Interview with Sanofi Former VP – Arturo Zanni
Spotlighting the challenges faced by the Pharmaceutical industries while undergoing the Digital Transformation
As digital technology has leaped around the world, the pharma industry needs to transform itself from the traditional landscape to the digital landscape. Digital Transformation in the pharmaceutical industry offers a mechanism to revise its business model, improve production processes, and increase its responsiveness to the customers. Furthermore, the volume of the data processed by pharmaceutical firms shows no sign of slowing down. This means that the pharmaceutical companies must act quickly in terms of building core internal digital capabilities and moving beyond their traditional functions to all areas of the business.
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 live in harmony, and compete on a superior business model and transcend traditional industry boundaries. During his 15-years tenure at Sanofi, he was involved in various ground-breaking transformational projects.
Recently, Arturo sat down with Mr. Sandeep Patil, Co-Founder and Director at Sankey Solutions to discuss the digital transformations in the pharmaceutical industry spotlighting the challenges and opportunities in transforming the industry.
⦁ Arturo, thank you so much for spending some time with us today. To begin with, what is your insight on the digital transformation process of the pharmaceutical sector and the need for such a transition?
Dear Sandeep, it’s a pleasure for me to have this conversation with you. 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 recent 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 the 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 it as the preferred channel 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 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 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, 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. The customer’s engagement increased progressively in old customers while the adoption of the digital tools allowed to medical reps to expand the audience and build solid partnership with the 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 competitor.
They should promote a culture of risk-taking, supporting an evaluation system to reward not only the high performer but also the innovators with an entrepreneurial spirit.
⦁ What are some of the areas pharmaceutical companies are not focusing on enough and how could this be a problem?
I think one of the main problem is the culture, values and processes that are not updated to support the digital transformation with two main side effects: first, the new tools are not integrated with the old and after a while they are abandoned and the second, exploration create high risk of failure that are fundamental to learn but not good for your personal performance evaluation based on execution.
The second problem is the organizational model is highly focused on execution while it should be ambidextrous, with an equal weight on execution and exploration allocation of the 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. New industry will appear as the customer starts developing the 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 amid 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 customers. What is called today a 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 about an interaction between doctors and patients on how we can ensure the quality of the diagnosis? And what about the medical representatives detailing a new scientific data to a doctor on how can we make this experience better than a video on the website?
We started this conversation telling that the pharma industry is in a delay when compared with the other industries. Now, I hope the new normal will be a good motivation to speed up the transformation and offer to all the customers a superior experience when they face a health problem.