Driving Sustainable Omnichannel Change

10.11.23   |  

Originally published in Pharmaceutical Commerce 9/29/23

A look into ways to approach change management using three factors.

The change of pace in biopharma customer engagement continues to accelerate, with artificial intelligence (AI) being just the latest tool. As life sciences companies race to shift to omnichannel customer engagement, many may find that they need help.

We find that the hurdles organizations face vary based on their maturity. Less mature organizations struggle with basics of securing senior management support and crafting strategy, while more mature organizations struggle with knottier issues of execution.(1) A universal challenge is moving beyond pockets of innovation to enterprise-wide transformation.

Operationalizing omnichannel requires shifting mindsets and behaviors, pivoting ways of working, recalibrating performance, and finding funding. Taking a whole organization on this journey requires a purposeful change and transition management effort.(2)

In this article, we share insights from the trenches gleaned from clients and experts on how to approach change management along multiple dimensions. We distill three key success factors to move toward omnichannel reality:

  1. GIRFT(3) the strategy

  2. Ace the customer roadmap

  3. Make change a personal journey


GIRFT-ing the strategy

In an age of agile thinking, the approach of “get it right first time” (GIRFT) sounds old-school. But not when looking at defining a global strategy for customer experience. It often takes years get the strategy right before scaling to global operationalization.

Ipsen provides an instructive example. Aurelie Rognon, director of global customer experience notes: “We spent a year working with one brand globally and locally, with different markets, to define an omnichannel strategy: what it means, what needs to change, what we need to avoid. This enabled us to have a win with a big brand, to show how we can make it real and embed it in the global and local brand strategy.”

GRIFT-ing The Strategy  

Luca Frangoni, global head of content & omnichannel excellence at Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) offers another example. BI created an “omnichannel blueprint” which provided the direction for capability-building and change management. In BI’s definition, the blueprint incorporates:

  • KPIs and success measures

  • Aligned language, end to end process, integrated data flow and platforms

  • Change management concept

  • Governance rules to ensure integration across product and capability teams

  • Communication guidelines on omnichannel

The result was common process, platforms and language across customer experience, advanced analytics, and content management. According to Frangoni, the blueprint was critical to help the organization work in an aligned way and recognize that “omnichannel change is long-term.”

In global organizations, articulating a clear strategy is critical to transition people’s mindset and behavior, by demonstrating value. Co-creating with stakeholders is a best practice that builds a common understanding of customer focus and experience and to provide a solid foundation for operationalization.

For organizations who are working on their omnichannel strategy, be sure to:

  • Identify relevant roles in the organization to take ownership of the omnichannel strategy, e.g., global head of franchise, customer experience lead, omnichannel director

  • Co-create and show what effective omnichannel strategy means e.g., through testimonials from general managers (GMs) concept boards, events, training

  • Forecast impact and set expectations early with GMs, by including budgeting plans


Acing the roadmap

There is no one-size-fits-all recipe for getting to the future state. Some organizations benefit from small steps, while others leapfrog, monitoring and evaluating results along the way. In both cases, the need is to move the whole organization along without getting stuck.

Creating a capability roadmap is a best practice for bringing together different functions and aligning on changes to customer experience over time. It’s also a way to understand the process and technology changes that will occur over time to create the evolved experience.

Ace the roadmap

Daan Vens, the Innovation and Business Excellence Director BELUX at AstraZeneca, attributes a lot of his success to his roadmap. He created a “crawl, walk, run” roadmap that articulated how AZ would change local customer interactions, starting with basic interactions and evolving from there.(4) Importantly, he took an outside in approach that showed how the customer experience changes, he then linked process and technology changes to get there. This approach allowed his team to accomplish a lot in an organization known for its sales force effectiveness (SFE) culture.

“It’s all about the customer roadmap. It’s so simple and few organizations apply it. It may be less shiny at step one, but it’s much more effective in the long term.” says Vens.

To build an effective roadmap:

  • Focus first on how customer experience will change over time; then overlay process and technology requirements to get there

  • Run road-mapping sessions with medical affairs, market access, legal, privacy, regulatory MMLR functions and commercial together

  • Stay focused to achieve a level of mastery in one phase before moving onto the next

  • Assign accountability for building the roadmap, e.g., business excellence director, head of business operations, commercial & digital director

  • Appoint an accountable role for change management e.g., change officer, change management director, omnichannel operations lead, VP omnichannel


Making change a personal journey

Lasting transitions are achieved by taking people on a journey—extracting the personal drivers from the strategy story. Simply put, define what change means for each person so that benefits are tangible. According to Susana Bento, global omnichannel operations lead at Grünenthal, we “naturally start seeing wins on the journey and we celebrate. As we glimpse adoption, we make all the noise we can.”

Omnichannel change is deeply experienced by sales teams—first line sales managers (FLSMs) are critical to manage the transition journey by bridging the gap between headquarters and sales representatives. “We need to get first line sales managers on board early because they answer rep concerns, e.g., What does it mean for me? What am I expected to do differently?” according to Vens.

Make change a personal journey


“The marketing teams, as content creators, are also challenged,” according to Susana Bento. She says, “As the omnichannel operation evolves, demand for rapid creation of diverse and personalized content delivered grows. In most organizations, marketing teams struggle to cope with this demand. A classic example is the modular content operation, which puts pressure on marketing and medical teams, and MLR functions. Here, change management is key to ensure adoption of new processes.”

While organizations have made quick progress implementing capabilities, bringing people along moves slower. This frequently becomes the greatest challenge, because not everyone understands what omnichannel is. According to Aurelie Rognon, this means repetition is important. “Repeat again and again, through all communications: what we’re going to do, how it’s going to help, what’s in it for us.” Aurelie says.

As you think about the people side of change management:

  • Partner with impacted functions to build the personalized omnichannel capability framework and learning plan, e.g., for marketing, sales, medical, HR—through omnichannel centers of excellence, customer experience trainings, cmnichannel capability forums.

  • With HR and L&D, build an omnichannel competency framework, update impacted roles across the organization and execute learning journeys.

  • Run VoC (Voice of Colleagues) polls, implement improvements and celebrate success.

Most of the ingredients to accelerate from omnichannel strategy to reality are now available, even considering variations among brands and countries. Those who have started to shift mindsets, behaviors, attitudes, and ways of working have already seen the impact.



Gregg Fisher, Managing Partner, The Stem – gfisher@thestem.com, The Stem

Anca Davies-Rusu is a member of The Stem network and a thought leader in omnichannel customer strategy and an agile change practitioner.



  1. According to Nov 2022 McKinsey survey of 100 Life sciences digital and analytic the organizational hurdles for use of digital and analytics have shifted since 2020 from strategy formulation and executive sponsorship to issues of execution and change management.

  2. “Change” happens to people, even if they don’t agree with it. “Transition”, on the other hand, is internal: it’s what happens in people’s minds as they go through change. Change can happen quickly, while transition usually occurs more slowly.

  3. Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) is a tried and test concept e.g., in the UK, NHS England designed a GIRFT national program to improve the treatment and care of patients through in-depth review of services, benchmarking, and presenting a data-driven evidence base to support change. https://gettingitrightfirsttime.co.uk/

  4. Daan’s approach was inspired by Ranjay Gulati. https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/the-outside-in-approach-to-customer-service

Category: Digital Transformation, Featured blog post, Healthcare Provider (HCP) Engagement, Patient Engagement & Support

Tags: change management, digital transformation, medical affairs, medical affairs teams, Omnichannel Change

Return to articles page

follow us on LinkedIn

Next post

Harnessing the Value of AI In Pharmaceutical Customer Engagement

Harnessing the Value of AI In Customer Engagement,

Gregg Fisher, The Stem's Founder and Managing Partner, recently had the chance to interview both clients and practitioners on the state of Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning as it applies to customer engagement in BioPharma. Ganes Kesari, …

Stay Connected

Keep informed with our latest thought leadership and updates.

Email address is required Please enter valid email address
First name is required Please enter valid first name