How Agile Commercial Planning Will Make Pharma's Sales and Marketing Transformation Possible

Chris Wright

Chris Wright, Managing Director


The pharmaceutical market itself is undergoing a very important transformation. The right way to promote product from one city to the next is different; In fact, even the correct engagement model with customers is no longer the same uniformly throughout the country.

And, of course, pharmaceutical companies are responding to this, and they've put in place new sales models [and] new approaches. But the way in which they operate back at the home office, that has not changed yet. And the Agile Commercial Planning technique is about bringing about that change.

In the past, up until this point, pharmaceutical organizations had a very nice way of getting their resourcing plan in place: determining the customer target list, aligning the sales territories, developing a call plan, developing incentives for the representatives, things of this nature.

The problem is that it took too long. Most pharmaceutical organizations, it takes about four months to put such a plan in place. And that simply is not sustainable with the level of change that we see taking place in the market.

The Agile Commercial Planning process in pharma is about restructuring the way people work. Right now, the planning process is characterized by a lot of meetings, PowerPoint decks, back and forth, Excel workbooks that lack version control—a lot of back and forth taking place as the company works out the best way to resource things.

What we're talking about here, now, is automating that. Putting in place business rules, workflow triggers that inform the right people at the pharma organization as to what they need to do and when they need to do it.

In the past, when the company worked over a four-month period to work out a plan, it worked okay because they were coming to one plan. But imagine if you had to work out a different plan for each of the 300 different metropolitan statistical areas in the United States, or for each of the 500 different sales territories that take place in United States.

That manual process of having meetings and making PowerPoint decks and these sorts of things, that simply will not work. But the exact same logic that was underlying all of that work process can be embedded into business rules and workflow management, such that those decisions can be made in a very efficient, correct and speedy manner.

The pharmaceutical industry is really entering into a perfect storm where at the time when companies need greater efficiency as their product pipelines are being diminished through patent losses, as insurance companies are creating greater price pressure on them, as the government's involvement in the health care system is creating the cause for efficiency and price reduction.

At the precise time when that is happening, the pharmaceutical companies’ customers are making the marketplace more complicated. Organized customers, reducing physician access, emergence of digital channels, complicated insurance contracts that are not uniform across the country.

These two forces colliding are taking place at a time when we see from other industries how the application of business rules, technology and workflow can allow us to make better resourcing allocation decisions, strip out unnecessary costs and drive higher revenues.