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Unlocking Agility: Driving Innovation in Pharma with Agile Planning

Unlocking agility: How agile planning can help leaders drive innovation in the global pharmaceutical industry

Stephanie Hall, Founder and CEO, Uptake Strategies 

Agile planning is increasingly being applied in a range of industries, including the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, to help leaders make better decisions and drive innovation.

Melissa Dagless, Head of Growth and Innovation at Uptake, states in her most recent PME article that “a beautifully crafted brand plan is a wonderful thing in times of predictable stability, but we are absolutely not in those times, nor are we likely to be anytime soon.” This means that for those in senior roles facing numerous challenges when it comes to their brand planning, long-term strategic plans need to be flexible and agile in order to be able to adapt to the changing environment.

Agile methodologies can help to address challenges by enabling iterative development, frequent testing, and cross-functional collaboration, in the same way that agility in drug discovery and development has created significant efficiencies. For example, scrum teams being used to manage drug development projects, rapid prototyping to test drug candidates early in the development process, and continuous integration and delivery used to speed up the process of getting new drugs to market.

In my own experience, agility allows for more efficient planning and execution, enabling leaders to respond quickly to changing circumstances and market conditions, while also providing a framework for managing brand development in an iterative and flexible way. Key principles of agile branding include breaking down silos, focusing on stakeholder groups – significantly the customers (e.g., HCPs & Payers) and patients, and working in short, iterative sprints. Examples of companies in the consumer world that have successfully implemented agile branding practices include Airbnb, Nike, and Coca-Cola.

Overcoming the challenges of agile adoption

The benefits of agile planning, including improved efficiency, faster adaptation, and increased innovation, make it worthwhile for leaders to explore and experiment with these approaches. However, there are still significant challenges to the adoption of agile methodologies in the industry; Often, hierarchy and cultural resistance require a significant shift in mindset, and companies can lack the in-house specialist skills and expertise for the specialist style of cross-functional collaboration and project management needed.

If you would like to bring agile methodologies into your planning processes, email hello@uptakestrategies.comto start a conversation with our team of experienced senior pharma industry experts.

Further reading

  1. Al-Ghofaily, M. M., et al. (2017). The role of agile methodologies in software development. International Journal of Information Technology and Computer Science, 9(1), 50-57.
  2. Aziz, S., & Cooper, R. G. (2017). Agile innovation methods: lessons for managing innovation in the pharmaceutical industry. Drug Discovery Today, 22(10), 1575-1586.
  3. Beck, K., et al. (2001). Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Agile Alliance.
  4. Dang, J., et al. (2020). Exploring agile marketing in the digital era: a case study of Airbnb. Journal of Business Research, 107, 191-199.
  5. Sutherland, J., & Schwaber, K. (2017). The Scrum Guide.


Gain a deeper understanding of how to plan for the unpredictable in pharma brand planning within our latest article, the first in the ‘Innovative Impact’ series for Pharma Market Europe magazine. Discover invaluable insights into brand planning during uncertain times by clicking here.

If you’re looking to unlock agility and innovation in your brand planning efforts, our team of experienced senior pharma industry experts at Uptake Strategies can help. Contact us today to start a conversation and discover how our agile methodologies can enable you to make better decisions and drive innovation in the pharma industry. Let us support you in overcoming the challenges of agile adoption and achieving success in your planning processes. 

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