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Faster time to market in Pharmaceutical industry – is it possible?

Authors: Brooke Pannell, Ted Tomoyasu, Nathan Nelson, Ghaleb El Masri, Rachna Verma 

The pre-covid19 trends in the pharma industry already suggested that, in order to curb the rise of drug prices, companies would need to look at reducing costs related to R&D, just like they have been doing in reducing spend in sales and marketing. 

According to a 2019 article by Pharmaphorum… 

“If the primary US engine of global profit growth performs less well, the pressure is on to manage pharmaceutical company costs better” 

Now, overlay our new reality, and the quest to get drugs to market faster, covid-19 related or not, and the ability to stay competitive are paramount.   

How are you thinking about “leaning out” the R&D cycle while increasing speed to market?  Agile ways of working – with a history in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s in the software development space – have moved well beyond technology.   

Leveraging Agile ways of working in pharma are proven to accelerate time to market through a more collaborative, customer-focused drug life cycle, a focus on designing for efficiency, and a shift in management mindset. If you’re not applying Agile ways of working within your organization, you’re already behind.   

Accelerating outcomes through our Agile ways of working framework 

ADAPTOVATE’s Agile ways of working framework increases speed to market through proven approaches across seven primary dimensions. When these values are applied to organizations, that’s when real, positive changes take hold to drive enterprises to faster delivery times through efficient collaboration and sustainable business practices- “Checking the boxes” becomes outcome-based efforts, and employees come together to innovate compelling answers to business opportunities for pharmaceutical companies.  

Designing for efficiency improves time to market 

A test and learn approach is a fantastic method to explore potential applications of Agile in Pharmaceutical R&D for any company that’s looking to see how Agile might work for them. As part of a strategic play, a global research-based pharmaceutical company wanted to assess if Agile could be successfully adopted by their compliance-heavy R&D teams. They had previously confirmed that applying ADAPTOVATE’s Agile ways of working in other non-R&D teams was valuable, and wanted to investigate if it was possible to increase the speed of their clinical trials and multiply the number of their data sets by applying Agile.  

To get teams started in Agile, the R&D process needed to be streamlined. ADAPTOVATE mapped their R&D Solution Delivery Life Cycle with compliance and identified where security checks and approvals were needed. Then, we centralized and aggregated both regulation requirements and security checks, reducing the amount of documentation and approvals needed at each stage. These measures allowed teams to work in an Agile fashion, giving the Agile test team guidance and tactical solutions on tooling, procedures & requirements while ensuring compliance, security and regulations while not limiting pace and progress.  

The results of this Agile test on a heavily regulated team was favorable and enabled the client to double the scope of Agile-eligible teams by including those which had compliance and regulatory components. The client was able to scale from just 6 to 50 teams in a matter of 3 months. Along with team improvements, the client experienced 4x faster delivery for patient applications and a 20% reuse of datasets for drug discovery algorithms, leading to an increase in novel therapeutic compounds for testing and faster, more efficient clinical trials. 

Scaling Agile Ways of Working Across the Enterprise 

Another client, the regional affiliate of a large global Pharmaceutical company, was scaling Agile ways of working  to become nimbler and more efficient. Like many of our clients, major structural and operational changes were needed for the organization to scale efficiently while focusing on speed to market.  

To increase efficiency, the organization needed to simplify to improve flexibility to deliver highest priority outcomes as they arise and promote shared ownership of those outcomes by removing information silos. Additionally, the organization needed to be right-sized and structured according to strategic business objectives and customer needs to deliver solutions quickly.  

To achieve the desired outcomes within a complex pharmaceutical environment, we facilitated multiple workshops with the executive leadership team to define the work necessary to achieve strategic business goals and identify the necessary skills and capabilities to build an autonomous workforce to fulfill those initiatives swiftly and efficiently. The output from the Leadership Workshops was an organizational design incorporating multiple workstreams across the enterprise, all aligned according to customer and business strategy.  

We then aligned leadership, management, and Tribes (collections of teams) to those crucial strategies so Tribes could be focused and dedicated to work critical to the success of those initiatives.  

To further simplify the organization and improve flexibility, we grouped capabilities into key areas which streamlined roles to less than 50 throughout the organization. Consolidating roles increased best practice sharing among employees and boosted development of broader skill sets to deliver meaningful results rapidly.  

We collaborated with the client to create a new fit-for-purpose scaled organizational design which simplified roles by the 3x, built a strong common ownership of business outcomes, and injected autonomy to deliver solutions quickly. The new workstreams benefitted immensely by aligning to clear business objectives and customer needs while reducing communication silos and inefficiencies at every level.   

Closing Summary 

In our experience, the ability to achieve better outcomes requires an organization to demonstrate a commitment to Agile ways of working, considering structure, mindset and sustainable change.  We’ve shared real-world examples within the pharma industry, with many other success stories from other industries.  Our new reality requires a new approach.  If you’re not applying Agile ways of working within your organization, you’re already behind. 

Contributing Authors

Brooke Pannell,
Consultant, USA.
Ted Tomoyasu
Senior Consultant, USA.
Nate Nelson,
Managing Director, USA
Rachna Verma, Senior Consultant, Australia
Ghaleb El Masri,
Managing Director,

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