Richie Etwaru

Richie Etwaru

IMS Health has released its report Orchestrated Customer Engagement, which looks at what pharma companies need to do beyond multichannel and omnichannel marketing in order to deliver a full customer engagement experience. Med Ad News spoke with Richie Etwaru, chief digital officer of IMS Health and primary author of the report, to expand on some points in the report and how pharma companies are handling customer engagement now.

Med Ad News: Where are most of today’s pharma companies in the OCE maturity model? Instruction, Insight, Involvement, or Intervention?

RE: This depends on the market, and the molecule/brand we are discussing. In emerging markets, most organizations employ an instruction model where both sales and marketing activities take advantage of digital, but the insights from individual activities are not completely integrated, shared, or acted upon. In mature markets, organizations are closer to the insight stage, where the insights of activities from marketing, are shared with sales teams.

Globally however, for specialty molecules/brands, organizations may employ an involvement model. This is ideal in cases where the commercial model is account-based selling, or market access is complex with ACO/IDN models, or the patient relationship and journey is deep and intimate. Very few organizations are at the intervention stage, and orchestration, while here today, is at the inception of becoming a reality.

Med Ad News: What is the biggest challenge companies face in moving from the Instruction phase to the Intervention phase?

RE: The journey is not simple, or quick. As a result, organizations will face the early decision of building, buying, or partnering. Given that the transformation is heavily anchored in information and technology, the likely conclusion will be to buy (from a SaaS vendor and information providers). Having said that, with the exception of IMS Health, there are not many vendors in Life Sciences that have homogeneously pre-integrated the information and technology to enable orchestration, and have market-ready the heterogeneously integrated string of SaaS applications from sales, marketing, and home office operations to enable a straightforward roadmap to orchestration. The biggest challenge organizations will face is to overcome internal emotional commitments to “one off” vendors, and to cut through the habitual tendency afforded to individual managers of departments to have the latitude to select single-solution vendors, for single markets.

Orchestration requires a horizontal view of the organization, and a new discipline in vendor selection to resist the tendency to buy “one-off” vertically or regionally aligned solutions that come with the burden of pharma having to integrate individual systems and data sources internally—or worse, pay system integrators to integrate them. Pharma will need the change in organizational emotional discipline to purchase a pre-integrated already working reference-able architecture of orchestration from vendors that can delivery orchestration globally, and at industrial strength. One can think of this as shifting more to the partner alternative in the build vs. buy vs. partner debate.

Med Ad News: When it comes to technology, should companies try to incorporate legacy systems? Or should they start fresh? If incorporating legacy systems, how can that be done in the least painful way?

RE: There is still incredible value in some legacy systems. One of the industry’s challenges is complexity, not capacity, or capability. Pharma has the capacity and capability to orchestrate, however those systems are incredibly complex in deployment, and are not deployed consistently across the globe, or brand portfolios. As a result, one of the least painful ways is to start with a simplification approach. Simplification can remove redundancy, and reduce complexity with the intent to deploy a consistent set of capabilities across the globe or brand portfolio. A simplification program before a transformation program will help prevent “throwing out the baby with the bath water.”

Med Ad News: When it comes to process changes to establish OCE, what are the biggest barriers companies face? How can those challenges be best addressed?

RE: While there are dependencies on technology for process changes, the cultural and organizational design implications to process changes to OCE are paramount. Culturally, the alignment and incentives in most large pharma organizations do not encourage a horizontal thinking mentality, horizontal project culture, or horizontal alignment of processes. This is driven largely by organizations still having the organizational design of vertical brands, or vertical regional markets. The strain to the P&L and margins of large pharma, and the loud beckoning for agility, requires a shift from vertical thinking, alignment and design, to horizontal thinking, alignment, and design. This can be one of the easiest ways to re-engineer processes to drive behaviors and outcomes of programs such as Orchestrated Customer Engagement.

Med Ad News: What should companies be looking for when it comes to the people needed for OCE? What is “horizontal thinking” versus “vertical ownership”? Please define an example of each, what makes one good and the other one not so good.

RE: Horizontal thinkers care about (1) the success of the entire organization, not just a vertical; (2) multiple disciplines (somewhat of a pharma polymath) not just sales, marketing, or operations; and (3) are keen on collaboration and the customer. Horizontal thinkers collaborate more than they communicate, and spend more time studying the customers than internal operations. Vertical owners care about the success of her/his vertical over that of the aggregate organization, are specialists in a single or double function, and are more concerned about communicated processes than studying customers in the moment of truth.