I recently had the chance to participate in a webinar joining Rob Barber of Mundipharma and Philippe Lievre of Novartis to discuss best practices in Alliance Management.

Both Rob and Philippe have an incredible amount of experience in AM and were able to share tips and trends that were appreciated by the webinar audience. The length and dynamism of the Q&A session after their short presentations were a testament to the hunger for knowledge and engagement on AM.

Missed the webinar? You can catch a replay here.

There was a lot of value shared by Rob and Philippe and while it is hard to sum up everything they shared, there were three key takeaways for me.

The importance of partnering and building an alliance management culture

Partnering in pharma is more and more important and an increasingly large part of revenue is being driven by medicines and therapies developed as a result of partnerships. While much of the industry’s attention remains focused on the size of the seven, eight, or even nine figure deal that is signed, the signature is really only the beginning of a relationship and the start of the hard work. With successful partnerships usually stretching over more than a decade, the importance of managing that partnership is obvious.

Yet it takes more than just mounting an AM department to generate real success. What pharma companies really need to build is a culture of AM. By this I mean developing a core team of AMs with a common culture, common practices, and the capacity to participate effectively across the entire partnership process. As Philippe noted in the webinar, AMs can add value at every point in the pharma value chain from before the deal is signed through onboarding and kick-off, regular check-ins, and then all the way through to market launch.

A strong AM culture not only means that partnerships can endure but it can also attract new partners. Well-regarded AM cultures help position a pharma company as a ‘partner of choice’ in the industry and help generate leads and deals for other parts of the business.

The importance of health checks

Every partnership has its strengths and weaknesses, and in the course of a long engagement, there will often be ups and downs. Keeping a close eye on the state of a partnership demands regular reviews of the state of the partnership and from all angles. In pharma AM parlance, this is often called a health check.

A health check is a formal review process regularly undertaken by an AM in the course of their management of a partnership. More than a simple checklist, the health check is a 360-degree review of a relationship taking into account everything from progress towards milestones and reporting, through finance and budgeting matters, cultural fit, and compliance issues, too. The health check is often presented on a radar chart that reveals at a glance where partnerships are strong and where they might be improved.

Good AM teams share these health checks internally to the key stakeholders but also externally with the partner, too. It’s both an assessment tool and a means of communication, identifying where the partnership is strong and opening up possibilities for reviewing and working on areas that need improvement. When issues arise – and at some point they always will – health checks offer a means to identify them early and mitigate risk quickly.

More than just another task in the AMs to-do list, then, a health check can be a critical element in keeping a partnership on track and ensuring that an alliance proves fruitful.

The importance of building a corporate memory

One of the realities of pharma AM is that the competition for the best alliance managers is fierce. It’s not unusual to review the resume of a senior AM and note a half dozen different company names listed. A high-performing AM shifting from one company to another is a regular occurrence, but it comes at a price.

Recent research by IBM suggests that the biggest hurdle that a partnership needs to overcome is churn in AM. When a senior alliance manager that is deeply involved in a pharma partnership leaves the organization, the partnership often suffers. This conclusion is supported by surveys of our pharma clients that we’ve done here at Inpart, too.

A corporate memory means having down on paper (or, more likely these days, in dedicated partnering software like Inpart) the history, interactions, and communications between partners in a form that can survive the departure of key employees and help onboard an incoming AM. It’s the manifestation of an effort to preserve the history of a relationship from first meeting through to future plans, and a means for anyone coming into a project to get quickly and completely up to speed.

With modern tools it is possible to capture every important email, every meeting, and every document, to store them in a searchable database, and have them available to the AM team on demand. This can help relieve the pressure on AMs when senior people retire or leave the company and ensure that partnerships are sustained.

Alliance management: the decade-long dance

It was a real pleasure to share that webinar stage with Rob and Philippe and shine a light on AM.

As partnering in pharma accelerates and transforms, and as the focus on the long-term strategic planning continues to grow, being able to effectively manage the decade-long relationships that define pharma partnering is more important than ever. Experts like Rob and Philippe are keen to share their knowledge and help inspire the next generation of AM leaders, and there’s plenty we can gain from their years of experience.

Catch a replay of the webinar for yourself here or share the link with a colleague.