The digital skills pharma leaders need in 2023

Digital skills pharma leaders need

The year ahead could be a challenging one for the pharmaceutical industry. Inflation levels mean there are pressures on budgets, and so pharma companies are needing to look at cost-effective ways to stay ahead of the competition. The level of digital transformation seen over the past few years, particularly as a result of the pandemic, also means businesses are required to keep up to speed with the rapidly evolving commercial landscape if they want to stay at the top of their game. 

Patient journeys, also, have permanently changed, and virtual interaction has accelerated. Consumers and customers have higher than ever expectations of the digital capabilities of the companies they use, and require a more personalised and instant service than ever.

Businesses therefore need to look at how they can ensure they are positioned to benefit from the technology available to them in order to best drive their business forward in 2023. Many pharma businesses typically lay the foundations of digital capabilities in technologies and third party partners, but in order to truly scale this needs to be driven by leadership. These employees need to be given the opportunity to gain the knowledge and tools to use advanced and ever-changing technologies to support them in the workplace. Customers will reap the benefits of this approach, and it will ensure your retail business is future ready. 

So, what are the critical digital skills pharma leaders should focus on in order to drive transformation, and help ensure their companies are prepared and agile enough to manoeuvre the period ahead?

Getting to grips with data

Data is becoming increasingly central to the way we do business. Pharma companies desperately need the analytical skills required to effectively turn the potential goldmine of data they have at their fingertips into profit. At the root of this is the critical evaluation of data - like gold, quality is important and it needs refining to get the most out of it; the willingness not to take convenient shortcuts to insights, but instead work with the rigor necessary to come to the correct conclusions. 

Success lies in considering the tasks that you want to perform, the data that you will need, how you will safeguard information, and how you will leverage it to build business cases and inform decisions. The more data expertise you can require, the more future proof and attractive your skill set becomes. At the very least, the leadership team need to have a basic understanding of statistics to apply data insights to their daily work thoughtfully. 

AI ready

We are living in a new age of AI, automation, and virtual interaction. The use of these tools will become increasingly sophisticated, starting to really transform the way we do business, as every day new techniques are developed to automate and augment processes through AI. Businesses are increasingly adopting these technologies to aid and scale deep thinking and analysis. With this, comes a requirement for businesses that want to be at the forefront of innovation to furnish their leadership team with a proper understanding of AI and new techniques such as machine learning, and the way it can support and empower a modern team. Colleagues need to be made aware of the possibilities that AI offers and its evolving changes, in order to understand potential AI applications in pharma.

Understanding social channels

More and more users are becoming aware of products, making purchasing decisions, and consuming brand media via social media. At the same time the space is constantly evolving in terms of the relative popularity of platforms and how they are being used. These channels cannot be fully understood simply by reading research or blogs - they need to be experienced. This means becoming an active user. Younger marketers who use high growth sites like TikTok, Reddit, and Instagram have a clear advantage over their older colleagues, who may have restricted their online presence to the likes of Twitter or Facebook. Being a well-rounded digital expert means understanding every available social channel - even if you are not the target demographic. 

Digital leadership

Remote and flexible working is here to stay and this has brought about fundamental changes to the management experience. To be an effective team leader it’s necessary to be able to adjust to this new digital environment that we work in, and the changing expectations of employees. Understanding how to best use technology to manage tasks, monitor productivity, and engage team members is critical, as is determining the best way to structure workflows, assess results, and enable the equal development of remote and in-office workers. In short, to be a modern manager you need to be able to lead both in the office and digitally. 

An environmental advocate

With the sheer volume of monumental news over the past few years, it can be easy to forget that we’re also in a major climate emergency. Environmental concerns are not going to go away and will continue to rise up the corporate agenda. In all likelihood, a combination of social and legislative pressure will eventually compel all businesses to act more sustainably. As a result, understanding factors such as sustainable sourcing, ethical supply chains, and carbon neutrality will be important for every marketer if they want to effectively protect their brand’s reputation. The more knowledge and practical experience you have of running green focused marketing campaigns the better. 

Digital upskilling has to be made relevant to the business, and the needs and abilities of the team. Not everyone needs to learn to code, but those leading pharma businesses, which pride themselves on innovation and development, need to understand and manage artificial intelligence, data analytics, and other technologies we can't yet predict, and be prepared for how to use them to drive their teams forward. People in these enterprises also need strong digital leadership skills: the ability to inspire and empower others to take on the challenge of continuous learning, and to make effective decisions about the use and implementation of technology.

About the author

Sarah GilchriestSarah Gilchriest is president of Circus Street, a specialist provider of online training in digital skills, specifically designed for global enterprises. Gilchriest oversees the company’s operations and long-term business strategies. By providing senior leadership to the company and employees, her role focuses on keeping shareholders and board members aligned, informed, and satisfied.

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16 February, 2023