When Your Boss is the Biggest Hurdle to Better Market Research
By Charu Gupta

The pharmaceutical industry is among the most complicated in the world. Startup costs are high, timelines are long and arduous, research equipment and talent is expensive, and the legal liabilities are enormous.

Add to that the billions it takes to develop a drug and the high stakes of a market launch to recoup those costs.

Yet, in our most recent survey of nearly 100 life sciences market researchers, the top complaint was negative corporate culture. This included employee turnover, bad management, competing for resources, miscommunication, and fragmented decision-making.

Twenty-three percent of respondents cited corporate barriers as the number one reason for job frustration. Government regulations came in second, at 14%.

On the flip side, 36% said the opportunities and challenges provided by the industry was the number one reason for liking the work they do, followed by improving patients’ lives, at 29%. Read the full findings: 2017 Life Sciences Market Research Industry Report.

One reason corporate barriers are the main obstacle to job satisfaction is that many pharma companies are large, disparate organizations with complex layers that don’t always sync up well.

Another reason is the rapid pace of change and innovation and the inability for such large organizations to shift and adapt quickly. In fact, company leaders and executives might even find themselves paralyzed or blind-sided by all the moving parts and rapid change in technological innovation.

So it’s no surprise that market researchers operating under such a rubric are facing the corporate challenges we heard about in our survey. While you can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone, there are things you can do to help the situation.

  1. Step-change versus overhaul
    While you may be eager to completely overhaul your vendor portfolio, or start a project from scratch using a new technology or methodology, remember that incremental changes could take you further and longer without rocking the boat too much. Don’t wait for the perfect solution before speaking up. Instead, look for platforms, solutions, and methodologies that can be inserted into existing processes. Your change-averse leaders will thank you. They will see that small, quick decisions allowed you to experiment in ways that delivered better results. And it will allow you to cut your losses when something doesn’t work out without too much damage done.
  1. Automate it
    Most marketing and market research departments inside pharma and biotech companies are stacked with talent. These highly educated and highly paid professionals, however, are often spending too much time on mundane, repetitive tasks when it comes to market research. Automation can allow you to use your mental power for deeper, creative, analytical thinking. Today’s truly automated market research solutions rely on machine learning where computers and algorithms do the tedious, repetitive work, and people are freed up to apply their unique talents to the work we all really want to be doing – strategic thinking, analysis, results. (See our CTO’s recent article, “With All the Hype, What Does AI Really Mean to Market Research?”) Look for solutions that will help you automate market research processes whenever and wherever possible. You will not only get more credible insights faster, best of all, you’ll have more time to do just that.
  1. Identify your champions and stakeholders
    When internal obstacles are large, revamping or even circumventing them is not an option. Instead, think about identifying your key stakeholders and shifting mindsets. Whose buy-in do you need? Who will be the final decision-maker? Who will be able to applaud your hard work of finding a new, better way? Knowing your audience is key because even if you do deploy a great technology that delivers timely data, if executives and other stakeholders don’t understand the value of that data and take too long to process it and make decisions, your efforts will have been fruitless. By the time they do understand, the needle will have moved and whatever decisions made on that data will be outdated.
  1. Develop a dashboard
    One way to get stakeholders to sit up and pay attention is through a monthly dashboard. Without one, when timely data does come in, executives and other stakeholders won’t understand its value and will take too long to process it and make decisions. A dashboard can allow for immediate triage, and a drastic change in marketing resources and tactics, like changing how sales reps emphasize favorable tolerability data for a certain drug. Or, help identify and capitalize on the key advantages over the competition. Most of all, a monthly dashboard based on real-time tracking survey data can help you quickly distribute key metrics, help senior management interpret the findings more readily, and help you socialize your change efforts more easily.

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