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Customer Experience and Design

Incoming Novartis CEO Looks To Disney For Inspiration

On September 4, 2017, Novartis announced that its current CEO, Joseph Jimenez, will step down from his role in February 2018. He will be replaced by Dr. Vasant Narasimhan, the company’s current global head of drug development and chief medical officer.

The backgrounds of the two executives couldn’t be starker. Mr. Jiminez has very little knowledge of science, having spent a significant portion of his career in the consumer industry. Prior to joining Novartis, Mr. Jimenez served as president and CEO of the North American and European businesses for the H.J. Heinz Company. On the other hand, Dr. Narasimhan has a medical degree from Harvard has worked tirelessly over the years to address a variety of global health issues, including HIV/AIDS and cholera. He also spent time as the global head of the Sandoz biopharmaceuticals and oncology injectables business unit.

While their education and career tracks may have been different, they share a commonality: a vision to become more productive. In an interview, Dr. Narasimhan said that the time and cost to develop a medicine could be significantly cut with digital technology.

Fortunately for Dr. Narasimhan, over the last eight years at Novartis, Mr. Jiminez has put a significant amount of effort into streamlining clinical operations. He told the Financial Times that Novartis has a large repository of past clinical trials and the company has a good amount of intelligence as it relates to subject recruitment. “We’re finding that we’re able to significantly reduce the amount of time that it takes to execute a clinical trial and that’s huge . . . you could take huge cost out,” Mr. Jiminez said.

On how far ahead Novartis is when it comes to clinical operations, Dr. Narasimhan and his clinical operations teams no longer rely on Excel spreadsheets. Instead, they’re leveraging real-time technology to improvement trial enrollment.

While Dr. Narasimhan is excited about the potential technology has on improving the company’s productivity, he admits it will not always be successful. “We will fail at many of these experiments, but if we hit on a couple of big ones that are transformative, I think you can see a step change in productivity,” he said.

To understand Dr. Narasimhan’s vision for the company and his appetite for innovation, he cites a family trip to Disney World. He was very impressed with Disney’s MagicBand, a wristband that uses RFID technology to communicate with a variety of sensors throughout its attractions. The MagicBand can unlock doors, check you in water parks, act as a digital wallet, and much more. It provides Disney with a massive amount of data that enables it to create an exceptional customer experience, all while cutting costs and increasing sales.

Time will tell whether Dr. Narasimhan can take Novartis to a magic place; however, if belief and foresight are any predictors of success, the company (and patients) are in luck.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is quickly emerging as a leading source of data and business intelligence. Across a variety of industries, competitive companies, such as Disney, are using IoT to transform their businesses. In fact, according to a research report from BI Intelligence, organizations are going to spend approximately $5 trillion on IoT in the next five years. To see 50+ examples across 11 industries, including life sciences, download our new guide on The Why, What, and How of IoT.

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Eugene Sefanov

Director, Industry and Regional Marketing

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