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Companies need to develop an exponential mind-set

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The rapidly modifying landscape of the life sciences sector in the face of digitalisation has kept pharma companies on their toes. According to a recent EY report, ‘Today for tomorrow: realising the potential of Life Sciences 4.0’, “reinventing the Indian pharma business is no longer a choice but an imperative”. While the sector faces several challenges as it prepares itself for this daunting transformation, Sriram Shrinivasan, Global Generics and National Health and Lifesciences Leader, EY informs Tarannum Rana about various measures that pharma companies can take to ensure a smoother sail ahead

What are the challenges faced by Indian life sciences companies when it comes to the adoption of digital technologies?

According to a recent survey that we conducted (EY survey with 20 industry experts of top Indian domestic and multi-national companies), the Indian life sciences industry faces nine key hurdles in implementing digital interventions.

The top challenge is the stringent regulatory environment. Regulatory action associated with using new technologies and the complexity of getting fresh approvals can discourage companies from implementing technologies, especially those which are disruptive and lack a long track record.

The second most cited challenge is ‘change management’. While an organisation’s top management may want to implement a digital change, disbursing information about the benefits to the lowest possible level, particularly in large organisations, is difficult.

Availability of usable data is the third most highlighted concern. While life sciences companies have access to abundant data, it is a challenge to use this data to make insights.

Unavailability of skilled workforce and lack of consensus between business, strategy and technology teams were also flagged as key hurdles.

What can companies do to bridge the gap between a technology’s potential and its successful delivery?

A good digital strategy can help a company improve today’s business and enable tomorrow’s growth. As organisations plan their digital agendas, it is important to bridge the gap between a technology’s potential and its successful delivery, also known as digital effectiveness. Companies need to develop an exponential mindset that leverages technology for business model reinvention and empowers the workforce.

There are some best practices to increase digital effectiveness that companies can follow while designing and implementing their digital strategies. The detailed approach is discussed in the fourth chapter of our recent report ‘Today for tomorrow: realising the potential of Life Sciences 4.0’, and below is a summary.

Define the digital vision: Digital strategy should be aligned with the organisational goals. It is critical to get senior management buy-in and commitment to resources at the start. Instead of following the hype around new technology, link the digital initiatives to business value. Build the right people and infrastructure capabilities required to support digital transformation. Set up clear and ambitious targets, and regularly monitor progress.

Engage and execute: Communicate the digital vision to the entire organisation. Each individual in the organisation should be able to understand what the digital initiative means for the organisation and for them. Set up a strong,
cross-functional project team to ideate and implement the initiative. Establish transformation governance and key performance indicators. Train people to use new technologies.

Embrace transformation as a continuous way of working: Constantly evaluate and adjust the digital strategy in response to the evolving industry dynamics. Build a culture of constant learning and risk-taking. Break the organisational silos by linking leadership KPIs with innovation and best practice sharing.

While the top leaders in companies are now realising the significance of successful digital investments, what can they do to fill a perceived talent gap?

The talent gap is not perceived; it is real. These technologies are new and constantly advancing, hence not many people have enough exposure and training related to their use. There is also stiff competition between firms as digital skills are required across all industries.

The talent strategy should align with organisational needs. Identify what is important for businesses now and in the future. Define core and non-core functions, and how critical is a specific capability/skill for the company. This should help companies decide what skills they want to develop internally and where they want to outsource or partner.

Internal talent can be developed by upskilling the existing workforce or/and hiring from outside for very specific roles. Acquisitions can also be a fast route to get the right talent if companies can create incentives to retain the know-how post-integration.

How can the appointment of a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) assist the companies in this regard?

Some companies are looking at a CDO to bring in focus on the digital areas, but the truly transformative ones ensure all their leaders take digital as a way to do business and not as something extra.

How is personalised disease management shaping up/transforming under the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Life Sciences 4.0? To what extent has it percolated into the Indian market?

Life Sciences 4.0 (LS 4.0) redefines what personalisation means. A few years ago, personalised therapy was synonymous with developing targeted oncology therapies. Today, personalisation means tailoring interventions for each individual. These interventions could be therapies, disease management solutions or health management tools. Behavioural, economic, social and financial parameters are being used alongside traditional clinical metrics to design these innovative solutions. These personalised solutions are empowering patients to take a more important role in managing their own health.

In India, increasing access to the internet and mobile devices is making patients more aware of the need for effective disease management and prevention. Some MNCs have already launched new platforms that engage consumers and create incentives to manage their disease and health. Large domestic pharma companies are also investing in capabilities to personalise their products and solutions.

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