Reshaping forecasts from a global perspective
Pharmaceutical companies depend on forecasting to inform them on issues ranging from evaluating prospective partnerships to spotting gaps in the portfolio to determining capital and resource investments. Without a robust forecasting function, navigating the pharmaceutical market is difficult at best.
Depending upon their situation and philosophy, many pharmaceutical companies rely on individual affiliates to generate local forecasts. While affiliates provide valuable insights about local markets, their individual approaches are often inconsistent with one another.
Leveraging affiliates for local forecasts can be successful, but when a pharmaceutical company needs a single global view of product potential, it can also lead to challenges. Without a common approach, planners at the corporate level may struggle to reconcile a conflicting patchwork of different models, methodologies and even definitions of basic concepts.
Difficulties in building a complete view of the business can ultimately lead business planning astray.
Many affiliates, and many different forecasts
A global biopharmaceutical company was expanding its footprint and preparing to launch multiple new indications and products. But the company was not entirely confident in its ability to roll up forecasts at a global level, given the size and resources required.
"If you could have looked at my hard drive, you’d see the many folders and number of files and the lack of continuity that existed,” according to an associate director. "There was never a way for the different processes to come together."
The company needed a global process for nearly 40 local affiliates. Disparities in methodologies threatened to frustrate planning and affect the quality of consolidated forecasts.
Creating a consistent approach across geographies would be an enormous task, but transparency and alignment were essential to the company’s health. "We needed to know what our revenue and product mix will look like in 2017 and in 2022," says the associate director. "If we didn’t control that, the market would shape those decisions for us."
Agreement and alignment on the approach
Using ZS’s decision driven forecasting excellence framework, the company solicited participation from affiliates and regional leadership to help shape the solution. Overall, the company’s forecasting operations were transformed by the changes, which included:
- An integrated global forecasting platform with universal access via an online portal
- Transparency about how forecast outputs drive decision making
- Clear transition of forecast ownership and improved channels of communications between global and local teams
- An annual planning kickoff meeting to align global and regional marketing and forecasting teams on forecasting and brand strategy
- Ongoing training to support decision driven forecasting
Greater capacity and confidence; less frustration
The company’s partnership with ZS has been transformative:
- Greater confidence in forecasts and resulting resource-allocation decisions for product launches and existing brands
- Threefold efficiency gains with increased forecast volumes for multiple products, indications and countries
- Buy-in from nearly 40 local affiliates despite initial skepticism about creating long-term alignment
- Discussion focused on forecast assumptions, business issues and best practices, rather than technical model conflicts
"I don’t think there are many firms that know the biopharmaceutical market the way ZS does," says a senior director for the company. "I've worked with external partners before, but not to this degree of interaction and collaboration, and certainly not with a partner who contributed as much as ZS."