What Pharma Companies can Learn from IBM
Posted By Sudeep Banerjee
3 (60%) 1 vote

Pharmaceutical companies seem to have grim future prospects at present, with most of them having declining or flat stock prices for the last 10 years. In fact, their condition is quite similar to that of IBM in the early 90’s and late 80’s. IBM, in that era, was said to be a ‘soon-to-be-extinct dinosaur’ by most business magazines.

However, what IBM is now, is well-known to everyone. The company’s transition was certainly not easy. It had to make many changes and implement effective strategies in various areas of its business. One of the most remarkable change it made, was shifting from a product-centric approach to a service and customer-centric one. This shift was perhaps what paved the way for IBM’s success. And this is the change that pharma companies need to bring in their approach, not only to survive, but also to thrive.

A look at IBM’s journey from the late 80’s to now:

  • IBM was a computer maker during the 80’s and before. At that time, it had competitors like Wang, Data General and DEC.

  • In the financial year of 1992, IBM lost a huge amount of US $8.10 billion – a financial loss more than that made by any company in the US history.

  • Recognizing the threat, the company hired Lou Gerstner as its new CEO. Gerstner had the valuable sense of starting listening to the clients.

  • After understanding IBM’s customers, Gerstner realized that one of the greatest strengths IBM has is the ability of offering integrated solutions to customers.

  • With Gerstner, the company made significant changes, like shifting to a customer-centered culture. In the next 10 years, IBM’s stock prices increased by 10 times.

  • After much hard work, IBM came as much stronger than its competitors like DEC, which is now extinct.

Lessons to learn from IBM:

Pharma companies need to think and act like IBM. They need to adopt a customer-centric approach, rather than a product-centric one. The success or failure of pharmaceutical companies does not depend on the number of drugs they sell, but on, to what extent their offerings satisfy customers and improve health outcomes.

A key question that every pharma company owner should ask himself is –

Do I see myself in a product business, or a disease management business? Or wherever possible, in a wellness/disease prevention business?

The answer to questions like these will determine whether or not a pharma company will survive and flourish.

An example of how pharma companies can switch from being product-centered to customer-centered, is to offer Remote Device Monitoring and Ambulatory Electrocardiographic services to cardiologists. Cardiologists usually share a deep relationship with pharma companies. They may buy from or partner with a company to sell these services, thereby serving patients better . Such an offering of cardiologists to patients will be more complete, in situations when their drugs related to heart are not likely to have any considerable effect.

Many diseases require the use of consumer biometric devices and/or web and mobile applications. This is likely to increase the focus on partnerships with pharma companies with a non-traditional approach.


Image courtesy:

3 (60%) 1 vote
3 Comments on “What Pharma Companies can Learn from IBM
Chloe Paltrow
January 15, 2015 at 9:52 am

IBM focused to prior its customers first to get his own place. Every e-commerce companies need to follow the path whether it is Life Science company or not. Good going.

January 23, 2015 at 1:28 pm

Nothing to say special, but Chloe is right and the article is good enough. Keep it up guys πŸ™‚

Christina Ryan
February 17, 2015 at 7:45 am

One more thing here to say and that is “offers”. That is also customers’ priority. Offers for a short span time can grab the customers’ attention.

Leave a Reply to Chloe Paltrow Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *