shutterstock_195305144.jpgMaria Whitman and Sankalp Sethi co-wrote this blog post with Malik Kaman. This blog post is part two in a two-part series.

In our previous post, we discussed the four typical “segments” of oncology companies:

  1. Original Innovators: High prior oncology success, low commercial sophistication
  2. The Space Invaders: Low prior oncology success, high commercial sophistication
  3. The New Kids on the Block: Low prior oncology success, low commercial sophistication
  4. The Vanguard: High prior oncology success, high commercial sophistication

Chart 1-4.jpgEach has clear strengths and disadvantages, and identifying your company’s segment is the first step toward becoming a leader in the oncology space. Moving into the most successful and established segment—the vanguard—would mean some significant shifts for some of these groups. Here’s what each of these segments can do to successfully compete in the future market landscape.

Original Innovators

Your people are your greatest asset. Empower them. Continue any ongoing efforts to streamline processes and reduce bureaucracy. Recognize that alignment can sometimes be the enemy of good decision-making. Reward bold thinkers, and work to strip away embedded incentives to avoid hard choices or mindset changes. Find ways to leverage your rich history and past success to attract and retain talent who bring some of that competitive mindset from the space invaders group. Continue making investments in the disease areas where you play, and solidify the relationships that you already own.

Hire a chief analytics officer who can help shape a vision and chart a path forward for using data and analytics more successfully in the organization. Focus initial trainings on senior leadership to recognize and demand excellence in analytics. Move the analytics and insights functions out from under brand leadership (both formally and informally). Have a structured change management approach to this large but highly important culture shift.

The Space Invaders

Your capabilities are your greatest asset. Unleash them. Continue to invest in your leadership position in this area while also learning to incorporate more qualitative input into decision-making. Recognize that your teams may be prone to analysis paralysis because of missing or incomplete data. Reward leaders who demonstrate comfort with ambiguity, making good decisions despite uncertain or incomplete information. Provide training on “at risk” decision-making, and define processes to incorporate non-traditional or qualitative perspectives.

At the same time, encourage your people to get deeper into oncology nuance. Leverage your competitiveness but don’t be shy about the levers and differences required to make strong clinical and long-term plays, as well.

Hire a chief customer experience officer who can help the company get more comfortable with the “softer” side of oncology marketing and sales. Make sure that this function is empowered to work across both commercial, medical and access functions, and jointly define the company vision for how you want to be seen in oncology.

The New Kids on the Block

Your innovation is exciting and is attracting the best talent across functions. Continue to market your innovation to attract the resources you need to keep the momentum. Recognize that you have an edge over other segments—that you are small and, hence, find it easy to collaborate across functions. Your medical, sales, marketing and market access teams can collaborate and innovate to maximize value to the customer. Your competitors can be big and established, but your nimbleness can help you innovate quickly and adapt to the changing competitive environment.

Hire an experienced chief commercial officer to reward people’s energy and passion, and channel it in the right direction. Successful clinical innovation led you here, but you will need commercial expertise to compete with the big boys in oncology. Leverage your more limited resources to be creative and try things that the original innovators and space invaders segments will be less able to pull through because of their legacy and process limitations.

Striving for the Vanguard

In oncology, we spend a great deal of time thinking about our competition from the lens of the product: the clinical profile comparison, the share of voice in the field vs. the nearest competitor, the trial landscape and other important factors. We do “war gaming” and “scenario planning” to think about how competitors will blunt our launch or how we will handle challenges coming to our markets and products. When appropriate, we even take a franchise- or tumor-level view to this competitive thinking, but rarely do we step back and truly think at the company and capability level of the inherent competitive advantages and challenges we have by virtue of who we are (what segment we are in).

Internalizing this segmentation gives you a chance to step back and say, “Where do we need to go in the future? In two, five, and 10 years, what capabilities do we need to evolve?” Becoming a member of the vanguard requires an honest assessment of your organization’s maturity across these dimensions. Where should you invest to remain competitive or sustain your competitive advantage, or innovate and create a new standard for the industry?

All of these segments face both opportunities and challenges ahead, and the real world is much more nuanced than our stylized example. Most manufacturers demonstrate behaviors across each of the segments that we’ve described. The companies that will lead oncology over the next 10 years will be those that recognize their unique strengths and challenges, and learn to reward leaders who stretch their current ways of thinking.


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Topics: Innovation, oncology, Pharma, cancer, segmentation, commercial excellence, Business Strategy, oncology manufacturer, commercial strategy, commercial landscape, behind the consultant curtain