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Implement a successful digital transformation strategy: Reflections on how one emerging biotech became future ready

9 Nov 2022

Digital transformation is an exciting concept that is rapidly evolving, but it can be particularly tricky to implement when it comes to emerging biotech companies that have a unique set of constraints and goals. Because emerging biotech companies spend so much of their energy on research and development and trying to be financially viable, technology is often overlooked during the early years.

At the Indegene Digital Summit 2022, Chris Tovey and Scott Hager of GW Pharmaceuticals (now part of Jazz Pharmaceuticals) shared insights on how digital transformation can contribute to commercial readiness and key considerations for emerging biotech leaders as they incorporate digital transformation initiatives across the value chain – from clinical all the way to commercial launch.

Implementing a digital transformation requires a robust strategic plan that is adopted by the leadership. As a small company grows, however, the focus of an organization shifts over time. It is important to remember that during different points in an organization’s development, it might be harder or easier to work with the c-suite on ideas about digital transformation.

Chris and Scott shared some great ideas on how to overcome the hurdles in getting leadership on board with a digital transformation plan.

  1. Be ruthlessly clear with yourselves and your leadership about the priorities at any point in time. Recognize that the leadership team may be focused on the development and financial needs of the company, and consider launching a digital transformation when the company is ready.
  2. Make the shift to implementing a digital transformation less about shiny bright objects and about business benefit. If you can show a clear business benefit, you are more likely to get buy in from the leadership because your goals will be aligned with their goals.
  3. Keep things simple and clear. The leadership team needs to see a plan and understand what is in it for the organization. They also need to have a clear idea of how the plan will be adopted and how it will transform the business.
  4. Work to achieve a consensus amongst the c-suite and executive team about what level of digital maturity the organization wants to achieve. Understanding what everyone is working toward will make the process smoother and assure that everyone is working toward the same goals.

Even when leadership is on board, there are still challenges in adopting and implementing a successful digital transformation. It is essential to have an expert who can create the road map to success and oversee the day-to-day implementation. Working toward being agile, scalable, and cost-effective are key components of keeping the strategy in line with the business priorities. Scott explained that one of the most important steps in implementing their strategy was to focus on change management from the very beginning. Doing this allowed team members to play critical roles in their overall launch plan, and it helped people appreciate the structure and see the value in the strategy.

In the case of GW Pharmaceuticals, they found that their digital transformation came at exactly the right time. Not only were they well positioned when they were acquired by Jazz Pharmaceuticals, but they were also ready when Covid hit. They were able to quickly pivot 1200 staff members with no service disruption, and today their teams are still focused on integration and focused digital transformation. They have also found that they are able to capitalize on their successful digital transformation from a digital workplace perspective as well.

Like all big structural changes, adopting a digital strategy requires a clear plan, leadership buy in, and delivering on quick wins to build confidence and trust. Chris and Scott found that experienced business partners can be a true differentiator when implementing the strategy, and they also highlighted having the right people on your team is key. Flexible, innovative, creative team players who understand the organizational goals and can clearly communicate the value of the technological changes in the context of the larger picture make all the difference.

It’s not unreasonable for the technology part of the organization to genuinely believe that technology can lead the business model, and in emerging biotechs, technology has often played an important role in enabling the speed and success of go-to-market journeys. How you communicate the value of the technology and how you develop a roadmap for success, however, are key to fostering change.