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6 minute read

Embracing the five pillars of digital transformation in pharma

Digital transformation can be a daunting prospect, but by breaking it down into key focus areas, you'll give yourself the best chance of meeting your objectives. 

Here, Graphite's Client Strategist, Holly Mitchell, shares her five pillars of successful digital transformation in pharma. This article was originally published in Pharma Times in December 2023.

by Holly Mitchell
22 January 24
  • Digital Transformation
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Digital Strategy

Driven by changing customer expectations, technological advancements and evolving regulatory landscapes, transformation is becoming a critical and ongoing consideration for pharma leaders.

Customer experience may be just one part of the transformation puzzle, but it’s an important one in a world where 80% of HCPs cite a lack of trust in pharma.

Indeed, according to our latest research report — Trust: The key factor in digital HCP engagement? — embracing this approach is essential for rebuilding trust between pharma companies and their customers.

The majority of pharma companies are focusing on becoming customer-centric, but for most this means an intense level of transformation programmes to bring their digital products, and wider businesses, in line with their aspirations.

This type of transformation involves reimagining and improving the way your company interacts with and serves their different customer groups, whether those are healthcare professionals, patients or those who hold the purse-strings.

It requires significant planning, resources and prioritisation to be effective and meet your objectives.

We have been collaborating closely with our clients as they transition from traditional, and often siloed, marketing functions into more holistic customer experience leaders.

With years of experience, we have built a clear understanding of best practice when it comes to digital pharma products.

Transformation requires strong foundations to be successful and help organisations become truly customer centric, and often it is challenging to know where to start when it comes to the complex world of digital pharma products.

We have identified five pillars of digital transformation that offer some practical recommendations to get any digital project underway.

1. Creating a unified ambition

While it sounds simple, getting the right people across complex structures to align and agree on a clear and actionable direction can take significant time and effort.

Each stakeholder will have different priorities and visions that could conflict – or certainly not complement – with other departments.

Focused workshops are a helpful route for achieving this collaborative ambition in a short space of time. Typically, we would run three or four to encompass the views of all key stakeholders and pin down the ultimate vision.

Ensuing that the right people are included, and the right markets and functions are represented in this process is critical for reducing barriers to delivery as the programme roles out.

It is important to take everyone on the journey right from the beginning to ensure that the process is smooth and delivers a product that meets the needs of the end users.

2. Analyse existing insight

In order to work out where your organisation wants to go, it is important to understand where it is coming from, and where it is today.

This means running a detailed, evidence-based review of your platforms, processes and resources: What do we know? What don’t we know? What’s working? What’s not? How are we performing?

Building a clear picture can encompass a variety of data sets and analysis, from competitor benchmarking to understand where your organisation fits within the market, to developing a detailed skills matrix for your organisation or mapping existing customer experiences and internal processes.

A lot of companies already hold a lot of this information, but sometimes it needs to be processed in a different way to deliver the clear insights you need to make decisions about how you take your digital product strategy forward.

The tools we use to build a clear picture and identify the start point vary from company to company, so it is important to establish to ideal outcomes and goals of the transformation.

3. Understanding your customer

To adopt a truly customer-centric approach, pharma organisations need to understand their customers deeply.

Often patients and HCPs have vastly different experiences that impact multiple areas of their lives in addition to just their health or employment, so it is important to go beyond generalised demographic segmentation.

This includes identifying their needs, preferences, pain points and digital behaviours, both in their interactions with digital products and within their day-to-day lives.

For example, a patient in chronic pain may have difficulties in other areas of their lives, and a well-researched and built digital product could provide additional support.

When we have a clear view of what our customer wants, it removes any guesswork in the planning and execution of our marketing activity and content strategy.

It means you can be truly customer-centric, building a product around what they need, rather than what you think they need.

4. Keeping up internal communications

Something that is often overlooked in the execution process is ongoing internal team engagement, especially with stakeholders.

After agreeing the overall vision at the start of the product, it is important to keep stakeholders in the loop so that when they are presented with the end product, they understand the journey.

This has become a growing workstream in the work that we do on customer experience transformation projects within the sector.

Our three most recent programmes included full internal communication strategies and campaigns.

Through clear stakeholder mapping, socialisation planning and ensuring that people have a channel to share their views, concerns and ideas, we can minimise internal resistance to change and keep momentum during the development process.

5. Enabling smooth security and compliance processes

The importance of regulation in the sector can make some elements of customer experience transformation challenging.

We advise our clients to include colleagues from the MLR (Medical, Legal, Regulatory) team at the start of the process to advise and influence decisions as required.

To ensure that we are able to provide additional support and work with these teams in the best possible way, we also provide regular compliance training for our creative team to ensure we get designs right first time, avoiding any unnecessary delays to delivery and ultimately slowing down the transformation process.

Building the foundations for success

Building your digital customer experience transformation around these five pillars will give you a strong foundation for success. 

Without this, the process of designing transformative digital products can experience many bumps in the road, which can hugely delay the process and can mean that the end product does not meet the needs of your organisation or its end users.

If you're looking for an experienced partner to support you in managing change and delivering on your digital initiatives, get in touch.

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