The Next Vantage for Life Sciences

In June 2022, North Highland connected with over 560 leaders across key industries—including financial services, healthcare, health and human services, life sciences, and transportation—to better understand the trends and challenges confronting today’s businesses as they navigate the end-to-end transformation journey.​ What we discovered is a desire to build more adaptive operations to power continuous transformation; a need for greater alignment across employees and leadership teams around transformation strategy; and opportunities to integrate data and analytics into every step for greater success. Amidst the transformation that is reshaping our economies and societies, every business has a clear path to a better vantage point. In this blog series, we'll uncover what it takes for each industry to maximize its transformation potential.   

More than ever, data shows that the only constant is change for industry leaders in life sciences. With an unprecedented pandemic response now in the rearview, life sciences leaders understand there is no going back to business as usual. The industry proved it could crash timelines in drug development, collaborate globally, and work cross-functionally in ways that traditional organizational structures weren’t designed to support. And thus, the expectation has been set.

In our June 2022 survey of 54 life sciences leaders, nearly all (98 percent) are in an organization with a 2022 transformation strategy, and all respondents agree it’s important that that strategy is flexible. However, our data spotlighted one key barrier to successfully executing and delivering on transformation strategy: a lack of alignment and/or resistance among both leadership and employees.

Our survey sharpens the point on the talent imperative in life sciences: Above and beyond acquisition and retention of talent, it is the alignment of talent—both employees and leaders—that could be the key to achieving transformational potential.

Our research also points to a potential source of leadership and workforce alignment: Data and analytics (D&A). It appears that life sciences employees and leaders have an opportunity to better sing from the same (data) songbook to capitalize on transformation strategies.

In this blog, we’ll tell you more about these trends and highlight what else is top of mind for life sciences industry leaders heading into 2023, and we’ll provide you with actionable guidance to make the most of the opportunities ahead.


While talent acquisition remains competitive across all industries, leaders in life sciences have an exciting opportunity to maximize the talent they currently have to achieve transformation potential. How? Through alignment on the vision and priorities that matter most.

Eighty-six percent of life sciences leaders acknowledge it is important or somewhat important for employees to be aligned around transformation strategy, yet 50 percent say they frequently struggle to achieve that alignment. This stems from a lack of clarity around transformation strategy (48 percent) and ambiguity about employees’ future roles (39 percent).

Why is employee alignment so important in today’s business landscape? Because it positions the workforce to support transformation delivery. Life sciences leaders agree: While 80 percent rely on employees to execute transformation strategies, 57 percent acknowledge that lack of alignment and/or resistance from employees is a barrier to delivering on those strategies. Alignment is critical to employee productivity, engagement, and cross-functional teaming—all of which support transformation delivery and all of which are top of mind for industry leaders. Sixty-three percent of life sciences leaders rely on cross-functional teaming to unlock the value of their employees, 37 percent are striving to improve workforce productivity, and 33 percent are prioritizing employee engagement and experience.

Workforce productivity

Among leadership in an organization, the alignment challenge is even more pronounced: 87 percent of respondents acknowledge it’s important or somewhat important for leadership teams to be aligned around a transformation strategy, yet 65 percent report they frequently struggle to achieve it. That’s primarily a result of change saturation (44 percent), lack of clarity around future roles (43 percent), disagreement on drivers of value and associated priorities (41 percent), and lack of clarity around transformation strategy (41 percent).

Yet, our most recent data shows that alignment is not top of mind as a strategic priority. Just 26 percent of respondents believe it’s a priority to improve leadership alignment to gain a competitive advantage, and even fewer (13 percent) expect this to be part of 2023 transformation strategy. As life sciences organizations progress along the transformation journey, leadership alignment is considered by even fewer. When designing a transformation strategy, just four percent of respondents think about leadership alignment.  


Life sciences organizations seeking a competitive edge will prioritize leadership and workforce alignment in all phases of the transformation journey. Consider these your first steps toward organizational alignment:

  • Adopt organizational agility. Our experience shows that the industry lags in its application of agile ways of working across the life sciences business. Agile ways of working drive adaptability, speed, and value, but it depends on alignment. Agile requires transparency around business priorities, which is a first step toward alignment. Additionally, transparency around strategy gives employees the information they need to align business priorities to personal goals, which can support productivity and engagement.​
  • Leverage data to drive clarity. Right now, only 20 percent of those we surveyed are using data to make the case for change to drive leadership alignment. The industry has an opportunity to bring leadership stakeholders together to evaluate patient, workforce, and operational data and align on the value drivers that are most important in the context of a shared transformation vision and strategy. Data—particularly in the form of data visualization—can provide the transparency and clarity needed to get leadership teams (and employees) aligned on objectives and strategy. Data can also help leaders infuse the voice of employee (VoE) into transformation strategy to drive employee alignment. Leaders can solicit employee feedback throughout the end-to-end transformation journey and use the insights to shape the direction of transformation efforts.
  • Scenario thinkingAccelerate alignment with design, systems, and scenario thinking. Apply a combination of design, systems, and scenario thinking to your transformation efforts. With design thinking principles, leaders consider the experiences of those impacted by transformation, including employees and leaders, to support alignment early in a transformation. With systems thinking, leaders consider how various elements—people, processes, structures, governance, technology, and data—interact and influence one another. By thinking holistically, it allows leaders to ensure all systems are aligned to meet customer needs. Combined with scenario thinking, DSS Thinking helps leaders keep a pulse on changing market signals to plan for shifts in workforce demand and design future-state roles.



Technology has triggered seismic changes in every life sciences function over the last decade. As industry leaders look ahead, innovations like AI, quantum computing, blockchain, and natural language processing are emerging as essential tools of the trade. These innovations will require new skills and new ways of working. But most crucially, they will require transformed D&A strategies.

Tools and Insights Life SciencesLeaders know this and acknowledge the need to invest in data/digital tooling to maximize value in transformation efforts (67 percent). But only 26 percent of leaders are confident that they have the tools and insights to make informed decisions about focus, investment, and resource allocation when embarking on a transformation.

In addition to investing in data/digital tools and capabilities, leaders in life sciences must consider the role of D&A throughout the entire transformation journey.

Our research shows that industry leaders readily recognize the critical role of data in defining and designing strategy. Forty-three percent of respondents say they utilize D&A capabilities to define a clear transformation strategy and 43 percent integrate Voice of Customer (VoC) insights, a key part of data, to define their strategy. And when bringing transformation strategy to life through design, 61 percent of leaders factor in D&A. They also acknowledge the value of data/digital capabilities in addressing employee/workforce needs (52 percent) as they define transformation plans and design transformation strategies.

Yet, when it comes to later stages of transformation, D&A may be underutilized by industry leaders: only six percent say data/digital capabilities support transformation delivery, management, and measurement.

Data as a barrier

What emerges is a disconnect between the known value of D&A and its actual implementation. Leaders know D&A is valuable, but they could be using it more effectively to achieve top-down alignment on strategy, something that is critical to successful transformation delivery.


Life sciences leaders can apply D&A and technology across the transformation journey. ​These are your first steps:

  • Build confidence in insights by strengthening your digital core. An organization’s digital core helps leaders and employees alike sense change through data, and respond to it effectively through capabilities ranging from technology and operations to people.  When it comes to transformation strategy measurement and adaptation, a few immediate opportunities emerge: Life sciences leaders report they are under-utilizing unstructured/free-text data (31 percent, 20 points under cross-industry averages) and process mining (19 percent, 15 points under cross-industry averages). An operational ethos of data democracy will ensure that data is shared far and wide and used as a tool to establish strategic alignment across all functions.
  • Prioritize digital dexterity. Data is only valuable in its ability to be understood and applied by the right resources. Your data may need to speak different languages (literally and figuratively) depending on the literacy—and motivation—of the intended audience. Are your leaders not utilizing data because they’re struggling to separate the signals from the noise? Is the current state of your data reporting doing more harm than good by confusing or overloading employees?
  • Blueprint data and technology across your operating model. Data has the potential to be both the most valuable and the most readily misused resource in the life sciences arsenal. For example, operational excellence is considered the top priority of 70 percent of life sciences leaders when designing a transformation strategy, and 76 percent agree it’s important to establish an operating model that enables change little and often. Yet, life science leaders do not readily apply D&A to operational assessments, enhancements, and continuous improvement efforts (just 33 percent believe this is a valuable output of data/digital). Leverage data blueprinting to identify the data that is consumed or created at every patient, provider, or employee interaction. Then, map how to use that data to support operations, processes, technology capabilities, and more. This roadmap will help you better visualize how data can be applied to enhance experiences and support transformation objectives.​