The pandemic has sparked immense disruption for all sectors. Expectations have changed forever, and there are no longer any limits on what we anticipate is achievable.
Pharmaceutical marketers have been impelled to rethink what’s possible. Companies are exploring how they can move faster—not just in bringing new drugs to market, but also by leveraging technology to inform and empower healthcare providers. In the post-pandemic world, it’s no longer acceptable to take 12 weeks to create a dynamically triggered email, for example. Many organizations are adopting Agile ways of working to streamline their timelines and results in response.
Amy Turnquist, Life Sciences Principal at North Highland, recently moderated a panel on embedding Agile ways of working in digital marketing at the Pharma Marketing Network (PMN) Innovation Summit 2021. Panelists included digital marketing and customer engagement leaders from Roche, BD, Bristol Myers Squibb, and Merck. Here, we’ve compiled a few key talking points from the discussion.
How do Agile ways of working—or thinking—help pharmaceutical marketers accelerate meaningful customer engagement? What is the value?
“For an omnichannel experience to really thrive, it’s grounded in some key principles. Things like strategy are critically important: how can I establish that North Star that’s really going to make a difference for my constituencies and my customer? What’s the structure and process? Agile is all about process, but it’s really about being able to lead people with a purpose and bring technology along for a really great experience. I use Agile as a driver for omnichannel.” – Ray Gomez, Head of Worldwide Digital Marketing – Channel & Content Strategy at BD
“I think a lot of the success in bringing Agile in is in starting small and showing positive results from it. Cynics out there will say that big pharma companies are so bureaucratic. What Agile really does is it breaks down a lot of those bureaucracies. For me, it’s about smaller teams, working faster, and problem-solving without boundaries.” – Jim Lefevere, International Business Leader of Digital Partnering Solutions at Roche
What are some best practices around ensuring successful Agile transformation within marketing?
“One of my favorite sayings is ‘think big, start small, and scale quickly’. The way we find success is having a small pilot, optimizing at every single step of the way, and—most importantly—when we’re done with that engagement, we always measure the results, but we also come up with a playbook so that we can learn from all of the mistakes and all of the victories as well.” – Ray Gomez, Head of Worldwide Digital Marketing – Channel & Content Strategy at BD
“We had an amazing opportunity to have an Agile coach in our team and war room for a full year. He helped train us every week on the principles of Agile, which can be applied to lots of different facets of work in different ways. The coach is the biggest thing.” – John Lineen, Senior Director and Engagement Lead of Immunology & Cardiovascular at Bristol Myers Squibb
“Part of doing and embracing Agile is failing fast, failing early, and then focusing on something else, as opposed to figuring out months later that it wasn’t working. We all work for companies and marketers that have been very successful over 15, 20 years, and to make this change, I think we need to be really clear about the benefits.” – Tres Garcia, Director of Marketing and Agile Chapter Lead at Merck
How can organizations without a full framework or executive buy-in foster Agile mindsets? What advice do you have for those just starting on this journey?
“Three things: Make the work visible and transparent; prioritize the work—and don’t prioritize it in a vacuum, prioritize it with your stakeholders; and get commitment with those same stakeholders and the team to have discussions more frequently than in the past. We’re going to want input early and often.” – Tres Garcia, Director of Marketing and Agile Chapter Lead at Merck
“Start with small steps. Try to get people to do more customer and user research and incorporate feedback into the loops of projects.” – John Lineen, Senior Director and Engagement Lead of Immunology & Cardiovascular at Bristol Myers Squibb
How can organizations teach teams to be Agile from an upskilling or training and development perspective?
“Humans in general are resistant to change, so my encouragement is you have to just embrace it and start doing it for people to really begin to understand what it means. To me, you can go through training and you can read a book, but to truly have it stick, you have to dive in and start doing it.” – Jim Lefevere, International Business Leader of Digital Partnering Solutions at Roche
“The jargon can get really intimidating really fast. The last thing we want to do is tell people how to do their job, but we want to say, ‘Let’s enable you to use Trello or a MURAL board, things that are enablers for your day-to-day job’. You don’t have to be a Scrum Master to use these tools.” – Ray Gomez, Head of Worldwide Digital Marketing – Channel & Content Strategy at BD