Collaborative Buzz Leaders Look to Strengthen Alliance Management Muscle at 2011 Chief Alliance Officer Roundtable By Art Canter
One of the highlights of ASAP’s annual Global Alliance Summit is the Chief Alliance Officer (CAO) Roundtable. This invitation-only, intimate discussion is reserved for the heads of the alliance management function of ASAP Global Sponsors and other special guests. The conversation provides a unique opportunity for these executives to share their priorities for the coming year and to get insight into what their peers are thinking. This year’s discussion focused on strengthening the alliance management “muscle” and defining the initiatives underway to build the influence of their group, attract talented people, and increase the impact of alliance management. With a diverse group of people participating, representing some of the
Regardless of the approach taken, the CAOs agreed with one participant’s comment: “It is the best job short of being CEO!” most influential companies in biopharmaceuticals, consumer goods, financial services, high-tech manufacturing, and information technology, the conversation quickly proved to be enlightening. As the economy recovers, many companies are focused on growth and are looking to their alliances as a source of innovation. In some instances this implies engaging with partners in arenas they might not have considered previously. The alliance management function is becoming more strategic, too, with several participants citing a reporting relationship with the corporate strategy group, regular updates 16
to the senior executive team, and involvement in M&A work. As alliances and other collaborations take on a greater role in the growth strategies of companies, it isn’t surprising that alliance management groups are spreading their wings a bit, too. For some this means initiatives to ensure that they are known throughout the enterprise as the source of knowledge and expertise about working in alliances and other collaborations. Often, alliance management begins in a particular business or geography. It becomes well established in that business but it isn’t always so easy to spread beyond the home base and build an enterprise capability. Several participants are working on using ASAP certification as the means to develop a common baseline of understanding throughout their companies. Finding the right people to serve as alliance managers is a perennial topic of discussion at the CAO Roundtable. Vision and foresight were among the most frequently mentioned desired abilities in an alliance manager. Thus, some CAOs look for people who are entrepreneurial—who can see a vision a few years out and bring others on board to achieve it. Being able to negotiate internally and influence the organization to achieve that vision is essential.
CAOs have differing views as to the career path of an alliance manager. One perspective is that an alliance manager should be on the path to becoming a general manager of a business unit. Another is that he or she should be pretty senior to begin with and plan on staying in alliance management for awhile. However, some companies are experimenting with developing job descriptions within alliance management that allow for career progression, to get people started early in their career, perhaps as early as recent college grads. Regardless of the approach taken, the CAOs agreed with one participant’s comment: “It is the best job short of being CEO!”
ASAP News New Staff Member
ASAP is pleased to welcome Lori Gold as manager of member services. Most recently Lori was the director of member relations and sales at the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston, where she was responsible for directing and implementing plans and programs designed to enhance the acquisition, retention, and satisfaction of all members. Previously Lori was the director of membership and business development at the Massachusetts Biotech Council, and was senior Strategic Alliance Magazine
The magazine of the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals