Pharmaceutical firms could benefit from wider Agile adoption

09 May 2023 4 min. read

Agile methodologies are often most closely associated with software development – but the benefits of Agile are increasingly seeing the working model adopted by industries far away from its origins. According to new research from Enfuse Group, pharmaceutical companies could also benefit from learning from other industries with wider adoption of Agile.

The working methodology known as Agile emerged out of a growing dissatisfaction with IT techniques used in the late 1990s, such as the waterfall method in software development. The approach puts speed and autonomy at its core, advocating a process characterised by the division of tasks into short phases of work and frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans.

Since the launch of the Agile Manifesto in 2001, the approach gained popularity well beyond the IT experts it was initially intended for, with research recently suggesting as many as 83% of large corporates in Western Europe are adopting agile. And as professionals in the pharmaceutical industry grapple with pressures to innovate quickly, driven by competition and customer expectations, experts from Enfuse group have spelled out how Agile could help them become more efficient and productive.

Pharmaceutical firms could benefit from wider Agil adoption

Pointing to one example where Agile could aid pharma companies, Enfuse noted a recent Veeva roundtable poll of pharmaceutical companies suggested that 20% to 50% of healthcare professional (HCP) interactions are expected to be digital in the future. This is shifting the expectations of digitally native HCPs, who increasingly require relevant and personalised content to be seamlessly delivered at the appropriate time, and via preferred channels. This means that marketing becomes a much more complex affair than previously – and requires better product positioning, a clear value proposition, and consistent messaging. In this case, Agile marketing can assist by speeding up content production and enabling effective personalisation.

Beyond this, pharma firms should also take note of the benefits other sectors are gleaning from Agile working. These include being able to sense and respond to changes in business contexts as they occur; managing marketing projects to reflect shifts in client sentiment;  and reacting in a more timely fashion to unpredictable events, or tight deadlines such as regulatory shifts.

Case studies

Enfuse added that pharmaceutical companies would do well to look to other industries when it came to picking up best practices for the wider adoption of Agile. To illustrate this, the authors pointed to several engagements which Enfuse had undertaken with The Practical Agile Company – to help clients transition from traditional to Agile project management practices.

The examples included Enfuse partnering with a global restaurant chain, to establish an innovation hub, which could reduce handoffs and ensuring rapid decision-making when adapting products – in a project which eventually helped double mobile app order sales within eight weeks due to the mindset of continuously testing new features and layout of the app.

Another instance saw Enfuse work with a major airline to adopt Agile ‘product’ working methods within its corporate IT and business teams. The consultants worked with corporate teams, such as the finance and people functions, to establish cross-functional delivery teams. The method enabled the teams’ activities to become quicker and more transparent, dealing with a backlog of demand, and enabling business stakeholders to engage in the right conversations on priorities and further investment needed.

Even government agencies have found the benefits of Agile work. Enfuse Group was asked to pilot an Agile model with the Data and Analytics (D&A) functions at a major UK governance agency that was highly regulated. Enfuse professionals worked with the D&A leadership to roll out an agile approach which saw the early release of a new data platform and governance processes within three months. This brought early benefits and ensured business engagement with D&A – but also enabled early feedback, leading to a notable change in the business strategy and renewed investment in D&A.

Looking at the impacts Agile has had on other sectors, the authors pointed to one final case, within pharma, stating, “Although the pharmaceutical industry is behind in adopting agile working, our experience shows that those who pioneer it will reap the benefits of better engagement with HCPs. The speed of content creation is often a bottleneck in pharma’s ambition to provide personalised and relevant content to HCPs via email, edetail, webinars and events. In one success story, a pharma company was able to accelerate email content creation by reducing the time required for medical approval from weeks to days.”