At the start of Digital Pharma East 2023’s main day on Tuesday, Robert Allen, lead of omnichannel experience strategy and planning for U.S. Oncology at Bristol Myers Squibb, pointed to the evolution of the conference over the years.

“Digital pharma was the kids’ table for a while,” Allen noted. “Now, the tables have turned a little bit. I’ve seen this conference evolve from talking about digital to omnichannel, and now we’re talking about AI.”

One of the first panels Tuesday morning honed in on AI again, underlining what will likely be the theme of the conference this year.

“In 2023, if you don’t talk about AI, you’re still a year behind,” noted Giuseppe Firenze, SVP and information officer of business units at Eli Lilly.

Charles Castano, VP of U.S. information technology at Genentech, added that across the biotech company, “the entire value chain is using AI” — including commercial operations, marketing and contracting.

Still, there are plenty of questions around “how we can supercharge and empower the organization with this new element,” Firenze said.

For Ryan Billings, executive director, head of commercial innovation at Organon, weaving AI into the company’s culture is “the most important thing.”

“You have to define innovation for your company,” Billings said. “You have to define what you’re focused on … and make sure everyone’s on the same page. Once you have that strategy, get a roadshow deck in place and get in front of your internal stakeholders and say this is our AI strategy. Socialize it so people become your internal ambassadors.”

Mindset is important as well, Firenze argued. “When you bring up AI, I hear a lot of no’s,” he said. “We need to have a mindset where we’re challenging our people, give us reasons to say yes.”

However, to put AI into context, Billings brought up the rise of social media 10 years ago, and how many marketers sought to grasp the new wave. Now, social is a foundational part of most marketing plans.

“It’s driving our insights, and we can attribute it to actual script lift,” Billings said. “Did we think we could do that? When I think about AI and I start to get overwhelmed and stressed, [I remind myself] in a few years it’ll be old news — and who knows what we’ll be talking about at DPE in 5 or 10 years.”

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