Effective Strategic Planning in the Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences Sector

5 Min Read

Over the past couple of years, the world of pharma & Life Sciences has been evolving at a dizzying pace thanks to the infiltration of technology, ground-breaking drug trials, and the introduction of new medications – forcing pharmaceutical leaders to rethink their strategy.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also driven the pharmaceutical & Life Sciences industry to transform drastically and innovate at pace, thrusting the entire sector into the spotlight after the swift launch of vaccines and the subsequent side effects. As the pressure mounts for pharma companies to deliver higher returns and faster outputs from research & development projects – strategic planning and execution remains top of mind for business leaders in this sector as they strive to deliver their strategic goals & objectives.

The pharmaceutical & Life Sciences industry is experiencing high inflation, rising development costs, increased regulatory complexity, and ambiguity in the market.  When done effectively, strategic planning can help pharmaceutical companies to be nimble in their responses to these challenges and quickly adjust their future forecasts when market situations inevitably change.

In this blog we explore why a collaborative approach to strategic planning is essential, we discuss the importance of aligning your strategy with enterprise performance, we look at how risk can affect a strategy, and we explain how strategy planning tools help organisations to deliver on their strategic goals & objectives.

Why is a collaborative approach to strategic planning essential?

Effective strategies require collaboration, teamwork, communication, agility, meticulous planning, and clear targets. To deliver on their strategic objectives pharma organisations must break down their strategic goals into a series of smaller projects, tasks, and actions that will contribute to the success of the topline objectives. These should be allocated across the organisation to various teams & departments to ensure completion. These initiatives must be underpinned by real metrics and accurate data to help leaders track progress and keep them on course.

Each actionable project or task must be reinforced by timelines, budgets, and Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) to ensure success. They require clear ownership, key deliverables, and milestone dates that define completion deadlines to keep things on track. A clear order of events must be defined to cater for any dependencies & resources – and man hours should also be planned for.

With so many teams and individuals contributing to different aspects of the strategy, centralising data and being able to track and visualise progress is essential – which is why many pharmaceutical organisations are using specialist strategy planning tools to automate the process.

Why are organisations turning to automated strategic planning tools?

Manual processes – such as spreadsheets, emails, shared documents, and folders – are an increasingly inefficient and unstructured means of planning and executing strategic tasks & projects for the following reasons:

  • Limited collaboration: Spreadsheets and email are not designed for collaboration, which can limit the ability of different teams and individuals to work together in real-time. This can lead to information silos and disjointed decision-making.
  • Lack of real-time data: Spreadsheets and email require manual updating, which means that the data is not always up to date. This can lead to poor decision-making based on outdated or incomplete information.
  • Inefficient processes: Using spreadsheets and email for the planning and delivery of a corporate strategy can be time-consuming and prone to errors due to poor data governance. This can result in missed opportunities and delays in execution.
  • Limited scalability: As the organisation grows and becomes more complex, spreadsheets and email become less scalable and more difficult to manage.
  • Multiple files that don’t integrate: When using manual processes, companies often end up with multiple spreadsheets which doesn’t enable the complex mapping & linkages required between different projects & tasks – making it hard to understand process and dependencies.
  • No data visualisation: When using manual processes reporting must be done manually – which takes valuable time and makes it hard to get an instant view of strategy progression.
  • Lacks automation: Manual processes lack automation, there are no workflows to move projects on to the next stage and no automated email notifications or system updates, resulting in arduous admin tasks.
  • Security risks: Spreadsheets and email are vulnerable to security breaches, which can compromise sensitive corporate data.

These hurdles have accelerated the adoption of strategy planning software within the pharmaceutical sector. The traditionally complex and time-consuming process of capturing data from across the organisation and shaping it into information that informs the strategy has been streamlined by automation – including linkages to risk libraries, compliance obligations, and governance rules & policies.

Proactive pharmaceutical & Life Sciences firms harness the power of purpose-built software solutions to map their strategy, capture relevant data, and track the progress of goals to completion. Project and task owners can tick off initiatives, input spend, add timelines, and log risks, KPI’s, and dependencies – by linking to the organisation’s risk register or obligations library. This provides a best practice framework to achieve goals by completing associated projects and tasks successfully – it builds a structured picture of the strategic plan.

Supported by this best-practice strategic framework, pharma businesses can achieve holistic communication of their strategy & business goals from the top-down and bottom-up:

  • Top-down communication: Management can effectively communicate easy-to-understand tasks with clear metrics to staff, ensuring they comprehend their role in achieving the broader objectives.
  • Bottom-up communication: Managers can monitor how key projects & tasks are performing and understand when they are completed without endless meetings and updates. They can identify potential problems early and receive instant notifications of missed deadlines or budget overspends.

This proactive communication model guarantees stakeholders are invested and ensures the wider organisation works together towards common goals.

Sustainable Improvement

The nature of the pharmaceutical & Life Sciences industry means organisations must constantly react and adapt to changing market conditions by altering their strategy. Plus, factors such as new therapeutic modalities and new ways of working have made it vital for pharma companies to carefully consider their long-term goals and objectives.

Strategy planning software supports the continuous improvement journey by enabling organisations to pivot plans based on new information. The flexibility of these tools allows leaders to add new initiatives or change timelines & deliverables on existing projects when necessary. This can then be cascaded across the organisation quickly & clearly via automated notifications from the tool – enabling everyone to understand how the subsequent changes will impact their role & responsibilities.

Linking Strategy to Your Daily Operating Model

Strategy execution does not work well if it is siloed! Pharma companies have a far better chance of succeeding when their operating model and overall enterprise performance is aligned with their strategy. Software solutions help organisations to consider daily operations and their impact on strategic goals by enabling them to log dependencies and visualise results. This helps them to make informed strategic decisions about where best to allocate resources and spend their budget and enables them to demonstrate success.

Automation also facilitates best-practice strategy management by linking critical operational & transactional data to the strategy, providing crucial insight into its performance.

Linking Strategy to Compliance Obligations

There is little doubt that the pharmaceutical industry is among the most highly regulated sectors in the world. A pharma company’s strategy must ensure it remains compliant with relevant rules & regulations or it could be subject to fines, penalties, and product delays.

Strategic planning tools that integrate with an organisation’s obligations register are the best way to ensure this alignment. The tool allows for the essential mapping between these 2 functions allowing organisations to understand which strategic tasks must be completed in accordance with the relevant regulations – mitigating the risk of non-compliance. Leaders can run reports to understand potential compliance breaches enabling them to alter processes to align with compliance requirements. This can be particularly useful for pharma companies who operate across multiple countries, jurisdictions, and legal entities as it can support firms to make strategic decisions about which markets to operate in.

Failure to comply with regulations can damage an organisation’s reputation and erode stakeholder trust. Aligning a strategy with compliance obligations can bring many benefits for an organisation. It can create opportunities for innovation and differentiation by ensuring new products or services meet regulatory requirements. It can help organisations implement more sustainable business practices ensuring longevity. Organisations can even gain a competitive advantage from aligning strategic planning with compliance. By demonstrating to stakeholders that their organisation operates ethically & responsibly, organisations will experience increased customer loyalty, investor confidence, and better employee engagement.

Linking Strategy to Risk Management

A successful strategy should be bolstered by a strong risk management programme. Failure to identify and manage any risks relating to the delivery of the strategy could be detrimental to its success. Strategy planning software has the power to link traditionally siloed activities – such as risk registers – to the overarching strategy. This allows vital risk information to inform strategic decisions.

Linking risk management to strategic planning and enterprise performance ensures that risk management efforts are aligned with the organisation’s overall goals & objectives. This helps to ensure that risk management activities are focused on the most important risks to ensure the organisation’s success. It enables pharmaceutical companies to be proactive and take early steps to mitigate the most critical risks before they become problematic. It also helps them to prioritise risk and focus their risk management efforts on the most critical risks that could derail their strategy.

By linking risk management to strategic planning, pharmaceutical & Life Sciences organisations can ensure that they allocate sufficient resources to risk management activities. It also supports departmental collaboration & communication – ensuring that everyone is working towards the same goals & objectives, and that there is a shared understanding of the strategic risks facing the organisation.

Software also delivers instant reports that illuminate risk issues that threaten the efficacy of a firms’ strategy – another proactive tool that allows obstacles to be identified and addressed before they escalate. 

Getting A Complete Overview of Strategy Progression

A well planned out strategy and flawless execution is key to business success. Technology can be a great enabler for a successful business strategy, especially for pharma companies who have clear goals & objectives around product innovation, research & development, and market presence.

Pharma & Life Sciences companies need strategic executive planning to succeed in an increasingly competitive environment driven by long term development & growth goals. Executive teams are often sceptical of a central strategic planning tool and may not show support for it – wrongly viewing strategic plans as a boardroom concern. But when a strategy is successfully cascaded throughout an organisation, employees at all levels can be engaged to support the delivery of strategic objectives and ultimately work together to achieve agreed targets.

By planning their strategy using structured processes facilitated by specialist software, pharma & Life Sciences leaders can harness instant dashboards & reports to understand progress, make amendments, roll out changes quickly, and provide a clear picture to investors and key stakeholders that illustrates how the business is performing. The structured strategy planning process mapped out by software will ensure the organisation is on track to meet its strategic objectives, and any potential bumps in the road will be detected early. The linkages and mapping capabilities enable pharma companies to link their strategic plans to both their organisational performance and their risk management programme – enabling them to prioritise the most critical risks and to understand the impact of strategic progress on profits.

For more information about how the Camms strategy software can support you to achieve your strategic goals & objectives and manage the associated risks, request a demo. Find out more about how the Camms GRC platform is helping pharmaceutical organizations here.

Catch up on our other blogs in the Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences Series:

Managing Risk in the Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences Sector

Effective Project Management in the Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences Sector

Managing Compliance in the Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences Sector

Daniel Kandola

Vice President, EMEA

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