Digital transformation is essential not just for business survival but for profitability, delivering superior customer experiences, and differentiating the organization from the competition. However, driving digital change is tough and can be a lengthy and complex process. In many cases, it requires a complete transformation in the way an organization thinks and operates. In their attempts to drive transformational change, life sciences leaders often find themselves in situations where they are repeating the mistakes of others.
At the Indegene Digital Summit 2022, Herve Gisserot, General Manager at CSL Vifor shared his thoughts on how life sciences organizations can avoid common mistakes that sabotage success and effectively leverage digital to drive business outcomes and deliver real-world impact at scale. The 5 key learnings from his keynote address are summarized below.
Historically, the pharmaceutical industry has been slow to adopt digital change. We are at a point now where it is important for companies to be proactive and future oriented. It is inevitable that every industry will need a digital strategy. But many companies do not go far enough with their plans. They may launch pilots or even recruit Chief Digital Officers, but they do not do enough to transform themselves into digital businesses at scale with long-term, real-world success in mind. There is also too much clutter surrounding the process of digital transformation due to the lack of ownership, accountability, and strategic planning.
One way to solve this challenge is going back to the basics, Hervé says. IT department should not be pegged as the only accountable party when it comes to digital transformation. Responsibility should not sit with one department or another. The C-suite should create a culture of curiosity and rethinking habits and not just be observers or cheerleaders. Offering an example from his own experience, he emphasized how a digital strategy needs to be tied with a product strategy.
"Less is more" really applies to organizations when it comes to starting on their digital transformation journey. It is important not to get distracted by every new thing that comes your way while doing so. And in the world of digital transformation, those shiny things are often pilots. If the digital pilot is not tied to business priorities, and it is poorly integrated into the marketing or investment mix, it can lead to a significant drain on resources. That is why it is critical to define what constitutes a successful pilot, stresses Herve. He mentions even in situations where pilots have been deemed successful, organizations have realized that scaling the pilots across the enterprise, markets, or functions has not been easy or straightforward because of system-related challenges, leadership buy-in, legacy infrastructure, etc.
The digital talent pool is right now hinged more toward doers than builders. The life science industry needs more architects who can design a solid digital foundation before jumping to the fancy gadgets, apps, and devices emphasizes Hervé. This is significant for life sciences companies, which need to invest in data, taxonomy, and platforms so systems can talk across the enterprise. A proper foundation will help ensure that digital can act as a rapid multiplier of all the investments put into different facets of your business.
Digital can enable great speed and agility for organizations. However, life science organizations often end up putting the cart before the horse, says Herve. The best thing you can do is focus on your long-term goal. Do not worry so much about how fast you get there. Take it one step at a time. Digital is a powerful force for organizations, but it is not a magic bullet. As Hervé says, life science organizations need to plan carefully and go slow to go fast. Make sure you have thought through the process and have a clearly defined roadmap that guides you through each step of digital transformation. If you think you can magically turn your organization into a modern digital company by throwing money at the problem, remember that it is more about amplification than revolution.
Once the roadmap is laid out and agreed upon, Hervé advises not to over-engineer things which can lead to complications. Keeping it simple is the key. Again, drawing from his work experience, Herve mentions how agile ways of working have helped him develop an execution bias and made continuous improvements easy.
When it comes to evolving the commercial operating model in life sciences, nurturing a true innovation mindset, and building a repeatable and scalable process are of paramount importance. The commercial teams can take a page from the R&D book and approach this transformation in a phased manner as opposed to a big-bang approach. Phase 1 is focused on digital pilots, phase 2 is about proof of concept to see the impact of the digital initiatives, and phase 3 is about the global roll-out and leveraging all the efforts at scale.