Steps to Building a Digital Supply Chain

The $1.7 trillion life sciences industry has flourished shifting to specialized medicine and innovating more new drugs than ever before. With this success comes increasing complexity. Instead of mass marketing one blockbuster drug to millions of people, companies are now marketing hundreds of new drugs to many different stakeholders.

The ripple effect is a growing need for very specific messaging and content. It’s placing a heavier burden on life sciences companies to educate health care providers and ensure that every patient gets the right information they need for their particular treatment.

Further complicating matters, the commercial digital supply chain, which includes all of the digital capabilities used to deliver compliant messaging and marketing content about new drugs, still relies heavily on multiple, disparate systems to function. While many other industries have long since adapted business processes to fit the digital and mobile landscape, the most massive shift – and significant opportunity – is yet to come for life sciences.

Until a few years ago, companies wouldn’t consider re-engineering their commercial content processes due to the complexities associated with such a highly-regulated industry. But trying to keep pace with a dizzying amount of digital assets, changing customer models, globalization, rising cost pressures, and new regulatory requirements requires a new approach.

Patients and providers expect to interact with life sciences companies the way they want using their preferred channels, whether it be via email, web, phone, or a mobile device. Relying on the old way of doing things might sustain life sciences companies for a few months or even a few years, but eventually a new approach will be needed to scale and keep pace with digital requirements.

Transforming Commercial Through a Digital Supply Chain

Embracing a digital supply chain presents exciting opportunities for the commercial model to become a strategic lever within life sciences businesses. Using a fully-integrated digital approach breaks down silos and enables the most efficient reuse of content. This makes it easier for all of the stakeholders involved to collaborate more effectively, and improves compliance, visibility, and cost savings across the organization. Most of all, it connects customers with rich content in a variety of ways and at the most opportune times throughout the customer journey.

As you begin building your digital supply chain, first evaluate and refresh your processes, organization, and content structure. Once the heavy lifting is accomplished in these three areas, the right digital asset management platform will easily support your new model. Here are key considerations to get started.

Shore-up Processes from Ideation to Production and Distribution

Brand planning and marketing. A fundamental shift in thinking is required to create a new marketing model. Instead of being bound by regulatory constraints, begin with the overall objective in mind. From the onset, view your brand strategy and marketing processes through the lens of the customer journey and the needs from a patient and provider perspective. Customer needs vary widely, ranging from basic disease awareness to detailed study results. You will also want to define specific metrics beyond classic reach and frequency models.

Ultimately, it’s about connecting patients and providers with the right information when they need it and through the channels they prefer. That’s not to say that regulatory requirements won’t come into play, but initially considering all options can spark the creative process, anchoring everything around what’s best for the patient.

Content production and distribution. You will also want to consider how to optimize content production by figuring out when and where to apply the right resources. Different models work for different types of content. Production processes for simple replicable content could be significantly different from sophisticated dynamic content. You’ll also want to integrate best-of-breed review and approval methods across your end-to-end process. Providing this continuity up front improves the efficiency of handoffs, reduces the risk of reviewing the wrong piece of content, and speeds time to market. And don’t forget about distribution. How do you get content to reps and ultimately into the hands of the customer? Most organizations don’t focus enough on distribution.

Set the Organizational Foundation and Plant the Seeds of Change

Organizational structure. As you design an organizational and reporting structure, consider everyone you need to involve to facilitate your new processes. This includes anyone that must touch a digital asset, including marketers, commercial managers, regulatory teams, and agency partners. Then come up with job descriptions that clearly specify digital responsibilities, especially for new roles such as digital content librarians and local champions.

Training. In order to lay groundwork for the new digital environment, it’s essential to establish guidelines, properly educate employees about new digital channels, and agree upon consistent technology terms to use. Once people are ramped up on the details, they can focus more of their time on improving the customer journey.

Digital natives. A very effective change-management strategy is to integrate “digital natives” throughout your culture. In this era of pervasive digital channels, you can harness the proficiency of the next generation of employees that were raised in the digital age. These individuals are already comfortable with technology and can serve as local champions that help motivate and guide other colleagues around the world throughout their digital transition.

Maximize Existing Assets for Efficient Reuse with a Consistent Content Structure

Content templates. The most important element of your digital content structure will be to identify content and create templates that can be reused across customers and regions. Select these assets with the knowledge and confidence that state-of-the-art digital platforms will be able to seamlessly facilitate the repurposing of content in a collaborative, safe, and compliant fashion.

Content chapters. Once you’ve spent quality time identifying key content, you can organize materials under a handful of chapters. The end result is better and more consistent reuse of existing content. Chapters could include efficacy and safety, dosing and administration, pricing, and patient resources. This format will make it easy for stakeholders to quickly select the right material and spend more of their time tailoring the messages to meet the specific requirements for each drug. It also helps new hires and other individuals not as closely involved in particular parts of the supply chain get up to speed more quickly.

Content fragments. Organizing more specific elements within the chapters also helps to ensure that content gets reused. Fragments could include text, images and videos, references (prescribing information), and important safety information. Consider choosing fragments that provide the right amount of detailed, granular information but that don’t require a lot of updating for reuse.

Enable End-to-End Content Management for a Seamless Digital Supply Chain

Enterprise-class cloud software. Now you’re ready to select a digital asset management solution that will underpin your new-and-improved content program. When exploring your options, remember the desired outcomes you want to achieve. These could include streamlined content creation and collaboration, better compliance, effective digital asset management, and faster time to market. Make sure to select an enterprise-grade and end-to-end platform that provides all of the right capabilities to support these priorities.

Solution partner. Your partners should be able to help you lay out a multi-phased implementation plan that includes change management efforts to help groups adapt along the way. Choose a partner that can provide robust domain expertise and support services to help you harness the benefits of your new digital supply chain. This could include everything from ongoing support and industry best practices to specialized services for digital content that can help you evaluate and improve your current strategy and processes.

Gain a Competitive Edge Through Commercial Operations

As companies across the globe increasingly use digital channels to engage their audiences, it’s clear that digital marketing is here to stay. Now is the time for life sciences companies to invest in the digital supply chain so that fully compliant materials are delivered on time and within budget. With all of these efficiencies, key stakeholders will have more time to focus on strategic aspects of their work. Imagine the possibilities for further innovation that could occur as a result!


Learn more:
Article: Digital Disruption is Coming: Are You Ready?
Article: Claims Management in the Digital Age
Whitepaper: Streamline Your Commercial Content Review Cycle—Sound Appealing?
Infographic: Accelerate Your Global Digital Supply Chain

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