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Pharma O2C in the ‘Ever-evolving’ Normal – What Experts Prescribe for Shared Services

What you’ll learn

  • Future-proof GBS organization to improve the agility of shared services
  • Drive standardization and harmonization of processes 
  • Improve GBS performance and customer experience via digital transformation


The new normal disrupted many industries, and pharma was one of the first industries to be impacted. Interrupted supply chains, halted manufacturing lines, volatile credit conditions, intense regulatory requirements, and new operating models created problems for pharmaceutical corporate leaders worldwide. Read on to find out how the pharmaceutical industry worth 1.27 trillion USD in 2020 adapted to the ‘new normal’ and accelerated the digital transformation of their O2C function across various shared services.

What were the challenges posed by the “new normal” for the O2C function?

There were many challenges for the pharma industry when they moved towards the new working style. The effects were on two major areas:

  • The working capabilities of remote teams
  • The operational capabilities of the GBS organization

As the whole world moved towards a work-from-home environment, digital capabilities, and infrastructure for the same needed to be in place. People needed to be coached to find the right work-life balance. Communication, collaboration, and connectivity between the teams also became a challenge.

The operational capabilities of the pharma GBS organization were already in the path of improvement, and the pandemic acted as a catalyst. Understanding which processes were adding value and removing the ones that didn’t was an essential step in moving forward with the operational challenges.

“I have seen three particular challenges, the first being business continuity management, the whole work from home integration with our BPO organization, and I suppose Business Continuity Planning for scenarios that we wouldn’t have thought before.”

Joe Craughan, Head, Global Process and Service owner, Novartis

Adopting more digital tools forced O2C teams to think from a consumers’ point of view. Thus, the entire GBS organization started to move towards creating a better customer experience.

What were the major concerns for Pharma O2C Digital Transformation?

“I think credit management is one roadblock that we started to look at the move from reactive to proactive credit management.”

Joe Craughan, Head, Global Process and Service owner, Novartis

The ‘new normal’ created immense pressure on pharma GBS organizations to future-proof their services.

Four Major concerns of Phrama order to cash leaders

The increased regulatory approach was one of the primary reasons for eliminating bad debt and trying to match the demand surge that happened during the pandemic. The leaders also focussed on which part of the operations to outsource and which ones to keep in-house as part of future-proofing.

When pharma O2C leaders approached digital transformation of the O2C function, the primary requirement was to automate the process using AI, extended reality, and quantum computing. The entire implementation had to be based on models designed for operational agility, cross-functional capabilities, and work from home for O2C teams without disruptions.

Read this blog to know how AI helps in the digital transformation of the GBS O2C function.

How did GBS approach process harmonization and agility?

“One of the real positive impacts of COVID-19 is the focus on increasing efficiency, through process harmonization.”

Moustapha Ould Ibn Moghdad, Market Focal Point Manager, BMS

The pandemic forced many GBS leaders to focus on efficiency. Efficiency can be achieved through process harmonization, which involves reducing variations and bringing a standardized approach to the process in all locations. So the pandemic really accelerated standardization and harmonization of processes across many shared service centers. They started to look out for technologies like RPA to improve process harmonization.

Digital transformation of GBS centers accelerates agility and it became the center focus for pharma GBS leaders. It eliminated high-intensity resource churning transactional processes by automating them and sped up the entire O2C cycle. Pharma O2C leaders invested in technologies like Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to enhance their A/R process’s customer-centricity.

What should be the focus for GBS leaders in 2022?

“What’s very important are two comments.. One is really to look from a customer-centric point of view, and the second, have an open discussion with your peers, with your colleagues, which kind of services you want to provide in the future out of GBS.”

Damian Von Wenczowsky, Global Transformation Leader, Bayer

GBS leaders have to be on the lookout for new technologies and new tools which will help them govern their processes better. There is no one size that fits all, so they cannot adopt the practices of another organization and force-fit them into theirs.  GBS leaders can focus on three major points to future proof their shared services.

  • Leadership – Have a strong leadership with clear objectives outlined
  • Governance – Set a robust governance structure and process design
  • Customer-Centricity – Align to more outcome-based objectives in sync with customers’ requirements


As the world still recovers from the effects of a global pandemic, the pharmaceutical industry has been at the forefront of the ‘charge to recovery’. The shared services leaders with the help of automation were able to deliver revenue growth, create a positive working capital impact in addition to cost savings.

Watch this session to learn more about how pharma O2C leaders witnessed the evolution of their function in the ‘new normal’.

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