Outsourcing in our changing world 1440 x 639
2 July 2018

Our world is changing. Over the last 15 years, 52 percent of Fortune 500 companies have disappeared. I often wonder if this trend will impact our sector. 

While pharma has been relatively isolated from disruptive technologies, the recently intensified pressure on drug pricing from policy makers, along with the requirement to deliver cost efficiencies across the board, is really challenging pharma executives. 

This isn’t new news – a study by the IMS Institute in 2014 warned that the 17 largest pharmaceutical multinationals would have to significantly reduce their annual operating costs if they wanted to maintain current levels of profitability. (1) There will undoubtedly be winners and losers as some organisations deliver this better and faster than others. 

How do we fit in as a provider of innovative outsourced services? The benefit and potential of commercial outsourcing has for some time been widely recognised as an important way to innovate, reduce operating costs, and allow companies to focus on core competencies. For organisations that get outsourcing right, there are many more advantages. So why is there such a divide in adoption between pharma companies? 

Experience is everything. Past engagement has a significant impact on an organisation’s decision to engage with a contract services organisation. Where relationships have been successful, alignment on expectations, key metrics and the quality of delivery are central. When managed in the right way, there is a real buzz in the room that you only get when two companies are aligned against a common objective and are delivering a positive commercial impact. In my view, successful projects are always underpinned by the quality of the people managing and delivering the programme. We have worked hard at to move away from the typical consultancy company model, where clients are wowed by the pitch team and left underwhelmed by the level of delivery and support on a day-to-day basis. 

As an outsourced provider, I would argue that we have to take responsibility for ensuring our clients get the very best experience, from first engagement through to project completion. If we wish relationships with pharma to move away from the transactional to genuine partnership, then we need to recognise that it is within our gift. 

We are continuing to invest to ensure that we have comprehensive, innovative services that can be scaled and delivered with operational excellence, from commercial sales teams through to innovative multi-channel and patient support solutions. 

Ultimately, we must also be willing to share in the risks and gains. As commercial challenges for pharma become more complex, along with the activities required to engage effectively with NHS stakeholders, we accept that we should be judged on our insight, our ability to innovate, and the outcomes that we deliver. 

So how should we approach getting it right? Were I back working on the pharma side, I would frequently consider how best to make decisions on which part of my commercial model to outsource – along with when and how to engage with potential providers. Flexibility, cultural fit, and being able to demonstrate a clear return on investment would be top of my list when deciding who to partner with. 

My advice to anyone considering engaging an outsourced provider would be the following: 

Engage early. Conversations cost nothing, and there is significant value to be gained in discussing strategy and market insight in addition to operational elements. 

Think carefully about the kind of experience you are looking for and what you wish to get out of a relationship. Taking the time to evaluate and make decisions on a suitable partner up front can save significant heartache down the line. 

If you’re serious about outsourcing, then give it a go. The best way to understand if a model and relationship with a particular CSO will work for you is to try it. Don’t be afraid to start small and then scale. 

Shop around. Acknowledge that working with a number of different service providers is far more likely to drive innovation and create value than working with large single providers. 


1. Riding the information technology wave in life sciences: Priorities, pitfalls and promise. IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. March 2014.