Monday, May 5, 2014

Grabbing the Tiger by the Tail: Implementing Digital Transformation in Pharma

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The pharmaceutical industry is traditionally slow to accept change, but digital transformation is no longer a matter of choice. Given how information technology (IT) is changing the way we do business, pharma companies now need to embrace the new content marketing landscape in order to survive. Knowing where to start is challenging, but by following a comprehensive roadmap you can incorporate transformation into your business strategy.

Understanding Digital Transformation
The transformation of the traditionally slow-to-change pharma industry is being driven by consumers’ increasing demand for online products and services. Combined with readily-available, free-to-use tools and platforms, digital options are currently impacting every aspect of the pharma value chain. It’s impossible to stop or slow down the process, which ranges from marketing and sales through inventory, distribution, resource management and payments. Embracing it is equally challenging, but if you follow a comprehensive roadmap you can grab the tiger by the tail and ride it, successfully implementing IT into your business strategy.

Step 1: Building Capability
Before you can implement transformation, your first step is to build digital capability by integrating IT into your pharma company at every level. Review your policies, procedures and current methods of operation in all areas of business to see how they can be adapted to become digitally fit. It’s often easier to apply digital transformation to functions such as marketing and communications than it is to other areas. Even if you implement it in phases, however, it has to be across the board to make it work:

Marketing:  Methods have shifted from traditional “push” marketing such as print, radio and television to inbound marketing, which is the science of getting busy healthcare professionals to seek out instead the products and services (and providers) they want and need. The digital revolution makes it possible to have one-on-one interactions with individual customers using marketing automation, email marketing and content. For this to work you need:

·         A website that’s optimized for search engines
·         A content marketing strategy that includes regular blogging, and
·         Active social media profiles

Train your staff in how inbound marketing works to enable them to understand and implement the process.

Sales: The digital environment already offers great opportunities for pharma to increase productivity through the use of online conferencing for client meetings, electronic sales presentations and webinars, online ordering options and end-to-end lead nurturing and management. Boost sales capability by using CRM software that enables your team to maintain contact with busy clients in a less intrusive way than calling on them by phone or in person.

Administration: Strengthening your financial management, streamlining your process and improving your reporting will result in better performance and controls. Managing pharma resources is expensive regardless of whether they are human, raw materials or corporate assets, but you can use mobile technology to do it better and deliver a higher profit margin.

Step 2: Creating a Team
You can’t implement the kind of digital transformation you need to remain competitive in pharma by doing it as a part-time project. Establish a start-up team to focus on the process. You’ll need to generate a spirit of innovation at the highest levels to get your executives to buy into the transformation process. A 2013 survey of 1,500 executives showed that:
  • 78% of respondents believe it will be critical to achieve digital transformation within the next two years
  • 63% felt the pace of change in their companies was too slow
  • Only 36% of CEOs have shared their vision for digital transformation with their executive teams
To drive the process, appoint a Chief Digital Officer with an understanding of the pharma industry as well as information technology and inbound marketing functions. Set digital goals for your management team to achieve, based on realistic delivery dates.

Step 3: Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Make use of free or inexpensive tools such as social media sites, online collaboration software and free applications such as Skype to get your staff and clients comfortable with the new approach. Focus on fulfilling customer needs at every level in your business, so that a client-centric approach becomes a way of life for your team.

You’ll need to invest in your digital transformation to make it really happen effectively. Identify the return on your investment in advance; this will make it easier for your management team to see the benefits and agree to the expenditure. While you can use freely-available tools, staffing expenses can be a bigger budget item. Keep costs under control by outsourcing functions where possible while you make the shift to the digital environment.

Step 4: Make it Happen
Making digital transformation happen takes disruption and upheaval. It isn’t just about introducing technology - you’ll have to completely change the way your pharma company does business. Don’t try to make your client fit into the systems and processes – start with customer and build the technology around him. To do so, you’ll need to:

+  Seek adjacency by thinking long term, past the immediate opportunities to the problem that needs to be solved and finding ways to get there.
+  Use convergence by piggy-backing on the collaboration between platforms such as mobile, web and telephone systems.
+  Keep innovation going by continuously working to streamline operations through digital functionality.

By using a phased-in approach or parallel systems, you can remain flexible enough to lead both your team and your customers into the new digital world at a pace they can handle. At the same time, you can achieve the transformation you need to compete in the business environment and secure both your company’s future and its bottom line.

Want to learn more about Digital Transformation in pharma?

Need more on the digital transformation of pharma? Check out ePharma West. SAVE $100 when you register nowuse discount code XP1956BLOG. 
September 22-24 | San Francisco, CA

About the author

Ash Rishi is Co-founder and Co-managing director of COUCH. Based in London, COUCH is an integrated digital marketing and creative healthcare communications agency focusing on the pharmaceutical, healthcare and life sciences industry. Ash has over 9 years experience in pharma marketing and has delivered activities across UK, Europe, US, Canada and Latin America. His area of expertise include: mobile, marketing tech, branding, communications, stakeholder development and digital engagement strategies. Ash is also the founder of a digital engagement group on LinkedIn. You can reach Ash at or follow him on Twitter @We_Are_Couch and @Ash_Rishi

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