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In Pursuit of Pharma Marketing Excellence: Reducing Production Waste to Increase Speed to Market

In this second part of the four-part blog post series, “In Pursuit of Pharma Marketing Excellence”, I’ll discuss the actual email process and the importance of optimization. Regulations introduce and increase time constraints and can delay getting a healthcare product to market. When the marketing materials are produced and ready for production, the idea likely has been in and out of medical regulatory legal review for months. At this point, the clock is at the mercy of the agency and final regulatory reviewers to speedily prepare for promotional release of marketing materials.

Reducing waste

Often pharmaceutical companies are too close to the email process to see the impact of unnecessary steps influencing turnaround times and quality. The process can be viewed as both appropriately rigorous and too burdensome all at once. According to Litmus’ 2018 State of Email Workflows report¹, the number of departments or agencies involved can impact whether a review and approval process is out of balance. If responsibilities are not clearly defined, quality is in jeopardy. In the healthcare space, the repercussions of poor quality don’t end with dissatisfaction; there are monetary and regulatory penalties associated with incorrect content.

One way to evaluate your process and identify wasted effort, improve turnarounds, and build process is called the Lean process².  According to www.lean.org, “the word transformation or lean transformation is often used to characterize a company moving from an old way of thinking to lean thinking.” The lean process typically involves a workshop conducted by a neutral source. All parties involved in the production process or a representative should be present to participate in the lean workshop. There are four steps to utilizing lean process that will lead to waste reduction and increased speed to market.  

  1. Define current state of process
  2. Visualize the process
  3. Identify quick wins and action items
  4. Define next steps and assign ownership

Step 1: Define Current State

It’s important to map out current state from start to finish before making suggestions for changes. If this involves filling an entire wall with sticky notes for each step of the way, do it. This can be time consuming but is a necessary step to proceed with steps two and three. For starters, map out the process from asset development to post email deployment reporting. Once you have the process mapped, categorize the steps into logical phases. For example, kickoff and asset development could be the development phase. This will allow you to see the process as a whole, and within each phase.   


Step 2: Visualize the Process

It’s critical that the entire team understands how all the puzzle pieces make one picture. This uncovers dependencies and creates shared understanding which leads to productive conversations and necessary action items. It allows brand teams, creative teams, developers, and others to see how they all fit into the overall execution.


Step 3: Identify Quick Wins and Action Items

Identify where can you make an impact quickly. It may as simple be developing a standard set of guidelines for a piece of the process and circulating the document with necessary teams. Is there a specialized team who should own a piece of the process? Can you standardize communication? Once you have some action items in place, you’ll be ready to move to step four.


Step 4: Define Next Steps and Assign Ownership

Create a future-state map of the process with the end goal of reducing or eliminating waste. There are likely areas where you can delegate tasks to a specialized team, shift sequence, or add/remove roles. As you discuss future state, more action items will naturally surface. Prioritize each action item based on feasibility and impact. Each action item should be assigned to a team member, and one team member should coordinate the team to ensure each responsible party executes his or her action items. Improvements will not happen overnight, but a road map will provide realistic completion dates. Before you know it, you’ll be tracking improvements and turnaround times. 


Leveraging the lean approach identifies efficiencies which have proven to foster collaboration among agency partners. Some outputs include creative templates and streamlined changes. In return, rounds of review can be reduced by as much as 50 percent with the consolidation of feedback. As changes are clear and content is approved, you will see increased speed to market and improved quality. As you eliminate waste through process improvements, you create valuable time to spend on strategy, the critical topic in the next post in this series.


¹ 2018 State of Email Workflows (2018). Retrieved from https://litmus.com/ebooks/state-of-email-workflows-2018


² What is lean? (2018). Retrieved from https://www.lean.org/WhatsLean/