Start Your Digital Transformation Program With Stakeholder Alignment

Executive Summary

In order for pharmaceutical firms to achieve digital excellence, the entire organisation needs to understand and support the company’s digital strategy. DT Associates surveyed thirty-two digital leaders at the top global pharmaceutical companies to find out how well aligned they think each department is with their company’s overall digital ambitions. We found that digital leaders get the most support from their brand teams, whereas field sales teams are the least likely to be on board. Digital leaders in the life sciences must understand that digital transformation is a company-wide organisational challenge.

Companies surveyed for this report: AbbVie, Astellas Pharma, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Eli Lilly and Company, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson / Janssen, Merck & Co., Mylan, Novartis, Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi, Teva Pharmaceuticals.

How Well Do Departments Align With Overall Digital Ambitions?

We asked thirty-two digital leaders at major global pharmaceutical companies to give us their view on how closely aligned various departments are with the company’s digital ambitions—that is, how well these departments know and understand digital and support the company’s overall digital vision and strategy. Strong alignment is an important indicator of digital transformation success: the more that departments share the digital team’s ambitions, the more likely they are to support the overall plan and accept the changes necessary to achieve it. The digital leaders we surveyed told us that, in terms of digital transformation:

  • Brand teams, procurement, and corporate IT are fully aligned… These departments are the most likely to be advocates of digital transformation. Seventy-nine percent of the brand teams, seventy-two percent of procurement teams, and sixty-nine percent of corporate IT departments are well-aligned; they’re knowledgeable about digital, are receptive to change, and support the digital strategy (see Figure 1). This isn’t much of a surprise, particularly with respect to brand teams—after all, they’re the digital team’s primary stakeholders.
  • …but senior and commercial leaders, medical teams, and market research aren’t. Just over half of our respondents believe that their senior and commercial leaders clearly understand the benefits of digital and endorse the company’s digital strategy. This is a risk for digital programs as a whole, because leadership teams are the key to effectively reducing resistance to change and lending urgency to the transformation process. Half of the digital leaders we surveyed believe that the medical department is fully aligned; forty-four percent said the same of market research.
  • Therapy area CoEs and legal and field sales teams need urgent attention. Legal teams and regional therapy centers of excellence (CoEs) aren’t exactly bright spots, and pharmaceutical firms need to address this. Failing to gain the support of legal teams will delay the approval of new capabilities, while unaligned therapy area CoEs imperil the development of digital brand content and programs at the regional level. Finally, a red flag for the entire industry: less than a quarter of field sales teams are aligned with the digital team’s ambitions. They’re not necessarily hostile to change; until recent waves of tablet detailing rollouts, they have often simply not been fully included in the transformation process.


Securing Stakeholder Alignment is a Digital Transformation Imperative

Staying on course to achieve digital excellence requires that key departments are aligned with your company’s overall digital vision and ambitions. To attain and maintain this necessary—but sometimes elusive—alignment, digital leaders at pharmaceutical firms should:

  • Create a stakeholder map. Getting a critical mass of the organization to buy into your ideas and plans is a vital component of digital transformation success. To understand how close you are to achieving that goal, map out the various stakeholders and their degree of alignment (see Figure 2). This stakeholder map should include each department’s influence on overall business success to enable solid prioritization of subsequent alignment efforts.
  • Uncover (deeply rooted) reasons for misalignment. One of the most common causes of misalignment is a lack of understanding of how a department’s activities contribute to the digital team’s objectives and plans—in other words, teams don’t share the same view of the future. The reasons for misalignment vary, so you must investigate and understand them on a department-by-department basis.
  • Get a change agent on the case. Equipped with a better understanding of the problem at hand, empower your change agent with the time and tools necessary to improve alignment—but recognize that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. A large UK-based pharmaceutical company found success by creating a network of change champions to reduce the pressure on the central digital team to manage the change process. Change agents are charismatic and often seen as the team’s go-to person due to their personal approach: they can sense the anxiety or anger—not digital unfamiliarity or technophobia—at the core of the resistance and manage it effectively.


DT Associates fielded its Q1 2014 Global Digital Excellence in the Pharmaceutical Industry survey to forty-nine digital professionals who demonstrated interest in and familiarity with digital marketing and strategy as part of their role in a pharmaceutical organization. The forty-nine professionals who completed the survey answered basic questions about their role, their team, and their budgets. Based on answers to these questions, we excluded seventeen of the respondents from our final sample, which included only those who have significant digital responsibility and budget (e.g. heads of digital, digital directors, and digital leads).

We fielded the survey from January 2014 to February 2014. Respondent incentives included a copy of a business eBook or a donation to a charity, as well as a copy of a report containing the collected survey data.

Our sample is not guaranteed to be representative of the population. Responses don’t make precise maturity scores for respondents’ respective companies, and, unless otherwise noted, data is intended for descriptive purposes.


Tim van Tongeren crc

Tim van Tongeren

Managing Partner

Tim has worked for more than fifteen years with commercial leaders to navigate their strategic and organizational transformations required to thrive on digital technology change. In his current role as Managing Partner, he leads DT’s Solutions and Consulting offerings to advise the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms on how to best achieve customer experience success through digital transformation.

Dennis van Rooij

Managing Partner

Dennis is a recognized expert on how pharmaceutical executives can take full advantage of new digital technologies to bolster their business objectives. He brings a strategic yet pragmatic perspective on digital transformation for the pharmaceutical industry…
Dennis van Rooij crc

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