Forward-Looking Intelligence - Pharmaceutical Executive


Forward-Looking Intelligence

Pharmaceutical Executive

Peggy Walker, the CI manager of the pharmaceuticals division at 3M, sees intelligence deliverables falling into two broad categories: widely disseminated current intelligence on critical issues in the marketplace and strategic deliverables that examine longer-term issues for the top management team. Together, these CI activities enable better information connections and business decision-making at all levels of the organization. The goal is to ensure that employees across various functions—R&D, marketing, business development, and market research—incorporate intelligence practices into their work.

3M's pharma division redesigned its CI process in 2003, and it has already been singled out for several internal best-practice awards at the corporate level. Walker sees the benefits of the division's process through its discussions. "The richness of the information and your ability to make forward-looking decisions depends on many minds looking at the same information and sharing their different perspectives, with an eye to the future," she says.

3M executive-committee members have been among the first in the business to realize the benefits that competitive intelligence can bring to their decisions about direction setting and strategic planning. Product managers are incorporating intelligence to increase market share, anticipate and model possible competitor moves, and develop preemptive strategies for new product entrants. R&D scientists are more business savvy and aware of competitive technologies because the process includes information systems and evaluation tools that result in analyses and predictive intelligence, not just CI based on past history. Other businesses within the 3M organization have approached Walker about establishing their own CI capabilities.

AstraZeneca: Future Strategies

AstraZeneca's CI professionals have played a similar leadership role in helping their company learn and employ new techniques for anticipating future threats and opportunities. Several years ago, the company's CI team spearheaded the effort to incorporate scenario planning into the strategy process for the company's US commercial group.

Using existing marketplace knowledge as a starting point, the CI team and company managers developed a series of plausible future scenarios that bounded the ways in which the future marketplace might develop. From these scenarios, AstraZeneca developed a set of strategies that would be resilient across a wide variety of possible futures. Indeed, those scenarios are still in use today.

Perhaps most important, the team was able to identify options that worked across all scenarios, so it could begin implementing aspects of those scenarios with confidence far in advance. To ensure that the management team was kept up-to-date on key events that might necessitate a change in strategic direction, the intelligence team developed a set of intelligence indicators, or signposts, for which it could scan, so that it could alert the company as soon as possible if a significant change was underway.

As a result of this process, AstraZeneca was able to develop a set of strategies that it knew would work regardless of the future marketplace, and it could begin implementing those strategies right away. And because the company has developed alternative strategies for different plausible futures, it has the flexibility to respond with actions once it receives early warning from its CI team that a major change is imminent.

The pace of change in the pharmaceutical industry is not likely to slow in the foreseeable future. The competitive advantage will clearly fall to organizations that can acquire and use vital information faster and more efficiently to outflank their competitors. For product managers in particular, CI and its associated tools offer a proven way to develop forward-looking strategies right now, rather than scrambling to react to competitors' moves after they occur.

Bill Fiora is president and founder of Outward Insights, a competitive intelligence coaching and consulting firm. He can be reached at


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