Time to accelerate digital capabilities in life sciences: Is your digital strategy road-ready?

by Chris Zant, Principal, Deloitte Digital, Deloitte Consulting LLP

For many in life sciences, it can be easy to feel like you’re in the slow lane of digital transformation compared to other industries. It’s a familiar perspective, since life sciences organizations operate in a regulatory environment that tends to slow things down considerably. So you get used to watching as transformation takes hold elsewhere, taking notes, and eventually applying lessons learned to your own company.

Social media. Virtual reality. Data-enabled genomics. Cloud. Blockchain. Open innovation platforms. Any one of these developments holds the potential to significantly improve the ways in which life sciences companies serve their customers. And in many cases, these organizations are lagging behind their peers in other industries.

But that may be starting to change. Some industry leaders are already starting to show the way forward with digital capabilities, whether through using the Internet of Things to change the ways in which clinical trials are conducted and monitored, or in using artificial intelligence to deliver timely patient services and adherence messages based on the patients specific case details and existing interaction data. Their efforts tend to share a revitalized focus on customers (everyone from doctors to clinical trial participants and patients) – looking to align offers, insights, and channels to create smarter points of engagement with them.

Now that advanced digital capabilities are gaining momentum among life sciences – in some cases sparking real transformation – leaders at these companies have to sustain it, guiding this momentum with care. That means likely investing in the organizational transformation required to consistently deliver value from these capabilities over the long run: changing norms, revamping regulatory processes, and streamlining platforms. Otherwise, they’re likely to wake up a year or so from now to realize that their organizations have haphazardly assembled a hodgepodge of digital capabilities in the rush to catch up – not so much a strategy, but rather a collection of capabilities, tools, and platforms.

That’s where a real digital strategy comes into play. Who should benefit from digital capabilities? How ambitious do you really need to be? What are the must-have capabilities for succeeding? How does the operating model need to change? These are the types of questions that a digital strategy can help answer – and they can be critical for shaping and guiding your digital investments.

Where should your digital strategy focus? In our work with pharma and medtech companies, we’ve identified four archetypes typical of the transformations being pursued by many life sciences leaders. Within each of the four, there are digital capabilities (reflected in the bullets within each section below) that many companies are using to achieve their transformation goals.

Execute efficiently
* Streamline and digitize processes and approaches
* Update and rationalize digital infrastructure
* Implement digital workflows to improve internal communication and coordination
* Replace manual with digital processes

Improve engagement
* Deliver differentiated customer experiences
* Leverage new and multiple channels to reach customers
* Use data and analytics to understand (micro)segments and develop differentiated customer insights and experiences

Enable better patient care
* Develop “beyond the product” systems and services to improve care for patients
* Accelerate and enable digital R&D for scientific breakthroughs
* Provide and inform clinical decision support and care coordination tools

Transform the enterprise
* Create a culture in which digital is part of the DNA
* Integrate digital infrastructure and governance across the organization
* Create connectivity and agility across the value chain
* Build capabilities to identify and manage digital opportunities or initiatives

Whether you’re planning big things with digital capabilities or need to take a more modest, incremental approach, you’ll likely need a digital strategy that’s road ready. Using these archetypes as a guide, you can begin to assess your organization’s willingness and propensity to change. My suggestion? Start having conversations with your colleagues and customers now. Assess the needs of your business. Move “digital strategy” to the top of your agenda. Because it’s time to move out of the digital slow lane.

Digital is transforming the life sciences industry. Are you ready to keep up with shifting demands and increasing expectations from customers? This new blog series featuring Deloitte leaders provides a look into the latest trends in this transformation to keep you a step ahead. Stay tuned next month for the next in the series.


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