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

Digitize Your Alliance Management Practice to Provide Visibility, Promote Agility, and Create Value
1. Partnering Guide / June 30th, 2020     A+ | a-
This is the first in a series of posts from allianceboard, a next generation alliance management platform and The Rhythm of Business on why the time has come to digitize your practice to drive value for stakeholders, your partners, and you.

The Time to Digitize is Now

We’re Zooming and Hanging Out every day. Going-to-Meeting, Teaming, and Webexing from morning until night. These conferencing apps are familiar tools to alliance managers; it is just that our reliance on them has grown as we manage alliances from a distance. As helpful as they are when meeting virtually, approximating face-to-face meetings except for the essential relationship-building step of breaking bread and raising a glass, they facilitate only a portion of alliance management activity that provides the services stakeholders value. The demands of remote work lay bare the need to accelerate an essential component of applying agile principles to alliance management—digitizing certain aspects of alliance management workflow and administration.

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. Add to that all the new types of service, data, and digital partnerships being stood up and it was clear the time has come to reimagine how alliance management practices are implemented and the capability organized and resourced to meet growing demand. With COVID-19 and remote work, an additional burden has been added, but a new urgency to rethink how alliance management is done presents itself. The need to become more agile, iterative, and focused on what truly matters is great.

Improve Visibility and Access to Information

Visibility is more important than ever when people have to work harder to stay informed and aligned. It is critical to have a centralized, digital location where they can access information and documents and keep track of workplans and projects. Additionally, with a digital platform it is easy for team members to provide updates on projects, making their status visible to all without time consuming manual updating of spreadsheets that then have to be emailed around. Version control is no longer an issue!

A digital alliance management platform enables greater efficiency with fewer vulnerabilities by centralizing all important information. It provides the ability to view, analyze and report on an overall alliance portfolio, a single alliance, or a project within an alliance, depending on the user’s need. Alliance management leadership can generate their own dashboards (See Figure 1 - Dashboard Example), getting the overall picture of the work of their team without the time-consuming process of having each alliance manager prepare a report and then aggregating them. The platform also enables reporting of data and analytics senior leadership needs to appreciate just how much of their business is done through alliances and the contributions of alliance managers to overall business results.

Individual alliance managers spend an inordinate amount of time updating, following-up and reporting to their alliance teams and governance committees. With a digital platform they can better track projects, plans, risks, timelines, and required actions, freeing them to focus on more value creating activities. Most other strategic business functions are already doing this. It is time for alliance management to get onboard. The requirements of remote work add a new urgency to the need.

Maximizing Value Creation   

By going digital with the routine work of alliance management, there is a greater ability to focus on higher-value services, such as providing strategic oversight, ensuring the right stakeholders are convened (virtually) to work through issues before they become problems, or leading a negotiation. A platform also helps an alliance manager be more proactive, with current information at their finger-tips, which is something stakeholders greatly value. Being proactive can prevent delayed or sub-optimized decisions, which cost both time and money.

One of the ways alliance managers add value is by implementing consistency of practice, so that stakeholders know what to expect and experience similar processes and services on similar alliances. This is very hard to do when systems are manual, as each alliance manager will do things differently, despite the existence of handbooks and standard templates. With a digital platform, routine processes can be implemented in an efficient, structured, and predictable way. For example, the project known as an alliance startup could have its preset plan and reports that every alliance manager uses. Of course, there will always be some customization but when this is coupled with a front-end governance process that classifies each alliance as complex, typical, or simple and has a slate of services aligned to each classification, customization will be minimal. Critical steps or stakeholders won’t be missed and the alliance will become fully functional faster and more efficiently.

There are many additional benefits of digitization, including minimizing the risk of important deadlines being missed, improving the onboarding process for new team members, and automating notifications of pending milestone payments. Document management becomes much more efficient when there is a single version of the truth and email as well as documents can be related to a governance committee, a project, or a task so that they are available when needed, greatly reducing frustrating and time-wasting searches. Should documents be required for a legal purpose, they are easily identified. All of these benefits are elements of making alliance management more agile and better able to keep the focus on maximizing value for customers and partners.

Digitization Enhances Resourcing Strategy

As the business model of biopharmaceutical companies evolves, it is only becoming more and more reliant on partners. Alliance management teams will never have “enough” professional resources, nor will an individual alliance manager have “enough” time to fully manage all of these new partners. Leadership should want professional alliance managers to be engaged with new types of partners and new partnering models, as there are likely greater uncertainties and thus greater risks than there are in traditional asset-based partnerships.  Thus it becomes important to have a resourcing and service strategy that can better leverage a professional alliance manager’s time by enabling self-service for stakeholders of basic alliance processes, or by making it easier for a non-alliance manager member of the team to assume those responsibilities—with some training, of course.  An alliance management platform will do that, essentially adding resource while protecting against the risk of unmanaged alliances.

When it comes time to shift resources, perhaps reassigning responsibility from an early stage team to a commercial team, or when someone leaves a job and a new person is hired, the hand-over is easy. No more hunting for minutes to understand what decisions have been made. No more searching for documents. The new team or alliance manager can pick up where the prior manager left off without missing a beat.

A New Generation of Platform

Until recently, most of the software available to alliance managers was either designed for business developers who need CRM-like functionality or for project managers who need detail tracking of activities and budget on projects that could be part of the activity of a partnership, but aren’t the partnership (See Figure 2 - Goals, Deliverables, and Projects). Now there are alliance management specific platforms that have been designed with the work and practices of alliance managers at the core. Allianceboard is one such platform. It was designed by alliance managers for alliance managers and takes into account the alliance lifecycle as well as the structure of alliances and how they are typically implemented. The Rhythm of Business is partnering with Allianceboard to help alliance managers successfully navigate their way to a digitized practice.

Considerations in Digitizing Your Practice

The value and benefits of implementing an alliance management platform are significant—and alliance managers should not overlook that it is a change initiative like any other that requires careful planning, clear communication of expectations of the team and stakeholders, and a well-laid out implementation and adoption plan. Alliance managers and stakeholders expected to use the platform will need some level of training in its use and in the new procedures to be implemented. The opportunity and perhaps the silver lining in our next normal of remote work is that 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, empowering alliance managers to confidently steer alliances towards success, invest their time where they can have the biggest impact, and ultimately improve their organization’s ROI in strategic alliances

Interested in Learning More?

Download the allianceboard solution overview or contact The Rhythm of Business or allianceboard for a free personalized consultation.
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