The Intelligence Diaries - Pharmaceutical Executive


The Intelligence Diaries
Here's your study guide to what the industry once knew—and lost.

Pharmaceutical Executive

Doing it Better

Good things come in threes, and world-class intelligence programs are no exception. It used to be that companies could apply brute force, such as defensively filing endless numbers of patents and increasing clinical trial maneuvering to possibly leapfrog a rival's market launch. Today, strategic intelligence leaders would do better to ensure that their companies display these important characteristics of success:

Build a common competitive language Organizations that fail to identify and declare an explicit way to look at the market open the door for any and all flavor-of-the-month models (some very valid) to embed themselves. The result is lots of people chasing lots of models, each demanding different pieces of information. BCG Matrix, Economic Value Added, McKinsey Seven S's, PEST, SWOT, Value Chain—the list is nearly endless. The result of pursuing each model is like a dog chasing its own tail: there's lots of information but no insight. Pharmaceutical companies are filled with strategic static from too many disconnected frameworks, each requiring different information, often producing no new insights, just a lot of PowerPoint slides.

Covance's Little has pushed a common language in Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter's five-force model for assessing competitors (direct rivals, substitute products, new entrants, powerful customers, and suppliers). This model helps explain why the pharma industry has enjoyed such a profitable history, and through its lens, the industry can now see more than just its traditional rivals.

Encourage "watch team" diversity Wyeth's McHenry began to broaden his organization's intelligence reach by making sure CI specialists seed themselves throughout the company. His warning: "Insights don't happen in a vacuum." If he hears of a new task force in the sales, marketing, or trial operations departments, he asks for a seat at the table. He does not want to steer the ship, he merely wants better ways to alert and advise management.

Get on the street and away from Google When I asked a group of 100 European competitive intelligence analysts how many attended scientific conferences to garner competitive insights, fewer than one-third raised their hands. All hands should have shot up.

These analysts are smart. They are also isolated. Too many stay at their desks, busy on their computers. Most have not visited their labs, observed clinical trials, and do not have regular meetings with key opinion leaders. Far too many are overexposed to Google, believing that it can give companies all the answers.

Medical and scientific trade shows are great for gaining street knowledge, but scientists often attend such congresses to learn just about a treatment or compound. One industry congress that lasts a few days offers a more fertile intelligence opportunity than a thousand hours of information collection over the phone.

Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies will never be able to return to the competition of the past. Patients have more power. Lawsuits abound. The industry must rebuild its reputation. The Internet has changed data distribution forever. Add new technologies and unpredictable regulatory hurdles, and you will understand how important astute intelligence has become to today's strategic decision making.

Leonard M. Fuld is president and founder of Fuld & Company, a pioneering competitive intelligence consulting firm. His most recent book is The Secret Language of Competitive Intelligence (Crown Business, a division of Random House, 2006).


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