Centers for Excellence: Novartis's Experience

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Pharmaceutical Executive

Centers for excellence (COE), offshore institutes set up by international organizations to maximize the effectiveness of national branches.

Centers for excellence (COE), offshore institutes set up by international organizations to maximize the effectiveness of national branches, are created for two main reasons:  to help manage workload, and to support problem-solving leading to improved commercial quality.

Novartis, for example, has COE based in India and Ireland, enabling each country to focus their time on value-added tasks. The Indian COE was set up to deal with tasks that happen on a recurring basis, which are required for the operation to function properly, e.g. sales force intended calculations, which are performed by all countries. The Irish center operates differently, as its work is an add-on to standard operations. The Irish team is a resource to leverage what national branches are doing in any given period.

The bottom line for COE is helping countries become as effective as they can be. While customer interaction is kept to a country, the COE work to develop strategies or operational elements that help the country be more effective, by, for example, helping the country to identify which customer they should go and see, or designing ways to drive the focus on the brand in a way that’s needed for improved productivity.

Pay-offs and standards
The biggest pay-off of a COE is the opportunity to create and maintain guidelines for what makes as successful sales organization. Pharma companies nowadays tend to be fragmented structures, organized into franchises within a company, stretching the resources of the back office, which supports the frontline sales representatives.

Peter Deane, Head of Global Sales Force Effectiveness at Novartis, says “The back office are the people who determine the incentives, who run segregation studies, analyze how many reps you need.” When there’s one central organization, its demands are uniform across the board, which means that one group can manage the entire company. But once it’s split into specialties, and specialties get fragmented into sub-fields, these groups are stretched, creating a need for centralised action.


Centralized operation allows good practices to be shared between countries.
“We identify upcoming trends, and keep track of what countries are at the forefront,” says Deane. “By developing COE we know why countries do what they do, which allows to pull up resources to make decisions internally, without seeking a third-party support. It’s about providing knowledge within the organization, which allows the company to respond better to challenges they face over time.”

In-house solutions
Although many pharma companies outsource their centers for excellence to third-party contractors, Novartis have decided to keep it in-house. “It means we are responsible for the careers of [our employees], so they can move outside of [the country where they work, e.g. India]. Additionally, they’re part of the organizations, so some of the ways we run projects or analyze data have become more streamlined then when using a third-party. Most importantly, in a market with high turnover like India, we managed to improve our retention rate, which serves Novartis over time.”

Join in on the value partnership debate yourself at eyeforpharma Barcelona 2014 (18-20 March, 2014). Global leaders will demonstrate real innovation and real value for your customer, take a look at the discussion here. or contact Hayley Dunn:

Join in on the value partnership debate at eyeforpharma Barcelona 2014 (18-20 March, 2014). For more information visit or contact Hayley Dunn: