Roche’s road to digitalisation

PL Staff

Roche show how they used a ’hackathon’ event to create a roadmap that drove them closer to the business’s wider strategic goals.

Image: Grand Warszawski /

The pharmaceutical giant does everything according to one, powerful statement: “Doing now what patients need next”. Speed and efficiency are constantly at the forefront of their agenda.

Most recently, they’ve been concentrating on using new digital technologies to improve both. They had dabbled in digitalisation before but had never defined it, so the wider team weren’t clear on how to help the function get to where it wanted to be. It was like “trying to build the car before we had the road” says Patrick Foelck, Roche’s head of strategy & transformation. They needed a more focused approach – a detailed roadmap that would signpost critical areas and bring closer to their goals.

Getting the team on board

Recognising the best way to enthuse the team was to involve them from the start, they tried something different to get them interested: a live ‘hackathon’ event. This collaborative contest-like process gave the procurement team the opportunity to develop their ideas and then have them tested and debated by their peers, senior leaders and cross-functional stakeholders. Roche provided coaching and tools so that each idea had a good shot at being selected for investment.

Was it a success?

As with all great ideas, it’s not just about the destination; it’s about the journey, too. Roche moved forward with three of the ten projects presented at the hackathon. But a notable by-product is that, along the way, the team learnt a lot and gained a clearer understanding of the function’s direction in digitalisation. They found the collaborative process so useful that they’ve adapted to these new agile ways of working, driving the function further towards Roche’s guiding principles of speed and efficiency.

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