Setting A Culture For Digital Transformation In The Biopharmaceutical Industry
Think for a moment about the phrase “digital transformation,” and what it really means to transform something. We are working to change fundamental elements of our business and do something that has not been done before. There are historically well-known challenges that come with any transformation: one is the simple act of embarking on an exploration of the unknown. Another is the uncomfortable reality of having to leave something behind. There may be courageous individuals who can confidently face both head winds but taken collectively, we fear the unknown and we are resistant to change. So how do we make our people comfortable, keep them motivated to succeed, and still conduct this transition efficiently?
Computational simulation is a key element of any biopharmaceutical company’s digital transformation effort, and I like to think of it as two distinct phases of work that are inherently connected: first is the process of developing credible models, and second is the integration of those models into business unit operations.
Developing models for biologics requires a close network of technical experts working together in a multi-disciplinary harmony. Mechanistic elements of a model are based on fluid dynamics, chemistry, and biology while empirical elements are driven by mathematics and data science.To be successful, these groups need to function in such a way that they build on each other’s work without feeling a sense of competition. Implementing the models requires a coordinated effort across multiple functional groups built on support from the IT organization.There is a web of connections that become established between the individuals undertaking this work as well as the business units of which they are a part.
Developing models for biologics requires a close network of technical experts working together in a multi-disciplinary harmony
The underlying enabler to this process is trust and security, and it needs to start at the top of the organization. Senior leadership must make it a top priority to establish a culture of psychological safety. Unless individuals feel a sense of trust, they are reluctant to share knowledge and train others. And if they are not secure enough to feel vulnerable, they will not inquire openly about what they do not know. One way to foster this culture is to design incentive structures that reinforce knowledge sharing and refocus recognition schemes. Most recognition schemes reward achievement against a milestone - what was done–but greater success can be realized by shifting emphasis to exemplary behaviors –how something was done.
Talent development is another key aspect, and it is not as simple as ushering in a new, digitally literate workforce. Everyone needs to develop digital capabilities and the knowledge must extend to every part of the business. Starting with a foundation of psychological safety and setting the tone for knowledge sharing, people become comfortable with curiosity and building a learning culture becomes a straightforward process.
Technical innovation, knowledge transfer and talent development are not linear processes, and they are dependent on the flow of information. So, it becomes critical that the business is designed to encourage the information to flow and ensure it is readily available to all. Think about how network effects function in a digital service – where the value of the service increases exponentially with the number of users or nodes. By increasing and improving communication, the business process itself can evolve to benefit from network effects. We just need to set the right conditions for this to happen.