Dear Colleagues!  This is Asrar Qureshi’s Blog Post #716 for Pharma Veterans. Pharma Veterans welcome sharing of knowledge and wisdom by Veterans for the benefit of Community at large. Pharma Veterans Blog is published by Asrar Qureshi on WordPress, the top blog site. Please email to for publishing your contributions here.

These articles take some insights and the title from INSEAD articles by Ayman Jawhar whose links appear at the end. The original articles are not about pharmaceuticals.

Ayman Jawhar argues that the ‘perfect combination of skills like business acumen, market orientation, technical skills, and soft skills’ to make a great product manager are no more perfect. He says that we need to understand and redefine the role of product manager from a more meaningful, tasteful, and human-centered perspective.

[Quote] To begin with, the main myth to debunk about Product is – Product is not a role. In fact, it is more accurately described as a range of activities (and behaviors) in constant flux, which are becoming the center of value creation in modern companies. [Unquote]

For us who have been trained in the Pharma industry over long years, it is hard to break away from the traditional model. We are okay with it, and we have achieved good results with it, so why change? Let me take Ayman’s arguments and translate these into the language with which we are more familiar.

How do we create value in Pharma? There are multiple routes.

  • Identify new products with good potential but unexplored markets. The innovator companies direct their research toward unmet medical needs, such as rare diseases, resistant cases, unsatisfactory present treatments, etc. Local Pharma does not innovate new molecules; they follow what has been approved internationally, what is its market, and what would be the risk of legal suit for patent infringement. If all indicators are right, the decision to develop, register and market the product is taken. This will add new value on top of the existing portfolio. This may be the longest route to value creation.
  • See if a new indication for an existing product has been approved by the USFDA or EMA. The same can be added to promotion if the generic product is already on the market. If not already available but the new indication makes the product application wider, expands the usage, it is marked as ‘interesting’. The process to incorporate changes or launching the product is initiated. This is also a longer way because customer acceptance may vary.
  • Analyze the existing portfolio, find out new product(s) to be added to strengthen it. This may be medium term route. The firm and the team are already present in the same market with the same customers. They may be using another generic version from another firm and switching them to your side may be facilitated due to relations.
  • Review the list of already registered products again, see what is still available which may make a fruitful launch, and go for it. This is also among the medium-term routes. The product would not have been developed if it is an old registration, but it can be developed by the R&D. The time to go to market will be as short as your team can make it.
  • Consider line extension of a running brand, register it and market. This is the among the shortest routes; your brand is established and in use, the customers are satisfied, and you have invested in these customers to get undivided attention. Taking a line extension to them mostly starts the business quickly.

The next question is who leads the value creation?

Unfortunately, the leadership role is fragmented and does not include the Product Manager. The product identification may be done by the Business Development, new indication may be advised by the Medical Affairs, product shall be developed by the R&D located at the plant, the packaging will be decided by the chief because it is a corporate identity matter, registration shall be done by the Regulatory, and the price decision shall be governed by the Finance. It is the usual model, and there is nothing wrong with it theoretically. Practically, however, there are serious conflicts, issues, lapses, and delays.

If the entire process is coordinated by the PM in the middle, who is given the authority to take decisions, and whose role is communicated to people in all teams, the whole process may be shorter and smoother. Both parties, the management and the PM, are not yet ready for it. The PM is still a junior position, and no one will listen to him/her. Even the Marketing Head is not seen in this role because every function works inside its own silo, and outsiders are not allowed in. Owing to our background, we are oversensitive about hierarchy and reporting lines and protocol. Cross functional teams are formed in many firms, but they comprise of junior staff who take their instructions from their own bosses rather than the team head. For this reason, cross functional teams are limited to making recommendations, rather than achieving anything substantive.

The current model of doing business has several redundancies. Too many people take decisions in isolation while the so-called product owner, the PM is not allowed to have say in any critical matter. Then why is the poor guy/gal told that he/she is the brand owner? Secondly, the costing, which is not shared, or inflated when shared, overrides market-based decisions. Thirdly, the promotion budgets are controlled by finance and top management on whom the PM has no influence. Fourthly, in a BU environment, the PM may be overly influenced by the BU Head who may understand the marketing part less than the PM.

Given all obstacles, it is still worthwhile to expand the role of product managers, train them to be in the center of all product activities, and create an all-inclusive environment for outstanding results. Any organization that takes a lead in it will be the first to reap benefits.

To be Continued…….

Disclaimer: Most pictures in these blogs are taken from Google Images and Pexels. Credit is given where known; some do not show copyright ownership. However, if a claim is lodged at any stage, we shall either mention the ownership clearly, or remove the picture with suitable regrets.

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