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How to overcome challenges to data research, strategic forecasting?

Sanobar Syed
Wednesday, May 24, 2023, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

In the last decade, pharma companies of all sizes have drilled for and stored more and more data about their customers and business operations to drive performance and growth to reach their goals. In conjunction with the increased use of the consumer internet, data creation has exploded in recent years - considering most of the world’s data collected over the course of human history has occurred in just the last two years alone. As a result, entire businesses and industries have been built solely on having access to unique and useful data. Businesses of all sizes now realize the power of data to better serve their customers, identify new business opportunities, grow sales, and improve processes. Data enables better and smarter business decisions, and for that reason, a company’s data is considered one of its greatest assets. But, due to several growing risks to businesses, data can also be one of an organization’s greatest liabilities.

Data informs all aspects of the pharmaceutical commercial process, and it plays a pivotal role in driving sales. Yet, we found that companies face many obstacles when it comes to data analytics and management. Without a proper data analytics strategy, emerging pharmaceutical companies can struggle with inaccurate forecasts, poor targeting and unmotivating incentive compensation plans, all of which can hamper sales.

The following are some relevant real time challenges faced by the pharmaceutical forecasting and insights generation.

Challenge 1: Too many pharma cos under use advanced analytics
The number of companies that use advanced analytics only “somewhat” or “to a limited extent” to generate commercial insights is mind boggling. The use of advanced analytics can help pharmaceutical companies more effectively analyze large amounts of data and improve the quality of their insights. Not many companies have the budgets like big pharma to execute this exercise and neglect the competitive advantages which could be reaped.

Challenge 2: Cos are concerned about data management
As commercial operations teams deal with an increasingly large intake of data, it is vital that they organize and manage it in a way that allows for efficient analysis. However, many companies list organizing and storing data as one of their greatest commercial challenges. And while new technology can help companies better sift through this data, many emerging companies consider data organization a primary hindrance to using business intelligence tools.

Challenge 3: Data analytics deficiencies have significant impacts on the sales force
The data analytics and management challenges are causing a snowball effect. This is because many emerging pharmaceutical companies especially under utilize advanced analytics when it comes to two central components of the commercial process: incentive compensation and territory alignment. Lack of a data-backed commercial strategy in these areas can lead to disparate payouts, uneven workloads, and ultimately unsatisfied and unmotivated sales reps. This explains why a meaningful number of companies suffer from high annual sales force turnover.

A successful product launch is critical for achieving a new product’s full potential. Getting all the components right, and the company is primed for long-term market impact and commercial success. Fall short, and the company will fail to see a meaningful return on the significant time and money it invested in developing its new product. And, for emerging pharma companies – which often must make do with fewer resources than their Big Pharma counterparts – the stakes are even higher.  

Everything from the competitive landscape to the company’s omnichannel marketing strategy contribute to the results of a product launch. Robust technology that eliminates siloes and provides valuable insights is crucial to an efficient and effective launch. And, while Big Pharma typically already has legacy systems in place, emerging companies have an opportunity to implement custom systems that are tailored to their needs and set them up for future growth.  

Implementing technology solutions and processes must be done thoughtfully and strategically. An out-of-the-box solution can sometimes be easier in initial implementation but typically does not meet the various customer data management, analytics, and reporting needs of a company’s home office and field teams. These larger, out-of-the-box solutions aimed to cover generalized enterprise needs often can’t accommodate customizations to support change management and company growth, which could ultimately hinder launch success.  

So, how can an emerging pharma company maximize success at launch and set itself up for future growth?

Establishing a launch dashboard or tracker
First, the company can create a launch planning tool which provides a one-stop-shop for all pre-launch activities and allowed for seamless communication across departments. The tool can include calendars and timelines, outlined launch processes, tracked critical pre-launch events, highlighted priorities, and incorporated a communication center to allow for cross-department planning. Having all of these pieces in one place can allow users to see how their scope of work impacted other departments that they may not otherwise work with. The launch tracker also incorporated dependencies and an alert system to notify users across teams if an event impacted the overall launch timeline. By eliminating silos with a company-wide launch tool, each department can easily collaborate on launch activities with an inside look across all other departments. Stakeholders across the organization could monitor timelines and goals and identify and resolve challenges quickly.

Research & knowledge management
The team’s insights are critical to the success of the business. The business strategy and forecasting team are the internal voice of the customers - the patients, doctors, and healthcare professionals who rely on the company’s products to meet their needs.

Every strategy lead wants to reflect the true voice of the customer, framed in the right context, so the stakeholders can make good customer-centric business decisions that remain compliant with regulations. A lot of times the problem is, the organization has an enormous (and growing) amount of internal and external knowledge about how the customers feel about the products, so it becomes difficult to synthesize and connect the dots in an understandable way for the stakeholders. Forecasting and Insights teams at large, multinational healthcare firms face common healthcare research and knowledge management stumbling blocks, like:

  • Research duplication because there’s no easy way to search the organization’s knowledge to see what’s been studied before.
  • Time-consuming knowledge synthesis because all the structured and unstructured data sources live on different platforms.
  • Lost insights - the teams’ insights reports end up buried in inboxes and hard drives because there is not a centralized place for people to find past insights.
One way of the possible solution is to overcome market research challenges is by leveraging technology to implement a repeatable, scalable, and robust research and knowledge management processes.

There needs to be agile workflows and checkpoints that standardize the forecasting and market research and insights management activities, so the steps are always clear, and teams are always compliant in the go to countries.

The importance of implementing technology that fits an organization’s needs and improves efficiency and communication across teams to allow for an organized, strategic product launch. By leveraging technology that connects all knowledge assets and insights with automated healthcare market research management, one can make customer-centric, patient-based decisions. After all if the company succeeds in their goals, not only they win but the patient wins too!

(Author has over 14 years of proven achievements in establishing and leading business strategy and forecasting in leading global pharma firms, and holding Masters in Organic Chemistry & MBA in Marketing, can be reached at syedfatima123@gmail.com)


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