Virtual interview, Remote interview, Zoom call

By Janice MacLennan, founder of the NMBLR app, and pharma strategy expert.

It’s no secret that COVID changed the way business works forever. 

Pre-pandemic we would host a meeting for which people would fly into London from across the globe. Plans would be made in advance and the relevant data would be collated for us to use as stimulus for discussions. The team’s contributions would be captured on whiteboards and in various notebooks then someone – often from an external agency – would take responsibility for summarising the outcome after the meeting and using that content to create the company’s strategy template.

This powerpoint template would then be passed round various departments, across timezones, and back and forth for comment, refinements and amendments so that eventually – perhaps two or three months later – the final version of the strategy, often diluted, would be sent out to the regions and the countries as the starting point for local strategy. This would be done by email, or occasionally a presentation followed by e-mail. No traceability of who said what would be offered, nor who contributed what. How we ended up with the strategy we did was often unclear.

But times have changed, and instead of face-to-face meetings we now have a mixture of face to face meetings and online. Online we are using tools like Mural and Miro, which mimic the post-it note idea and in the face to face setting we’re back to powerpoint slides, flipcharts and post-it notes.

So what are the pros of an exclusively virtual approach? Well we save in travel costs and there is the opportunity to involve a broader audience.

But there are also cons.

People trying to attend the meetings in different time zones are more likely to have conflicting commitments, so attendance can be inhibited, and meetings are now shorter and often less interactive because of the volume of material you are trying to work through.

There is still no audit trail – we don’t know who is responsible for post-it note contributions even when Miro or Mural are used.

The time it takes to capture outputs into a report then go back to get the team to comment and align to where we landed can be lengthy.

Then there’s the scope of strategy conversations: typically ‘the team’ don’t have oversight or consider cross-functional strategies and how these align to the launch strategy, and the ability of global and/or regional teams to have visibility over country teams staying on strategy is quite limited.

Insights still get lost with time because they are not continually nurtured and/or challenged, so the risk is that the strategy fails because the organisation has not bought into it, they don’t align to it and/or they don’t invest proportionately in it.

A global team’s intent is to achieve cross-functional, cross-geography alignment to a strategy that has been informed and shaped by local market insight so that rapid and successful commercialisation of innovative therapies can be achieved.

So what gets in the way?

The sheer amount of information that needs to be considered can present an obstacle to progression of a strategy, as can the number of people versus time allocation.

Different countries have different competitive situations, so Inefficiency also creates barriers to development of a  product strategy

The potential with digitising your approach to strategy

Strategy is about shaping the world we want to create by making choices, thus a digital collaboration tool that can be used in this hybrid world, creates the ability for teams to invite a broader group of stakeholders to generate a richer set of ideas at each level of the strategy cascade from which strategic choices can be made.

It also offers the opportunity to embed a deep, structured process that helps the multiple internal stakeholders contributing to the development of a strategy, be more creative, provide visibility around their contributions, and the decisions that are being made.

By using a system such as NMBLR, which facilitates the development of strategy to successfully commercialise a product, virtually, on a global scale, we find the ability to navigate and assimilate the wealth of complex data to make informed strategic choices, in an agile way.

Technology enabling global teams to come together on strategy is key to business futures if we want to achieve a fully inclusive and comprehensive plan when bringing new innovations to market.

And it is also important to consider some of the lower level benefits of working both in online settings and face to face settings using a digital app where appropriate..

Working digitally allows remote users to engage better, as long as a clear audit trail is created to detail who contributed what and how that impacted the choices being made. It is easier to get a wider group of people to engage when they don’t all have to be in the same room at the same place at the same time. And, if a digital app is available both on desktop and mobile devices, it allows you to flex between the online and face to face setting.

Embedding a deep structured process digitally ensures that over time, the need for expert facilitation can be reduced. It is easy to upskill contributors, it is easier to build on thinking, easier to nurture thinking, and creates structure around questions and discussions.

By working together virtual teams, face to face teams or a hybrid version of the two are driven into creativity and collaboration which spurs better thinking and more diverse thinking. Global teams on separate continents can align as if they were in the same room, enabling businesses to benefit from input from a much more richly diverse and critical audience.