Next to Join the Pharma C-suite—The Chief Sharing Officer

The Sharing Economy, which has changed the face of global business and is based on the premise that access to goods and services is more important than ownership of these resources, was a new concept up to a few years ago.

Since then, start-up companies such as Uber, Airbnb and eBay have led an explosion into a whole new disruptive approach to business—and now, major corporations including GM, Walmart, Walgreens, Avis and Marriott have incorporated sharing strategies into their core business.

We’ve all used Uber and appreciate how the sharing of transport resources offer tremendous advantages to the business as well as the consumer—yet opposition to this new way of doing business remains because people are still fearful of change.

How we do know if the Sharing Model is disruption for disruption’s sake? Or more importantly, to what extent is Sharing relevant to us in the pharma business?

Applying the Sharing Model to Pharma

The first step of action is buy-in by leadership and the appointment of a Chief Sharing Officer within your organization. As with any major change in an organization, there must be vision and alignment that comes from the top. Leadership must demonstrate commitment to Sharing as a business model and that commitment will be most powerful when communicated through their behavior. And importantly, bringing in an empowered and respected Chief Sharing Officer will cascade the philosophy of sharing throughout the organization.

Here are four ways the Chief Sharing Officer can apply the principles of Sharing to optimize your business:

1. Identify assets that can be shared among your partners. We can no longer afford to have fixed assets that may or may not meet our needs at any given time. In other words, why pay for resources when you’re not using them? Leverage the collective resources among your partners or networks—and start sharing. Any business model will not succeed if we only rely on in-house resources and existing structures.

2. Develop financial incentives for sharing to redefine success. The winner takes all mentality is no longer realistic. We must find ways to compensate people for helping our teams and reward partners who help win business with us. It’s better to have 50% of a piece of business rather than 100% of nothing.

3. Understand the strategic mindset shift in the way consumers now define their wants and needs. People have changed their consumption habits and marketers must change the way we sell to them. The products and services that some companies have sold for years are no longer relevant. Now, consumers want access to brand experience on their own terms—when they want or need it—not when we want them to have it.

  • A great example of this has been seen in the Auto industry. Giants such as GM have come to realize that Millennials do not want to own cars but instead want mobility. As a result, GM invested in a ride share program called “RelayRides” in which people can rent vehicles from GM cars owners, and they are connected via an online service run by GM. This provides a new stream of revenue that did not exist before and also exposes and builds loyalty to a generation who would not have otherwise experienced GM’s cars. So wouldn’t you position your brand differently to someone who wanted mobility rather than wanted a car?

4. Build a strong culture of Sharing and let it grow and evolve. In addition to creating the role of Chief Sharing Officer, consider developing Sharing Ambassadors who will champion the idea within their business units.

While healthcare companies still have some ways to go to truly embrace the philosophies of the sharing economy, they are already starting to employ some fundamental practices.

Pharma companies have started:

  • Using on-demand freelance talent. Companies are turning to Internet-based resources to get significant amounts of creative work done quickly and inexpensively. This also extends to recruiting scientific staff and clinical trial work.
  • Consolidating across marketing agency teams working across brand franchises. Cross-discipline companies now work together as one team on clients’ business.
  • Shifting to more home-based and decentralized healthcare. Borrowing on the some of the principles of the Sharing economy, these businesses are leveraging community collaboration, feedback and more efficient use of assets.
    • allows you to summon a doctor to make a house call within a two-hour window
    • In 2014, Uber delivered free nurse-administered flu shots to customers in Boston, NY and Washington
    • Hospitals are looking for ways to rent out underutilized medical equipment or, conversely, gain access to specialized equipment as needed and without the sizeable expense of purchasing
    • A Toronto mobile health start-up and peer-to-peer network has created an “Instagram for doctors” allowing medical professionals to seek input on complex cases by posting relevant images and information

It’s critical that our industry look at the Chief Sharing Officer not as an expense but as an essential business-building tool. It is an investment that will deliver a return again and again and will provide a competitive advantage versus those who insist on business as usual. Keep in mind the benefits a Chief Sharing Officer can bring to your business:

  • Scale and velocity of resources and opportunity are not limited to our own “neighborhood.”
  • Monetize underused assets.
  • Sharing can fill the needs that are not being met in the current marketplace.
  • You can find ways to collaborate with your competitors and create new revenue streams.

To transform the pharma business is to take a calculated risk and place our trust in the potential of ideas and growth. To do nothing is a sure road to irrelevance at best and failure at worst.

Are we ready for Pharma’s First Chief Sharing Officer?

  • Ellen Fields

    Ellen Fields is widely recognized as an industry expert in direct-to-consumer healthcare communications and is also an opinion leader in aligning the philosophy and principles of the Sharing Economy to marketing and communications companies. Sensing early on how Sharing would come to define global business, Ellen pioneered and championed the role of Chief Sharing Officer within LLNS where she served for two years.


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