Pharma companies lag in digital transformation

  • The life sciences industry’s commitment to digital transformation is increasing, but few organizations are digitally maturing.
  • Digital transformation is no longer a buzzword, but a strategic imperative for life sciences companies.
  • While first movers would likely gain a competitive advantage, all of today’s companies risk falling behind their competitors in delivering across all elements of the value chain if their strategies are limited to a few pilots and experiments.
  • Life sciences companies have been fast followers in adopting new technologies, but waiting too long to commit could leave some companies with portions of their value chains disrupted in an ever more price-conscious segment.

Although many life sciences companies have been exploring the opportunities that digital technologies can offer, ranging from engaging with consumers through apps to using artificial intelligence to help improve operations, a recent survey by Deloitte with MIT Sloan Management Review finds that only 20 percent of biopharma companies are digitally maturing. The survey also shows that across industries digitally maturing companies are building new business models by successfully scaling lessons learned from early experiments, changing at all levels of the organization, and enhancing external collaboration.

Can I say it? DUH!!!

While the biopharma industry’s commitment to digital transformation is increasing; companies are thinking about how to organize their digital activities, and some are hiring chief digital officers (CDOs), often with experience in other industries, to lead transformation efforts.  62 percent of digitally maturing biopharma companies report scaling up successful initiatives to drive digital transformation across the organization but is that enough?

half of the companies say that digital investment is a priority for their leaders, they also say they would like leaders to provide a clearer vision and purpose for their organization’s digital investments. More than three-quarters of biopharma respondents (78 percent) say their organization needs to find new leaders to succeed in the digital age, and only 20 percent think their companies are effectively developing the type of leaders who have the capabilities necessary to lead the organization in a digital environment.

These findings are not even close to being a surprise to those of us working in the industry.  It’s ironic that in an industry in which people are going online in greater numbers pharma companies would still lag in digital but let’s explore the real reasons:

1ne: What’s the ROI?  Pharma people don’t get a cup of coffee without doing an ROI analysis, however a detailed ROI analysis for digital is like mining for gold.  Agencies have not done a good job in drawing a line from online health seeker needs to getting an Rx and pharma doesn’t want to invest in online initiatives to “help” people.

2wo: Frustrated digital talent.  Really talented digital marketing people, who can think outside the box and develop great online strategies are either leaving pharma, due to frustration, or have been so integrated within the company culture that their skills have diminished.

3hree: Regulatory and legal people continually say “no” and there is a culture of not taking risks when it comes to cutting age online marketing.

This report’s findings are obvious in so many ways.  I have already talked with one senior digital marketing person who came from outside the industry and he is about ready to start sending out his resume to get out.  He told me “I have never seen a culture where there are so many people who are digitally naive”.  He continued “since I have been here I have been more meetings than at any previous time in my career and it’s draining me because digital  is moving forward at 100mph hour while we remain stuck in 1st gear”.