A CEO’s view on Alliances and Alliance Management

Marc de Garidel, Chairman & CEO Ipsen, presented in his keynote this morning on the 31st of May, 2011, at the ASAP BioPharma conference in Basel about a CEO’s view on alliances. Marc came to Ipsen as CEO in November of 2010. Ipsen is a France-based, biotechnology company with 4500 employees. A couple of my notes as taken during Marc’s speech this morning:

Partnerships are important to Ipsen: in the last 10 year, Ipsen signed 40+ major partnerships, generating over 40% of Ipsen’s revenue. When coming in as CEO Marc was pleasantly surprised to experience that what’s written on paper is actually true: Partnership is in Ipsen’s blood!

Partnerships struck between two CEO’s do not work when the organization is not involved.

Succeeding through alliances: ensure you have people in your alliance team who are truly in between the organizations. In Ipsen the alliance management team reports directly to the CEO to ensure success. The role of alliance management is essential for success. It is a fundamental job, that can not be treated lightly. Companies that do not treat alliance management with attention are wrong.

Focus: all the companies that have done well in the past years have a clear focus! One of the opportunities to go forward is through partnerships, no one can say they have the best technology alone. China will be in the picture 10 to 15 years, here in Europe we do not have all the solutions. China will bring breakthrough technologies.

Companies need to realize that alliance management is essential for the future of the company, if they don’t …. well, good luck. When they do, there is an opportunity for alliance management to grow into general management. Alliance manager is already a type of general manager. People moving into alliance management, in general, have a good background in marketing & sales. Moving people too fast in & out of alliance management jobs is not good for the partner, the partnership, and the organization. To be successful alliance managers need, like general managers, stay for a longer time in their job to really see their impact (3-5 years). If we do so the alliance manager needs to be recognized for it too.

It is a pleasure to hear a CEO present such a refreshing view on the importance of alliances and alliance management to an organization.

3 Responses to “A CEO’s view on Alliances and Alliance Management”

  1. Interesting article.  I agree that Partnerships can be a real difference maker, both revenue wise and moreso, equity wise.  By equity I mean:  Making a company appear bigger than it actually is and driving the value of the stock price up.  In my opinion BD/Alliances is charged with creating the relationships with partners to both facilitate direct sales as well as create a halo of marketing/awareness that ensures everyone knows about the company.

    However, as you’ve pointed out, unless the whole organization buys into it…this will never happen.  BD/Alliances rarely, if ever, has it’s own resources to actually “do” anything.  In our organization we constantly have to siphon off engineering, marketing, G&A, and field technical resources from their primary responsibilities in order to transform any agreement into reality.  

    Ultimately the culture of the company has to be one of partnership.  The entire company needs to understand the multiplying effect a good partnership can have on the organization’s value to the stakeholders.  This culture needs to start early, and needs to start with the Founder/CEO.  

    Beware too:  a Bad Partnership can sink an organization with distraction and use of key resources in unproductive ways.  Better to pass on a marginal partnership then spend lots of time and energy trying to “make it work” no matter what your organizational culture says about partnerships.

    • Thanks for your comments Bill, I fully agree that a bad partnership has its downside too! So know when to say No to or to stop a partnership is very important. Actually that was more or less another topic in one of the presentations at the conference: measuring the performance of an alliance portfolio and taking actions on it!