Reflections on 30 years of driving business improvements with Oliver Wight: Part 3

15 Jun 2020


By Oliver Wight Partner, Andrew Purton

As I conclude my reflections on changes in the world of business over the past 30 years of working for Oliver Wight, I delve into the healthcare industry and share my thoughts on healthcare sector challenges, fallbacks, and lessons to be learnt from other industries.

You are a member of the Oliver Wight Healthcare Team. Does the healthcare industry have any unique challenges that you have seen compared to other industries?

As previously indicated in parts one and two of this blog series, because the Oliver Wight message is quite generic to all businesses we can easily operate across multiple industries and my client base has been very broad. Nonetheless, during the past 30 years, I have worked with many global branded pharmaceutical (‘prescription’ and ‘over-the-counter’) and vaccine companies as well as supporting the ‘generics’ sector.    

On reflection, therefore, I do not believe that the healthcare sector is particularly unique. Yes, they have a specific language (but so do most industries), and a very long lead time to develop, test, and introduce a new drug to market with huge R&D costs to recover so successful pricing and launch is paramount. However, they have often appeared to be more reluctant than most industries to fully align their commercial and operational planning processes into one integrated business process, but this is changing.

This may be one factor in why they struggle with the process of making the big capacity investment decisions at the right time, resulting in the industry seeming to be perpetually out of capacity. Like all other businesses, this can be overcome by exhibiting the right integrated organisational behaviours and correct deployment of business-wide Integrated Business Planning, underpinned by good planning assumptions. COVID-19 is also likely to challenge traditional capacity investment practice as the world waits in expectation for a fast (massive) scale-up of vaccine production (once we have developed proven vaccine solutions)!

Is there anything the healthcare industry can learn from your clients in other sectors?

Yes, absolutely! Break-down the commercial vs. operations silos and operate with transparency as an integrated business. Establish horizons that are appropriate to your business and plan at the appropriate level of aggregation in each zone. Healthcare tends to focus too much on the detail and often misses the big picture as a result. There is no substitute for a substantive set of high-level assumptions that underpin the plans and enable discussions to be had at a macro level about what is driving the business and industry.

And this marks the end of blog three of my Oliver Wight reflections series. If you liked the blogs, please let me know by leaving a comment below. If you have questions that you would like answered, I would love to hear from you - click here to connect with me on LinkedIn. 

We have several forum groups where discussions relevant to your sector can be aired and debated with like-minded colleagues. If you’re interested, explore the links below:


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