Alliance Management Consulting and Training, Partnering Frameworks and Tools, Collaborative Leadership

Bridging the Gap to the Next Normal
1. Partnering Guide / May 9th, 2020     A+ | a-
As we try to find our way to the next normal for the economy and our lives, a tremendous leadership challenge presents itself to alliance professionals: How to reimagine the people-centric business of partnering when team members’ personal lives are disrupted or worse, remote work is the norm, there is great economic uncertainty, and intense pressure on resources? Add to this the fact that cross-industry, multi-partner as well as public-private collaboration is required to innovate our way out of this crisis. The number of partnerships for tests, vaccines, treatments, and medical equipment is exploding, as this graphic from CB Insights (Figure1) depicts. How can alliance management expertise be applied to this speed, scale, and scope of partnering so that time and money is not squandered by the inherent inefficiencies in partnering?

Even before COVID-19 biopharmaceutical alliance managers were dealing with an increased demand for their services as companies’ traditional alliance portfolios continued to grow in size and complexity. Now there is a new urgency to rethink how alliance management is done. The leadership opportunity is to reimagine how alliance management practices are implemented and the capability is organized and resourced to meet growing and changing demand.

Alliance managers we’ve spoken with over the past couple of months have been focused on keeping their alliances on track, being mindful of new risks especially in the supply chain, managing the financial risks of delayed clinical trials and milestone payments, and working hard to keep everyone connected. Even if some people relish the lack of a commute or feel they are more productive working at home, work has changed in ways that many folks say “takes about three hours more each day just to keep up.” Resiliency, agility, and creativity are essential, as both alliance managers and teams must pivot with dizzying speed to what matters most. The opportunity and perhaps the silver lining in all of this is the status quo is no more and there is license to do things differently—to fix what is broken, to try new ways of working, and to accelerate the adoption of digital to create greater transparency for stakeholders and facilitate communication. Everything that has been done in the past can—and in many instances must—be reimagined.

Reimagining Alliance Management as an Agile Capability

The need to become more agile, iterative, and focused on what truly matters is great. Testing and experimentation are the order of the day to learn, for example, how to finally turn governance meetings from half-day update meetings into one-hour discussion and decision making forums that perhaps happen monthly instead of quarterly. Or to introduce new collaborative tools to working sessions so that teams spread across multiple time zones can be co-creating on a shared virtual whiteboard, gaining consensus about priorities and making choices by voting with digital sticky notes.

It is also an opportunity to think about how alliance management resources are allocated and even who is an alliance manager, given the proliferation of partnerships. Does the scope of services your team offers change to pick up new cross-industry digital partnerships or the company’s first foray into diagnostics? How exactly does one approach a partnership between a biopharma company, a tech company, and a government agency? The lack of experience with the many new business models and the speed with which they are being put together suggests there will be more than the usual operational, legal, and financial uncertainties. Shouldn’t trained alliance managers be assigned to these new risks, even if it means some traditional partnerships have to be put in the care of others? 

Applying agile principles to rethinking how work is done keeps focus on what matters most, on working in teams, testing and learning in rapid work cycles, and prioritizing delivering value to customers and stakeholders. (See Figure 2—Characteristics of Agile Alliance Management Teams). They have been applied to businesses as varied as Haier, a white goods manufacturer, and global healthcare companies such as F. Hoffmann-LaRoche with impressive results. Agile principles can be adapted and applied to the practice of alliance management.

To introduce this approach to reimagining alliance management, we are presenting an ASAP Netcast Webinar Reimagining Alliance Management as an Agile Capability When Business as Usual is "Just Too Hard" on June 11th from 12:00-1:00 EDT. Some of what the webinar will discuss includes:
  • How to build a stable backbone to enable rapid decision making and a focus on work that creates value
  • An agile approach to staffing the management of alliances that better utilizes available resources
  • How to use specialist roles to drive innovation
  • How to create service level agreements to ensure services provided are those that deliver the greatest value to stakeholders
  • The benefits of digitizing workflow and administration to deliver consistently superior work product—and build good alliance hygiene among stakeholders
ASAP Netcasts are offered as a benefit to members, but we are able to offer non-members complimentary access by entering the discount code web061120 at check-out.  To register for the webinar, go to

There is no doubt these are challenging times. Collaboration and partnering has never been more important in all aspects of our lives. The Rhythm of Business is creatively addressing the challenge and ready to work with you to reimagine alliance management and bridge the gap to the next normal.
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