As 2019 gets underway, focus turns to achieving new goals. For many life science professionals, the inclination is to jump in full steam ahead. However, a thoughtful approach with focused strategic thinking, applied to a rigorous business planning process, leads to better results.

Despite the uncertainty, the focus to enhance the patient experience, improve population health, and reduce per capita healthcare costs remain. To achieve these broader goals, healthcare stakeholders are deploying different strategies and solutions. As life science professionals, it is critical to use a disciplined business planning and resource allocation process to stay competitive, relevant, and to drive performance.  Not only does a structured business planning process result in more comprehensive and integrated geography and account plans, it strengthens the business acumen and strategic thinking skills needed as more changes occur.

The basic elements of an effective business planning and resource allocation process include:

  • Conducting a marketplace analysis
  • Aligning strategy and brand goals with a local assessment¬†of the business
  • Identifying critical priorities or initiatives
  • Prioritizing customers
  • Developing action plans
  • Monitoring and recalibrating plans

After working with a number of pharmaceutical companies to develop custom business planning solutions, the following represents a list of our top 10 lessons learned:

  1. Clarify the overall vision for business planning and resource allocation. What does “good” look like for each level of the organization?
  2. Link business planning to other critical organizational processes. These include brand planning, goal sharing, performance planning, and the organizational calendar.
  3. Involve key stakeholders early and often in the definition of the planning process, and during the implementation cascade. Obtain input from the leaders of sales, marketing, medical, business analytics, compliance, legal, HR, L&D, and other customer-facing teams.
  4. Define the important analytics and marketplace data that should be reviewed in order to develop an effective business plan. Provide relevant data/reports to help identify existing drivers and barriers of results.
  5. Define the specifications for data capture and reporting early on. Determine requirements in advance to avoid delays or costly modifications.
  6. Define and include business reviews as part of the overall process. Provide the time and resources for discussion of sales performance, business plan effectiveness, and resource allocation decisions.
  7. Design an effective organizational implementation cascade. Create a detailed implementation plan and support materials to ensure field leaders can implement, coach, and guide their teams.
  8. Establish metrics for the business planning process. Use pre- and post-measurements to demonstrate change and impact on planning, collaboration, and outcomes.
  9. Think of business planning as a management tool because “what gets inspected and measured, gets done!” Use qualitative and quantitative measures to determine plan execution and effectiveness during field rides and business reviews.
  10. Gather and leverage lessons learned from across the organization. Collate and share information on successes, missteps, and lessons learned.

When done well, a comprehensive Business Planning and Resource Allocation framework and process provides value to the organization through:

  • Greater employee understanding and appreciation of the “why” behind tactical activities and day-to-day actions
  • Improved decision making, by considering, applying, and deploying the entire resource mix when executing strategies and tactics
  • Increased alignment and coordination within the sales organization and across groups, e.g., on account planning for customer-facing teams
Wendy L. Heckelman, Ph.D.

Dr. Wendy Heckelman, president and founder of WLH Consulting, Inc. has over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 100 industry clients. These include pharmaceutical, biotech, health care, animal health medicines, and consumer products, as well as international non-profit organizations and growing entrepreneurial companies.

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