Essential first steps when creating successful digital pharma solutions

When you're creating a new digital product or service, the steps you take at the start of the process will be key for its long-term success.

When creating a new digital product or service, or even revamping an existing solution, the steps you take at the start of the process will be key for its long-term success. 

By defining the purpose, setting clear KPIs, carefully managing the expectations of all stakeholders, and testing tangible concepts with your audience as early as possible, you’ll keep teams aligned on a shared end goal and avoid wasting money and effort.

If you only focus on four things at the beginning of your project, make them these. 

Define purpose and need

The first step when launching your new digital product or service should always be to define the purpose. Why do you need to create it? What needs will it meet for both your audience, and your business? 

Rather than defining need and purpose based solely on internal expertise and conversations with stakeholders, you should also seek to validate this further using evidence. Look at the data you already have from similar products or services within your organisation. Review any existing user research, and if possible, conduct some of your own. 

The pharmaceutical and health sectors have been experiencing rapid digital transformation, and audience needs and expectations are keeping pace. Speaking to some patients or HCPs directly, even if on a small scale, will help eliminate doubt and ensure there is a genuine need for your solution. 

If, after taking these steps, you’re unable to agree on a clearly defined need or purpose, your product build should stop here. 

Set success metrics 

Defining KPIs and key success metrics is a step that is overlooked surprisingly often. Without these, it will be impossible to reach any data-based conclusions about how well your product is performing and meeting customer or business needs. 

When setting KPIs, you should consider the most important and specific metrics for your tool or service looking at customer satisfaction, behaviour and engagement. Ask yourself, which KPIs are you attempting to satisfy with the first version of your product? 

Once you’ve decided what you want to track, you’ll need to understand the frequency of ongoing measurement going forward and ensure that the functionality to easily export the relevant data will be built into your product. Success metrics should also be communicated to all teams involved as early as possible.  

Gathering data across your key success metrics will give you quantifiable evidence about which aspects of your product or customer experience are resonating with customers when it’s live, and which aren't. In turn, you’ll be able to make informed future decisions about changes and improvements. 

A female nurse visits a senior patient at home. They are both wearing surgical masks, sitting at a table with a tablet and notepad in front of them

Prototype creation and testing

Before investing in the actual development and build of your product, make time to arrange some user-testing of a visual concept with customers. With development often being the most complex and costly part of the product design process, you want to make sure that you make the right decisions the first time round. 

By designing an early-stage clickable prototype you’ll be able to put something that resembles your final product in front of users to get their feedback. When you’re so close to the design and build of your product, things may get overlooked. 

Any prototypes can also be shared internally, with stakeholders and with regulatory teams to help gain buy-in and justify your business case. Having something tangible to look at together will enhance understanding of your long-term vision. 

Manage expectations 

Often digital products or services are unfairly deemed ‘failures’ because the expectations set with stakeholders at the beginning of the project were simply unrealistic.

You won’t be able to achieve everything and include all the desired features in the MVP version. Ensure your teams and stakeholders are aligned on what will and won’t be included in the first iteration of your product. 

What elements or features need to be designed and developed as a priority in order to meet the most crucial audience and business needs? Which are of secondary importance and can wait until a later date? Once agreed, make sure this is clearly communicated to all involved. 

Aim high, but with a narrow focus. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you’re launching a substandard version of the whole product, disappointing users and stakeholders and damaging long-term trust. 


By taking these four steps at the start of the process, you’ll give your digital product, tool, or service the best possible chance of long-term success. By setting clear expectations, success metrics, and purpose, you’ll keep your teams aligned on a shared end vision for your digital customer experience. Bringing your audience into the conversation as early as possible is also key. 

We collaborate with healthcare and pharmaceutical organisations around the world to deepen customer connection through meaningful digital experiences. If you are looking for a partner to help you enhance patient or HCP engagement through best-in-class digital products get in touch