Interview with former Sanofi VP, Arturo Zanni | Digital Transformation in the Pharmaceutical Industry
As the healthcare industry has moved quickly to adopt digital technologies, the pharma industry also needs to transform itself from the traditional to the digital ecosystem. Digital Transformation in the pharmaceutical industry offers a possibility to revamp its business model, to improve production processes, and to create unparalleled customer service.
Additionally, pharmaceutical firms are generating vast amounts of data at an unprecedented pace. Pharmaceutical organizations must act quickly and move to transform their operations around digital capabilities and incorporate greater collaboration and technology use.
Arturo Zanni is a veteran pharmaceutical executive with a proven track record in driving organizations that constantly reinvent themselves, explore the future while excelling at exploiting the present, cultivate an innovation and execution culture that lives in harmony, and compete on a superior business model and transcend traditional industry boundaries. During his 15-year tenure at Sanofi, he was involved in various groundbreaking transformational projects.
Recently, Arturo sat down with Sandeep Patil, Co-Founder, and Director at Sankey Solutions to discuss digital transformation in the pharmaceutical industry and the challenges and opportunities in transforming the industry.
Arturo, thank you so much for spending some time with us today. To begin, what is your insight on the digital transformation process of the pharmaceutical sector and the need for such a transitioning?
Dear Sandeep, it’s a pleasure for me to have this conversation with you, and thank you so much for this opportunity to talk about digital transformation in the pharma industry. Compared to other industries the pharmaceutical industry has a delay in digital transformation and the reason is that the perceived risk to be exposed to digital disruption is one of the lowest in the industry as it is well shown by the Digital Vortex observatory by IMD.
In the last few years, the investments have been increased, mainly in the R&D, and the experience in the recent COVID 19 crisis has increased the sense of urgency to accelerate the transformation in other departments.
What are some of the most important challenges pharmaceutical organizations and their supply chains need to overcome to take advantage of digital transformation?
Pharmaceutical industries have used as the preferred channels to interact with customers the face to face and even today the weight of this channel is extremely high when compared with other industries. Thanks to the high margin generated by patent protection the urgency to explore new ways to interact with customers have been exceptionally low and the strategy has been product-centric.
Recently, the diffusion of more targeted therapies has moved the strategy toward being more patients centric and the increased need to have more patient’s insight to develop more targeted medicines has open the way to new channels to interact and build new experiences with customers.
The supply chain model is changed a lot, its complexity and competition level has been strongly increased. There are several key challenges to face, among them, I think the possibility to deliver at home the medicine and protect patients from counterfeit medicine are those more relevant.
What changes did you implement to unlock the true potential of digital transformation at Sanofi?
One of the main barriers in a big multinational company is the approach to manage projects as they use the same approach to manage a multi-billion budget process where execution is key to deliver the financial objectives persevere every year on a standard approach and a digital transformation process where exploration of new ideas is key to realize a tailored solution to be evolved continuously through testing and pivoting the best solution.
I believe it is possible to unlock the full potential of digital transformation only if you use a lean startup approach, engage the different teams, and learn from their experiences what is the best solution to adopt. Diversity and inclusion are really making the difference in this approach, which is a must to create an optimal ecosystem to facilitate this approach where people are motivated to iterate new ideas.
Can you talk about the impact these measures have brought to the business?
We have compared the business performance in different test zone where we have utilized the old approach via medical reps, a mixed one, and a fully digital. The best results validate by a structured analytic method have shown that the mixed-mode offered superior performance.
Customer engagement has increased progressively in old customers while the adoption of the digital tools allowed medical reps to expand the audience ad build solid partnerships with new clients.
Once that the solution was validated, we have scaled-up it across all the nations, and we started to search for new solutions to maintain a continuous improvement process.
What will pharma’s future digital leaders look like?
They should be a genuine supporter of this transformation, starting from the inclusion of digital strategy into the business strategy and cascade it from corporate to business to function. I see these leaders able to develop a culture of exploration and exploitation that’s live in harmony. They should leverage diversity and inclusion to empower an ecosystem where open innovation and quality in execution are creation a persistent competitive advantage vs a competitor.
They should promote a culture of risk-taking, supporting an evaluation system to reward not only a high performer but also innovators with an entrepreneurial spirit.
What are some of the areas pharmaceutical companies are not focusing enough and how could this be a problem?
I think one of the main problems is the culture, values, and processes are not updated to support the digital transformation with two main side effects: one, the new tools are not integrated with the old and after a while, they are abandoned, the second exploration create a high risk of failure that is fundamental to learn but not good for your personal performance evaluation based on execution.
The second problem is the organizational model, too much focused on execution while it should be ambidextrous, with equal weight on execution and exploration allocation of resources.
How is the digitalization in the pharma industry going to facilitate the healthcare transformation?
I think we should consider a larger horizon as digital disruption is embracing all the industries creating a 3D domino effect. The new industry will appear as the customer will develop new needs. I think the distinction between pharma and healthcare will be overtaken in the future to generate a new concept of wellbeing industry, where big data, analytics, integrated solution, and new tools will offer to each individual the opportunity to be the master of his future thanks to the opportunity to manage more directly their health.
What are some of the problems facing the pharmaceutical industry in a post-coronavirus landscape? Also, what are some of the opportunities and courses of action for pharma companies in the midst of this pandemic?
In the so-called new normal the urgency is how to manage the personal interaction, it could be company to employees or company to the customer. What is called today the smart working is far to be a real smart working, it is simply a digitalization of the personal interaction with limited evolution of the value of these interactions. I am thinking of interaction between doctors to patients, how we can ensure the quality of a diagnosis? And what about a medical resp detailing a new scientific data to a doctor, how can we make this experience better than a video on a web site?
We started this conversation telling that the pharma industry is in a delay vs other industries, now I hope the new normal will be a good motivation to speed up the transformation and offer to all the customer a superior experience when they face a health problem.
About Sankey Solutions:
Sankey Solutions is one of the fastest-growing digital transformation consulting and solution companies with a special focus on the pharmaceutical sector. We have been working closely with Fortune 500 pharmaceutical companies like Bayer other multinational pharma companies around the world as their technology partner.
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