Redefining role of project management in pharma marketing

Dr R B SmartaWednesday, September 10, 2008, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

To be successful in today's competitive business world, managers must deliver results on time and within budget. By applying the processes, tools and techniques, successful managers do achieve extraordinary results. Over a period of years, pharmaceutical companies experimented and launched divisions to procure growth and better results. As the industry progressed along with medical science, more speciality divisions were added. For example, there is a company who launched 14 different speciality divisions and the last division was for GPs. Obviously, the number of medical representatives increased from an average of 100-125 to 2,000-3,000 and so on and so forth. Proportionately the middle level management hierarchy also was galloped in few companies. There were 2 tiers to 4 tiers field hierarchies. Now what we see and observe is that management is flattering the organisation and right sizing it. All this happened and many organisations closed and/or merged their divisions with main division took a speciality stance and made their future only in those specialities. A few of them also have failed miserably in launching those divisions. What is that which has given them success or failure, is the kind of culture, the business model and the processes, tools, techniques and methods of expansion. Somewhere through this experiment, companies believed that more number of people will give more sales and they will improve their own turnover and ranking. However, as the attrition to other industries like IT, BPO, Health insurance, prospered and offered alternate opportunities it took a toll on pharma industry. It started really giving nightmares and many who wanted to expand through this route got cautioned. Diversifying to successful pharma company from other industries always took precaution to take this diversification in proper perspective. They worked at it as a project and not an extension of existing business, without allocating dedicated resources. They considered it as a Project. Role of project management in sales & marketing Role of project management and behaviour of project manager needs to appropriate right from selection of a chief for these divisions to treat of this division. It has been observed that those who were good at maintaining and growing the bigger or similar divisions on all India operations were selected to launch new division without developing the skills of launching a division! They grew by hit and miss one trial and error method. Actually, when somebody works in an established organisation and increases the productivity as well as market share he is well equipped with skills of growth and expansion and yet may not have an aptitude towards starting sometime from zero. Starting from zero needs different mindset, skills and project management approach. A "project" can be defined as a temporary scheme which is not usual and also multi faceted that has, usually, not been attempted before. But even if the scheme is similar to a past project, it is likely that the people and conditions will be different. Managing projects may, therefore, be outside the core skill set of many pharma functional Heads for example ensuring that entire infrastructure is adequately staffed and funded to take a properly positioning them in the market. He should also predict the results. It's a project work. However, it is increasingly likely that functional skills will be required to participate in and even lead projects. Launching and making a new brand successful also needs these skills. Such situations present various questions. Take the introduction of a new division. How would you get the results you need? How do you decide what structure and infrastructure do you need to implement? How will that be developed and what will it look like when it gets complete? How will you develop business plan for the project and the SOPs? How will you give them time to do so while ensuring the existing business runs smoothly? How you are going to train your staff on new skills and knowledge, its customer segment is different and new? How can you be sure you are going to have everything ready by an agreed deadline? Features of a successful project Project management is essentially a series of methods of managing a unique and transient venture in order to achieve a goal. It is a young science, despite being an ancient skill. The skills that were used to build the pyramids and ancient cities are now being applied to projects such as developing a new chemical entity or improving or customers service. Formal project management theory has its roots in the management of large engineering enterprises, most notably in the application of technologies that are combined to make large battleships. We need to structure the thoughts of management regarding managing projects. In managing the project or a task its definition is extremely essential. What it needs to achieve and how it will go about it. This is usually written by the project manager and team members and approved by the sponsor. The customer is involved as necessary. Key aspects should be included in definition: ● Objectives ● Risk management plan ● Budget (costs need to be quantified and resource allocated) ● Communications plan (a description of how and when the project participants will communicate with stakeholders) ● Schedule ● Exclusions (a list of related issues you will not address during the project - this is an excellent way of managing stakeholder expectations) ● Standards ● Assignment of responsibility within the project team Could you observe an enormous role of skills of managing projects to ensure success in sales & marketing? Majority of times, companies complain about field force implementation, however, they have not addressed the implementation issues from project management perspective. If they do so, you will observe tremendous boost of implementation and thereby results. Today, it has become a soft issue of relationship to implement strategies not looked at as a project to deliver all aspects of project. Is it not correct to develop such skills in sales & marketing people who need to grow in hierarchy and manage many tasks at a time? Will that not redefine the development it needs for those who matter to company to make it grow? (The author is founder and managing director of Interlink - A business consulting firm in pharmaceutical & healthcare industry based in Mumbai.)