Spotlight interview: 15 minutes on the procurement function in pharma

Written by Carwyn Jones on Monday 22nd July 2019

Carwyn Jones, Senior Partner at OPEN Health, takes 15 minutes to answer some key questions on the procurement function in pharma.

1. How do you work with procurement at OPEN Health?

Procurement are an important customer group for us at OPEN Health. As Senior Partner, I lead on our initiatives with procurement. They are often financial in nature, but we also focus on the “value” we bring to our clients alongside the commercial terms in place. It is important to ensure that our procurement clients understand what OPEN Health is all about – the work we do, how we support their teams, and how working in partnership with them creates mutually beneficial value.

2. What do procurement want from healthcare agencies?

This is a tough one to answer and varies across the industry. Many say that it is all about partnership, when in fact it may be just about creating financial value for their organisation. It is important to understand how a procurement team is measured (by their business) as this will often drive their focus on agency requirements.

3. Is it still all about the money?

YES – many procurement teams will be managing tighter budgets than previous years and be tasked with showing cost savings alongside cost avoidance. The challenge is to ensure that marketing and medical teams are aware of this. The greatest cost to pharma clients is not just the spend, but often costs created through inefficient working with agencies. This is why we provide training in “how to work most efficiently with your agency” – although not all our clients take us up on this!

4. What makes a good procurement function?

A good procurement function is one that understands the needs of its internal stakeholders as well as the needs of agencies. This is a tricky one to manage together. The best procurement teams are seen as “partners” both internally and externally.

It’s often easier to describe bad practice. This sometimes includes:

  • Badly managed pitch processes – pressuring agencies to hit deadlines and then not hitting theirs, not sharing enough information, refusing to discuss budgets
  • Running PSLs (Preferred Supplier Lists) and not assessing the performance of the agencies on this PSLs (this is annoying when you are NOT on the PSL)
  • Running PSLs and allowing all agencies to still work with the client (this is annoying when you ARE on the PSL)

My favourite procurement teams are those who communicate well with us, see us as a partner, and discuss ideas / issues / projects with us.

5. How has the pitch process changed over the past few years?

I’m not sure the pitch process has changed dramatically over the years. Within our medical communications, real world evidence and market access function, less pitches take place than within creative, PR and patient engagement. The process itself is varied across pharma clients. Some are well-managed, others not so. We share our thoughts on how to run a successful pitch (I am happy to share that with any of our clients). With a pitch often costing £30,000 (and sometimes more) there is often a better way to select an agency for a project or agency of record – or at least a way to do this effectively and in a timely manner.

At OPEN Health, we have a supplier relationship management philosophy that includes how a client can get the most from our relationship; this includes commercial terms alongside various partnership initiatives – do get in touch if you’d like more information.

Get in touch

For more information contact:

Carwyn Jones, New Business Lead, OPEN Health

+44 (0) 1628 481112