Budget is biggest barrier to digital disruption in pharma despite increasing spend

  • 36% of senior leaders agree that funding is the biggest barrier to digital adoption and transformation
  • 51% of pharma businesses are planning to increase their digital spend over the next two years, but it might not be enough
  • Effective measurement opens doors to funding, but 64% agree that project metrics are often not aligned to wider organisational goals

More than a third (36%) of senior leaders in pharma agree that funding is the biggest barrier to digital adoption and transformation, despite organisations planning to increase investment in digital products and services over the next two years.

This is according to Graphite Digital’s Disconnected Pharma report, based on 100 in-depth interviews with executives from some of the sector’s leading companies about their current digital challenges and focus areas. The report reveals that more than half (51%) of pharma companies have plans to increase their spending on digital over the next two years, while the remainder will run flat. Slight increases of up to 25 per cent are most common, but three per cent of businesses will increase budgets significantly (by more than 25 per cent) as pharma companies strengthen their digital capabilities and offerings.

Leaders have clear ideas of what will play the most crucial role in driving digital disruption in the pharmaceutical sector and their organisations over the next five years, with ensuring robust data security and privacy measures are in place the top priority for 37 per cent. One in five (20%) believe that prioritising more collaborative ecosystems and partnerships within the industry will play a critical role, while integrating emerging technologies (13%) was also labelled a key disruptor.

With ambitious ideals for how the pharma sector could evolve digitally over the next five years, the reported increases in funding may not be enough. Those citing internal budget as a barrier (36%) agreed that there was not enough investment in products and strategies, and that organisations can be unrealistic about the cost attached to them.

Rob Verheul, CEO at Graphite Digital, said: “Securing additional budget often requires senior leaders and project managers to demonstrate return on investment or proof of concept, which means finding ways to quantify success in projects that can often take many years to deliver tangible results. It is critical to manage expectations for milestones and what success looks like when it comes to long-term digital projects and product development – especially when seeking to build confidence and securing additional funding.”

The study revealed that there is often a lack of alignment between delivery teams and senior stakeholders when it comes to success and measurement, which could be contributing to difficulties with securing budget. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of pharma leaders agreed that the metrics they track are not aligned with the wider strategic KPIs of the organisation, while nearly half (47%) said there is often too much focus on vanity metrics and short-term gains.

More than half (54%) of pharma leaders reported that KPI setting was often happening too late in the deployment process, which can result in ineffective products that do not meet the needs of patients or HCPs and are often seen as a poor use of budget.

Rob Verheul continued: “Having a clear understanding of the ‘why’ behind all projects from the outset will help to set meaningful objectives and KPIs that can be used to demonstrate value – and make sure that both digital teams and senior stakeholders are on the same page. It is important to create a clear connection between the business goals and project outcomes to ensure that digital initiatives benefit both the organisation and its customers.”

Graphite Digital’s Disconnected Pharma report investigates the challenges and priorities of digital leaders in the pharmaceutical sector in 2024 and beyond, revealing issues with connectivity, and a universal appreciation for enhancing user experience within digital health solutions.

The report features industry perspectives from contributors working at AstraZeneca, Novartis and Impatient Health.


Join our audience of healthcare industry professionals

Join our audience of healthcare industry professionals