“[Sometimes higher-level executives] do not want to have what they consider ‘trivial’ conversations like that—but they are critical to alliance success,” said Jewell. “[When you have] VPs sitting around a table, and they don’t want to talk about vision, mission, differences or how to resolve them—that is a recipe for problems down the line.”
Getting to Know You— Early and Often Organizations also differ in how early in the process alliance managers get involved—some sit in on actual negotiations, whereas others enter the process only at the end of negotiations or afterward. Many in the alliance management profession believe it is a best practice for them to be present and participate in negotiations. One of those is Mary Jo Struttmann, CA-AM, senior director of alliance management at Astellas US.
develops something different, a new copier—one is a drug and one is a device.”
Pitching to the C-Suite and Wearing Two Hats Another important aspect of the alliance start-up process is getting buy-in from senior executives within one’s own company. “You’re only as effective as upper management will allow you to be,” Jewell said. “If upper management doesn’t buy into the alliance and see the value of the alliance management function, you are pretty much hand-tied to follow a natural progression of chaos.” However, beware of those internally that put their own immediate needs ahead of the alliances.
“I’m fortunate enough, here at Astellas, that my team is involved in negotiations,” said Struttmann. “Alliance management’s early interactions with potential partners focus on understanding their corporate culture. How do they approach decision making, what’s their level of commitment towards effective partnering, what’s their tolerance for risk? What’s their business philosophy? Is it similar to Astellas’? ” In fact, these interactions with the new partner—the “getting to know you” phase—are crucial, according to Struttmann. “It’s important that both corporations have a clear understanding of each other’s philosophy and approach to business,” she said. “Especially, what is each company’s level of risk? Within different corporations the tolerance for risk varies. As you begin to work together, you gain a better understanding of each other’s philosophies. [Acknowledging the] different corporate cultures—that really drives your whole approach.” Learning from your partners and optimizing the core strengths you brought them in for is rewarding—but can be challenging. And the issues that may cause frustration or misunderstanding to arise are not confined to biopharma companies, according to Jewell. “Alliances are alliances,” he said. “I don’t see a huge difference between biopharma alliances and others. Controlling the flow of information up front—everyone has that issue. We may think from a biopharma standpoint that our alliances are peculiar or different because they’re research or development based, but I don’t see how that differs from a copier company that Quarter 2, 2011
…these interactions with the new partner— the “getting to know you” phase—are crucial. It’s important that both corporations have a clear understanding of each other’s philosophy and approach to business. “You cannot represent your own interests when you have a stake in that interest,” Jewell said. “A project manager heads up a project—you can’t be objective in an alliance management discussion. You have your interest, the project, uppermost in your mind. When a problem occurs, [the project manager] can’t negotiate their way out of it, they have self-interest, they can’t remove themselves from it. They can’t even see the partner’s perspective. A true alliance manager should represent the partner, be the best ally of the partner’s interest in their organization.” Struttmann of Astellas agreed. “I’m always telling our executives, about our partners, ‘Put yourselves in their shoes. How can we mutually come together with the 11
The magazine of the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals