Pharma CI 2018 Conference Recap

On September 26 and 27, Competitive Intelligence (CI) professionals gathered in Newark, NJ for the annual Pharmaceutical CI conference. CI leaders from pharma companies around the globe and of all different sizes interacted and shared ideas to improve the CI function and its impact on decision making. While many of the companies represented are direct competitors, the event is focused on the practice of CI and not individual product strategies.

Keynotes to start the event covered common themes including:

  • Building CI unit resiliency
  • How certain competitive features dictate future actions
  • The changing roles of CI and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the pharma world
  • The role of AI in CI as a data collection filtering tool, and analysis tool
  • The profession of CI in the industry and how to improve the impact of CI
  • How to remain relevant in a world with greater data availability and integrating CI to the Strategic Planning process

While the scheduled kick-off keynote speaker was unable to attend, the follow-up was spot on with the need to innovate the CI process and establish CI protocols. Using the example of Comcast, the presenter shared how Comcast developed a playbook for CI that established procedures for CI actions in response to specific CI needs. Having these actions allows the department respond faster and more effectively. The playbook also provides clarity for the CI team about what they should do in different circumstances.

The morning sessions ended with a panel session focused on how to move CI to the boardroom. The panelists shared examples if tools they have used to provide boardrooms with CI that not only informs strategy but also helps drive it. The tools used include one-on-one executive briefings to inform leadership about significant competitive intelligence issues as well as keeping executives up to date on competitive developments. But a key factor in these interactions is to provide intelligence and direction rather than just information.

Lunch provided an interesting speaker who discussed how some competitor actions can be predicted based on characteristics that are identifiable traits, which can be viewed as similar to DNA. Just as a plant’s DNA predicts what the seed will become, a company’s DNA predict what the company will do and how it will grow. Applied as a CI tool, understanding where a company has come from, and its DNA, the CI professional can predict next actions.

Later in the day, Fletcher/CSI presented an exploration on how to improve results from a War Game or Scenario Planning exercise. This session focused on why many War Games participants leave with very positive feelings yet end up without producing any measurable results. In the session, reasons for the disconnect between positive feelings and action and how to overcome the inaction were explored. Key suggestions to promote action are:

  • Engage leadership in the development of action plans
  • Hold implementation teams responsible for action
  • Use tracking tools to verify the actions taken.

On the second day, presentations continued the key themes, with several sessions exploring how AI is disrupting the Pharma CI and the industry.

One interesting session focused on the impact four disruption types, as social media, precision medicine, existing tech companies, and patient empowerment will impact the Pharma industry. The impact of these four forces will cover all parts of the healthcare industry from the patient to the healthcare provider and from the pharmaceutical company to the hospital. For the CI professional, these forces require attention to a much broader scope of issues than what has historically been covered. This may also require developing new skills and access new partners to get insights into new business sectors.

During a Live Polling session, respondents were asked five questions. The questions, and responses were:

  • Will AI replace the CI professional?  In this question, only 23% of the respondents thought that AI would be able to replace the CI professional.
  • When will AI play a prominent role in CI? The distribution here was a bit broader. 15% responded that AI already has a prominent role in CI while another 15% responded that it would within a year. However, 38% of the respondents indicated that a prominent role for CI was between three and five years away and 15% felt it was more than ten years out.
  • Will Mhealth apps will one day be A competitor to Biopharma? No respondents believed that Mhealth app will compete with Biopharma, but 60% did say it would be complementary to Biopharma.
  • The pharma CI professionals were also asked about protecting intelligence assets. Fully 64% of respondents said their companies are taking more active measures to protect their intelligence assets. Surprisingly, the balance are not taking measures to protect their intelligence assets.
  • Likewise, in response to a question on active counter-CI programs, while 63% said they did have such programs in place, 37% did not.

These last two question point to a rather significant weakness at pharma companies. Not having programs in place to protect the intelligence assets (which can include KOL, Clinical trial leaders, Academic partners, and similar sources) from competitive probing leaves an opening for competitors to access key information. Not having a counter CI program in place creates a clear opportunity for a competitor to gather CI undetected, which can give the competitor significant advantage in the marketplace.

Fletcher/CSI helps pharmaceutical companies achieve and maintain competitive advantage. Whether by leading strategy workshops and helping build implementation strategy and competitor monitoring programs, or by identifying and plugging information leaks, we help clients identify opportunities to improve performance. We welcome your call and the chance to work with you.

Please contact Cinda Steele at [email protected] or 610-496-0080 for more information about our services.