Pharma Europe 2023

Apr 18, 2023 - Apr 20, 2023,

Join the world’s leading cross-functional pharma event

Wired for success in omnichannel

Marcomms has much to gain by nurturing a closer working relationship with IT colleagues 

The mastery of omnichannel requires many parts of every pharma business to align and co-operate but perhaps one of the most important, but underemphasized partnerships is that between marketing communications (marcomms) and IT colleagues. 

Only together can they develop the right tools, including platforms, data analytics, automation, and artificial intelligence (AI), to do the job effectively.  

IT’s expertise on a range of issues including hardware and software compatibility, budgets, data security, and training and support issues, make closer working relationships with it essential, says Craig McGettigan, Head of Omnichannel Enablement, US General Medicines, at Sanofi. 

It is important therefore for IT to understand the goals and desired outcomes for the project, any potential challenges, timelines, and to find ways to bridge any gaps to ensure successful implementation. 

Another reason to cultivate the input of IT leaders as key partners is their experience in developing an agile approach that can help coordinate marcomms and IT projects, speeding delivery, adds McGettigan. “Agile emphasizes collaboration, flexibility, and responsiveness, and is great for IT projects that need to be completed quickly. The iterative nature of agile allows for quick feedback and adaptation and encourages team involvement and transparency to make sure projects are successful and done on time.” 

Choosing the right software is another thing marcomms should be careful to consult IT about, says McGettigan. “When selecting software, it’s important to consider not only the cost of licensing, but also the impact the software will have on the operating model. It may cost more to license software A versus software B, but the efficiency gained from software A may be several times what the additional licensing costs are, so the net cost to the organization for software A could be lower.” 

Additionally, when purchasing software, the ubiquity of one product’s use versus another should be considered to determine how commoditized the development skill is for that tool. Niche tools will likely cost more and take more time than more commoditized software, adds McGettigan. “To justify using a tool that is not commonly used, there should be a very thoughtful business case built demonstrating the value that the additional cost of development is more than outweighed by the value added,” he explains. 

Change management is another vital aspect of successful omnichannel delivery on which Marcomms and IT will need to collaborate, adds McGettigan. “It is important for an organization to ensure that people who are being asked to change their ways of working understand why, and what the ultimate goal is. 

“People often need to hear the same thing several times before they fully absorb it, so it’s important to be repetitive. Using examples that someone can relate to is often the best way to teach adults a new concept. Managers must provide support and guidance during these transitions. We are developing better prioritization, agile practices, and new training programs so we can respond to emerging needs swiftly.” 

Cross-functional curiosity 
A way to cement close working relationships between the key functions tasked with implementing omnichannel is for leaders from each to invest time, energy and curiosity in their partner functions, says Pallavi Garg, Head of Global Oncology Products and Pipeline Strategy at Takeda Oncology. 

“I'm not suggesting that marketers understand all of IT, that IT understands all of operations, or that operations understand all of sales,” says Garg. “But there needs to be enough communication so a common core starts to build, ideas begin to translate and form in a cross-functional way with clear accountability.  

“When they are in alignment, we have a very clear, precise vision for what we're trying to achieve, creating a role model for collaboration from the top. That's when the success of omnichannel actually begins,” says Garg.  

“When the right leaders came to the table, aligned early, and built that ‘north star’ for the entire organization, we were able to build omnichannel in months. But when there is no clear alignment, we may not reach our goal even a year later. So it's about the collaboration, the partnerships, breaking down the silos, and having a unified vision from the top,” she adds. 

“The lines between groups must be more permeable so that we understand what the other team is doing,” says Garg. “We need visionary leaders who can connect the dots between different functions. Real innovation happens at the interface of these functions, so we need to have more permeable boundaries that allow more information to seep through.” 

Extensive cross-training among functions can help, she adds. “We need more cross-training and a rotational program that would allow for more cross-functional knowledge amongst our leaders.  Digital and IT experiences must be part of cross-functional training as technology becomes more pervasive across an organization,” she adds.  

Starting with the customer  
When planning for omnichannel, Garg emphasizes the need to develop a strategy from the customer perspective. “You have to look at it from the customer perspective, and think what are we trying to develop? What is the problem we are trying to solve?” Developers must work from the customer backwards and determine the best features and tools – platforms, analytics, and the like – needed to meet the objective of the campaign. They also should agree on how success will be measured. 

“It is really crucial for the IT teams to understand the business challenge, and for the marcomms teams to understand the objectives and communicate those objectives clearly to their IT counterparts,” she notes. 

Once that is clear, IT colleagues can match technology requirements, and by undertaking a technology gap analysis, determine which components of the system have to be built, in-sourced, purchased, or licensed. “We need those types of conversations. But the primary piece is always the customer, our stakeholders, and understanding the problem that we're trying to solve,” she says. 

The good news is that many organizations are working along these lines and rapidly maturing their omnichannel capabilities. 

Progress is being made and the silos between marcomms and IT are finally being broken down says Pooja Ojala, vice president of commercial content at life sciences software provider Veeva Systems. “Many marketing teams have a good IT counterpart, and this setup helps them co-create their plans together.

“More conversations are happening between the two groups. There’s more collaboration and problem solving, and less push back. There’s an emphasis on figuring out which digital tools are in hand, and which ones must be acquired to do the job,” she adds. 

What’s relatively new, Ojala continues, is the establishment of governance committees, consisting of marcomms and IT personnel. The committees assess the capabilities of the content space. “That didn't exist in the past. Typically IT would make an assessment and suggest tools for marcomms to adopt. But every lens is different from how a user applies a tool versus how IT thinks it should be implemented,” she notes. 

“Swat teams of individuals that represent key functions of programs and ways of working are co-creating for the future, establishing short-term and long-term objectives, with everybody's agenda heard and recognized,” she explains. “There’s also a mutual understanding to share more of what each other is trying to do. It all comes down to constant ongoing communication. It isn't a ‘once and done’. Now, it's more of a fluid communication and collaboration,” she says. 

“IT must think holistically about all the pieces. You need a centralized platform to manage content and create those omnichannel experiences. In the past, there were separate conversations and decisions being made, but now with omnichannel there should be a single platform,” adds Ojala. 

The role of automation 
As omnichannel capabilities mature, automation needs to be a key area of focus for marcomms and IT now, says Ojala. “Given the demand to deliver a steady stream of content to meet HCPs’ needs, pharma marketers must react, create, edit, and adapt quickly. While AI has often been a go-to capability and will continue to help, the true content accelerator in 2023 will be automation. 

“Automation will help organizations limit manual tasks and work quickly to deliver relevant content for more meaningful omnichannel customer experiences. Using technologies like AI accelerators and automating workflows will enable brands and marketers to focus on what matters most: delivering great content to customers how they want to consume it.” 

Pharma Europe 2023

Apr 18, 2023 - Apr 20, 2023,

Join the world’s leading cross-functional pharma event