Pharma 3/4/5.0 – The fundamentals remain the same! Digital transformation is an organisation-wide initiative.
Published by: Evan Wyer 17 Aug, 2023 8 minute read
Pharma 3/4/5.0 – The fundamentals remain the same!

In brief

  • ‘Digital’ transformation is an organisation-wide initiative, siloed or IT centric approaches will not deliver against the wider business strategy.
  • Define what ‘digital’ transformation means to your organisation.
  • Clearly identify the issue(s) you are looking to address and by when.
  • C-Suite sponsorship is ‘a must’.

Technology continues to advance at pace, and each passing year brings the promise of another blockbuster technology that will revolutionise your business. Over time, these technology advancements are grouped together and categorised, Beyond the Pill, Pill to Platform, Pharma 3.0, Pharma 4.0, and its latest iteration Industry 5.0. What really matters to your business is not the categorisation but the relevance and impact of the technology on your business strategy, it’s ways of working and the business value add.

The purpose of this paper is twofold,

  1. To ensure that the business is at the forefront of your digital strategy.

That the softer but just as critical fundamentals are considered and accounted for before embarking on a ‘digital’ transformation programme.

The Opportunity

‘Digital’ transformation is an enabler not a driver, its purpose is to facilitate the implementation of the business strategy; to do so successfully, it’s critical that you understand the organisations vision, goals, and objectives.

Forget about the technology categorisation, it has little or no bearing on the outcome of your programme.

‘Digital’ means different things to different people, don’t get caught up in the terminology.

Begin with the basics:

  • What is the business strategy?
  • Who owns the business strategy?

Armed with this information you can begin the process of creating your approach to ‘digital’ transformation.

The Approach

Every organisation is different, it’s ways of working, people, culture, and capabilities are unique to that organization, and therefore the ‘digital’ transformation strategy needs to be organisation specific.

The strategy must consider not only the technology but also the softer components which are often overlooked or given little thought in the overall approach. These softer components will have as much bearing on the success of your programme as selecting the right technology or implementation provider.

To give your programme the best possible chance at success, you need to ensure that you have considered all the critical components.

Essential Strategy Components:

  • C-suite sponsorship
  • Define what ‘digital’ transformation’ means for your organisation.
  • Assess the level of ‘digital’ maturity in your organisation.
  • Continuous workforce engagement at all levels of the business for the duration of the programme
  • Avoid technology envy, leverage proven technologies that are relevant for your organisation, industry, products, services, and customers.
  • Continuously evaluate the integration elements throughout the programme.

The Outcome

When done correctly, a ‘digital’ transformation strategy aids and supports the delivery of an organisations objectives and can be shaped to meet a multitude of business requirements. ‘Digital’ transformation is really about business transformation, which can contribute at all levels of the organisation.

Your ‘digital’ transformation programme can and should be a key element in the overarching business strategy, when properly implemented the ‘digital’ element is considered in all business initiatives, no different from any other business function.

Your strategy can be tailored to deliver against your organisations unique set of goals, from high-level objectives through to specific problem statements. The strategy should be robust enough to deliver against the objectives but also contain a degree of flexibility, after all, your organisations business is constantly changing, therefore it follows that your strategy needs to evolve in line with the market and business dynamics.

Technology is layered, so ask yourself the question ‘what is the state of my core technologies and data’, are they fit for purpose, can they support bleeding edge technologies and applications. For a lot of organisations, it’s quite possible that their ‘digital’ transformation programme will begin with replacing or upgrading the core technology and associated business processes. It’s at this level that you should look to implement proven technologies.

This approach doesn’t exclude or ignore the emerging technologies, rather it ensures that core technologies and their data are fit for purpose to support and integrate with emerging technologies.

Ideally, your strategy should provide a sufficient level of direction to overcome the inevitable questions that will arise during the implementation of the programme. As the strategy has C-Suite endorsement this will save hours of debate about the approach and direction.

Implementation considerations:

  • What is the dynamic between global, regional, and local solutions.
  • Globalised business process and ways of working versus regional or local.
  • Retain existing business process or create new based on best business practise.
  • Brownfield V Greenfield approach
  • How to address regional legal, statutory and compliance elements
  • Innovation, new technologies, what is the process for evaluation and retro fitting into the strategy.
  • Change management and communication delivery models.
  • Service transition approach


‘Digital’ transformation is an enabler of the business strategy, however, the balance between technology selection and the programme fundamentals is skewed towards the technology and service provider elements, you must place as much emphasis on the non-technical elements or run the risk of failure, be that full or partial.

Regardless of which categorisation the technology falls under, the fundamentals and end goal of a successful ‘digital’ programme remain the same, that is, leveraging Pharma x.0 to deliver against your business vision and objectives. Furthermore, the fundamentals are just as critical to a successful programme, ‘change management is much more than training’, ‘digital’ transformation is much more than moving to the cloud’.

By managing your ‘digital’ transformation programme in the same way as you would manage any large critical business decision, you give your programme the best possible opportunity to succeed.

Ignore the softer elements at your peril!!!