As this is being written, word came across that IMS, that
venerable organization of pharma marketing research, was about to lay off 10%
of its work force. As one might
expect, this reduction was couched in terms of restructuring, right sizing,
etc. But at the bottom line, the
harsh truth was that 10% of IMS employees would lose their jobs as part of an
effort to bolster sagging financial performance.
By the time this is published, this will not be news. So you might well ask what is my point
if not to announce the downsizing? First and foremost is the reminder that the
amount of marketing research business placed by pharma companies in the US
dropped by some 25% last year.
Often it takes an outsider's view to point out the
obvious. Accordingly, this second
point is not mine but an observation made by a Swiss banker spouse of a GfK
colleague. He responded to the
news by submitting that the industry had best do something to adapt its
business to a world that is changing.
He commented that the 10% reduction appeared a bit rounded and
arbitrary. In fact, he said, the
continued existence of these businesses might well depend on a more well
thought-out restructuring, since changes of this magnitude can not be ignored.
I believe it is relatively clear to all involved that the toughening times in
the industry are not cyclical, but rather part of a downward trend that is
likely to continue.
Perhaps a more preferable means to survive turbulent times
is to plan in advance to avoid such an extreme measure as staff
reductions. By examining current
ways of doing business, assessing other approaches and eliminating
inefficiencies, a company can become nimble and be prepared to adapt to change
when it needs to and, ultimately, manage even in challenging times to retain
its most valuable resources: its employees and intellectual capital.
Richard Vanderveer is group CEO, GfK US Healthcare Companies