Extract from an interview with an experienced Global Pharma Company Commercial Excellence Leader [anonymous contributor].
- In many large pharma companies, the Commercial Excellence function has fragmented. Sometimes there is no clear line of command up the management chain. Is this a positive for the function?
- Commercial Excellence has been a leveraging strategy for predominantly product-driven companies. during the past 10 years. Facing patent cliffs, most Pharma companies Started with Sales Force Effectiveness initiatives, then evolved into Marketing & Sales Excellence. Commercial Excellence became a bit of a ‘catch all’ of support services within the commercial side of the organisation - focused on data management, performance metrics and analysis, standardisation, sales automation and capability development. Essentially, the ComEx strategy was aiming to get more with less, as the fat was trimmed off the commercial operations in keeping with patent expiry.
ComEx was also about effectiveness in an increasingly competitive environment without blockbusters.
More recently, Commercial Excellence has evolved into a driver of transformation to gain a competitive advantage - forging cross-functional brand team ways of working and using digital communications. When this burning platform was extinguished for most, ComEx teams were integrated back into the commercial operations. But what was old is new again - we may see ComEx teams re-emerge. The renewed focus on driving patient centricity and leveraging digital while delivering on the benefits of synergistic commercial excellence may require this cross-functional team to be reborn and reformulated.
Having the freedom to formulate a Commercial Excellence strategy and functional capabilities within the local market place means the ComEx strategy can and should be customised to the nuances of that market place. Unfortunately, this is not strictly how it works, as Global brand teams and functions often develop siloed initiatives around specific business goals that don’t integrate well at the country level. There is always a tension that needs balancing to ensure global alignment while meeting local needs.
Overall, I think this local approach is a more positive strategy than a Global Commercial Excellence strategy that is built around the top western markets only.
- What types of capabilities are within a market Commercial Excellence function?
- The stock-standard capabilities that support the daily operation of marketing and sales, such as SFE [Sales Force Effectiveness], market analytics, sales and marketing training and development, and incentives management are commonplace. If the organisation is in a state of evolution or transformation, then innovation and digital will be included.
Leading organisations are finding ways of integrating Medical Excellence. Often there is a function title change from ‘commercial’ excellence to ‘customer’ excellence, ‘strategy and business’ excellence, or similar which can include medical.
The challenge is to find the balance between the top-line transformation capabilities, such as building digital and innovation capabilities with a patient-centric focus, and the bottom-line operational capabilities such as SFE requirements, analytics and fundamental skills training. All need to be aligned and seen as one ambition with the improvement of patient outcomes as the ultimate goal.
- How has the ComEx value proposition evolved over the past 10 years?
- The value proposition of ComEx is driven by the leadership team and the leader of ComEx. If the ambition is to just get more with less, than the value proposition is savings, standardisation, possibly automation and improvements in effectiveness [in traditional ways]. If the ambition is to leverage this synergistic cross-functional team of subject matter experts as business partners, with the organisational ambition at the centre of everything they do, then the value proposition is strongly linked to the organisation's vision and strategy AND the delivery against the goals and KPIs.
The ComEx value proposition should be to empower the business to achieve its goals. As a company gets larger and more complex, the advantage of this team of SMEs is that they work for the senior leadership team. They ensure processes are streamlined and standardised to be cost-efficient. They ensure the customer experience is consistent across brands and commercial teams. They provide expertise and tools to enable the commercial teams to operate seamlessly while aggregating performance information up the line for strategic decision making.
This team is impartial. ComEx works for the company, as an enterprise. With the increasing amount of data available, leveraging technologies to make sense of it and drive data-driven business decisions is critical.
… Part 2 to follow
Article Contributor: Melanie Brown, Managing Partner
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