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Of course, you might not have full support from the leader of the organization and that is definitely an issue, but if your CEO is on your side, here are some tips that might help you.

What makes a digital transformation successful?

The term “digital transformation” is very broad and each situation is different. However, I believe these five points will always boost the chances of success:

  • Any transformation is sweat and pain – so everyone involved in it must be clear about why it is needed and worth the effort. In the digital transformation lingo, this WHY is captured in the “massive transformation purpose”. It produces the positive energy and commitment that is required to move. The MTP of Mundipharma Switzerland is to become one of the most patient-centric pharmaceutical companies.
  • Be aware of the “90/10 rule”: A digital transformation is about upskilling people, the business strategy and the operating model much more than about technology. Digital transformation is 10% digital (technology) and 90% transformation (culture). In other words, it is primarily NOT about technology but because of technology: Because of powerful new technologies, customers have radically different expectations – way beyond the product itself. And, because of that and ever-increasing expectations and speed of change, all of us need to acquire new skills and learn how to deal with constant change.
  • Remember the “80/20 rule”: Freeing up time and resources for the transformation is vital. The dilemma is that despite diminishing returns of the legacy portfolio and processes, the work of managing the day-to-day business needs to get done. Conversely, transformations do not yield immediate results, but require significant resources from day one. So, you need to both manage expectations and address that dilemma. How? Constantly question projects, processes, responsibilities and thus enable the legacy business to become more efficient (80/20 “pareto optimum”).
  • Do not fall for technical beauties: Start with the desired customer experience – not with technology. Fall in love with the problem, not the solution. Most (digital) innovation projects are not successful and need to be killed (sooner rather than later). In some cases, a digital tool is not even needed because new ways-of-working might solve the problem already. Great customer experience, not new technology, is the ultimate goal.
  • Finally, and importantly, transformations require full support from the leader of the organisation. At Mundipharma we are lucky to have that commitment (also from the employees). However, many people told me at conferences or in job interviews about their frustration of leading change when their CEO was not willing (or able) to fully support the disruption that a transformation inevitably requires to be successful.

Which digital channels enable the most impactful customer engagement?

There is no simple answer to this. It depends on the preferences of the customer and his/her stage in the journey – e.g. the problem they want to be solved. Patients are people so whatever channels they use in their daily live can provide value if the content is right and framed well. The frictionless orchestration across all channels – easier said than done – is what makes the difference. Healthcare in general is evolving in a direction where patients make more active choices and in many indications these are related to their lifestyles. Although the regulatory challenges in pharma are of course much higher than in other industries, we need to learn how to use consumer-driven channels – e.g. social media and messengers – more naturally. At the same time, from my own experience and what I am seeing across many industries, I am still also a fan of established channels like email newsletters to trigger multichannel engagement. Although literally last century and not much more innovative than fax distribution, email communication can still be highly impactful and cost-effective. Provided the content is relevant and it is executed with excellence (copy and targeting).

What is the role and position of AI in pharma CEM?

I am convinced that, in the future, what could be automated, will be automated. People are incredibly open to self-help tools if they are easy to use, reliable, and trustworthy. Especially when you think of intimate topics/symptoms that you feel more comfortable “sharing” with a chatbot than another person. Or if you do not want to wait or pay for an appointment. For a first assessment, AI can really help patients and will play a big role in pharma CEM/marketing as a service. Automatisation is also taking off in marketing. AI will help us play out the right information to the right stakeholder at the right time. This will, however, require new skillsets and mindsets – e.g. analytical skills and the vulnerability to doubt gut feel and to take instant customer/campaign feedback. We are just at the beginning as tools are getting drastically cheaper and easier to use thanks to a myriad of start-ups (for example, over 2,000 at last year’s Web Summit alone) and off-the-shelf solutions from established players like AWS or Microsoft. Consequently, barriers for small and mid-size organisations are coming down. Customer focus, creativity, agility and resilience (to deal with inevitable set-backs) will be more important than scale.

What trends can we expect in pharma CEM in the near future?

I´m certain that patients will become impatient, expecting to be treated like customers by their doctors and the healthcare system at large. Patients and doctors, especially those who grew up with digital tools, will expect instant solutions and answers, anytime and anywhere.
All human beings love to be treated like customers and very quickly we take for granted the level of convenience, transparency and speed that we experienced in certain parts of our life. Why should that be different if we’re ill or happen to work in the healthcare sector? Pharmaceutical companies will have to adapt as will regulation and we can look to other industries for inspiration – for example consumer goods. We need to think beyond traditional approaches in the pharmaceutical industry. Developing the right experiences for patients and HCPs needs to become an integral part of product development. It will be less of a “launch thing” in the future and instead become increasingly iterative. Our focus should be on helping HCPs to better help patients – through a nuanced understanding of patients’ needs and journeys. In terms of concrete channels and devices, as mentioned above, I expect messengers to spread from private communication, becoming a prime channel for interaction with (and within!) businesses. The same goes for voice interaction. In addition, smartphones and digital trackers will empower patients and enable better conversations with HCPs. We should closely watch developments and learnings in more digitally mature industries and become even faster followers – perhaps even leapfrogging in some areas.

Jens Christmann, Head of Digital Transformation & Marketing, leads the digital transformation of Mundipharma in Switzerland and Commercial Excellence for Switzerland, Austria and the Central & Eastern Europe Region. He has over 15 years of professional experience in national, European and global positions. His international experience as a team leader in a global US company and as a member of management boards in medium-sized companies has given him a very broad perspective. As an expert in marketing, communications and change management, Jens has successfully helped shaping acquisitions, mergers and turnarounds. His strength lies in analysing markets and stakeholder needs, developing growth strategies in a team, and focusing the organisation on them. Jens holds a degree in Political Science from Freie Universität Berlin and worked as a TV journalist before starting his career in agencies and corporations. Jens is married and has three children.

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