I remember being asked this by the CEO of a mobile phone company in 2009. At the time I was the Director of innovation for a top Pharma company and had been tasked with exploring potential digital partnerships. I reluctantly admitted that no such thing existed from our side and that the words ‘digital strategy’ were not even in our lexicon!

I scooted back to Head office with a pile of insights that left us feeling a little out of our depth in this new tech-based world.

Fast forward 10 years and I doubt very much if any Pharma company DOESN’T have several iterations of a digital strategy showing up in anything from Omnichannel Marketing to Cloud and mobile technology, sensors, and next-generation business intelligence. Terms such as AI, Blockchain and AR are now more or less common place.

Looking back to 2009 the message of ‘The world is changing fast’ has become our living reality. Ten short years have sped by and with it we have learnt to adapt to a new norm.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing so I have reflected on the lessons we can use to take forward into 2020.

It’s a no-nonsense list of my learning, that might just stand us all in good stead as we prepare for an even faster route to 2029.

  1. Top down support – Without a clear strategic direction and strong senior level sponsorship, the digital ambition will struggle find a foot hold in the business.
  2. Beyond data driven insights – In your quest for data driven insights don’t lose the value of simply listening, observing and immersing with customers. They are the people who will help to shape and determine both the direction and channels which will add value.
  3. Less is definitely more – Focus on one or two initiatives, linked with your strategy. Your aim should be to establish some quick wins, drive engagement and fuel learning.
  4. Infect curiosity – ask questions, play around with new Tech, steal learning from everywhere and encourage others to do the same.  If people understand the strategy it will be easier to spot opportunities.
  5. Don’t go it alone – If I could replay that ‘Do you have a digital strategy’ conversation I may have asked that CEO to give us some tips to building one. Partnerships and collaboration are essential.
  6. Feeling out of your depth is good – If you don’t understand something say so. Remember that you are curious to learn.
  7. Constant experimentation – Run series of low cost, fast iterative experiments to find out what works and can add value for your business. Learn to scale what works and kill what doesn’t. Learning to do this at speed can become a real differentiator. Don’t forget to involve your end user as early as possible and give people in the business ‘permission’ (time and space) to make it happen. Today’s tech prototypes might be tomorrows enterprise solutions.
  8. Setting up for success – Establish new ways of working and be ready to adapt business processes as these take shape. Avoid duplication of efforts by creating a center of excellence. In this way you can prevent duplication of efforts and many people working in silos on the same problem.
  9. Don’t follow the crowd – Just because others may be exploring something doesn’t make it right for you! Just look at how many Apps have been developed vs the percentage that are actually used on a regular basis!