A global pharmaceutical company discovered varying levels of performance among the alliances in their portfolio. Anecdotal evidence indicated that the alliance managers across the organization worked in isolation from one another, repeating each others’ mistakes and failing to share and perpetuate best practices.
Senior executives agreed that the company needed a more systematic approach to alliance management, but knew that, given budget and culture, a centralized alliance management function was not realistic. Still, they needed a way to build capability across a widely distributed network of alliance managers and alliance employees.
Like most in the industry, this pharmaceutical company recognized that alliances and collaboration were critical to innovation and a strong pipeline of new products. In an effort to improve its ability to execute alliances consistently well, they approached Vantage Partners for help.
After consultation with the client, Vantage Partners chose a unique approach to building alliance management capability — a community of practice. The Alliance Management Community of Practice is a network connecting alliance practitioners across project teams, locations, and functions through a joint commitment to sharing and developing alliance knowledge and other methods of alliance management. To build this community of practice, Vantage worked closely with a small group of alliance managers from different divisions of the company to identify common alliance management challenges.
Illustrative examples included:
- Multiple, inconsistent alliance management processes existed across the organization
- Alliance practitioners lacked tools to accomplish common activities like launching alliances, making joint decisions with alliance partners, reviewing alliances, and handling conflict
- The role and career path of alliance managers was not clear, and there was no mechanism for identifying and training such individuals
- Lessons learned were not being documented and disseminated across alliances or functions
To address these challenges, Vantage Partners helped the client create a standard alliance management process as well as supporting tools to be used by alliance managers across the company. To facilitate knowledge capture and dissemination, an intranet-based forum was implemented so alliance managers could access the processes and tools and share lessons and best practices. Vantage Partners then designed and facilitated networking and training sessions for all alliance managers so they could network with one another, learn the process their peers had built with help from Vantage Partners, and be trained on new alliance management skills.
The Alliance Management Community of Practice is now a functioning network of alliance managers representing the client’s worldwide offices. Its members continue to use and improve the original process and toolset that Vantage Partners created with them. Today, when employees take on alliance management responsibilities for the first time, they are incorporated into this network and are given immediate access to both experienced mentors and a wealth of knowledge about effective alliance management. Since the formation of the Alliance Management Community of Practice, this pharmaceutical company has come to be recognized as a "partner of choice." The skills-training and knowledge-sharing has resulted in the following benefits:
- Decreased time required to make alliance management decisions across organizational groups
- Improved efficiency of clinical trials due to better relationships with a network of strategic contract research organizations
- Millions of dollars saved by improved alliance relationships