Doing Your Product Launch Right the First Time Out

March 3, 2008
Susan Cypra

Successful Product Manager's Handbook

A PMO can help drive a new-product launch to goal

So much rides on new-product approval these days that having a 100-percent issue-free launch matters now more than ever.

Getting to this level of perfection requires solid project management. And the task of managing a launch has only become more complicated, due to:

  • Fragmented markets Many disease areas are crowded with competitors, and it may be difficult to break through the "noise."

  • More complicated logistics stemming from partnerships and third-party involvement When logistics are not managed well, efficiency goes down and costs increase. Working with partners increases the risk of logistical snafus.

  • Personalized medicine In the future, drugs may be targeted at much smaller populations. Companies will need to strive to achieve a larger piece of a smaller revenue "pie."

Working Together

Having a Program Management Office (PMO) for product launch can create value for the pharmaceutical company.

When properly coordinated, the various customer-oriented and back-office activities that take place at launch work together to equal more than the sum of their parts. For example, the path to maximize the value of the drug as soon as it is launched is only clear when:

  • the sales representative has been trained to detail the new product

  • the advertising agency has produced high-quality marketing aids for the sales group to distribute

  • trade has worked with the pharmacies to ensure the pharmacy is ready to handle coupons for the samples

  • the supply chain is ready with an ample supply of medicine

  • customer service is ready with trained operators to answer patient questions

  • managed markets is ready with negotiated contracts.

On the other hand, when any one of these elements is not ready on time—or not aligned with the overall strategy and messaging of the launch—a disruption can occur and create expensive work-arounds and lost momentum.

The tools and tactics used by a PMO can help support cross-functional coordination of a product launch and ensure that all elements of the launch tie back to the brand strategy. And for that, you need a playbook. The tools shown below are representative of a typical playbook that is used by companies to manage all the activities that must take place before, during, and after launch. Once such a playbook is designed, it can be added to by teams that use it for specific launches.

The PMO uses these tools to get a comprehensive view of the launch and to identify where to apply resources, management time and attention, and other investments. PMO resources are excellent project managers who have product-launch experience and credibility with the functions with which they work. The essence of the PMO is its ability to draw from the deep talent that resides in the organization and to target that talent appropriately so that it is leveraged in the right way, at the right time, to support product-launch objectives. When a good PMO is in place, value can be maximized across the organization.

Susan Cypra is a principal in Archstone Consulting's life sciences practice. She can be reached at

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