Ken Weixel

Ken Weixel

Regardless of size and industry, we are seeing digital technologies changing how business is done, and companies in San Diego’s thriving life sciences sector are no exception. While the latest and greatest technologies have the potential to spark a digital transformation, it is also important to understand that innovation is not the only critical component to spark change. Maximizing the full potential of technology also requires having the right leadership, forging a path toward organizational change, and attracting the right talent.

Leadership

A Deloitte MIT survey found that more than three-quarters of biopharma respondents say their organizations need to find new leaders to succeed in the digital age. Further, only 20 percent think their companies are effectively developing the type of leaders necessary in a digital environment. So, while hiring outside leaders with digital experience — perhaps even outside of the life sciences industry — may make sense in the near term, training and developing talent internally with intuitive digital leadership skills could be a viable strategy in the years to come.

As life science companies are trying to determine who should lead the digital transformation, they should simultaneously consider the goals they are trying to achieve with digital implementations. While specific goals may be unique to each company, there are often three broad goals that arise time and again with life sciences companies — all of which may require different kinds of leaders: operational efficiency, patient engagement, and therapy innovation. By determining which ones apply to the organization — and it could be any combination of them — pinpointing the right person or persons to lead the transformation may become clearer.

Organizational Change

Every company is at a different place in their digital maturity timeline, and it is important to understand what stage of development a company is in today. Generally, a company begins with an exploration stage where it tries to better understand the traits it possesses to make it more digitally mature. For life sciences companies, three common traits are the ability to be intentionally collaborative, failing forward, and learning faster.

Next, companies typically implement minimum viable changes (MVC), which are a series of digestible, time-bound and measurable tactical day-to-day actions that weave these desired changes into an organization’s everyday DNA. MVCs can focus on tasks that help the company organize, operate, and behave in a more digital manner.

Some life sciences companies are implementing a virtual job rotation, where employees remain in their current roles, but focus between 10 and 20 percent of their day-to-day job as part of another team focused on unfamiliar skillsets. Opening employees to various aspects of the company can make collaboration easier, as more people may have a wider range of knowledge and possess a better understanding of the challenges their colleagues may face.

Attracting Talent

Finding the right people starts with an organization’s culture, and the ways of working and changing the culture are closely tied together in a digital transformation. While life sciences may not be as digitally far ahead as other sectors, it is important to highlight the strides being made to attract the best talent. For example, digital advances continue to change the possibilities of where and how people work, and life science companies are starting to follow other industries in shifting the way they work internally, and becoming a more digitally savvy company.

Also, many life science companies are increasingly forming product teams comprised of members with a wide range of skillsets and knowledge bases to support a product or product line. Such teams can help break down barriers between traditional IT and the business that they support into cross-functional teams. Product teams can help to shift the mindset of an organization which can be very attractive to digitally inclined talent.

The opportunities digital solutions offer are innumerous, and it is crucial for life sciences organizations to implement the right tools to reap the many potential benefits. But taking the necessary steps to create a culture to support these new innovations is just as important as the technology itself.

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