Digital transformation: What it means and how to get started

Digital transformation is one of those things that everyone seems to be talking about, yet no one really knows how to do. In fact, even what it means is unclear. If you put a group of people in a room and ask them to define digital transformation, you’ll get as many different answers as you have people.

digital transformation butterfly

Business transformation in a digital world

To understand digital transformation, let’s start with one thing that we do all know: the world is constantly changing. Businesses need to adapt to these changes in order to survive. Those that want more than survival – to thrive – need to go further than adaption. They need to transform.

Where does digital fit in? Well, technology is always one of the key drivers for change. And with the digital revolution the rate of change is accelerating. But digital transformation doesn’t equal technology. It may cause change (and help you respond to it) but at its heart digital transformation means business transformation…in a digital world.

 

“Given that digital transformation calls for business transformation, it is our organisations and people that need to continuously adapt and change.”

 

Given that digital transformation calls for business transformation, it is our organisations and people that need to continuously adapt and change. And that requires:

  • New business models
  • New organisational structures
  • New ways of working
  • New customers
  • New partners

So, while we might think ‘technology’ whenever we hear the phrase digital transformation, we really should be thinking bigger. IT systems and tools are important but only as far as they enable a business to transform.

Why is it needed?

No one changes for the sake of it. Companies that are looking to transform are doing so because it is a necessary response to their business environment: customers are changing, who our competitors are is changing, and the very world is changing around us. And this change is speeding up, now especially in the life sciences.

Let’s take just one example that’s central to Sales & Marketing: customer experience. Doctors are now fluently digital because they are consumers like us. We all have higher service expectations because of the digital revolution, and we’ll go looking for information when it isn’t provided in the form we want. HCPs are already finding resources, independent of the industry, that they use daily in their work. Raised expectations caused HCPs to change their behavior.

If we look at how HCPs are acting, it’s clear that pharma is not doing a great job with its customer experience. We’re already feeling the impact of physicians becoming increasingly difficult to access. Traditional ways of engaging – doing the same things over and over again – is unlikely to overturn this trend. There is no doubt that sales reps will continue to be a valuable channel, but how they work needs to adapt just to catch up with the new realities – and really transform to get ahead of the game.

 

"If we accept that being able to consistently deliver best-in-class customer experiences is a key competitive differentiator, significant change is called for."

 

If the ability to consistently deliver best-in-class customer experiences is a key competitive differentiator, significant change is called for. At the very least, that means high-value content, delivered at the right time to people via their preferred channels (the essence of multi-channel marketing). Yet that’s just still adaption. Transformation would cause us to go further and ask questions like:  What if your communication didn’t just help doctors understand your product? What if it helped them be better doctors?

It’s the big questions that drive transformation, causing us to innovate new business models and ways of working.

Where do you start?

It’s easy to call for big changes – you hear that at conferences every year – but the hard part is figuring out precisely what to do and making it happen. A blank sheet of paper with just a heading ‘Big ideas here’ is no use to anyone. That’s why at Anthill we have developed a tool – a digital transformation framework – that enables companies to work in a more agile way and drive rapid innovation.

 

“Anthill has developed a tool – a digital transformation framework – that enables companies to work in a more agile way and drive rapid innovation."

 

This framework contains multiple elements. It is, in fact, a whole roadmap that enables you to get on with the job of launching, optimising and scaling projects across your business. The real value of this framwork is that it considers the entire environment of key players, not only your customers but also your potential collaborators. If you’re looking to get started with digital transformation, we recommend you understand who these players are and how they impact and influence you. We call this phase ‘the four Cs’:

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It might seem obvious to pay attention to your stakeholders but this is more than making a list of people. Like the old joke about fish not knowing what water is, we too can often not see what is around us.

The aim is to have a very detailed understanding of the ‘players’ and ask big questions about who they are, what they want, and where they are going:

  • Commercial: How ready, willing & able is our organisation to transform?
  • Collaborator: Who should we collaborate with? And what should be the nature & extent of that collaboration?
  • Customer: How well do we know our customers and their challenges, goals & motivations? Do we understand their digital behaviours and channel preferences?
  • Competitor: Who are our competitors? How and where should we compete?

Though this just a part of the multi-step digital transformation framework, ‘the four Cs’ is vital. It is a fresh look at where we are right now. It requires seeing the business environment for what it is: dynamic and continually changing. If digital transformation is a response to changes that happen in the world then understanding the world is the first step to changing it.

Summary:

  • Digital transformation means business transformation in a digital world
  • In pharma, this is being driven by a changing business environment and, especially, the need to radically improve customer experience
  • Digital transformation requires a process to turn it into a reality
  • An important step is to take a fresh look at your own organisation, your customers, competitors and potential collaborators

 

Start your digital transformation journey

To learn more about Anthill’s digital transformation framework, and how it can be applied to your work, contact our Director of Customer Engagement, Alejandra Betancourt, to start the conversation.

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