How do you stay true to your customer mission while completely changing the way your company works?

Global pharmaceutical company illustration

The Challenge

Large, complex organizations are notoriously hard to change. With multiple locations, thousands of employees and longstanding processes, there are plenty of barriers to adopting new technologies and ways of working. It was no different for our client – one of the world’s best-known pharmaceutical giants.

The company knew it needed to fundamentally change its organizational structure. Not just to be able to make best use of data, analytics, and digital technology. But – more importantly – to continue delivering on its mission for patients and customers.

The key was to shift from a project-centric to a product-centric operating model. Yet with more than one hundred thousand employees across the globe, the biggest barrier to achieving this goal was the sheer scale of transformation required.

Approach

Continual product innovation is the lifeblood of pharmaceutical businesses. Faced with multiple internal and external pressures, our client asked us to introduce modern ways of working and improve product development to deliver more value to its customers.

In early 2018, we began an Enterprise Transformation programme to support its ‘project to product’ journey.

Previously, the company had followed the traditional project management approach to innovation. Teams were organized around hitting milestones rather than building ‘the right thing’ for their customers. Instead of focusing on adding value, they were focused on delivering project outputs. While the development of products involved lengthy waterfall delivery cycles and meeting internal goals rather than customer goals and rapid time-to-market.

All this changed after we started helping the company shift from project management to product management by following the Emergn principles of VFQ. In particular, by putting in place ways of working that deliver value early and often, manage the flow of work end-to end, and drive quality through fast feedback.

Our impact

The company’s successful transition from project to product-centricity has required a change in mindset. From the beginning, it has relied on everyone – from senior leadership to individual team members – to adopt agile fundamentals, new ways of working, and product (rather than project) management skills.

The company’s transformation journey has included a shift from temporal project teams to stable, cross-functional product teams. It moved away from focusing on delivering ‘outputs’ to delivering measurable ‘outcomes’.

It also did away with slow waterfall delivery cycles. It implemented ways of empathizing with customers. Defining their problems. Creating ideas to solve them. Prototyping. Testing. And gathering fast feedback. Instead of delivering just for internal business stakeholders, the organization now works better together in delivering for the end customer.

In one part of the business, this new-found agility slashed the time to launch new releases from three months to just two weeks. In another, a laser-sharp focus on customer needs quickly led to a 30% decrease in abandoned shopping carts.

In its quest for continuous innovation, the whole organization understands that its transformation journey is continuous too. With our support, it now has the agility and capabilities to respond to changing technologies and customer demands. So the company can be confident it has the operating model in place to help lead the market for many more years to come.

To launch new releases

2 weeks

Decrease in abandoned carts

30%

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