calls. Wang noted that cases of this nature tend to be very intense—many come in the context of heavy physical and emotional support needs. International SOS reps have “golden minutes” to accurately capture details and convey them to their Workplace Options counterparts. Otherwise, frustrated and potentially panicked callers may abandon hope and give up, according to Wang.

“If it is not done smoothly, the member may say, ‘It’s too much work. I don’t really need it,’ and we lose an opportunity to provide holistic care,” she said.

Mary Ellen Gornick, senior strategy advisor at Workplace Options, added that having a dedicated team of counselors from her organization who understand the complexity of issues International SOS clients face has been critical to the partnership's success.

“In addition to having expertise in mental health, these counselors are also skilled at responding to the unique needs of someone who may be traveling frequently or in a remote location or high-threat area,” she shared. “That experience makes a tremendous difference in how counselors are able to tailor the support they offer.”

Review, Realign, Rinse, Repeat

Wang’s colleague Molly Walsh, program manager for the strategic alliances and partnerships group at International SOS, reviews client cases and conducts operational alignment calls each month to discuss situations that might have thrown one or both parties for a loop and explore how to course-correct for similar instances in the future. The two companies have each gotten very comfortable with their partner’s constructive criticism. 

If there are problems, we’re very up front in talking about it,” said Wang.

International SOS and Workplace Options are nominated for the Alliance Excellence Award in the Corporate Social Responsibility category. They are competing with:

  • Telecommunications giant Ericsson, which delivered and maintained Internet connectivity to rescue workers in the immediate aftermath of two natural disasters, a devastating cyclone in Mozambique and Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, as part of the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) Emergency Telecommunications Cluster initiative;
  • Global consulting firm Protiviti’s “i on Hunger” program, which delivered 10 million meals to individuals suffering food insecurity;
  • Analytics software vendor SAS’s Nordic Hackathon, which convened partners Knowit, Microsoft, Intel, and Evry to mine data for a wide variety of social causes, such as reuniting displaced families via facial recognition technology; and   
  • The aforementioned Banistmo–Reciclar Paga partnership.

The June Strategic Alliance Monthly will be sent to ASAP members prior to the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, where the Alliance Excellence Award winners will be unveiled. Registration for the Summit, which will take place virtually June 23 through June 25, is still open

Tags:  alliances  Ericsson  International SOS  Internet connectivity  Mary Ellen Gornick  operations  organizational cultures  partner  partnership success  partnerships  Sally Wang  SAS Nordic Hackathon  United Nations’ World Food Programme  Workplace Options 

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Q2 Strategic Alliance Quarterly Examines How Alliance Teams Are Handling COVID-19 | ASAP Members Discuss What Is and Isn’t Working in Self-Isolation in Latest Cover Story

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Monday, May 11, 2020

When COVID-19 forced us here in the United States into self-isolation in mid-March, we at ASAP’s editorial operation were finalizing our pre-planned in-depth features for the Q2 2020 edition of Strategic Alliance Quarterly, due to hit ASAP member mailboxes in May. Were we to wait until the Q3 issue to tackle the effect the coronavirus is having on alliance members, their teams, and the partnerships they steer, our readership wouldn’t have been able to see how their peers are coping with this situation until September, by which time we hope it will be old news to at least some degree—and, fingers crossed, that it will be safe to relax some of the current restrictions.

To use an American football metaphor, we had to call an audible with the play clock running down if we were to address the most pressing issue facing all of us in due time. In early April, we dispatched a message to alliance leaders asking the following questions:

  1. What are some job functions/tasks in managing staff or partnerships that used to be in-person which you are having to modify or change?
  2. Are there things you simply cannot do, have had to postpone, or had to figure out another way to make happen, e.g., launch meetings?
  3. How are you managing your team? Are there some new tools or modifications of existing ones that your team is working with now?
  4. How are you employing best practices to advance your alliance goals remotely? To ensure ongoing governance?
  5. Are there elements of what you’re doing or of business and work in general that you think may change even after the current crisis recedes?
  6. Looking back now, are there processes that you wish you had in place that would have made what you are doing now easier?

The responses we received via email and follow-up phone conversations revealed an alliance community coping as best they can, finding silver linings, and making the best of the tools at their disposal and a situation they can’t control. To be sure, there were struggles, challenges, and obstacles that may not be overcome until we have fully conquered this pandemic, but by and large, alliance professionals are soldiering through upheaval and uncertainty in a way only they know how.

Unique IP: The Vital Organ Helping Alliances Survive

Laura Fletcher, associate director of strategic alliances at Cancer Research UK, was one of those who recounted to us how social distancing measures have reaffirmed some of Cancer Research UK’s alliances’ indelible strengths. 

“We have access to intellectual property of leading academics through the relationships that Cancer Research UK has as a grant funder, so the model of bringing multiple academic collaborators together with a commercial partner is not very easily replicated,” she said. “That also means that if the partnerships you build are unique, they can’t be easily replicated with another partner. So that gives us a good foundation for working through this with our alliance partners. We all have the motivation to get through it and continue these alliances on the other side.”

Governance: A Beacon Keeping Alliances on Course Through the Fog

Fletcher’s colleague Elaine Anderson, CSAP, strategic alliance executive for Cancer Research UK’s commercial partnerships, noted how careful thought and planning put into the creation of governance clauses long before COVID-19 ravaged the globe has created a framework that has helped organize critical partnerships and keep them from veering off course.

“If there are decisions to be made, then the decision-making process is clear and everyone understands,” she explained. “Fortunately, when we’ve looked back, we have all those clauses and that has proven to be something useful —just to be very clear on the processes that need to be followed but also to have flexibility, not being very rigid, if things need to be changed.”

These insights from Fletcher and Anderson didn’t make the 3,400-word print-edition feature that ASAP members will enjoy this month—as has been our custom since the founding of ASAP’s editorial operation, we like to give you teasers of what’s to come in our quarterly issue. In our forthcoming cover story, readers will discover:

  • Which elements of the current virtual workplace setup some members feel will become a permanent part of our work culture when this pandemic is in the rearview mirror,
  •  Best guesses at when we might return to some semblance of normal,
  • How teams are recreating the social element that has been lost since we were forbidden to meet with colleagues in person,
  • What alliance work has carried on during the shelter-in-place period, and
  • The initiatives that had to be tabled indefinitely thanks to these drastic public-health protection measures.

After all, we at ASAP’s editorial arm are shifting on the fly like you are, but we too are finding ways to use the latest technological tools to keep bringing you the knowledge you need to stay ahead in your career. We hope our Q2 cover story “Partnering in a Pandemic” provides wisdom, information, and some comfort to help you, too, make it through these unprecedented circumstances. 

Tags:  alliances  Cancer Research UK  commercial partnerships  COVID-19  Elaine Anderson  governance  Laura Fletcher  Partnering  partnerships  strategic alliance  unique IP 

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Pharma Alliance Leaders Making Adjustments to a Virtual, Stay-at-Home World

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Tuesday, April 28, 2020

During the COVID-19 crisis, it’s been heartening to see how many pharmaceutical companies—including a representative number of ASAP members—have stepped up their efforts to work toward vaccines and medicines to treat the virus, including partnering with one another and with government to speed up the processes of research and development, all while trying to keep regular manufacturing and supply operations going so that lifesaving drugs continue to reach patients who need them.

But as is true for all of us, the coronavirus has thrown significant obstacles in pharma companies’ path as well: Almost everyone is working from home, supply chains have been interrupted, sales reps can’t see physicians, and some companies in the biopharma ecosystem are already feeling the pain of financial distress.

So how are pharma alliance management groups coping with COVID? How are their teams communicating internally, reaching out to partners, and moving projects forward in the face of these hurdles?

Different Times, Different Strategies

That was the subject of an April 21 ASAP Netcast Webinar, “Alliance Management Practices in a Virtual World for Pharmaceutical Executives.” The four panelists were among the crème de la crème of big-pharma alliance leaders: Harm-Jan Borgeld, CSAP, PhD, MBA, vice president and head of alliance management for Merck Healthcare KGaA; Mark Coflin, CSAP, MBA, vice president and head of global alliance management at Takeda; David Thompson, CSAP, chief alliance officer at Eli Lilly and Company; and Steve Twait, CSAP, vice president of alliance and integration management at AstraZeneca. The webinar was moderated by Michael Leonetti, CSAP, president and CEO of ASAP.

As Leonetti noted at the outset, “We are in very different times, and different times require different strategies.” Accordingly, the four alliance leaders shared their strategies and thinking in a number of areas, from keeping their teams humming along internally to communicating with partners to monitoring supply chain and manufacturing issues.

Thompson observed that we’re currently living through a “worldwide inflection point,” a phenomenon not seen “since probably the 1930s and ’40s, where the entire world is experiencing something at the same time.” Twait concurred: “This is my 20th year in the alliance management space and I can say I have never seen anything quite like this before. COVID-19 is providing us with challenges I don’t think any of us ever anticipated.”

Buddies, Backups, and Break Times

Borgeld said one of the first things he and his colleagues at Merck in Germany did was to look at what would happen if alliance managers could not fulfill their duties, for whatever reason. So they created “a buddy system, where every alliance manager has a backup—even me. A member of the leadership team is my backup in case I would not be able to function. Also the partners have been informed of this backup system, so they know there’s always someone to contact.”

In this new world, alliance executives and their teams have had to figure out how to hold internal meetings virtually—and how often and for how long—how to carry out alliance governance, and how to interface with partners when everyone is working remotely and none of these activities can be done in person. Some of what they’ve done has changed over time already—going from two meetings a week down to one, for example, having shorter meetings, or making the meetings last only 45 minutes instead of an hour, both to give people a much-needed break that they might have formerly used to walk down the hall and “grab a cup of coffee,” as Twait put it, but also to allow for some “unstructured chat” time, in Thompson’s words.

In addition, half-day or full-day meetings across multiple time zones around the world have in many cases been condensed down to one- or two-hour videoconferences, which allows greater focus and prevents “virtual meeting burnout” while being “respectful of time zones,” as Coflin phrased it—especially important when partners and/or team members may be spread out across the globe.

There’s good and bad in this virtual situation, according to Thompson. “The upside of course is there’s a time savings, the downside is you’re not getting that human interaction,” he said. “You have to be more cognizant of how you’re going to structure your agendas for the meeting to get the most out of it.” Another positive that Twait has observed is that videoconferences today give us a window into each other’s lives—including children, pets, decorations in home offices or other rooms—and these help to build “interpersonal trust” in a way that wasn’t necessarily done pre-COVID.

Borgeld emphasized that while some of the same problems and issues arose before the virus took hold, now it’s even more critical to anticipate and address them, whether it’s coworkers who are trying to multitask and get work done while managing children at home, or partners who may be experiencing financial distress. In the latter case, he recommended, “Seek the dialogue early—it’s not important that you open the books. Focus on the alliance itself: what do we need to do? Come early, discuss it, and try to find a solution.”

Problems, Solutions, and Opportunities

Solutions can be hard to come by, especially where coronavirus is concerned, but more than one of the panelists mentioned the resourceful, flexible cooperation and collaboration between various biopharma organizations, leading to more partnerships and, hopefully, effective treatments and vaccines down the road.

“One of the things that’s very encouraging is the number of partnerships that are springing up all over,” said Twait. “Not just between pharma and pharma—we’re all working together, and many of those interests are around COVID. I’m seeing pharma to biotech, pharma to academia, pharma and others to nonprofits—partnerships of all types.”

Coflin backed up that assessment: “In this current environment where we’re looking for solutions on an urgent basis for humanity, there’s a lot of external innovations and partnerships that are rapidly forming, amongst companies, together with regulatory authorities, NIH, you name it. Everybody’s pulling together to find some solutions.”

Twait emphasized viewing the crisis as a chance to potentially change how things are being done for the better. “I try to look for the opportunities that are coming out of this, and it feels like now is the perfect time,” he explained. “What COVID is allowing us to do is to ask the question: Can we move faster, and are there ways to accelerate? It’s a great opportunity to use this burning platform and the urgency that we have to really challenge inefficiencies and change some of those internal and external processes.”

Shining Examples

Thompson advised looking at alliances with an eye toward contractual obligations, as well as the risks that may be triggered if those are left unfulfilled. “I would really recommend to everybody,” he said, “to do a thorough read of each contract: to go back through and with the lens of the business, human, and legal uncertainties and risks, foresee what’s in the contract, identify and begin to engage with the partners in a discussion now. To me that has been one of the most helpful exercises we’ve done, and also has allowed us to engage in productive discussions, because we’re identifying early the things that the contracts are pointing to. Regardless if you’re in or out of our industry, anybody who’s got a contractual relationship with anybody, that is worth doing.”

Coflin also mentioned being aware of potential supply issues, which can be dicey at a time like this. “The supply continuity is critical to the patient,” he acknowledged. “These are lifesaving medicines in some cases. So we look very carefully at the supply chain, and have since the very beginning of COVID-19, looking not only at the current inventory but also…where it’s sourced from—in some cases China, [or] Italy, and others where we’ve run into a very challenging situation with logistics. The amount of flights is less than it used to be, including cargo, so it is something that requires constant evaluation of risk and constant discussion with our partners.”

Asked for final thoughts, Borgeld gave this exhortation: “Focus on your team. Make [it] so that they can shine in this difficult environment. It’s an environment where there are challenges, and that has to be recognized. Focus on the team, make sure that the team feels that [its] needs are addressed.”

After the four panelists had answered a number of questions, both from Leonetti and the large audience sitting in on the webinar, Leonetti thanked them for sharing their insights and experiences. “You are a shining example of our community, our willingness to collaborate with each other, and our willingness to help share best practices that ultimately make us better partners and better future partners,” he said. “I can’t thank you all enough for bringing this forward and helping to keep our ASAP community alive during these virtual times.”

Tags:  academia  Alliance Leaders  alliance manager  AstraZeneca  best practices  biotech  COVID-19  David Thompson  Eli Lilly and Company  Harm-Jan Borgeld  manufacturing  Mark Coflin  Merck Healthcare KGaA  partnerships  Pharma  Pharmaceutical Executives  Steve Twait  supply chain  Takeda  virtual 

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Partnering Superheroes | Who Better to Combine Collaborative Leadership Skills with Strategic Vision and Ride Them All the Way to the C-Suite?

Posted By Mike Leonetti, CSAP, Friday, April 17, 2020

Superhero movies are definitely, as the kids say, “a thing.” They’re fun and exciting, a great way to liven up a long winter night. But do superheroes really exist, and could they have any relevance for us in terms of business strategy? I didn’t think so, but recently I was part of three conversations that changed my mind.

 

First, I spoke with Elizabeth Gazda, CEO of Embr Labs, in anticipation of her upcoming Leadership Forum talk at the ASAP Global Alliance Summit. Embr Labs makes a wearable bracelet that can raise or lower your skin temperature to help with stress reduction and anxiety and improve sleep and focus. Before joining Embr, Liz cofounded a fintech and a music technology startup, and worked at some of Boston’s first “unicorns,” like ATG and m-Qube.

 

Liz made the point that the collaborative leadership and critical thinking skills needed in the C-suite are very close to those of the alliance management competency profile. Liz believes partnering “superheroes” can and should be showcased in their organizations as potential future CEOs. In her view, alliance management is the perfect preparation for executive leadership, especially as more and more companies undergo digital transformation via partnerships and seek to nurture and reward collaborative entrepreneurial excellence.

 

A second conversation took place in early February in Boston, at an ASAP New England chapter meeting whose theme was “Taking the Next Step: Critical Skills for Aspiring Alliance Executives and Organizational Leaders.” Moderated by Mai-Tal Kennedy of Vantage Partners, the discussion featured panelists Lou Shipley, former CEO of Black Duck Software and a lecturer at Harvard Business School and MIT; Christine Carberry, CSAP, board member at the UNH Entrepreneurship Center; and Andrew Hirsch, CFO and head of corporate development for Agios Pharmaceuticals.

 

All of them highlighted both the difficult job alliance managers have and its relevance for future career success. Lou in particular noted the number of alliance management “superstars” at his previous organization, including one who combined the roles of alliance management, business development, and investment banking expertise—superhero skills indeed. This individual directed the ultimate spinoff of the company and saved it close to $10 million. How’s that for adding value?

 

The third conversation was Jay McBain’s January 30 ASAP webinar, “Top 10 Channel and Alliances Predictions for 2020.” This presentation, an outgrowth of Jay’s influential research for Forrester, highlighted key trends affecting not only the tech world but most industries, as nearly every company, he says, is fast becoming a technology company. (See our cover story in Strategic Alliance Quarterly on ecosystems, for more of Jay’s and other experts’ timely insights and analysis of this exploding phenomenon.)

 

Among these trends is what Jay calls the “trifurcation” of the IT indirect sales channel into an influencer channel, the familiar transactional channel, and a retention channel. He noted too that with such heavyweights as Microsoft and Salesforce bringing hundreds or thousands of new partners into their ecosystems every month, a great partner experience is quickly becoming as important as a great customer experience when companies look strategically to their future.

 

With this heightened awareness of the interrelated issues of customer and partner experience—especially the complex retention phase—how are we going to manage all these relationships and ecosystems? What sort of superheroes will be needed to lead behemoths like Microsoft, Google, Salesforce, IBM, and others into the partnering-everywhere world?

 

I think you know the answer. Who better than alliance professionals? As Jay said, they’re the ones with the right résumé to be ecosystem managers and orchestrators—not only in IT, but in biopharma, manufacturing, consumer goods, and across industries. These partnering specialists, collaboration leaders, and strategic visionaries have the capabilities, the skills, and the superhero savvy to get it done—the same attributes that make them ideal candidates for the C-suite.

 

So what’s holding us back? Despite an abundance of evidence, not enough companies have grasped the full implications. I see many organizations focused on the transaction—and not applying partnering best practice in the retention phase of sales partnerships. As Jay argues, some of them—even among the Fortune 500—will end up losers, sticking their heads in the sand and refusing to adapt to an oncoming future where customer satisfaction is increasingly delivered through a great partner experience (Px).

 

Alliance professionals can make Px a reality right now. The lessons of past partnership failures should be enough to rally today’s C-suite leaders to seek success in the massive partnerships their organizations will undertake. In addition, organizations must begin grooming their best alliance managers for the C-suite and other positions of leadership in the future—even as they’re employing them for partner and customer retention in the present. We have the tools, the skills, and the people to get the job done; what’s needed is a true focus and consensus that partnerships are difficult and require best practices and trained professionals to make them successful. That and a hardy band of partnering superheroes—with or without the cape.

Tags:  alliance professionals  Black Duck Software  Christine Carberry  collaborative leaders  c-Suite  ecosystem  Elizabeth Gazda  Embr Labs  Google  Harvard Business School  IBM  Jay McBain  Lou Shipley  Mai-Tal Kennedy  Microsoft  MIT  partnerships  Salesforce  UNH Entrepreneurship Cen  Vantage Partners 

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