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

Reimagining Alliance Management as an Agile Capability--Part Two of Four
1. Partnering Guide / March 14th, 2020     A+ | a-
This is Part Two of a Four Part post on adapting and applying certain principles of agile management as a means of meeting the increased demand for alliance management services as the scale, scope, and complexity of biopharmaceutical asset, service, digital, and data alliances and partnerships grows.

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.’”  

Read Part One of Reimagining Alliance Management as an Agile Capability

Practice Component 1:  Resourcing the Portfolio

One of the key reasons for reimagining alliance management as an agile capability is because there is currently a mismatch between the scale of enterprise partnering and professional alliance management resources. Current practice addresses this through traditional tiering and scoping that result in unmanaged alliances and diminished value to stakeholders of alliance managers who are spread too thin to deeply engage in their alliances.[1]

Partnering is occurring in all corners of the business, but much of it is not benefitting from the application of alliance management principles, no doubt resulting in avoidable mistakes, and lost time and money. Alliance leadership tells us they simply don’t have the resources to staff new types of partnerships, such as digital, specialized service providers, or academia. Alliance managers are an expensive resource, so not all alliances and partnerships should receive professional alliance management on an ongoing basis; however, all alliances benefit from the application of good alliance practices, such as ensuring alignment on goals and objectives, effective decision making, good governance, and appropriate resource allocation.[2]

The Alliance Management Resourcing Front Door Process

Part of what gives an enterprise the agility to make rapid decisions and focus on work that creates value is that it has a stable backbone—what we describe as a collaborative leadership system—that governs among other things how and by whom decisions are made, resources allocated, and risks managed.[3] This backbone should include a governance process for determining a resourcing and management strategy for each alliance. A process of this type is sometimes known as the “front door,” (See Figure 2- Alliance Management Resourcing Front Door Process) because it provides a single-entry point to the process. In this instance, all alliances and partnerships, whether an alliance is asset-based, service-based, or digital (represented in Figure 2 as the Partner Ecosystem) enter this process for a decision on resourcing.

Decisions about how an alliance or partnership should be managed require that its value assumption as well as economic, operating, and governance models (collectively, the business model) are known. As a result, the alliance management resourcing process is initiated once an alliance or partnership is agreed to and its business model defined. Alliance management is generally a contributor to the partner selection and design process not the owner, whereas it is responsible for allocating the resources assigned to manage an alliance.

Any external relationship where there is shared risk and reward should come through the front door and be evaluated by specific criteria across three dimensions:
  • Criticality to the business – A measure of how essential it is to strategy and business outcomes that the risks this alliance presents are managed and intended value is maximized
  • Degree of cross-functionality – A measure of the internal complexity inherent because of the number of functions, therapeutic areas, business units, and/or geographies that have to be aligned to minimize risks and maximize value
  • Partner interconnectivity – A measure of the external complexity inherent because of the number of collaborations with other companies in the ecosystem that the partner has to make successful to ensure risks are managed and value maximized in the core alliance
As a result of this analysis, each alliance is placed on the segmentation framework in Figure 2 at the appropriate intersection of the three dimensions. The specific placement defines:

1. The resourcing for the management of the alliance—Options include:
  • A professional alliance management team, specialists known as a “node team” in agile parlance
  • A cross-functional market-facing team
  • A cross-functional innovation team
  • A specialist function, such as a gene therapy manufacturing team
Depending on how a company’s alliance management function is organized, the node team could be centralized or it could be embedded in a business, a therapeutic area, geography, or function. The other resourcing options could have individual members who are full-time, trained alliance professionals, or the responsibility could be an add-on to a person’s core role.

2. The level of alliance management services required for alliances with similar profiles—All alliances require certain basic services, such as guiding the startup process, reporting, and contract management. More complex alliances require higher value services (See Figure 3 – Examples of Higher Value Services) such as:                     
  • Proactive decision planning, risk management, and problem solving
  • Hands-on leadership of the alliance governance
  • Facilitating the negotiation of subsidiary agreements, such as quality, pharmacovigilance, and co-promotion agreements
  • Navigating relationships with ecosystem partners, such as clinical collaborators
  • Ensuring leadership has a holistic view of all alliance and relevant ecosystem activities
This is hardly an exhaustive list of the services stakeholders’ value. In practice, different alliance profiles are aligned to Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to set expectations with stakeholders about the work of alliance managers. SLAs provide role clarity and drive accountability, both essential elements for greater value.

Managing the Alliance Management Resourcing Front Door Process

The front door evaluation process establishes pro-forma profiles representing a segmentation of certain combinations of the three dimensions—criticality to the business, internal cross-functional complexity, and complexity caused by external partner interconnectivity. In keeping with an agile posture, this process should be carried out by a team consisting of an alliance professional, a member of the transaction team, a market-facing member, and/or an innovation professional, depending on the focus of the alliance. The team may need to reach out to key experts to help understand the business criticality, such as a gene therapy manufacturing team, or data scientist in the case of a partnership to accelerate drug discovery using artificial intelligence (AI). Their initial evaluation of the partnership will be based on many assumptions because the partnership has just been initiated, but that is OK. As the partnership develops, the evaluation will be revisited on a regular cadence. Agility requires learning fast. It also looks to redeploy resources as conditions warrant.

Employing an agile front door process means that all partnerships and alliances, regardless of their nature and purpose, be they pre-clinical research, co-development and co-commercial, for AI platform technologies, or digital health,  are evaluated and mapped to an appropriate alliance management strategy and receive a commensurate level of alliance management expert services to minimize risk and maximize value. That’s the starting point to ensure the complete portfolio is appropriately. resourced and managed.

Read Part Three of Reimagining Alliance Management as an Agile Capability
[1] No Longer Any Doubt: Alliance Management is an Essential Strategic Capability for Today’s Biopharmaceutical Company, Jan Twombly and Jeff Shuman, Strategic Alliance Magazine, Q3 2018
[2] The ASAP Handbook of Alliance Management: A Practitioner’s Guide, Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals, 2013
[3] “Collaborative Leadership: The Antidote to the Collaboration Paradox,” The Partnering Guide, January 21, 2020, https://rhythmofbusiness. com/insights.php?pid=91
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