Rethinking Pharmaceutical Competitive Intelligence in 2016

Most of the pharmaceutical companies continues to face crescent competition in the operating markets from different sources. Some of the solutions to overcome the current difficulties and barriers, may be a constant search of new R&D methods and new operations mechanisms in order to obtain economic scale and gain new commercial capabilities that can drive or improve effectiveness from R&D investments.

Currently Pharmaceutical companies are searching for new disruptive strategic methodologies through innovative methods of business models, in a quest to reduce the business risks and prepare the commercial models to a more ready technological approach. There is no doubt that the pharmaceutical landscape and drivers for growth are changing, with new patterns around a crescent aging worldwide population,  technological advancements, products innovation, new standards of living and transformed health care access systems.


Also increasing the complexity of pharmaceutical effectiveness operations it’s evident the constant pressure and increased regulatory scrutiny from the official authorities with serious impacts from health care reforms particularly in Europe, where the escalating costs of products forces the global authorities and local governments to impose new pricing rules, fair trade conditions and price decreases. Therefore is not only crucial for today’s pharmaceutical companies to continue leveraging and growing geographic scale, creating strong positions in dominant markets and acting as global serving points on global needs, is also crucial and key for those same companies to have long-term supporting processes and monitoring capabilities to face the constant business influential factors.


Having this in mind, currently Competitive Intelligence (CI) is already a key and fundamental area of investigation and corporate applicability that is expanding, reaching a clear peak in knowledge in the Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology industry.

Competitive Intelligence (CI) is based on strict ethical codes and standards, using legal devices for collecting and analyzing data and turning them into the economic knowledge of a company, therapeutic area, competitor product or country.

CI is based on gathering, analysis and processing data and information regarding the economic information about the market, competitors, current economic development, consumers, customers, suppliers, government, regulators, partners and all the surrounding entities or factors, in order to obtain competitive advantage in a specific organizational context.


The concept of Competitive Intelligence began drawing more attention in the 1960’s, when it was mostly looked at as a corporate procedure of gathering and processing information about internal and external data, with the aim of obtaining strategic advantage to benefit the overall strategic plan. Basically during the 60’s and 70’s CI activities were basically associated with data gathering, informal and tactical activities.

After the 80’s all the analysis around the competitors and industries became popular where CI converted from informal activities to marketing and strategic functions.

After the 1990s CI assumed a more strategic position than other functional areas such as Market Research to most of the sectors but especially to Life sciences. Market Research activities were not able to provide more strategic and decision matter intelligence, providing content with lack of context and lack of follow up strategic items. CI receives moderate attention from top management and is often a valuable contributor to strategic decision-making, having a key role in pharma supporting key areas of business like R&D, Sales and Marketing, Commercial Excellence and Regulatory/Compliance.

Thus if knowledge is the source in competitive advantage, then the access to information is used to create knowledge and the process used for to retain and transfer that same knowledge is vital for the institution. In an efficient organization, since the moment that knowledge is absorbed and processed, it originates completely new knowledge and it is a force to create intelligence. This same intelligence is the result of the collective cognitive process inside the organization. The culture, society or each situation inside the culture and society, determine an individual’s intelligence, which in its turn is affected by ones the values and believes and the interaction between all these factors. With the constant evolution of science, intelligence is still at the heart of many research and investigation, still there is not a common ground or understanding as to what is intelligence.

The primary or internal sources are those that can be obtained by personal contact with people and specialist (Analysts, consultants, journalists and others), customers, suppliers and employees. These sources are prone to direct contact and create competitive advantage, which makes them intuitive and informal. Primary sources account for almost 90% of the analyzed information in the CI procedure. The secondary sources or external pertain to the information that is widely available publicly, such us: databases, publications, legislation, radio, television, interviews, technical reports, patents, among others. These sources account for almost 10% of the information analyzed in the CI processes.

The CI system allows a close monitoring of both the external and internal environment. By monitoring the opponent’s external environment, it analyzes their potential, suppliers, negotiation potential with clients, new threats by new players, products or services. CI also incorporates macro environmental factors, such as political, economic and social, that directly affect the company in all the industrial segment and services. The uses of CI are very broaden: in marketing, where the constant search for new products and opponents is frequent; in the production departments, where there is a constant quest for competitive costs and procedures; in human resources, where the institutions HR policies are compared to those of the market.

Most of the pharmaceutical companies are already understanding the overlap and scope between Market Research (MR), Market Access (MA) and Competitive Intelligence activities, improving as well all the understanding around CI and how can be integrated with the other functions available for companies.

So the action to proceed with an understandable integration between MR, MA and CI for some pharmaceutical companies should come in a structured way and having formal boundaries for each of the scopes. Nevertheless the full understanding of each function scope and operations should be perceived as main factor to have an efficient combination between all.

Currently in several pharmaceutical companies CI plays already a fundamental paper in the operating strategy, where for several cases of M&A, PNL or R&D complex processes, is CI the main responsible for the positive and effective strategic impact on those operations.


The future for Competitive Intelligence in Pharma Commercial Excellence until 2020

Not always is clear what the best commercial model within an organisation, where many pharmaceutical companies are looking at a range of options, from total re-organisation, to the use of alternative selling channels (such as e-detailing, Closed Loop Marketing (CLM), digital platforms, telemarketing or simply a full re-organisation of the entire commercial systems) in order to engage more successfully with all their physicians, KOLs, payers and partners.

Currently several pharmaceutical companies are being able to collect in a very efficient way several details from different type of influential sources by simply using Closed Loop Marketing (CLM) or service digital portals into their commercial strategies. However the gaps exists between the colleting phase up to the decision making phase, where the focus of the decision problem falls down in the analysis phase.

As a consequence, marketing teams are getting isolated from the senior management levels, IT departments, external analytical influencers and internal or external commercial players. Is being asked to the marketing teams to react as intelligence connecting bridges with the other involved departments, being not only the brand and products management decision makers but also the intelligence and market insights experts. However the real scenarios don’t place Marketing as the strategic internal partner inside an organization.


Many pharma companies are not being fast enough in the data analysis to be able to make meaningful decisions, effectively failing to close the loop. Nowadays in some of the cases the sector is relying in CRM solutions to capture different types of market indicators, opportunities, customer segmentation, targeting and profiling, organizational understanding and market access conditions on the various different levels of action.



Facing all above barriers and challenges, appears the high importance of Competitive Intelligence within the Industry and within an organisation. Thus the main job of competitive intelligence is to support management decision making, having a formalized competitive intelligence system in place can help any pharmaceutical company address several different issues. Currently pharmaceutical organizations not only have technology supporting the main critical needs, also have human resources knowledge around new powerful concepts as Big Data and Data Science to bring intelligence and insights through data and information. However the gap resides in the connecting bridge between the Information technology systems and the human resources, where is fundamental to have processes and organizational structures to support and build consistent frameworks and methodologies to have on a systemic pattern critical insights, decision resources, analysis and answers to support the business strategy and decision committees. Thus CI processes are strongly related and from a technologic perspective to business intelligence (BI) and from a business perspective to knowledge management (KM). BI and KM can be both perceived as critical inputs to competitive intelligence processes.

A systemic CI process allows to anticipate changes in the marketplace, anticipate actions of competitors, relocate in an efficient matter investment from R&D operations and initiatives, monitoring of new technologies, products and processes that impacts the business and monitoring the political, legislative or regulatory changes.

CI outcomes can be described as cutting-edge data collection sets and ethical and professional human analysis that allows insightful competitor analysis to later corporate decision-makers at a reasonable strategic point. Therefore CI should not be consider as a function but as a process, that should be appear in several aspects of the business and as one seamless process not relegated to one area, division or unit.



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