To round off our series of blogs about Living Launch Excellence, I managed to pin down our CEO to get his thoughts on where it all started and to ask him some of your questions.

“So, why Launch Excellence for IE Steve?”

Steve: “Going back about 12-15 years, I spent a good amount of time in big pharma looking after the pre-launch of many exciting drugs. One of the really frustrating things I remember was the seemingly poor level of importance and focus being placed on getting pre-launch right. It was the poor relation of launched or just about to launch brands. I had put ambitious targets against new in class therapies and line extensions we would launch in a 1-3 year window and wanted to get more engagement and resource to help realise this”

“So, was there not the launch excellence focus we have today back when you were launching these drugs?”

Steve: “No! Far from it. If I’m honest, this frustration was the catalyst that excited me into thinking a little differently and exploring how getting pre-launch right could really make an impact on how quickly a new drug could be introduced into patients. I voted with my feet and set up IE where we quickly started working on some brands within Pfizer and Schering Plough that were a year or so away from launch.”

“What were you doing that was novel and different?”

Steve: “Our aim was to remove the ‘pre-launch silo’ of one person or small group working in isolation to broadening pre-launch being a collaborative approach with a guiding purpose and set of key objectives that all were working towards, together, Living Launch Excellence. It was about this time we had an opportunity to work Globally with a line extension of one of the world’s largest oncology brands.”

“That must have presented some interesting challenges…”

Steve: “It did, and as a team we had been challenged to find an approach that was innovative and would create a launch community across the global teams. For me this was the first time I’d seen an organisation start to think about  living launch excellence even though this term was still 3-4 years away from being common language in the industry.”

“You talked about the challenge of an innovative approach – did you find one!?”

Steve: “Very much so. We talked with the internal teams, understood the frustrations and realised a simple but innovative solution of creating a community ‘on-line’ was the key. At the time we didn’t realise it, but we had created our first on-line launch excellence platform. It held the launch roadmap for the teams to understand their tasks and timelines, it presented a simple dashboard of where they were, but more importantly it allowed the different brand teams to communicate with each other and share best practice.”

“One of the questions that has come in is about the top 3 tips for starting a living launch excellence journey. Are these elements you’ve just described key, or are there others?”

Steve: “It’s an interesting question, because if we roll the clock forward to today where launch excellence is a common term and something all pharmas are trying to get right there must be a core that delivers success. Now we’ve be working in this space for nearly 10 years I’ve seen many successes and many struggle and I think it’s down to getting 3 simple things right for living Launch Excellence:

Relevant Launch Road Map – Have a core launch roadmap of 30-50 activities that are common to all. Then allow different therapy areas and different geographies to add and tailor so it is unique to them. This leads to the second point.

Engagement – Collaboration, ownership and motivation of the team is key. One purpose delivered by a senior sponsor allowing each team to tailor, own and manage their own plans is critical. A culture and activities designed to embrace and reward collaboration provide the fuel.

Connection – One central portal / platform / system that brings everyone together. Technology is fantastic at doing this today and innovative systems like our own Ignite deliver information, knowledge and understanding across the whole launch journey whilst developing a community that shares and engages as one team without the boundaries of geographies or cultures.”

“Launch Excellence is a talking point in pharma at the moment – who is getting it right?”

Steve: “Very few. The most effort I’ve seen has be focused around the Road Map and companies still believe getting this right will ensure a good launch. The biggest mistake is still trying to do too much poorly vs. the critical stuff really well. Pharma is still so secretive – even within companies. Just last week I was talking to a brand team who frowned upon the idea of talking to another franchise internally who launched 6 months ago…”

“Interesting as that may touch on another question we had in – what are the key missed opportunities you typically see during launch?”

 Steve: “There are many and they typically fall across the 3 areas we discussed earlier. I think this topic could be a good for a more detailed discussion to have and suggest next month we focus on this?”

“Good idea. Steve, thanks for your thoughts so far and look forward to picking up the discussion next month.”

Our discussions with Steve are going to be a monthly event now so please do keep the questions coming and we can pose these to Steve next month.