ASAP BioPharma executive roundtable debrief: designing your alliance management dashboard

Together with our partners Jan Twombly and Jeff Shuman of The Rhythm of Business, Louis Rinfret, allianceboard founder and CEO, and Michael Roch, allianceboard Chief Commercial Officer, presented a session on alliance management digitization at the ASAP BioPharma Conference 2020.


We also were privileged to host an executive roundtable on the subject with many alliance management leaders around the globe. This article summarizes what we learned.


Current limitations in analogue ways of tracking, reporting and managing alliances

Our executives were quite candid about what they don’t like about current ways of working. Top mentions included:

  • E-mail overload. Tracking all milestones in excel and pushing files back and forth results in a lot of e-mails and broken communications.

  • SharePoint as a document repository is attractive to IT yet can be inferior. Participants mentioned lost documents and version control issues.

  • Milestone tracking in Outlook doable but cumbersome and lonesome.

  • Files on individual computers causing problems when teams leave alliance management – one participant mentioned trying to find 2015 minutes that were JSC relevant after an employee left.

  • Adapting other systems for alliance management not working well. For example, one participant’s company adapted MS Dynamics CRM for alliance management – which “everyone hated” and was discontinued.

These observations match up well with the limitations of current alliance management systems that senior alliance executives have shared with us over time:

  • Inherent vulnerabilities (and risks) of manual reporting, such as version controls, key person risk, etc.

  • Inability to see interrelation between collaboration risks and opportunities (an often overlooked value-creation opportunity by alliance teams)

  • No ability to integrate with tools used by other functions (such as the ERP or finance system for milestone payment information reporting)

  • Absence of historic record means new AMs struggle to be effective quickly

  • Lack of transparency with top management team and key business stakeholders

  • Alliance performance: different versions of the truth between the organization and its partners


Desired end state: wish list for a digital alliance management platform

Our participants were quite aligned about their desired end-state. Top mentions included:

  • Easy to use interface and dashboard

  • Risk management visibility across the portfolio to proactively manage risk and save costs before they are incurred

  • Ability to see milestone dates as linked to key program dates

  • A common system of record and workflows that helps institutionalize alliance management within the organization

  • Ability to keep all alliance data in once place as alliance management is moved around the organization. (NB: Here participants confirmed our observation that in the last 18 months alliance management keeps getting moved from strategy to business development to corporate development / M&A and back to strategy…)

  • Leverage technology for a better allocation of alliance management human capital. As one participant put it: “how many high touch alliances can I handle with the people I have; how do I best deploy them?”

The above limitations and desires resonate strongly with the many conversations we have had with executives in recent months.


A consistent theme

Even before 2020, there is a global trend towards smaller business units, flatter organizations with more decision-empowered individuals and less hierarchy. This, coupled with the remote way of operating that has become the norm in 2020, means that devolved, collaboration-platform based work is here to stay.


The most successful organizations will use technology to establish a common language across their business teams. We remain convinced that the only way for alliance management teams to help drive their practices across an organization is by embracing digitization for their function, activities and stakeholder interactions.


Your next steps

Reimagine what your alliance management function could look like once well-supported by intuitive alliance management technology:

If you prefer, peruse our various insights and resources to learn more:

As always, we welcome your feedback.