Scrum and get it: pharmas strive for agility

By Camilla Jury 4 weeks ago | In Companies, Industry
  • 4 weeks ago

17 June 2024

Born from the tech industry, agile working promises to be an antidote to traditional bureaucratic work practices, but is it working for pharma?

It has been a number of years since Roche elected to be a global guinea pig for the industry with Bayer having now also taken the plunge. While the Bayer ANZ Pharma team had already been pursuing agile methodologies, this is now backed by a global drive across the German pharma to utilise agile to adapt more swiftly to customer needs and market changes.

“Bayer has been adopting a new operating model called Dynamic Shared Ownership (DSO), which is a principles-based approach using some agile methodologies and practices,” a Bayer Australia company spokesperson told MedNews.

“It is a transformative approach that decentralises decision-making, embraces enterprise thinking, and emphasises collaboration and shared responsibility to best serve our colleagues closest to our customers and patients.”

Bayer’s transition is on track for completion by the end of this year, after which it will adopt a continuous improvement approach.

Roche’s agile transformation complete

Once the poster child for agile transformation, Roche’s approach also continues to evolve, its Australian affiliate having now achieved what it set out to do.

“The strategic and operational changes that Roche introduced in 2019 are firmly embedded and have placed the company in a strong position for continued success,” said Nic Horridge, Roche Australia GM.

“By embracing agile principles, we streamlined processes, accelerated decision making, and cultivated a culture of collaboration and adaptability.

“Today, agile is simply how we work, enabling us to maximise the value we deliver to patients and customers. We continue to refine how we work, ensuring that processes and practices evolve in step with the dynamic healthcare environment.”

EPiC Agile has worked with pharma companies, banks and even big supermarket companies, its Global Director & Transformation Lead Rob Gaunt saying there is much more to agile than just the popular ‘scrum’ framework.

“When an organisation pursues agility, the first thing they need to decide is, is this purely from the perspective of ‘I want to get faster at delivery, have more transparency and better prioritisation?” said Gaunt.

“I think a lot of agile frameworks lend themselves very nicely to that by addressing departmental or team-based work, but a lot of pharma companies, they’re not pursuing just that.

Global Director & Transformation Lead at EPiC Agile, Rob Gaunt

“They’re also talking about ‘how do we change up what is a very old organisation with a very robust hierarchy and very siloed lines of business?’ Often it’s agility that organisations are pursuing, when agile is just a means towards an end.

“When it comes to agility, a whole-of-business approach is required because, otherwise, what you’re really doing is creating lots of pockets of agile around the organisation rather than substantially changing the organisation’s construct or way of thinking about things.”

Bayer clearly sees agile as part of a bigger picture.

“DSO [Dynamic Shared Ownership] also represents a cultural shift within Bayer, promoting values such as greater transparency, adaptability, and continuous improvement,” a company spokesperson said.

“It requires our teams to adopt a new mindset. This cultural change can be a catalyst for broader organisational transformation, driving Bayer towards becoming a more dynamic, innovative, and resilient company.”

Bayer’s approach is inline with the keys to business agility success as described by Gaunt.

“The number one thing you have to have is a really good vision which captures exactly what that future looks like, then you need leadership commitment, because no team is going to be able to do that for you. That absolutely has to be top down.”

Gaunt says for pharmaceutical companies, another key to success is reconsidering how the company views industry restrictions.

“There are very few really large enterprises that don’t have some form of regulation,” he says. “What the pharmaceutical industry really needs to do now is to shift its mindset to see these as normal business constraints rather than an excuse not to do anything differently.

“Despite regulatory compliance, let’s consider how we are going to put patients first? How are we going to become more efficient and more effective? How are we going to create greater empowerment and autonomy within our team so they can be more innovative and creative?”

With Roche and Bayer having now adopted agile working to varying extents, are we likely to see more companies take the plunge or hear of others failing to transform?

“You generally don’t tend to find a failed agile transformation widely spoken about for two reasons,” says Gaunt.

“Either the executive is still there – it was their signature and they don’t want to be known in the market for that, or because if it does really well, they don’t want everybody else getting on board. As Woolworths said of their agile transformation, it’s their unfair advantage.”

By Camilla Jury

Formerly the Head of External Engagement at Novartis ANZ, Camilla Jury is a freelance communications consultant.

©MedNews 2024

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