Digital transformation in pharma: a discussion with Pfizer [PODCAST]
Are you changing your approach along with your enterprise approach?
A digital transformation in pharma success story
With trends in the pharmaceutical industry mirroring those of many other verticals, digital transformation has become of mainstay importance in the past few years. Enterprises of all shapes and sizes are trying to achieve digital transformation, be they pharmaceutical or otherwise. One such success story is that of Pfizer.
Pfizer's Anil Bhavnani is earning digital transformation in pharma the old fashioned way — through mergers and acquisitions: “We were doing so many activities and as a result of mergers and acquisitions that they wanted somebody who supported transformation."
And so, three years ago, Anil (literally) rolled up his sleeves, grabbed a (figurative) machete and went to work conceiving of the most seamlessly integrated enterprise possible.
“Interestingly, that transformation which was more related to more on the digital side. So I'm supporting the digital transformation too. It got extended.”
And so it goes. Anil got ‘upskilled’ into pharmaceutical digital transformation based on the fact that he understood the culture of the organization and embraced change. From the company’s point of view- what other known quantity would be better suited for the position?
Outsourcing, OpEx — Anil had been down this road.
“In terms of cost and labor, I would bring them into a central location so that you can optimize and you can centralize. There was an element of continuous improvement there. But obviously over the period of time and a lot of change happening- I've been able to demonstrate that you could actually do that with mergers and acquisitions too and be able to give some synergy targets back to the company.”
Technology has consistently pulled process along
So one would imagine that digital transformation in pharma would be one in the same.
“Digital is the same, in a way, in that you ultimately have to focus on the process," Anil says.
"Even when you are doing integrations, you are normally focusing on the process because you're kind of integrating onto one ERP. So it is driven by technology - even integrations would be typically driven because you're kind of bringing all work onto one single ERP.”
As one of the strongest pharmaceutical industry trends, the embracing of technology has consistently pulled process along.
“The opportunities of optimizing the process and as a result of that you can give back synergy back to the company.”
The key benefit of intelligent automation is the opportunity to actually transform
That paradigm, of course, still rings true. But, but, but…
“Digital is different because the focus is more in terms of how you can automate and how you can transform the process the way it's being done today. So the manual element of the process or a lot of repetitive tasks that are today there actually can be eliminated. That's why it's different.”
Transformation was transformation. Digital transformation can just be transformation, too, but the key benefit of intelligent automation is the opportunity to actually transform.
When Anil conceives of that thought, you may think his reaction would be to cower and complain about the truly Sisyphean task in front of him. Even if he was game — how could he bring his gargantuan global organization along with him to a new reality? Panic!
But, no, that’s not his reaction.
Instead, Anil brings up celestial harmony. And he brings it up to say that he’s being rewarded with the opportunity to help transform a behemoth of a global pharmaceutical enterprise.
“I think that sometimes... and I don't know whether I should use this as an analogy, but there's something called karma, right? There's a designated time for something to happen. And that's what the Hindu philosophy talks about. They say with karma, if you have good deeds, things will happen at the right time for you so you don't need to rush. Just wait, and when the time is right, it will happen.”
But it’s a double-edged sword for Anil, because he also feels that karma has struck him in such a way that he had grown his organization from 200 to 600, and now he’s in the process of reversing that paradigm. It’s his organization that feels the brunt of the FTE shift.
But that doesn’t mean loss. When asked if it’s a net gain or net loss, overall, he says: “It's a give and take. So you will lose certain jobs which are very repetitive and kind of very rules set based jobs because those jobs won't be there. But on the flip side, a lot of jobs have were created because you're automating, you're creating jobs with business analysts, with people who have little bit of programming background, who are the developers actually writing the code. Some of these are not hardcore computer specialists. A lot of them have learned on the job. I would say it's more about changing the skillset of people and the way they look at things and the way they do things.”
It's for the overall improvement of the process and to have the customer have a better experience
His organization. Your organization. Every enterprise simply has to follow Anil’s lead. What I did yesterday informs what I’m doing tomorrow. Put yourself in the right place to learn how to learn and change what you offer. That’s true of the employee. That’s true of the business itself.
“Overall, it's for the overall improvement of the process and to have the customer have a better experience, right? So you know the focus is that the customer should have a good experience.”
The customer wins
As the curtain falls on the first act, Anil brings up the fact that it’s just not that easy. And it’s not that easy because this time — as mentioned — is different. All the basic tenants of change management that have worked in the past, are kind of weak in the face of a fourth industrial revolution.
“I would say it's really different more from a perspective that you're really changing the whole paradigm, Anil says.
"At one point in time we were just kind of doing a very rule set based kind of process. And here we are changing the entire process. We are automating it. And therefore lot of people are impacted. The upstream-downstream processes are also impacted at times. You have to work with multiple stakeholders to be able to manage that change. I think that's where the challenge is.”
When asked to unpack the wholesale change — meaning yesterday versus today, he suggests doing a "lift and shift" is one thing but there's more to it.
“You're just basically bringing in new people, getting them trained and kind of replicating that same process somewhere else. You're not adding. I think the only impact is obviously the region from where the jobs are moving to another region, there is change management there."
"What is strikingly different is the way the work is happening is changing.
And the way you do work is really getting transformed.
Which then means that work from a people perspective, from their skillset and from what they're doing — the business is truly impacted."
“But having said that, I think what is strikingly different is the way the work is happening is changing. And the way you do work is really being transformed. Which then means that work from people perspective, their skillset, what they're doing — the business is truly impacted. All those need to be looked at. This is change to the bar effects because you're doing it across the organization. It's not like we're doing it, say, for finance and accounting — it's also happening in commercial, in HR, in procurement, and so on. Everybody's driving it so you know keeping that in mind it's really a very different kind of paradigm shift because you are doing a much larger transformation.”
But are you? Are you actually taking this opportunity to change everything? Or are you simply nipping and tucking at the edges. Neatening up around the periphery?
The future is now. Global corporate enterprise is in the process of wholesale transformation. If you’re not completely changing what you offer to the enterprise while you manage a transformation in what the enterprise offers the customer, you’re simply not doing your job.