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Succeeding with Digital in Pharma

I typically meet with about ten pharma execs each week to get a pulse on how things are going at the intersection of digital and pharma, and I’ve recently noticed a common theme…

A sense of growing anxiety and uncertainty given where the world is heading.

While I’m not a fan of creating unnecessary fear (I’m known to be cautiously optimistic), and while the sky is not falling (I think), it’s clear that the world’s anti-fragility is being tested.

And the results aren’t encouraging…

So unless you’ve been locked up in a month-long corporate innovation workshop (lucky you!), you’ve undoubtably noticed that the ongoing war in Ukraine is not slowing (with developing tensions in Asia), the markets are crashing, global supply chains are cracking under pressure (e.g., grain, baby formula, CT scan contrast agent shortages) and we’re starting to see layoffs, including in pharma.

Oh, and the global climate isn’t cooperating, to say the least…

Given how quickly all this is happening and the tremendous growth and wealth-creation we’ve seen (and got used to) this past decade, it’s hard to come to terms with what’s happening.

If you look at where we are on the DABDA spectrum (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance), my gut is that most of us are on that first “D”…

“It’s only a temporary dip before things start going up again” is something I hear quite often.

So while I hope that’s right, if I were a digital executive working inside pharma today, here’s what I’d do to ensure that when budgets are cut and my company decides to retrench back to the ‘core’ (e.g., manufacturing drugs), I’m relatively safe:

💸 Know the numbers - Which of your company’s brands are growing versus declining? What therapeutic areas are driving versus slowing growth? Which costs are growing faster than revenue? I’ve seen executives close to profit drivers propose creative on-strategy digital solutions when margins are being challenged

💪 Know your impact - If the digital initiatives you’re working on succeed or fail, what’s the financial impact on the company? Quantifying the impact of your work and then shouting it from the rooftops to key decision makers can help drive continued investment

🔥 Build internal demand - One of my clients recently told me that “if you can’t pinpoint who in the company will get fired if your digital initiative fails, then you’re the one getting fired". Since digital is often seen as an internal service provider, it's critical to be working on initiatives that are 'must haves' and not 'nice to haves'

✂️ Prioritize - If you’re overseeing multiple initiatives, now's the time to prioritize. Which of your initiatives drive the highest business impact, are more near- versus longer-term and have strong internal demand? Deprioritize the rest for now.

Remember that it's in tumultuous times like these that careers are made..

And corporate superheroes are created 🦸‍♀️ 🦸‍♂️

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