Digital Transformation: How to achieve cultural change

Insight from the Pistoia Alliance and Pfizer on making a successful transition to a 'smart' environment

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Pharma IQ

Transitioning to a ‘smart’ laboratory environment offers a clear opportunity for increased efficiency and productivity. However, without support from all levels and a comprehensive transition plan, you can invest in technology but fail to reap the full rewards.

To help you manage the transition, Christopher Boone, Vice President of Global Medical Epidemiology & Big Data Analysis Lead at Pfizer and Ashley George, CFO and Co-Founder of the Pistoia Alliance and Former Head of Innovation at GSK, share the lessons they learned on achieving lasting change in the lab. 


Understand your Starting Point

It can be easy to get lost in the future possibilities of a ‘smart’ lab and overlook some of the critical elements of strategy and planning.

One of the first steps to take when looking to invest in a digital transformation is to consider how prepared your organization is for change. Chris believes one of the best tools to use is the Gartner maturity scale for digital transformation.

If your company is at a higher stage of maturity, you may be able to look into systems which allow for full lab integration or predictive applications.

However, if your lab environment is operating at a basic level; with data managed in silos, ad hoc analysis, information firefighting and a lack of clarity over data integrity, then you may not be ready for transformational change. In this scenario, it would be better to consider a phased structural overhaul, focusing first on small but effective changes and building up to a system wide overhaul.

April Pisek, a solution consultant from IDBS, shared her experience of helping a client implement their solution using a phased approach. By introducing the change to one group at a time, they were able to limit the impact on existing work, gather early feedback and make improvements at a steady pace. Those who were benefiting from the new system then became change advocates, encouraging other employees to adapt to the new system.

Going from a basic level of analysis towards a ‘smart’ lab will require a substantial process overhaul, with additional user training and new policies on data storage, handling and integrity. Employees will have to operate in a different way and legacy systems may be in place which are difficult to transition from or integrate. If you’re not aware of how many steps need to be taken before reaching a fully digitized and integrated lab, you may implement this transformation in an ineffective way.

To be effective when making changes, Chris believes that you need to understand who will take ownership of the change. In a survey of 500 business intelligence professionals by Booz & Company, three possible operating models were identified; IT taking the lead, the business taking the lead or utilizing the expertize of both with shared ownership.

Understanding who will own and implement the technical side of the project will allow you to decide who needs to be part of early conversations, how different interests will be balanced and what additional factors need to be considered before change can take place.


 “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”

Digital strategy & culture + Customer engagement + Process & innovation + Technology infrastructure + Data & Analytics = Data driven digital transformation

A well thought out strategy is vital when entering a period of change, but culture is often the differentiating factor for success when it comes to creating a ‘smart’ lab.

From his own experience at GSK and supporting many enterprises through the Pistoia Alliance, Ashley shared that one of the most crucial steps is establishing a strong ‘North Star’ vision to guide your efforts. Perception is king and if you want your team to invest their energy into learning new processes and using new systems, they need to understand the end goal and how it will change their workflow.

A vision that is uplifting, inspiring and engaging can transcend organizational divides and operational silos. If your employees can see the long term benefits of a ‘smart’ lab, both on their day to day activities and in their ability to help patients, they are more likely to support your transformation project.

Ashley highlighted the importance of co-creating the transformation and seeking input from all levels. Holding forums can allow you to hear directly from your teams and refine your own understand of how to implement this change. Creating specific change management programs for different regions, functions and generations can also help you connect with your employees and encourage full adoption.

In global organizations, we typically now have four digital generations… When pursuing a digital transformation, don’t treat them all as the same grouping. Create personas for each of those groups and deliver change management specifically for each generation” Ashley George, CFO and Co-Founder, Pistoia Alliance

Unjulie Bhanot, a solution consultant at IDBS pointed out that change management is key when bringing people on board. Having the right sponsors and advocates throughout the business is critical. While senior stakeholders hold the buying power, the benefits of these systems need to be relayed down to the people who will be using them every day. By giving them the chance the experience and contribute hands on to the development of the software, the configuration or the planned implementation, they will feel ownership of the transformation.

When it comes to culture, Chris also offered a checklist of why your attempts to change may be failing to resonate with your employee base:

  • Your message around the change isn’t compelling from a heart-and-minds perspective
  • Your top team is failing to highlight the importance and value of the change
  • You are focusing on activities instead of outcomes
  • You haven’t fully prepared for the change
  • You haven’t built a ‘deep bench’ with the right talent and capabilities
  • You have failed to align and track incentives