The pandemic-driven digital transformation of pharma has seen many European companies respond by trying to implement a global omnichannel framework, but it’s a path that can be fraught with difficulty.
While ‘content’ remains an ever-present issue for companies, at the strategy level campaigns will simply not deliver against expectations if global digital plans are not adopted and implemented by country leads, or if the MLR review process does not run smoothly.
Currently, this experience can leave many pharma leaders feeling unsatisfied, but there are proven ways to mitigate challenges from digital transformations that are driven at a centralized or regional level.
This article addresses three particular omnichannel transformation challenges from the wide spectrum that I have encountered across multiple projects and those that have emerged from recent DT engagements.
1. Local adoption of global omnichannel plans and assets
The nuances of different countries’ regulations can often obstruct global efforts to generate efficiencies through the simple re-use of global omnichannel blueprints.
Understandably, local stakeholders can also be reluctant to replace existing projects that work just to harmonize approaches within a European or global framework.
The solution is to develop a partnership between global and local in which global stakeholders:
Partner with local leads: Global leaders should develop a deep understanding of current campaign successes, needs, and constraints through a multi-market landscape assessment. This could also encompass an inspection of local operating models to ensure the capabilities and processes to drive digital commercial excellence are in place.
Co-develop engagement plans: Omnichannel plans must strike the right balance between content standardization and adaptation. Co-developing these plans will ensure materials stay compliant and leverage efficiencies from a global content production hub.
Embed capabilities and processes: A change-management program can support the adoption of a global framework through a targeted use of tactics, such as training and communication plans. But there will also need to be investment to build the right capabilities.
2. Approval bottlenecks in the MLR process
At both a global and local level, the efficiency of the review process for the increasing number of digital assets that digital transformation entails is key. However, medical, legal, and regulatory (MLR) approval bottlenecks can easily cause channel go-live dates to shift, in turn causing difficulties with planning the dissemination of digital content.
From unfamiliarity with the mechanics of a new channel to understaffing the MLR function, there are various root causes for slow approval processes. To improve these processes, digital leaders can:
Develop a digital literacy training plan: Understanding the digital channels that sit behind the assets under approval is a key part of any overarching change management program. Local MLR teams must clearly understand different channels’ rules and functionality and what they mean for the review process.
Review and optimize MLR process design: Collaborate with all the stakeholders involved and ensure processes are based on widely accepted best practices and that there are clear standards in place.
Outsource the first MLR review: Global and local MLR understaffing can be mitigated by ensuring the team’s files are as close as possible to an approved-for-use version. Outsourcing a ‘first pass’ of the documents reduces the number of review cycles and accelerates the process.
3. Assessing the impact of different data, metrics, and KPIs
Comparing campaign performance across different markets can be arduous, due to the sheer number of reports issued, the inconsistency of metrics and benchmarks, and gaps in data availability.
Meanwhile, unrealistic expectations that campaign optimization will fix performance issues overnight creates unnecessary pressure on global transformation leaders.
These risks could be mitigated if digital transformation leaders:
Adopt a robust optimization workstream: This must allocate suitable attention to reporting, so that measurement is part of a continuous improvement process and could include a dedicated team whose focus is on how data will be used – and trusted – to optimize campaigns.
Establish a ‘rep equivalence’ model: The need to assess the impact of digital transformation investments requires metrics for digital elements of the marketing mix to be translated into an offline equivalent. A rep-equivalence model can assign an agreed weight to HCPs’ online actions to gauge their impact on HCP engagement levels.
Manage timing expectations: The time-lag between optimization actions and their impact on data should be acknowledged and clearly set out at the start of the process. For example, it will probably take at least 60 days for revised content to show an impact on campaign data, even after it has been approved and gone live.
Taking an integrated approach
Although these issues and best practices are often assigned to a wide number of partner agencies, each taking care of different aspects of the transformation program, that is rarely the most effective strategy.
Instead, pharma companies should consider an integrated approach that provides clear leadership and end-to-end oversight of the intertwined processes created by the three challenges discussed above.
Such centralized ownership will help to tackle these issues head-on and allow transformation leaders to mitigate risks, manage expectations, and set their firm on the path to success.