Download a pdf of all four parts of “Reimagining Alliance Management as an Agile Capability” plus “What to Do When it Gets ‘Just Too Hard.’”
In our post What to Do When It Gets “Just Too Hard” we describe a challenge biopharmaceutical alliance professionals are facing: How to provide proactive, value creating alliance management services to company stakeholders and partners when the number, variety, and technical complexity of partnerships exceeds the ability of alliance managers to implement a traditional management model across the scale and scope of the overall corporate portfolio. A promising approach to the problem lies in adapting and applying certain principles of agile management. In this post we explore what is meant by agile and how it can be implemented in an alliance management context.
Agile is a way of working and organizing that enables innovation, collaboration, and value creation at scale and with greater efficiency than models that come from a time when the business environment was less dynamic than it is today. It is about working smarter, not harder. It encourages experimentation, not rigid planning. The objective of agile is to produce more value from less work because of an intense focus on a customer-centric North Star—the reason for the work, stated from the perspective of the value created for customers. As a way of working, agile aligns very well with the objectives of alliance management—to minimize risk and maximize value.
Agile is also a mindset. It is a process of discovery, prompting action before there is certainty about the path forward, providing comfort in the knowledge that there are plenty of built-in milestones and opportunities to iterate assumptions along the way to the North Star. It requires leaders who are comfortable in devolving authority to teams and being coaches, fostering collaboration among cross-functional teams. And it requires a mindset of abundance to focus on value creation—a hallmark of collaboration. Sounds a lot like the mindset of a successful alliance professional, doesn’t it?
Aligning Agility with Alliance Management
The benefits of working and organizing agilely can be significant. According to McKinsey, “Agile organizations can develop products five times faster, make decisions three times faster, and reallocate resources adroitly and quickly.” For example, “Allergan has reduced the review time for promotional materials from weeks to days and in some cases even hours.” “Product launches have come in 20% under budget and with 20% productivity improvements.” Maximizing value and minimizing risk in an alliance is done in large part by unleashing the creativity that comes from bringing different parties together, reducing the inefficiencies inherent in partnering, and preventing the cost of time from eroding value by ensuring:
- The partners have a common language with shared meaning
- There is alignment on a path forward
- Decisions are made timely
- Resources of each party are brought forth and appropriately leveraged
- Work is distributed and not duplicated
All of these outcomes of good alliance management are emblematic of what agile ways of working produce.
Applying agile techniques focuses efforts on creating value for customers, stakeholders, and partners. They help successfully manage the portfolio at scale. The implementation of alliance management principles and processes is adapted to eliminate unnecessary work and alliance management organizations are redesigned to address the complexity and ubiquity of partnering today. The following presents an introduction to applying agile principles to alliance management. (See Figure 1 – Applying Agile Principles to Alliance Management). It is not an exhaustive treatment. It is an entry point to think differently about organizing and utilizing available alliance management resources to deliver value creating services.
Read Part Two of Reimagining Alliance Management as an Agile Capability
 Aaron De Smet, Michael Lurie, Andrew St George. “Leading agile transformation: The new capabilities leaders need to build 21st-century organizations.” McKinsey & Company, October 2018
 V. Srikant, G. Freeland, M. Lopez, and D. Gerber “Agile Can Work Wonders in Pharma,” Boston Consulting Group, September 9, 2019