What are the skills and competencies needed for alliance managers?

One of the reasons why the job of the alliance manager is challenging, but also very fascinating, is the fact that a variety of skills and also a high degree of flexibility is needed for this role.

Not all alliance managers are doing exactly the same. Depending on the part of the organization they are working in, some might be focused on scouting, i.e., helping with the identification of new technologies and projects to be brought in. Others might be more focused on preparing, starting and successfully executing strategic alliances. The skills needed for the job are therefore sometimes different as well, but there are certainly a few key skills that can be considered universally required.

For example a common task is to prepare, conduct and document the various governance meetings. This requires organizational, moderation and leadership skills. In that context the leadership style of alliance managers needs to be quite flexible: letting others lead when it comes to scientific or technical questions, while being able to take the lead when it comes to the overall alliance goals, contractual and compliance issues, as well as project and financial planning. This also requires legal and, to some degree, budgeting and accounting knowledge.

A very important task of alliance managers is to help the alliance team work towards a joint view of the path forward to goal achievement. This involves moderation, negotiation, conflict resolution, and communication skills. Specifically, the alliance manager needs to understand if there are disagreements or conflicts in the team and ensure that these are resolved by facilitating the communication process across hierarchical levels, organizations and cultures.

In your opinion, how has the role of the alliance manager evolved and how may it evolve in the future?

In my view, the collaborations often came first and then over time it became clear that dedicated people should be assigned to looking after major collaborations for optimal results.

For example, in my own career, I was responsible for a collaboration between Bayer and the Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry while I was still in Medicinal Chemistry. At the time the role was called 'collaboration manager'. It was a mixture of scientific management, project management and alliance management, and I did this next to my other responsibilities.

Later, as the number and the scope of the collaborations grew dramatically, we have formed a specialized core team focusing entirely on alliance management. However, the alliance management team is primarily taking care of larger, strategic alliances, while scientists typically look after smaller collaborations themselves. The core team is supporting this concept by providing access to alliance management resources and trainings, and I believe this is a good way towards enabling the organization over time.

I expect that in the future many organizations will develop more and more towards higher alliance capability levels, and therefore the role of alliance management will change as well. It is likely that fewer alliance specialists will remain in the core teams, and they will focus on developing the alliance capability level of the organization further, and will only take care of the most important and complex strategic alliances.

In your long term partnership with Evotec how has the relationship changed over time?

We had started the Gynecological Therapies alliance in 2012, and this was the first alliance between Bayer and Evotec. At the time, we have put a significant effort into partner identification, which ended up in a setup that could be summarized as 'different enough to synergize, but similar enough to harmonize'.

In addition, when setting up and managing this alliance, we have applied a number of specific principles in order to maximize the probability of success. These concepts related to a focus on projects that benefited from complementary capabilities, senior management engagement, alliance and project management, reward systems, culture and team spirit.

This has worked out quite well, and we have been very successful, delivering a continuous flow of project progressions for Bayer and milestone payments for Evotec. Based on this success we have tried to identify additional areas of working together, and we have started a second strategic alliance in the area of Kidney Diseases in 2016.

In that context the expectation typically is that the new partnership will be 'basically the same', both in terms of collaborative behavior and alliance success. While this might be the case, the involvement of other sites and people might also lead to significantly different performance, which needs to be managed by the responsible alliance managers.

We have addressed this by a systematic analysis of the differences between the two alliances and by having implemented alliance management actions to adapt to the situation, and we believe we are on a very good way to repeat our earlier success.

What would you like to achieve by attending the 8th Annual Strategic Alliance Management for Pharma?

To me the conference is the premier European event focused on biopharma alliances, and the recent agreement between marcus evans and the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (ASAP) further reinforces that. Therefore, I consider the conference as a great opportunity to exchange and test ideas regarding the further development of alliance management in our industry.

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Ahead of the 8th Annual Strategic Alliance Management for Pharma Conference, we spoke with Christoph Huwe, Strategic Alliance Manager Therapeutics at Bayer AG Pharmaceuticals about the skills and competencies needed for alliance managers.

Practical Insights From:
Alliances Progress
Astellas Pharma
Bayer AG Pharmaceuticals
Evotec (UK) Ltd.
Novo Nordisk
Pierre Fabre
University of London


About the Conference:

This marcus evans conference will look at the value creation within Alliance
Management and how to empower and align the role of Alliance Management
within the company. The delegates will benefit from experienced case study and
learn how to maximise the potential of the collaboration in order to bring the
relationship to mature stage, how to create a strong commitment beyond size
and cultural differences and create the road for new and fruitful development.
8th Annual Strategic Alliance Management for Pharma Conference will
take place from the 23rd until the 25th of April 2018 in Berlin, Germany.

Copyright © 2018 Marcus Evans. All rights reserved.

Previous Attendees Include: 

Abbott Bioresearch Centre
Bayer Healthcare
Boehringer Ingelheim
Bristol-Myers Squibb
Daiichi Sankyo Group
Eli Lilly and Company
Johnson & Johnson
Merck & Co
Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharmaceuticals
Novartis Pharma AG
Roche Biologics
Shire Pharmaceutical

About the speaker:

Christoph Huwe, Ph.D., CA-AM, is a Strategic Alliance Manager Therapeutics at Bayer AG Pharmaceuticals, with a focus on the Bayer-Evotec Gynecological Therapies, Bayer-Evotec Kidney Diseases and Bayer-OncoMed Oncology strategic alliances, and the Tuberculosis Drug Accelerator consortium. He is also a founding member of Bayer's Alliance Community Excellence Team. Previously he was responsible for the Bayer-Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry Collaboration (China), and a chemoinformatics platform reengineering project lead collaborating with Tripos (USA). He has served as senior management support at Bayer, as member of the Pharma Industry Benchmarking Forum and the EFPIA Industry Liaison Group. He has held various positions in medicinal chemistry at Bayer (Germany), Berlex Biosciences (USA) and Schering AG (Germany). Christoph Huwe has received a Ph.D. from the Technical University Berlin (Germany), followed by a postdoc at The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla (USA).

What are the skills and competencies needed for alliance managers?


Interview with Christoph Huwe, Strategic Alliance Manager Therapeutics at Bayer AG Pharmaceuticals

Christoph Huwe, Strategic Alliance Manager Therapeutics at Bayer AG Pharmaceuticals

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