Raymond Hill, IMS

Nov 03, 2008
By Pharmaceutical Executive

Where is the pharmaceutical/biotech industry headed at this crucial time in its history? How can your company get ahead of the curve? What are the gaps in the organization? Where can it carve out new market spaces? What skills does it lack vis-à-vis its competitors?

Focusing on the big picture
While there have certainly been differences between individual consultants in the way they acquire information, big-name management consulting firms such as McKinsey, Accenture, A.T. Kearney, and their peers have practiced case-based knowledge consulting. That is, they draw on the successful models of other organizations facing issues similar to the client’s.

Case-based consulting has obvious value—but just as obviously, it has limitations as well. It can be very difficult to extrapolate a lesson from one company in one industry at one particular point in time (perhaps even on another continent) to another company in different circumstances. Details matter. People know this instinctively, and wonder about the applicability of others’ experiences to their own.

Most consultants work hard to master their area and give their clients good value. What their approach lacks, however, is knowledge based on hard evidence.

Evidence-based consulting
While upholding the value of case-based knowledge, practitioners of a different model—evidence-based consulting—focus tightly on discrete industries or issues and bring to their clients an arsenal of proprietary data that backs up their recommendations. One example is MasterCard Advisors, which provides insights on issues ranging from performance management and finance solutions to customer development and data warehousing in the payments and credit card arena.

A relatively new feature on the consulting landscape, evidence-based consultants are still evolving—beginning as start-ups, or emerging as separate divisions within established multinational consultants, or as extended service lines from companies once focused primarily on data. Evidence-based consultants can, for example, access data rapidly, analyze it, and extract critical strategic and market insights—while traditional players are still turning to others for data and, often, insights.

This is especially relevant in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, where multiple stakeholders—payers, patients, healthcare providers, and government—make specialized expertise necessary. In addition, the dual challenge of increasing growth rates and declining R&D productivity make maximizing performance—for both launch and existing brands—a critical imperative for every company.

With immediate access to data sources and significant industry knowledge, evidenced- based consultancies can position pharmaceutical/biotech clients ahead of the curve—and ahead of competitors by delivering fresh, evidence-based approaches and new ideas for driving short- and long-term commercial success.

Operational challenges
To be sure, evidence-based consultancies are not without challenges. For example, one must wrestle with potential challenges arising from having an advisory company nested within a product-oriented company. Different corporate cultures, different requisite skill sets, and possibly competing missions must all be sorted through. Evidence-based consultancies can also be at risk for over-specialization. Those that carve out a single industry niche will, in the end, find themselves working in a finite world where growth is hard to come by.

Evolving landscape
As of the year 2000, the estimated number of companies leveraging the evidence-based consulting model was no more than 200. Eight years later, that number has grown to over 1,500. Plainly, they are filling a major unmet need. There’s plenty of room in the market for new approaches, and as the benefits of the evidence-based concept become more apparent, we are likely to see alliances develop between and among existing models, yielding a fresh wave of consultancies and intriguing new business models. Evidence-based consulting is clearly here to stay, providing the hard numbers that clients demand to go along with the case studies.

Raymond Hill is general manager, IMS Health Consulting. He can be reached at rhill@imshealth.com