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From Stakeholders to Partners: Enabling Greater Collaboration Between Brand Teams and Centralized Digital Operations

In the fast-paced world of pharmaceuticals, aligning brand teams with centralized digital operations (CDOs) has become a critical objective for companies seeking to maximize return on technology investments, optimize their operations, and achieve remarkable outcomes. However, this pursuit is not without its challenges. The uniqueness of each brand team’s preferred methods of collaboration with agencies and partners may seem at crossroads with integrating with a CDO, resulting in duplicated efforts, and missed opportunities for synergistic growth.
To shed light on this crucial topic, we interviewed Anurag Thakore, Senior Director & Head of Digital Operations at Bayer Pharmaceuticals in United States. With his vast experience and expertise, Anurag unveils transformative strategies that shift the relationship between brand teams and CDOs from mere stakeholders to valuable co-creators. Additionally, he presents a comprehensive roadmap for CDO leaders, empowering them to effectively align and collaborate with brand teams, ultimately ensuring mutual success in their endeavors.

Does the preference of brand teams to work with their own agencies and processes impact the establishment and effectiveness of centralized digital operations?

The preference of brand teams to work with their own agencies and processes stems from a variety of factors, including familiarity, trust, and established relationships with their existing agencies. Brand teams often have well-established workflows and partnerships with agencies that have delivered results in the past. As a result, brand teams are hesitant to relinquish control over their processes and collaborate with a CDO. Striking a balance between standardization and adaptability becomes imperative to seek brand teams’ alignment and fostering a cooperative environment.
Another challenge revolves around the perceived loss of speed and responsiveness. Brand teams appreciate the agility and quick turnaround times provided by their own agencies and processes. They may worry that working with a CDO, which operates on a larger scale and focuses on standardized processes, could lead to a decrease in flexibility and responsiveness to their specific needs.
Furthermore, aligning brand teams with varying goals and priorities within an organization is another hurdle that needs to be overcome. Each brand team may have its own set of objectives and targets, which may not necessarily align with the overarching goals of the CDO.
This preference for working with their own agencies and processes creates difficulties when it comes to integrating brand teams with CDOs. It can lead to duplicated efforts, inefficiencies, and missed opportunities for synergies. Brand teams may continue to work in silos, relying on their preferred agencies and limiting their engagement with the CDO. This can hinder the CDO’s ability to provide comprehensive support and deliver optimal results across the organization.
Building trust and gaining buy-in from brand teams requires time and effort, especially when there are doubts or skepticism about the capabilities of the CDO. This can be exacerbated by a lack of clarity regarding the division of roles and responsibilities between the brand teams and the CDO, as well as confusion surrounding the CDO’s mandate, design, and accountability. The CDO should be transparent about its capabilities, setting realistic goals, and communicating the timeframes required for achieving results. Overpromising and underdelivering could lead to the erosion of trust and collaboration.

What are the cornerstones to a successful setup of centralized digital operations? What strategies can be implemented to overcome resistance to change from brand teams?

Working with agencies can lead to challenges in maintaining clear and consistent communication. time-consuming. It requires significant investment from brand teams to ensure that the agencies are complying with their organizations’ standards, guidelines, and policies. Ensuring that brand goals, messaging, and strategies are well understood and aligned can become more complex when dealing with agencies. On similar lines, coordinating and managing resources between an agency and the internal brand team can be challenging. Differences in priorities, timelines, and expectations might arise, leading to inefficiencies and delays.
This is where a CDO can add tremendous value to the brand teams. However, to establish a successful setup of a CDO, certain cornerstones must be put in place. Firstly, clear, and open communication is vital. The CDO leadership should actively involve brand teams in decision-making and ensure that their concerns are addressed. Transparent discussions about the benefits of collaboration and the potential impact on brand teams’ processes will foster understanding and support.
Secondly, flexibility in the CDO’s approach is key. While standardization can be beneficial in some areas, the CDO must be adaptable enough to accommodate the unique requirements and preferences of different brand teams. Tailoring strategies and solutions to suit individual needs demonstrates the CDO’s commitment to supporting the success of each brand.
Thirdly, fostering a culture of collaboration is crucial. Encouraging knowledge sharing and creating opportunities for cross-functional teamwork can break down silos and encourage brand teams to actively engage with the CDO. This collaborative spirit will help establish trust and facilitate the exchange of innovative ideas.

Can you walk us through the journey of how you approached the centralized digital operations model at Bayer pharmaceuticals?

As key brand teams witnessed the immense value demonstrated by the CDO, it led to a more openminded attitude among other brand teams, creating a more favorable environment for the adoption of these practices.
To ensure success once brand teams were onboarded, a critical role - Digital Platform Operations Managers (DPOMs) was created. DPOMs serve as the conduits that help bring the brand strategy to life. They work with the various digital strategists, brand teams, the service providers, the brand agencies, other Commercial Ops colleagues, IT and various other key stakeholders. They also contribute to enhancing understanding of roles and responsibilities, outlining the subsequent optimal steps to be pursued by establishing a clear line of communication across the teams in a timely and effective manner – just like conductors orchestrating a perfect symphony
It is through fresh thinking, innovative approaches, and patience, CDO teams can overcome resistance to change from the brand teams, showcase the potential benefits and value of aligning with the CDO, and facilitate successful integration.
DPOMs break fictitious walls and enable greater integration and transparency across various teams. Think of them as the common thread that helps bring clarity on where things are from an operations perspective and where they are headed.

What are some factors to keep in mind while onboarding the brands teams?

Successfully onboarding brand teams demands a nuanced approach and careful consideration of various factors. One key consideration that immediately stands out is the digital maturity of the brand. Brands that have already embraced digital transformation and have a high level of digital maturity are more likely to align well with the CDO model. These brands tend to have established data analytics capabilities, integration across various systems, and a solid understanding of the value that digital operations can bring. By selecting brand teams with high digital maturity, the CDO can onboard them more easily, build trust, and scale engagement effectively.
Another factor to consider is the scale and complexity of the brand’s operations. Large brands that are planning product launches or have a high volume of requests and activations can greatly benefit from collaborating with a CDO. These brands often face a surge in demand and encounter various complexities during launch periods. By providing dedicated support and addressing the challenges that arise during these critical periods, the CDO can showcase its value and demonstrate its ability to handle the flux and intricacies associated with brand activations.
Moreover, evaluating the willingness and readiness of brand teams to embrace the CDO model is crucial. Collaboration requires active participation and open-mindedness from all parties involved. Brand teams that are receptive to change, open to new approaches, and willing to explore innovative solutions are more likely to thrive within the CDO model. By selecting brand teams with a transformational mindset and a willingness to challenge the status quo, the CDO can foster a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.
Lastly, it is important to assess the potential impact and influence that the brand teams can have within the organization. Brand teams that have a strong brand presence, market influence, or a significant customer base can act as catalysts for broader adoption of the CDO model. Their success stories and positive experiences can inspire other brand teams and stakeholders to embrace the collaboration and reap the benefits of the CDO. Involving key brand and digital strategists in co-creating the ways of working can help in them being champions of the model by giving them a sense of ownership.

Are there specific metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) that can be used to evaluate the success of the centralized digital operations model in aligning with brand teams?

There are various indicators to measure and gauge the impact of this collaboration between the Digital operations CDO team and the various brand teams.
For example, lagging metrics such as time to market, customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, and Net Promoter Score (NPS) provide insights into the progress made. Tracking brand-specific performance metrics, such as brand awareness, brand perception, and market share, can provide insights into the effectiveness of the CDO model in driving brand growth and market success.
Furthermore, the reduction of compliance challenges and the increased number of brands onboarded and signed Statements of Work (SOWs) serve as tangible measures of success.
By showcasing successful case studies and tangible results achieved through CDO collaboration, brand teams can be encouraged to embrace the change. Demonstrating the positive impact of CDOs on key performance metrics, such as faster time to market, increased customer satisfaction, and streamlined operations, can help build trust and confidence.

What are some of the key benefits of aligning brand teams with centralized digital operations? How did you measure these benefits?

Aligning brand teams with CDOs brings a multitude of key benefits that positively impact the overall efficiency and effectiveness of brand operations. One notable benefit is the significant time and effort savings compared to traditional ways of working. By collaborating with a CDO, brand teams can streamline their processes and eliminate redundant tasks, leading to faster turnaround times. This efficiency translates into reduced wastage and optimized resource allocation.
Think of the digital operations team as a quarterback – orchestrating, coordinating, and removing barriers that may impede the brand team’s progress.
Another crucial advantage is the seamless knowledge transfer that occurs when aligning with a CDO. Unlike when working with external agencies, where knowledge and expertise are often lost when the partnership ends or transitions to a new agency, collaborating with a CDO ensures that knowledge remains within the organization. This continuity allows brand teams to build upon previous learnings and experiences, avoiding the need to start from scratch with each new partnership.
Moreover, aligning with a digital operations team significantly reduces the burden on brand teams. Instead of handling all operational tasks and support functions themselves, brand teams can rely on the CDO as a centralized hub. This allows them to redirect their focus and resources toward more strategic initiatives, such as brand development, market expansion, and customer engagement.
By offloading operational responsibilities to the CDO, brand teams can leverage specialized expertise and access a broader range of resources, maximizing their overall productivity and impact. It is essential to emphasize how the CDO can complement and enhance its existing processes and agency partnerships rather than replace them.

How can digital operations teams and brand teams ensure smooth collaboration and decision-making for effective governance? Were there any specific steps or initiatives that were taken by you at Bayer?

It is important to setup up a proper governance structure, establish standards, bring clarity to the roles and workflows, and build a strong ecosystem of data connections and integrated systems for the model to work and scale. At Bayer, one of the first steps was defining and re-defining critical internal roles within the CDO. Each role’s importance was clarified to ensure a clear understanding of responsibilities and expectations. The DPOMs played a pivotal role in bringing the brand strategies to life, ensuring smooth collaboration, and effectively communicating between stakeholders.
The CDO’s success relied on the integration of ways of working with cutting-edge technology platforms to drive efficiency and scale. Instead of focusing solely on specific tasks or activities, the CDO adopted an end-to-end approach, encompassing all aspects of digital operations. This integration allowed for streamlined workflows, centralized data connections, and optimized processes, contributing to improved performance and outcomes.
Leveraging CDOs enables life sciences companies to get the right returns on the technology investments. It’s like making a case for right drivers for the Ferrari one buys. Quality and consistency delivered by CDO teams and their ability to integrate various technologies to deliver right omnichannel experience tips the opinion in their favour.
It is also important to keep an active communication line with the brand teams either through a regular cadence, roadshows, or other similar forums for dialog. These regular touchpoints help in building confidence amongst the brand teams and foster a great level of trust and transparency.
It also helps to have a regular cadence with brand teams to educate them on the operating model and keeping them periodically updated on the progress made.
In addition, providing training and support to brand teams during the transition phase is crucial. The CDO can offer guidance and resources to help brand teams understand the new processes and technologies involved. This proactive approach demonstrates the CDO’s commitment to enabling the brand teams’ success and helps alleviate any concerns or uncertainties.
It’s also important to involve brand teams in the decision-making process. Seeking their input and actively involving them in shaping the CDO’s strategies and initiatives creates a sense of ownership and fosters a collaborative mindset. This co-creation approach ensures that the CDO is aligned with the specific needs and objectives of the brand teams, further strengthening the partnership.
And finally, partnerships were key to the success of the digital operations team. By identifying the right partners such as Indegene, activating them effectively, and nurturing these collaborations, the CDO achieved remarkable results. Our strong partnership with Indegene allowed us to access deep domain and technology expertise that would not have been possible otherwise. Our partnership with Indegene is a testament to the power of collaboration and how it drives innovation.
Remember, collaboration is like a well-choreographed dance – it takes two to tango, but it takes an entire orchestra to put on a truly spectacular show.


By enabling collaboration between brand teams and CDOs, organizations can drive efficiency, reduce costs, and achieve improved outcomes. The transformation from stakeholders to co-creators requires a mindset shift, change management processes, and effective governance mechanisms. Implementing these strategies will help organizations unlock the full potential of collaboration between brand teams and CDOs.

About Indegene

We are a digital-first, life sciences commercialization company. We help biopharmaceutical, emerging biotech and medical device companies develop products, get them to the market, and grow their impact through the life cycle in a more effective, efficient, and modern way. We bring together healthcare domain expertise, fit-for-purpose technology, and an agile operating model to provide a diverse range of solutions. These aim to deliver, amongst other outcomes, a personalized, scalable and omnichannel experience for patients and physicians. It’s what drives our team and our purpose to enable healthcare organizations to be future ready.


Anurag Thakore

Senior Director & Head of Digital Operations at
Bayer Pharmaceuticals in
United States

Anurag Thakore

Insights to build #FutureReadyHealthcare