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The role of the CI Professional is diverse and often times varied.
Snjezna Milicevic-Prox, of Bayer, shares her insights with INOVIS' Harshal Kubavat

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The role of competitive intelligence professional is diverse and often times varied.

Our guest today Snjezana has had a wide-ranging career that's seen her develop competitive strategy and insights at different organizations and groups within the life sciences space today we're discussing her experiences and recommendations of integrating competitive intelligence practices with different organizations so thank you for for joining us today and and discussing your your experience in CI I hope you're going to have a a good time thank you for having me I’m really looking forward to this opportunity and yeah I’m hoping for a good time as well yeah brilliant so obviously I think first things first it'll be nice to hear a little bit about your background and how you came into CI and maybe you know high level some of the the roles that you've taken within competitive intelligence is it fair to say that you didn't go to a CI school or know that you're going to be going straight into CI when you when you went into academia yes exactly I started my higher education thinking that I’m going to be a translator but the life as it happens led me to the way of uh competitive intelligence by by chance and by luck due to my knowledge of english language and yeah I eventually ended up starting as the as a competitive intelligence research analyst moved a ladder a little bit became a team leader within our team and then decided to kind of move out of the of the agency side and try to kind of get a bit more consulting experience and then eventually ended up in a big big company so now this year marks nine years since I’ve since I’ve been doing competitive intelligence in the farmer market and and loving it since you began right definitely definitely when I started I thought to myself okay I’m gonna be doing this for three months just earn some side money and you know see where I go from there but after three months just click this analysis and you know this kind of strategic thinking and analytic thinking just kicked in and they just couldn't give enough and yeah nine years later I’m still here you are yeah well so you started off is it fed say in an agency side of end vendor side helping clients can you give us a little insight into what you what you did there the type of work and what you kind of like experienced in those days of starting CI yeah so the agency that I started working for was uh focus and still is focused very much on the sales force deployment and I started as an analyst covering the u.s market right and those first six and a half years I was predominantly focused on the u.s market understanding the whole sale structure sales structures of the big pharma companies understanding their business units their products and priority of the products and everything to those uh tiny little details of what sales reps actually do on the market yeah and through those years I mean I covered from the smallest companies that have like you know maybe five sales reps to large corporations such as pfizers and and all of those kinds yeah companies I think that in those in in in the agency I was at one point covering like 6 or evenmore big pharmas in the that were operating in the u.s market so it was a very kind of clean overview of what the farmer market is actually when it comes to markets as well as diseases because you had to cover everything and understand everything in order for you to kind of do the analysis and proper reporting so it was very a very high level but only as I mentioned only in the force sales deployment was it was in the focus sure and so when we think about sales deployment then versus now then you know 1years ago I suppose the the digital component was still evolving and developing exactly yeah it was somewhere it started appearing I would say maybe five years ago or so like slightly somewhere in the background but it was never there was never a feeling that this would actually work or that this would kind of become a dominant part of the sales force so as you say yeah ten years ago it was very consistent with big sales let's call them units with a lot of a big number of sales reps promoting portfolio products right more than one and you know having those in and out to the doctor is like two minutes basis yeah these days as you mentioned it's moving more toward the digital and I’m really excited to see how this actually works especially when you have the launch brands that have to launch their their brands with the brand new sales reps in the markets that they maybe weren't there before and you know communicating with the doctors only dominantly with with the digital tools which I think it may be a struggle just because the market itself wasn't so prepared for it or was kind of hoping that it doesn't right right right and so when you're thinking about sales forces deployment it was a very qualitative space was it numbers or were there kind of qualitative aspects to the work that you did then well there was quite quantitative when you were talking like that because you had big companies that have you know like dozens of of business units each business unit then you know having different teams within it and covering and in the us so the market itself is quite huge geography is quite huge so you had kind of like very very high numbers of sales reps comparing for example with europe right and it was quite a lot of understanding how the numbers actually work but on the other hand the numbers weren't as much in focus as the products and what they're actually focusing on so I think the biggest complication in all of this is understanding you know which teams actually promote which products and you know what are they focusing on as a first priority second priority are they sampling products or not so it was a bit more complicated in this way because you would have maybe two or three different teams who would promote the same bag of products but they have different focus they are targeting maybe different doctors so it was a bit more you know over the numbers to go into the quantity and the quality and understand basically what is it behind the the numbers that you know is driving the sales up and so when you started you said you know you started as a research analyst kind of getting the information and you evolved your roles and capabilities is that more towards the the client management and the delivery of projects and uh explaining kind of the the numbers to clients or was it slightly different on your experience during the agency side it was more focused on doing maybe more in-depth projects some did some did also require you know communication with the indirect communication with the with the clients but it was mostly just kind of making the good balance between working remotely as a team that was then situated in bosnia working remotely with the with the management team in the us and the team you know covering not just the u.s market but also european markets so kind of making sure that this this communication and this relationship is going running smoothly as much as possible at that point of time when the remote working wasn't as popular as it was today yeah and so you kind of stayed in on the agency side for for a while what was it what was the that the point at which you you started exploring kind of working on the client side had you worked with you know clients very directly beforehand or was it about getting a little bit more experience or changing your your work environment just think let's talk us through that thought process and well when when you say when you sit at home for six and a half years and you know you're answering emails and then talking with with your you know with your contacts in pharma on the phone you know eight hours per day at one point it gets a little bit too much and you're like eager to get out and see what what else is out there so I think it wasn't the work and the workload it was more kind of this personal side of me that needed a bit more face-to-face interaction with with people I mean other than that the job that I did was I was really happy with it and I was really kind of motivated just because the market as it is so changing from day to day that there was always something new to learn so it wasn't boring or it wasn't you know getting to the way to the part that I would say okay I’m done with this I want to try something else but on the other hand as you go on and you work so long with different companies you're understanding more and more market you want to have maybe a little bit more direct impact or maybe different than you do as an analyst so my first goal was to get into consulting but I have to say that at the point of time and personal kind of part where I was when I started working with the consulting agency it didn't just fit it wasn't it wasn't you know a right place in right time as they were saying yeah and then the the opportunity with bear popped up and it was basically you know a dream come true because when you work for so many companies for so many years it's really kind of interesting to understand what is happening behind the the other on the other side behind the closure of the farm so when this opportunity popped up I was really you know jumping and jumping on us just to kind of get an insight in into a different way of working on what is happening behind the door and I was mind blown to have to say it was so much different than everything that I imagined that actually happens in the pharma in a big pharma or in the pharma company so this kind of additional additionally then pushed me to kind of try to stay within the company and you know find my own position within buyer as well yeah and and talking about that that transition and I suppose initial shock you know beyond the interpersonal you know having colleagues in an office to go to was there anything that kind of stuck out to you in terms of coming from a a vendor kind of supporting side to now leading that kind of effort it was so many things I have to say because it was focusing on salesforce for so many years right like what you think about it in the company it's business units it's sales reps the products that they promote and you have like you know a pad that it goes the product gets approved it gets launched the product is being promoted once reaches the end of its life cycle it's not promoted anymore you know everything you know the reconstruction or whatever happens within the company and this is kind of basically when your job is done but when you join the company on the other side you actually get so much like more information of what is actually happening day-to-day basis with all of those products that are still on the market and how much activity actually goes into preparing the launch for the product because for me thinking before that in the us that you know you have like three four months before the launch that you know activity starts to uh you know starts to happen you have trainings of the new sales reps and everything start to pop up but then you see here you know that it goes way way beyond those those three to four months so just the understanding of this how the day-to-day operations in a big big pharma you know work and what happens behind the curtain it's just you know you realize that that sales force and those information that you used to collect is just like tiny tiny little piece that at some point doesn't even you know make a difference so this was very kind of mind-blowing for me just because as I mentioned so many years before that working on the agency side but it also kind of made me understand much better of all of the information in the past that I wasn't you know maybe secure enough whether this makes sense or not all of a sudden okay you know this is what caused me to think you know that that information might not be correct or whatnot this now makes sense because now I see what is happening behind behind all of those sales structures right and and I suppose I come from a similar path to you coming from the agency side and then going uh client side and I think for me it was also the the different disciplines that you engage with right you think of competitive intelligence clearly being an insight function and you've got the insights teams that are you know multidisciplinary but then you've got a regulator you've got legal you've got commercial medical and so many different aspects and I suppose what you'd seen on the agency side was a small slice that was important to a component and it's a multi-component piece yeah you understand that there are you know the different divisions such as market access medical science liaisons all of this medical perspective to us r d and whatnot you're all aware of that it's just that you don't touch bases on it on the daily you know every day so that you know it's just kind of like in back of your mind okay it's there but you don't really understand how much role they play in in all of this setup and then as mentioned when you start start working within the company and you see that commercial operations is just one tiny piece and then you have all the other business partners that you work with it's quite yeah quite a big big puzzle to put together if you're not you know touching bases with it every day yeah and and you have clearly on the agency side worked with a number of different clients companies and now you're with one of them a larger one despite being in a quite specialist area before and and using that experience is there any kind of learnings or observations you have comparing say your time working with bigger clients like where you are now versus smaller clients is there anything in the in the relationship between the the the vendor or the supporting partner and the the the manager like yourself that's kind of coordinating those ci efforts any any learners or observations there well I would say that when it comes to this smaller companies people would think that you know it's a smaller company it needs less it's more it's you know more kind of focused on on a one market or is more secluded but I think in reality from my perspective there is no much difference between the bigger and smaller it might be only the budget that they are you know that they have uh right for the CI for the CI activities but other than that I think it's when it comes to uh the whole overview of what the CI needs are for both of the companies I don't think there is much difference and it might even be that smaller companies could actually you know need more CI than the bigger one just because you know you have smaller teams you have less opportunity to find information within your own right in within your own company within your own team and you have to then kind of look outside and and deal with the vendors to provide you the information that in bigger companies maybe some colleague from market access got information from someone you know you understand what I mean so it's kind of it might be that this is the difference but it's I personally always thought you know maybe smaller companies are you know a bit easier to deal with just from an agency side from my perspective working on the agency side it's just because you have less products usually less sales for so it's much easier to understand what is actually happening within the company but that from that perspective you also have less people that you can actually contact and talk to as opposed to the bigger companies where people are less less you know maybe less wary of talking with strangers so it's a bit easier to get more information on on the on the bigger companies and so sitting in your seat right now and and thinking back to your I suppose slightly previous role in supporting a franchise uh team with competitive intelligence effort how is the the CI efforts been in terms of sharing insights that aren't coming from purely CI activities you clearly would have had some agency support external support doing competitive intelligence but like you said you're in a big organization have people been aware of what is competitive what information might be valuable and how have you been managed to have you managed to integrate that into into your working practices then yeah I think from from my perspective of the previous uh position as a CI lead it was a bit challenging because you would have a a big team a cross-functional team that you work with and and some of them would not be a hundred percent aware of what you actually do and what what information that you provide is used for because usually in those perspectives you have one key contact one key business partner that is always aware and is coming with questions and you're working with them on on the day-to-day basis but when it comes to the outside it's always a bit more you know getting your voice out within the team for them to understand what you actually do and why this information is important and it is a big part of the CI in that perspective as well is that you have to kind of push this information to people they're they're not sometimes aware that there is someone that can ask these questions so when you provide the answer already and they're okay where do you get that how can I get more and then it kind of gets it gets the ball rolling and more and more people get interested in this it's also depends on on the size of the team and how mature the product is on the team right because you know you may honest my surprise was that people who are actually working with those assets in the very earlier stages are much more interested in the CI and much more you know have much more questions and have much bigger needs yeah just because you know they're maybe dwelling into the market that they don't know exactly or are not fully aware and they see the one side side of the of the metal but not the other and everything areas while the people with with those uh products that are a bit more mature on the market just you know they kind of have the process already there and it's just to keep up with anything unusual pops up it's you know they understand the market already they have been there for for some years they know their their competitors they know the players it's not so often that something new and heartbreaking heartbreaking groundbreaking will be disruptive yeah yeah it's going to happen so it's just monitoring so this also kind of you know makes a big impact depending on on your work on your day-to-day depending how much your colleagues are aware the good thing is that if they are aware and they know that there is a person they can actively help as well with the CI as they are you know they're more in the in the pre in the pre-corona times that we're going to the conferences that are having a little bit more interaction right they could provide some information for you as well and that you can then utilize and and provide some insight based based on the information I think you've touched a really important topic and something that we deal with and a number of clients deal with which is kind of balancing the the resourcing along the life cycle of a franchise product group whatever you want to call it you know there are mature brands on market that are generating huge amounts of revenue and contributing a lot to the budget to run a CI program but the question is do you need to dedicate that much level of resourcing for something like you said that's you know quite well established and has those information channels where by if there is a competitive mindset you can actually get generate a lot of valuable information without you know financially needing an incentive with an external agency and then on the other side you've got the the pipeline where there's so much uncertainty so many you know spinning plates and and unknowns and I suppose that leads quite nicely into your current role now where you're looking more holistically across I suppose the the the organization and the CI team is that is that right to say yeah exactly because my current role is more on the operational side within the customer and business insight team so it has kind of a more overview of both market research and and primary and secondary market research and the CI so it's it's a bit more interesting from the side that you see then how much teams actually need and what kind of support they need a little bit less on a daily basis dealing with the CI which I miss I have to say but then again it's also good to stay in touch with the CI because I have my colleagues that I work with that that we have touch bases on our touch points at the regular basis and yeah understanding what their needs are and what the you know the problems might be with with their markets or with their products and how much effort they need to put in and you know what kind of questions they receive also keeping up with everything that is changing within the CI you know this is an understanding what are the new tools for the new agencies and new players on a certain markets or certain therapeutic areas so it is kind of you know like holistic view of what where the CI is basically going yeah and so high level if you if you think about you know years ago when you entered into the CI world uh compared to where you are now especially with the the breadth of seeing across the organization where do you think CI is going obviously taking into account that there has been a change in working practices over the last year or so well it does seem to me that this technologies that are developing on a very very rapid rate of rate are impacting the CI in the I would say in a very positive way because today years ago you have so much more artificial intelligence supported search functions and and is that you can then easily search what you actually need as opposed to years ago you were going to spend like hours and hours doing the secondary research in order for you to understand where the where the company stands today it feels like it's like two clicks and everything is there available for you which isn't the bad bad thing what my kind of fear would be that this kind of more data oriented CI is going to cause even more confusion between what the data scientist is or business intelligence analyst is versus what the competitive intelligence actually does because at the end of the day it's not just the numbers it's what you do with the numbers and and I hope that with all of these changes that especially when in this period of time with with covet is that all of the changes are a little bit hard to understand and see where they're actually going and that this will maybe provide an opportunity for CI to kind of shine in a better light provide a bit more understanding of the market for the business partners and does kind of cause that the competitive intelligence gets a bit more recognition within the companies versus the you know the position that it is now and yeah yeah no very very interesting I think you know on a concluding or end point thought I ask everyone that comes on here if you're giving advice to someone that's considering or looking to enter the competitive intelligence space obviously with a with a pharma uh life sciences background what advice would would you give them as they start their journey in competitive intelligence be vigilant be curious and don't let don't let a lack of information discourage you because yeah this market is very very fun to work in because it's changing on a daily basis so as long as you are curious you're going to get you know to the bottom of all of the things that you need to understand that's brilliant thank you so much Snjezana thank you for your time today it's been really insightful and hopefully we can have you back in the future and discuss some other topics in uh the months and years ahead hopefully thank you so much for having me it was really my pleasure and glad to kind of have this conversation about the CI it's not like you get the opportunity to talk about it every day so it's really appreciated I really appreciate it oh you're welcome and obviously we'll have your your details on uh the the closing clip and people can reach out to yourself and ask if they've got any follow-up questions but for from myself and from Snjezana just thank you very much for for joining uh and see you on the next insights video thanks again for joining us on another competitive insights series video where we hope we've provided you an opportunity to hear from a range of industry thought leaders and partners on topics relating to competitive strategy as ever you can reach out to us directly through our website at INOVIS global where you'll find more resources tools case studies and previous recordings on this strategic competitive intelligence space

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