The Intelligence Diaries

Here's your study guide to what the industry once knew—and lost.
Nov 01, 2007

In today's pharmaceutical marketplace, there's no room for error; companies need to make all the right moves. Yet the industry's investment in intelligence—the wisdom that guides the brawn of Big Pharma—has been inconsistent, at best. A recent survey found that half of pharma companies' intelligence programs are less than one year old.

It's not that the concept of competitive intelligence (CI) is new—the field has existed within pharma for nearly 20 years. Rather, many companies suffer from "intelligence amnesia"—when companies build up intelligence programs only to drop them later. When new management enters the picture with an interest in CI, they have no knowledge of prior programs and must start the process from scratch. While not all companies contract complete amnesia, many lose their ability to assess their competitive surroundings. They may forget how to watch.

Wyeth was an example of the latter; it needed to regain its competitive capability. It was 2002, and the company was fighting several highly public battles: litigation on its diet drug Fen-Phen, a report citing problems with its hormone replacement therapy, and a series of related layoffs. These layoffs, recalls Craig McHenry, head of Wyeth's CI group, wiped out much of his staff. But McHenry soon viewed the layoffs as a sort of shock therapy.

Competitive intelligence had to prove itself again. So Wyeth began to change the way it scoured the market for new opportunities. "The biggest lesson for us, coming out of 2002, is that it's very difficult for a CI group to have a culture and a process that is drastically out of line with the rest of the organization's," says McHenry.

War Games for Your Conference War Room
In large part, McHenry's wake-up call forced him to look at the past decade and see how the market had changed. Piece by piece, McHenry's CI organization began to help the company interpret the competitive signals faster and better than it did before.

Most likely, your company needs to do the same if it is to succeed in today's competitive marketplace. Yet, many firms have failed to monitor the true markers of change. I've compiled notes from my CI files of nearly three decades to help companies get back in the game and to bring executives up to speed on best-in-class ways to recognize these markers—markers laden with threats...and opportunities.

Transparency Transformation

Big Pharma, Big Budgets
You hear a lot of talk about the drivers of today's business. But the driver that comes across most clearly is the need to curb healthcare costs—the proverbial elephant-in-the-room marker. The rise of healthcare costs at twice the rate of inflation is just not sustainable, whether employers foot the bill or whether we move to a national single-payer system. It's easy to focus on pricing alone. But look underneath the surface and you'll find an even more significant issue brewing—the forced transformation toward transparency.

Transparency comes in many different packages. It's more than just access to data on the Internet. It is about a confluence of forces that have peeled away industry secrecy, especially in the United States, over the last 10 to 15 years.

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