Many critical functional areas of most drug companies, such as, marketing, manufacturing, supply chain, medical affairs, human resource, R&D, quality assurance, information technology – traditionally work in silos. It doesn’t mean, though, that there isn’t any interaction between them. Nevertheless, a large majority of them don’t work as a team with a purpose or to achieve a shared goal of delighting customers with value delivered. Such a silo-mindset could often be detrimental to smooth and sustainable business operations. This was also vindicated during the recent pandemic.
Having gone through the harrowing experience of recent disruptions in the lifesaving pharma business operations, a fresh realization has dawned on many leaders’ mind. This point also came to the fore in many studies. One such is the article on ‘Overcoming industry obstacles with a cross-functional strategy’, published by the strategy&, which is a part of PwC network.
The paper came out with some thought-provoking findings. It said, while in the pre-Covid days, mostly competing business pressures used to drive the operational strategies, today the drivers are quite different. ‘Factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation, geopolitics, new therapeutic modalities, and new ways of working make it vital’ for pharma players to make such transformational operational overhaul for long term excellence.
The spotlight needs to shift from continuous incremental improvement, such as, cost savings, quality assurance, and readiness to deliver—to long-term external challenges. ‘These include high inflation and an increase in complexity and risk, as well as the compounding effects these forces have on each other.”
Several studies have underscored that this approach can ‘make sure operations can protect enterprise continuity while still delivering to patients.’ this article will venture to simplify this complex, yet critical issue. The aim is to achieve a quantum increase in value offering to customers that this strategic approach can potentially deliver to accelerate growth momentum the pharma business.
Some see pharma business as usual, astute leaders see a unique opportunity for change:
An interesting point to note. As the disruptions caused by the Covid pandemic are fading away, some critical health safety norms are also being eased by the authorities. Apparently, the overall daily working-life seems to be limping back to normal. Many pharma leaders are, therefore, considering that the industry operations are going back to pre-pandemic normal, and the business operations will soon revert to the old normal mode soon.
On the other hand, we find some astute leadership who could derive a long-term lesson from the above disruptions and are already in the process of executing those operational changes. This leadership mindset gets reflected in two recent media reports related to two pharma majors – Sanofi and GSK.
On November 28, 2022, it was reported, ‘Sanofi moves into swanky new Paris HQ designed around hybrid work and sustainability.’ Again, on December 12, 2022, another media headline flashed as ‘GSK embraces hybrid work for the long haul at new London HQ.’
To me these are interesting examples to convert problems into opportunities for long-term business success and sustainability, in the new normal. These tasks entail the transformation of business infrastructure alongside its operational strategies.
The need for re-strategizing reverberates across several recent studies:
The need for such an action, as captured by researchers, is prompted by more waves of innovation coming in various operations and functions of pharma business, mostly triggered by the pandemic. The spectrum of innovation, as reports reveal, ranges ‘from new treatment modalities, to smart machines, advanced analytics, and digital connectivity.’
Hence, the future of pharma operations strategy needs to be different now from the past. This finding was also published by the McKinsey & Company on October 10, 2022. It reiterated, as pharma companies are emerging from two years of intense firefighting, now is exactly the right time for their renewed emphasis on a new operations strategy. It emphasized: ‘Succeeding in pharma under these new and challenging conditions will require succeeding in operations.’
This point was further vindicated by the results of the latest McKinsey Global Survey, which states:‘Less than one-third of the surveyed respondents, all of whom had been part of a transformation in the past five years, said their companies’ transformations had achieved a sustained performance improvement.’
Another study very specific to India:
Another survey on ‘Indian consumer sentiment during the coronavirus crisis,’ published by theMcKinsey & Company on October 13, 2022, also reconfirms the subtle changing trend in Indian consumer behavior. Its findings include some of the following areas:
- More than 70 percent consumers are engaging in modified out-of-home behavior, even as social gathering returning to almost normalcy.
- Digital continues to hold sway with more than 75 percent consumers using either digital or omnichannel while purchasing across categories.
- Social media continues to be an important influence while shopping.
- Gen Z and millennial are leading in new shopping behavior, with value being the top reason and sustainability as an emerging factor.
Hence, to engage with such healthcare consumers and deliver the value as they perceive, pharma operational strategies may call for a rejig – for longer term success and sustainability. That said, a key point to remember is that the marketing function is central while redrawing new operational strategy.
The marketing function is central while redrawing new operational strategy:
The need for the above was well articulated in another study published by ResearchGate in May 2020. It pointed out that many drug companies invest lots of funds to be more productive in various key operational areas, like R&D, manufacturing, or supply chain. However, if marketing strategies are not in sync with contemporary market dynamics and customer behavioral trends, despite game changing improvements in those areas, achieving business growth objectives will be challenging.
Based on the study, the researchers concluded, “an effective marketing in the organization has significant impact in achieving Organizational goals and Operational Excellence in Pharmaceuticals.” The study further emphasized, ‘Operational Excellence and marketing are always interlinked. Therefore, marketing plays a vital role in achieving Operational Excellence in Pharmaceuticals or any other industry.”
As we know, market dynamics keep changing with time. Generally, some strong trigger factors, such as, Covid related disruptions of lives and livelihoods, may hasten the process of this crucial change. Such changes necessitate long-term transformation of pharma operational strategies, as initiated, for example, by GSK and Sanofi.
As McKinsey & Company articles have articulated, the transformation process and scale may differ from company to company with common long-term challenges remaining the same. Such operating model transformations – involving digital tools, data science with analytics capabilities across the company, often ‘help companies interact with healthcare professionals and other stakeholders more effectively’.
Consequently, the company garners greater capabilities to deliver new patient-perceived value – not just for incremental, but quantum business growth. This, I reckon, could be a game changer for long-term success and sustainability in the pharma business.
By: Tapan J. Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.