Ref: IMD-7-1999

Case study

Reference: IMD-7-1999

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Digital transformation at Merck

Stefan Michel

By Professor Stefan MichelStefan Michel, Paulo Sti Lin Liao, Anandram Narasimhan and Charlotte Van Hautekerke

Big corporations have structured processes and frameworks for strategic projects review, and professionals are well trained and versed on developing detailed project plans. But, the execution discipline is frequently overlooked or completely neglected, which results in staggering project failures, even when they are strategic to the business in a fast-changing environment, and even when it has the appropriate sponsorship from the senior management.

This case study is based on the events and outcomes of one such project, MyCHC, driven by Merck in China. It demonstrates the benefits of a structured framework to secure a successful strategic project execution. MyCHC was a key strategic digital transformation project to develop a digital platform to support physicians and patients make informed decisions for diagnosis and treatment of diseases and to diminish the transactional friction to set appointments and follow-up.

Although the project was solving both patients and physicians’ problems and had strong support from the senior management it ended up discontinued and was eventually merged into another project.

The framework for smart execution from Gilbert et al. 2008 was utilized to analyse the case to better understand what went wrong during the execution of the project that was set for success with the appropriate focus, scope and sponsorship. An application of the framework highlights the need to secure the best team, a better rehearsal of the execution to identify risks and potential roadblocks, more investment to inspire and engage the team members and key stakeholders, and to follow through and keep the team energized, which were the missing elements that led the project to be folded eventually.

The case demonstrates not only the importance of a structured approach to secure the success of a strategic project in a complex internal and external environment, but also the challenges to bring about a key digital transformation in an industry incumbent.

Learning Objective

Digital is a buzz word. What factors do you need to keep in mind when you embark on a digital transformation journey? Strategy is important, but what about execution? What are the execution steps you need to plan before embarking on any key change initiative? The China healthcare industry is prime for disruption. But, is China the best market to enter? And is Merck addressing the market's needs? We believe they are, but they are not alone. Will Merck be able to win? Alone or in partnership?

Keywords Digital Transformation, Execution, Framework, Life Science, Project Planning, Strategy
Settings China
Health Care
Type Field Research
Copyright ©IMD 2020
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Reference: IMD-7-1999

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Reference: IMD-7-1999

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