From The Editor | July 28, 2017

Platform Or Perish: 9 Steps To Better Partnerships

Louis Garguilo

By Louis Garguilo, Chief Editor, Outsourced Pharma
Follow Me On Twitter @Louis_Garguilo

platform or perish

Companies in every industry are defining their next generation of value chains. In doing so, they are increasingly integrating with third parties, and their platforms.

But rather than like partnerships of old, forward-thinking leaders leverage these relationships to unlock new waves of strategic growth. They’re designing future value chains to transform their businesses, products, and even markets themselves.

These statements are from Accenture Technology Vision 2017. I’ve modified them (and below) to place the focus more on drug development and manufacturing specifically, including 9 steps for bio and pharma leadership to consider in this pursuit of platform partnerships.

The Platform Revolution

As companies join what the report calls a platform revolution, partner selection becomes even more critical. While some view these new relationships as an evolution in existing value chains, savvier leaders realize these decisions portend a deeper strategic shift to new multidimensional ecosystems that are redefining industries.

Each time an enterprise leverages a third-party platform to support aspects 
of its business, it is, in fact, choosing the alliance partners it will also count on for developing its next generation of products and services.

To remain competitive, every business must begin moving their thinking beyond the short-term gains that platforms provide. Leadership should embrace a 
more holistic strategy that balances tactical decision-making with fostering and investing in the ecosystems that will encompass their long-term growth. In doing so, companies lay groundwork for the building of their future value chains – and better position themselves at the heart of emerging technologies and markets that will determine tomorrow’s winners and laggards in every industry.

9 Steps To The Platform

The Accenture report is focused on digital platforms and technology, but it’s uncanny how while reading through it (with minor mind edits) it speaks directly to our industry’s challenges, for example on surfacing the technologies and platforms for advancing new therapies, and modernizing development and manufacturing processes and equipment.

When you add the fact that biotech and pharma executives are looking to effectively limit the number of external partners they need to rely on, by deepening relationships with those special ones they select, these nine steps can inform and guide the partner – or platform – selection process.

  1. Conduct an audit identifying how many internal and external platforms your company is using, and the goals for their use. Identify and address unnecessary overlaps.
  2. Determine the platforms your organization most relies on, as well as those that most depend on you. These are the ecosystems where your organization should hold its strategic and market strengths.
  3. Expand the conversation: have a strategy summit with your closest partners to understand their goals for the future. Uncover shared goals and commit to developing a strategic plan for achieving them together.
  4. Consider your organization’s future through the lens of the biggest disruptions shaping your market, from inside and outside your industry. Craft the ideal role of your company in this future, and develop a shortlist of partners who can help make it a reality.
  5. Develop metrics to quantify the results of ecosystem participation. These may include sales growth,
customer satisfaction, expansion of new partnerships, and others.
  6. Extend a significant portion of a core business function to a third-party platform or technology aggregator. Use this opportunity to build a bigger stake in an emerging ecosystem, bringing its strengths into your organization.
  7. Use an existing partnership to pilot the building of your own updated ecosystem. Make your selection based on complementary strengths, like mature platforms.
  8. Prepare a foundation for expanding your ecosystem by making a significant investment in either a startup or a joint venture that will establish a foothold in an area critical to your organization’s transformation.
  9. Appoint a cross-functional team and C-suite sponsor to guide long-term ecosystem efforts. Key responsibilities include aligning ecosystem and company strategies, developing skills and technical assets to drive growth, and orchestrating regulatory and policy engagement between internal and external stakeholders.

An impressive, widely applicable list of nine, wouldn’t you agree? Outsourced Pharma readers have certainly thought through at least some of these steps. You may also be thinking: Easier said than done.

Platform Power To The People

It may sound soporific, but ultimately, says the Accenture report, all this is accomplished by enabling people to succeed.

Technological innovations are for our individual, and collective, benefit. The power in technology lies squarely within the people who can bring benefits to business and society through innovation. While there are risks in new technologies, we are in control; that is, if we establish a people-first approach. We can shape technology so it serves us as a catalyst to augment and enhance our human skills to: listen more closely to employees, partners and customers, and increase individual and operating performance. And that includes throughout our platform partnerships.

This people-first approach to technology and business requires deeper intelligence at all levels of the enterprise, from strategy formation through operations. Every decision about technology implementation, ecosystem relationships, workforce enablement, behavioral design, and industry expansion, must be made with people in mind – both on an individual and societal basis.

Again, the key is that we are in control. It’s no longer people adapting to technology, but technology adapting to us as human beings. Consider this: Every time an experience is personalized, or a technology platform anticipates needs and wants, humans are placed in the driver’s seat to realization. Even as technology becomes more sophisticated, it does not drive change – we do.

In other words, we’re putting technology to work to help us “disrupt” ourselves. That might sound frightening to some business leaders. Long-term, though, success depends on it. If, then, companies are to advance with partners, and technology will empower people, then the goal is to design technology for those people and partnerships. This entails changing the way leaders think about their business models and relationships.

It’s time to platform, or perish.


This article is based on the report, Accenture Technology Vision 2017, sub-titled “Technology for People: The Era of the Intelligent Enterprise.”