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Why Are We Here? Partnering to Make Good Things Happen

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Thursday, September 17, 2020

Melinda Richter’s journey began very humbly, in a small wooden house with no running water in northern Canada. Growing up in that harsh environment with her parents and seven siblings wasn’t easy, especially in winter. But she was determined, she says: “I was going to change my story.”

That story and its implications rippled through Richter’s day three keynote address at the 2020 ASAP BioPharma Conference, “The Power of Partnership: Driving Innovation for Patients.” And for Richter, now global head of JLABS for Johnson & Johnson Innovation, another key phrase to ponder might be “the power of why.”

A subsequent chapter in her story found Richter living in Beijing and working for a tech company. She was making pretty good money and, as she said, “I thought I had the world by the tail.” Then she was literally “bit by a bug” while walking outdoors and wound up very ill in a Beijing hospital room, where the doctors sadly told her there was nothing they could do for her and she should call her family and say goodbye.

“That changed my life,” she said. She decided that if she lived, she would go to work in healthcare. Somehow she did survive, quit her corporate job, “sold everything,” and went to San Francisco. She was not a scientist but a businessperson, and she thought she might be able to apply some of her tech industry experience to healthcare by identifying problems and coming up with creative solutions.

Using Tech Savvy to Change Life Sciences

This is all in a day’s work for tech, but in the life sciences it’s a little more complicated, given that “before you even turn the lights on” you have to have infrastructure, make investments in capital equipment, follow the scientific process, understand the regulations, and then resign yourself to the fact that it may take 8 to 12 years or more to get a drug to market. If you’re an investor, Richter asked, where would you rather put your money—on the next Instagram, or an oncology drug development program?

Yet Richter persisted, raising $6 million initially to open her first facility and dedicating 50 percent of its common space to help incubate and innovate fresh ideas and new science. A few years and about a billion dollars in deals later she found she needed to expand, and secured a meeting with Johnson & Johnson representatives in San Diego where she pitched the wild notion that “if we put our respective strengths together, we could maybe change the scale in life sciences.”

Maybe not so wild, because the result was JLABS, which has grown from its first facility in San Diego to encompass a number of locations in North America, and recently in Europe and China as well. All of these, Richter stressed, are collaborations—public-private partnerships with government entities such as BARDA (the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority), as well as partnerships with startups, pharma companies, and others.

Getting the Best Solutions to the People

One of the BARDA collaborations is focused on trying to sniff out the next coronavirus-type pandemic. Called “Blue Knight,” its purpose is to “anticipate the next COVID-19 challenge, take the best solutions, and then amplify them out to our global citizens,” Richter explained.

So far, according to Richter, JLABS has done nearly $40 billion worth of deals, amounting to some 150-plus collaborations with 673 companies in its network. What’s more, the organization is 30 percent women-led—vs. 1 percent in the industry—and 29 percent minority-led—vs. 8 percent industry-wide.

Companies apply to JLABS for space, investment connections and opportunities, and coaching that will help them get to the next level and help solve our greatest healthcare problems—aiming at not only more and better treatments, but also better quality of and access to healthcare.

Or as Richter put it, JLABS seeks “to accelerate solutions to patients and make them cheaper, so everyone can have access and everyone can afford it.” Currently this includes working on solutions to the COVID-19 crisis—“If there’s a bigger cause I don’t know about it,” Richter acknowledged.

Why Are You Here? To Walk Through Walls

To do this work, of course, it helps to be passionate about what you do—or as Richter said, to “walk through walls to get it done.” In explaining her mindset, she admitted that when things don’t go well, even today she returns in her memory to that hospital room in Beijing where she wondered whether she was even going to live to see another day. “Then I dust myself off, pick myself up, and get back to work.”

Richter nudged the virtual audience to ask themselves: “Why are you here? Why do you do what you do?” This would seem to have great resonance with our biopharma contingent, who regularly remind themselves and others that the purpose of all their painstaking alliance management effort is ultimately to bring about better outcomes for patients who desperately need that help—thus, Richter said, “fighting for something that’s bigger than you.”

In alliances and partnerships, too, it’s useful to return to these “existential” questions: “What is the purpose that is bigger than ourselves? What are we trying to accomplish together? What can we all do to get over this hump?”

A Powerful Proposition

Not that it isn’t frustrating at times. Richter noted that while she and others started as early as two years ago trying to anticipate something like COVID-19, “we were still too late. We haven’t done this well enough.”

Moreover, organizations doing this important work also need to take a hard look at their own composition—specifically their gender and ethnic diversity. “Our leadership teams don’t look enough like our population,” she said, adding that she had to keep revisiting her own organization’s record, challenging her own assumptions, and striving for improvement. “Which ethnic minorities are absent?” she asked. “It’s something we all need to do better. What are we missing?” This is not just about fulfilling arbitrary quotas, she stressed, but about organizations better understanding the needs of the communities and populations they serve.

Finally, in answer to a question during the Q&A portion of the presentation, Richter acknowledged that JLABS—a series of collaborations that now stretches across the globe—began with one conversation, one meeting, one pitch, and one agreement based on trust, honesty, and transparency. It was important for J&J to understand the risks of Richter’s proposal, and for her to answer their concerns, but also for her to be honest that “things can go wrong.”

And as in any alliance, there has to be the faith and trust on both sides that, as Richter articulated it, “We’re going to figure it out and solve things in the moment. That’s a very powerful proposition.”

Tags:  alliance  BARDA collaborations  collaborations  J&J Innovation  JLABS  life sciences  Melinda Richter  partnerships  strategic  trust 

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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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‘It’s About the Relationships, Stupid’—Finding the Fullest Potential and Meaning in Your Partnerships

Posted By Geena B. Richards and Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Maria Olson, CSAP encouraged her audience to reach their full potential in business alliances during an inspirational talk at the 2017 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Profit, Innovation, and Value for the Part­nering Enterprise,” Feb. 28–March 2, at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley, San Diego, California. During one of four plenary  “Leadership Spotlights,” NetApp’s vice president of global and strategic alliances told her listeners, “You have a duty to understand your true potential. If you don’t, you are cheating yourself and stealing from the world.” She then then provided several tools for unlocking that “true potential.”

Olson will be providing more thoughtful advice for her fellow leaders as a panelist at the ASAP Tech Partner Forum to be held at NVIDIA in Santa Clara, Calif., next Wed., June 7, 2017. In an in-depth session moderated by Erna Arnesen, chief channel and alliance officer at ZL Technologies, Olson will join Steen Graham of Intel, and Andres Sintes of Cisco to discuss “Strategies You Need to Partner Everywhere.” http://www.asaptechforum.org/17/tech17sessions.html#everywhere

“It’s not about the tech, it’s about the relationships . . . Without the relationships, we would not have the success,” Olson emphasized in her March 1 plenary talk. “As partners, have we reached the full potential, or are we still on the journey?” she then asked the audience to consider. Partnerships are important, and if they can reach peak potential and performance, they can have an even larger impact, she added. To do so, consider four key questions:

  • What is the meaning of the partnership?
  • What is the purpose of the partnership?
  • What impact is this partnership having on our customers and the market?
  • What contribution is this having in terms of revenue, innovation, and to our society as a whole?

It can be approached like a mathematical equation, Olson said: “You need to understand the meaning, purpose, contribution, and impact. When you understand these things, it will ultimately lead to success.” Ask yourself, “What was the meaning of this partnership? It was really about creating value for the customer,” she then answered. “The purpose was flexibility—being able to bring together pieces to make it easy for the customers. The impact it has had is innovation.”

Now consider multi-alliances, she continued. “Trying to work with two partners is hard, but with each new partner, it gets harder and harder. The multiplier effect is like partnering with an earthquake. You have a Richter Scale going on of 10.” To organize and assess many partnerships, she advised following these key points:

  • Have key performance measures in place to measure partner success
  • Measure revenue in terms of go-to-market initiatives
  • Consider how the company is performing in terms of training and enablement with channel partners
  • Make co-innovation a priority

With each relationship, applying these points will bring greater alliance success, Olson said. “The key to relationships is trust. . . . Trust is extra important in terms of being able to partner with companies and go back to the meaning, purpose, etc. Without trust, one cannot create greatness,” she added.

“So how do you help your teams understand their full potential? The Cisco/NetApp partnership is about 10 years old, and we’re still reaching our full potential,” she concluded, and then she hinted at one last secret ingredient for the sauce: “What really drives people is learning, really trying to learn how to do things in a friendly environment.”

Learn more about the June 7, 2017 ASAP Tech Partner Forum, an all-day event for senior tech and partnering executives hosted by NVIDIA at its corporate HQ in Santa Clara, Calif., at www.asaptechforum.org

Tags:  Andres Sintes  ASAP Tech Partner Forum  Cisco  co-innovation  contribution  Erna Arnesen  go-to-market  High Tech  inpact  Intel  Internet of Things  IoT  Maria Olson  multi-alliances  NetApp  NVIDIA  Partner success  partnerships  Steen Graham  trust  ZL Technologies 

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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor—Effectively Employing the Breadth of People in Your Alliance

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, September 6, 2016

To maximize the value of an alliance, it’s important to effectively employ and appreciate the full mix of participantsfrom your sidekick partner to the trainer and sponsor in the background.  That was the focus of the session “People, Process, Culture: Building a Winning Alliance Program” at the 2016 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Partnering Everywhere: Expert Leadership for the Eco­system,” at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland. The discussion was led by three individuals who built highly successful collaborative programs from scratch: Joe Havrilla, senior vice president and global head of business development & licensing, Bayer Pharmaceuticals; Gerry Dehkes, CSAP, global cyber ecosystem lead at Booz Allen Hamilton; David Erienborn, CSAP, director of strategic alliances at KPMG. During the session, they spent a considerable amount of time plying the question of how to create a thriving dynamic between your alliance team, partners, and even ex-partners. 

Joe: At the end of the day, the strategy is about people. Microsoft and KPMG are not going to do anything, since they do not exist other than in our heads they are not going to do anything. You only have the beginning of a strategy until you have taken your strategy from the company down to the people. People come into work not to execute a strategy; they come in with their own strategy. So how do I align their strategy to our best interests? In some cases, you also may need to work with the ex-partner.  If you understand ahead of time where you are in conflict with the other company, you can design a way of working together. 

Gerald: Here’s the approach we took, which is the secret sauce of this particular alliance program. Typically an alliance director will talk with partners and service leaders, and then bring in sales people. We realized the benefit of 10-20 alliance managerswith each trying to get to that sales forceand decided to take that part of the organization and organize it around the industry groups. Really position the alliance enablement person, and they would have only one person to go to. We found that to be very effective, those folks became part of the team. They decided strategies, winning alliance-based offers, they would always be there for that industry. That model helped us become successful. It’s that last piece that’s criticalgetting those alliances out to sales-facing people. 

David: It’s important that training people understand what they are trying to accomplish. If you can translate alliances at a company level down into the mind of the educators, and that this whole alliance is to get them to do something, they become aware of the importance of training to do something. It’s important for them to know this is the strategy. How do you set this up so they get visibility and appreciation? You need to make the training people a winner. 

Joe: You need to know the difference between sales and revenue, understand what margin is, and understand that finance people will be called on for estimates. If I include them from the beginning, I am a lot more likely to get their support when I need it. Another group that is important to your alliance are the sponsors. I’m an advocate and agent, but not the sponsor. They can bring resources to bear and spend time on building relationships. The alliance should be one of their top four priorities for their year. They have to be someone who can really step up. There aren’t any sponsor schools, they’ve never been trained to do it. We need to help sponsors understand what their job is, invest time in it, determine who can be a sponsor, and make sure they have the training to do it. 

Gerald: You need to define the elements of value that all the partners are looking for. It’s not a specific part of the agreement or financial transaction, yet it’s a strongly held expectation of the partner. If you don’t clarify that up front, you wind up being surprised. If there was an expectation that was discussed earlier, but you never codified the agreement or the people responsible for executing the agreement, then you have disconnect and conflict. It’s important that somebody is capturing the expectations. The other tool that is helpful upfront is to do a partner fit as part of due diligence. When you start with a rigorous checklist approach on partner resources, decision process, internal policies and procedures, you can mitigate conflicts down the road. 

David: Trust is predictability. I don’t trust my 15 year old to drive a car because I can’t predict. So we do a lot of trust building. As you get more of your people out there dealing with partners, you have to educate them and give them the boundary conditions, not to restrain them, but you want a consistent approach. You want enough leeway to solve problems. You don’t want to inhibit them from creativity, but you want predictability. 

Tags:  agreement  alignment  alliance team  Bayer Pharmaceuticals  CSAP  David Erienborn  Gerry Dehkes  Joe Havrilla  KPMG  sales  sponsors  strategies  strategy  Trust 

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