Creating a winning playbook for consistent digital product success

creating a winning playbook

While pharma companies are embracing the transition to digital, and investing significantly in their new products, only 4% of senior executives agree that their digital product launches are regularly succeeding.

The digital products that fall short of expectations are often victims of long-standing assumptions that have formed the basis of new platform or channel development, implementation, and updates. To drive better performance and future-proof digital products, it is critical that project leaders and design teams interrogate their approach throughout the development process.

With busy teams, pressure from stakeholders and tight deadlines, it is easy to get swept up in the process, but some factors consistently deliver digital product success and should not be forgotten.

Our ‘playbook’ includes seven areas that pharma teams should consider throughout the process to ensure the end result is a product that is fit-for-purpose and meets the needs of the end user - the hallmarks of successful digital products.

1. Strategic landscape definition

To avoid assumptions right from the start of the project, undertake a detailed assessment of the known and unknown. Being specific about the problem the digital solution is setting out to solve, and its position in the wider channel strategy, is the first step: What do we know? What don’t we know and how do we fill those gaps? Having a clear picture of what you are trying to achieve and why from the outset sets you up for success.

2. Capability assessment

It’s critical to take a realistic view of resources and capability when planning new products. There are a range of frameworks to consider, but whatever your approach, you will need to identify technical feasibility based on the infrastructures in place, internal and external skill sets, capacity, and critical processes related to product delivery.

If you are undertaking a capability assessment internally, proceed with caution. Bias often creeps in when you are close to a project or used to working with a specific team, so it is often best to bring in an external team who can approach this element of the process with objectivity.

3. Measurement and metrics

Measurement is crucial for digital product development, providing a way to objectively evaluate performance. Clear and focused metrics and KPIs set early in the process act as a guide during the development process and to assess whether a product is meeting its goals and objectives at and after launch, or whether further optimisation is required.

When the success of a product or service is measured based on metrics that are oriented around user behaviour, satisfaction, and engagement, design and development become more customer-centric by default. During testing and after launch, they also ensure that user needs and preferences can be identified, so that the product can be tailored and continuously evolved more effectively.

Not only is measurement essential for ongoing product optimisation, it is also critical for aligning stakeholders on the purpose and performance of the platform, ensuring that everyone involved has the same expectations.

4. Audience identification

Identifying the audience groups the product is being designed for ensures it will be fit-for-purpose. Defining detailed personas, ideally validated by research, rather than based on assumptions or experience, helps to shift the focus of product development from abstract concepts to specific user needs and preferences.

Considering your audiences in line with the wider strategic objectives for the digital product is vital. The user group that delivers the most value to the business may not be the largest, so it is important to prioritise the personas and tailor the design around the needs of the highest priority groups.

5. Empathetic design

Identifying audiences is the first step, but understanding and empathising with them is the key to unlocking engagement. Developing a deep understanding of the goals, needs, emotions, and experiences of users ensures that the product will be useful and add value.

When users feel understood, valued, and included by a product or service, they are more likely to trust it and develop a sense of loyalty, which can lead to increased satisfaction, loyalty, and brand advocacy.

6. Ongoing optimisation

Many organisations are still implementing an outdated project delivery mindset when it comes to developing new digital platforms. The ‘Plan, Design, Build, and Launch’ approach no longer holds water when customer-centricity is one of the objectives for a digital product.

Developing an ‘optimisation’ mindset, where products are iteratively enhanced and improved on an ongoing basis to deliver high-performing experiences, delivers much better long-term engagement. Through iterative design processes, multivariate testing, and evaluative user testing methodologies, digital products continuously evolve to meet user needs — which are also constantly changing — more effectively.

7. Internal communication

The final, and possibly least considered aspect of ensuring digital product success, is internal communication. How is the product's value understood within the wider business? What percentage of colleagues recognise its strategic objective and the contribution it makes to wider commercial goals?

As you plan products and anticipate their launch, consider which influential stakeholders should be brought along as part of the journey. Demonstrating ‘proof of value’ through interactive work sessions, elevator pitch decks, business case development, and performance reports keeps stakeholders engaged, and helps to secure optimisation budgets for ongoing enhancements.

Holly Mitchell
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Holly Mitchell