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Global Summit Panel Review

At the 2024 ASAP Global summit our panel of experts discussed the fundamental question of skills, knowledge and tools required for success in alliance management both today and in the future. 


The panelists were Jan Twombly, President and CEO of The Rhythm of Business, David Thompson Vice President, Global Head of Alliance Management at BeiGene, Rob Spee, Senior Vice President, Partner Ecosystems at Beyond Trust and Louis Rinfret, CEO and Founder of allianceboard.


Highlights from the conversation are presented below around the three central topics of skills, knowledge, and tools.


Skills needed for effective alliance management:


The essential skills for successful alliance management encompass operational excellence, strategic insight, and effective conflict management. This includes proficiency in partner selection, governance, problem-solving, risk management, and measurement.


“It takes special skills, systems, practices, tools, the appropriate mindset, the right culture, to partner effectively. So, we must have this capability throughout the organization”

Jan Twombly, The Rhythm of Business.


Additionally, a deep understanding of business dynamics, stakeholders, and the ability to harness both emotional and intellectual intelligence are crucial. Conflict resolution skills and the productive utilization of creative differences further enhance alliance outcomes.


“You must be great at the core basics of alliance management. You must be building operational excellence in everything you do. But to really take things to the next level and to provide that strategic insight that your executives are really looking for, you must really know your business.”

Jan Twombly, The Rhythm of Business.


When discussing skills, David Thompson, BeiGene, went on to comment

“they (alliance managers) have two characteristics. They have high EQ and high IQ… on the EQ side they must have very strong EQ”

he continued to discuss the importance of conflict resolution as an alliance manager,


“The skill to be able to manage the conflict that ensues as you get creative people together and they have different ideas.” “The alliance manager is helping generate that protective field around that (the alliance) and that requires a lot of skill in terms of upscaling your ability to manage that conflict in a productive way.”

David Thompson, BeiGene.


Knowledge required for effective alliance management:


The foundational knowledge required for effective alliance management includes a comprehensive understanding of business dynamics, legal considerations, financial implications, and stakeholder relationships.


“You must have deep knowledge, as I mentioned as of how the business works. What's the flow of activity that occurs as you're really building your product and taking into the market?”

Jan Twombly, The Rhythm of Business.


Proficiency in alliance management principles, conflict resolution techniques, risk assessment methodologies, and the ability to demonstrate economic returns and value are also essential components.


Having the knowledge, understanding and ability to orchestrate the entire portfolio or ecosystem is key to success.


“How do you build a joint value proposition with a GSI, versus a tech alliance partner, versus a reseller? It's very different, but we're training our people to have much higher skill levels, to have those business conversations to form plans to form goals and then orchestrate that ecosystem.”

Rob Spee, Beyond Trust.


Tools used for effective alliance management:


A variety of tools can be used to track and manage alliances, but the problem is that many of these are inadequate for the kind of work alliance management does. 

“Everyone is familiar with Excel, PowerPoint, Teams and SharePoint - regular productivity tools, but when you think of a system to manage alliances, not everyone understands what’s involved.” 

Louis Rinfret, Founder & CEO of allianceboard.


Specialized technology that supports alliance management by facilitating efficient capture, collaboration, and analysis of alliance data is crucial for optimizing alliance performance and outcomes. 


Louis Rinfret, allianceboard, identified three key functions of an alliance management platform:


  1. A System of record: This level focuses on establishing a structured framework for consistently capturing and managing information across the alliance portfolio. It emphasizes the importance of standardized processes and terminology to ensure clarity and alignment among team members. Most organizations today have rather patchy alliance data and instituting a system record is the first step needed to benefit from automation and insights.

  2. A System of collaboration: At this level, the emphasis shifts towards fostering collaboration and alignment among stakeholders involved in alliance management. It recognizes that alliances cannot thrive in silos and underscores the need for real-time access to shared information. Facilitating seamless collaboration enables agility within the organization, especially in dispersed work environments.

  3. A system of intelligence: The final level focuses on leveraging data to inform decision-making and drive strategic outcomes. It emphasizes the importance of transforming raw data into actionable insights that enable timely and informed decisions by stakeholders working on the alliance. With an intelligence layer supporting decision-making much like in other business functions, alliance leaders can more effectively steer alliances towards success.


Looking into the future


The panel discussed that while the future will incorporate more automation and Artificial Intelligence, the human element, particularly trust-building and relationship management will remain essential ingredients, that will be supported by evolving technologies.


These can already today facilitate establishing transparency and strong relationships both horizontally and vertically within organizations and are critical factors in fostering trust and facilitating productive collaborations.


The panel concluded that to succeed, alliance managers should continue developing their technology, business and interpersonal skills to effectively manage partnerships and drive success across different sectors. 

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