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March 10, 2015
Are You a Digital Follower or a Digital Transformer?
By: James Crowley

From Accenture Strategy for Life Sciences

There’s a growing divide between companies that view digital technology as a tool for improving existing business activities—digital followers—and those that see it as something much more profound—digital transformers. Differences between the two groups include:

  • Digital transformers focus more on growth, while digital followers concentrate on efficiency.

  • Digital transformers expect to excel in channels, sales, new services, and customer experiences.

  • Digital transformers place greater importance on digital technologies across the board.

Catalysts of transformation

In healthcare, the impetus to change is driven by stakeholders redefining the market and payers and providers finding new ways to improve health outcomes. Gone are the days when companies could follow traditional development cycles, benefiting from the lag time inherent in customer feedback and competitor responses. But with digital technology and access to real-time data, companies can now make decisions immediately and all at once. Digital transformers are forging ahead, establishing new terms of competition and customer expectations.

In earlier times, transformation initiatives were less immediately visible. Business process re-engineering, Lean Six Sigma, zero-based budgeting and other programs started deep inside corporations and were not copied by competitors until their successes were obvious to all. New digital capabilities create transformation that is out in the open for all to see—transparency, connectivity and sharing are leading to a drastic shrinking of market cycles—forcing followers to respond much more rapidly.

Digital as a linchpin of strategy

Life sciences companies that want to be leaders have to adopt the mindset of digital transformers. Their executive leadership should broaden their focus on growth investments and digital technology, and embrace the new rapid pace of change. To join the ranks of forward-facing organizations, they need to make digital transformation a core assumption of any future business strategy.

For companies unclear about what to do or how to do it, we offer a set of urgent discussion questions, including:

  • Which new competitors are using digital to engage healthcare stakeholders? Which of them are succeeding at this? How are they doing it?

  • What are the new business models, trends and digital technologies that we most need to watch out for—and exploit?

  • Do we explicitly focus our digital strategy on new growth opportunities or is digital just another marketing or efficiency program?

  • Which of our senior leaders should be responsible for digital efforts? To what extent must it be a shared responsibility?

Digital change is coming fast, and it will not be stopped. It will come from the outside in—in the form of customer choices, and new products, services and experiences. It will be entirely agnostic in its impact, affecting every company and every industry, including those in the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare. The choice is yours—will you be a digital follower or a digital transformer?

For an expanded list of discussion questions or to learn more, read Digital Double-Down: How Far Will Leaders Leap Ahead?

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