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Flevy Management Insights Case Study
Strategic Planning Initiative for Specialty Pharma Company in Oncology


Fortune 500 companies typically bring on global consulting firms, like McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, and Accenture, or boutique consulting firms specializing in Strategic Planning to thoroughly analyze their unique business challenges and competitive situations. These firms provide strategic recommendations based on consulting frameworks, subject matter expertise, benchmark data, KPIs, best practices, and other tools developed from past client work. We followed this management consulting approach for this case study.

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Consider this scenario: A specialty pharmaceutical company, focused on innovative oncology treatments, is currently facing significant strategic planning challenges amid a rapidly evolving healthcare landscape.

With a 20% decrease in its R&D productivity and a growing gap in its product pipeline due to stringent regulatory hurdles and increased competition, both internal and external pressures are mounting. Additionally, market access barriers and pricing pressures have reduced its revenue growth potential by 15% over the past two years. The primary strategic objective of the organization is to rejuvenate its R&D pipeline while optimizing market access strategies to secure and expand its presence in the global oncology market.



The specialty pharmaceutical company under discussion is at a critical juncture, experiencing a plateau in its growth trajectory primarily due to declining R&D productivity and an increasingly competitive oncology market. The underlying issues appear to stem from not only external market forces but also internal operational inefficiencies and a misalignment between the company’s strategic goals and its execution capabilities. To navigate through these challenges, a comprehensive re-evaluation of its strategic planning and execution framework is paramount.

External Assessment

The pharmaceutical industry, particularly the oncology sector, is characterized by high levels of innovation, stringent regulatory environments, and intense competition. In an industry where the development of a new drug can take over a decade and cost billions, the stakes are incredibly high.

Understanding the competitive dynamics involves examining:

  • Internal Rivalry: The oncology sector is highly competitive, with numerous companies vying for market share, from established pharmaceutical giants to biotech startups.
  • Supplier Power: Supplier power is relatively low due to the high number of suppliers providing raw materials and components for drug manufacturing.
  • Buyer Power: Buyer power is increasing, especially with the growing influence of healthcare payers and government bodies on drug pricing and reimbursement policies.
  • Threat of New Entrants: While high barriers to entry exist due to regulatory and capital requirements, the threat is ever-present from startups bringing disruptive innovations to the market.
  • Threat of Substitutes: The threat of substitutes is moderate but growing, with advancements in personalized medicine and alternative therapies.

Emerging trends in the industry include the rise of personalized medicine, digital health technologies, and a shift towards value-based healthcare. These trends present both opportunities and risks:

  • Increased focus on personalized medicine opens up new R&D avenues but requires substantial investment in genetic and biomarker research.
  • Digital health technologies offer the potential to improve drug adherence and patient monitoring, yet integrating these technologies poses significant regulatory and logistic challenges.
  • The shift towards value-based healthcare emphasizes the need for demonstrable drug efficacy and cost-effectiveness, pressuring pricing strategies.

The STEEPLE analysis highlights significant factors impacting the industry, including technological advancements, regulatory changes, economic pressures from healthcare systems, and ethical considerations around drug pricing and access.

Learn more about STEEPLE External Assessment

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Internal Assessment

The company's internal capabilities reflect a strong heritage in oncology and a deep understanding of the therapeutic area, yet it struggles with operational inefficiencies and pipeline innovation. Its ability to adapt to the rapidly changing pharmaceutical landscape is crucial for future success.

A MOST Analysis reveals misalignments between the company’s mission and its operational strategies, particularly in R&D prioritization and market access approaches. Strategic objectives need better alignment with tactical plans to ensure cohesive efforts across the organization.

The RBV Analysis underscores the company's strong relationships with key stakeholders in the oncology community as a valuable resource. However, it also highlights a need for enhanced capabilities in leveraging digital technologies for R&D and patient engagement.

A Distinctive Capabilities Analysis points towards the company's robust regulatory affairs expertise as a distinctive capability. Nevertheless, improving operational efficiency and innovation processes is critical to maintaining competitive advantage.

Learn more about Competitive Advantage Distinctive Capabilities Distinctive Capability

Strategic Initiatives

  • Revitalize R&D Pipeline: This initiative aims to infuse new life into the company’s R&D efforts by focusing on personalized medicine and leveraging digital technologies for drug discovery. The intended impact is to accelerate the development of innovative oncology treatments, with the expectation of increased pipeline productivity and reduced time-to-market. Required resources include investments in genetic research, partnerships with biotech firms, and advanced analytics capabilities.
  • Optimize Market Access Strategy: By adopting a more nuanced approach to pricing and reimbursement strategies, the company seeks to enhance its positioning in key markets. The value creation lies in improving relationships with payers and regulators to ensure broader access to its treatments, which should translate to increased revenue and market share. This requires expertise in health economics, policy advocacy, and stakeholder management.
  • Strategic Planning Process Enhancement: Strengthening the strategic planning process to ensure alignment between long-term goals and operational execution. This initiative is expected to improve organizational agility and strategic responsiveness, creating value through more efficient resource allocation and faster decision-making. Key resources needed include strategic planning tools, cross-functional teams, and change management programs.

Learn more about Change Management Strategic Planning Stakeholder Management

Strategic Planning Implementation KPIs

KPIS are crucial throughout the implementation process. They provide quantifiable checkpoints to validate the alignment of operational activities with our strategic goals, ensuring that execution is not just activity-driven, but results-oriented. Further, these KPIs act as early indicators of progress or deviation, enabling agile decision-making and course correction if needed.


What you measure is what you get. Senior executives understand that their organization's measurement system strongly affects the behavior of managers and employees.
     – Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton (creators of the Balanced Scorecard)

  • R&D Pipeline Productivity: Measures the number of successful drug developments versus total R&D projects to evaluate the effectiveness of the revitalized R&D strategy.
  • Market Access Success Rate: Tracks the rate of successful negotiations with payers and regulators, indicating the effectiveness of the optimized market access strategy.
  • Strategic Alignment Score: Assesses the degree of alignment between strategic objectives and operational execution, highlighting areas of improvement in the strategic planning process.

These KPIs offer insights into the effectiveness of the strategic initiatives, enabling the company to adjust its strategies based on empirical data. Monitoring these metrics closely will facilitate a dynamic approach to strategic management, ensuring the company remains agile and responsive to industry changes.

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Strategic Planning Best Practices

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Strategic Planning Deliverables

These are a selection of deliverables across all the strategic initiatives.

  • Revitalized R&D Strategy Framework (PPT)
  • Market Access Optimization Plan (PPT)
  • Strategic Planning Process Enhancement Roadmap (PPT)
  • Strategic Initiative Implementation Toolkit (Excel)

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Revitalize R&D Pipeline

The initiative to revitalize the R&D pipeline was underpinned by the application of the Core Competence Framework and the Scenario Planning approach. The Core Competence Framework, originally articulated by C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel, was instrumental in identifying the organization's unique strengths and capabilities that could be leveraged to accelerate innovation in oncology drug development. This framework proved invaluable for focusing the company's efforts on areas where it could truly differentiate itself in the market.

The organization implemented the Core Competence Framework through the following steps:

  • Conducted a comprehensive audit of existing R&D capabilities, including technology platforms, scientific knowledge, and development processes.
  • Identified core competencies that aligned with emerging trends in oncology, such as personalized medicine and biomarker-driven drug development.
  • Aligned R&D investments and projects with identified core competencies to ensure resources were focused on areas of strategic importance and competitive advantage.

Scenario Planning was also employed to anticipate future trends in oncology and the broader pharmaceutical landscape. This approach allowed the company to explore various future scenarios and their implications for drug development, ensuring that the R&D pipeline remained relevant and responsive to potential changes in the environment.

The organization implemented Scenario Planning with the following steps:

  • Developed multiple scenarios based on potential advancements in oncology research, regulatory changes, and shifts in healthcare delivery models.
  • Evaluated the impact of each scenario on the R&D pipeline and identified strategic options for each.
  • Integrated scenario planning outcomes into R&D strategy, prioritizing projects and investments that were robust across multiple scenarios.

The combined application of the Core Competence Framework and Scenario Planning led to a more focused and agile R&D strategy. The company successfully identified and invested in core areas of expertise that were aligned with future market needs, while also preparing for a range of potential future scenarios. This strategic initiative resulted in a revitalized R&D pipeline, marked by an increase in innovative oncology treatments entering clinical development and a more robust response to emerging trends and challenges in the pharmaceutical industry.

Learn more about Core Competencies Scenario Planning Agile

Optimize Market Access Strategy

To optimize the market access strategy, the Value Chain Analysis and the PEST Analysis frameworks were applied. Value Chain Analysis, a concept introduced by Michael Porter, helped the organization understand its activities from drug development to market delivery and identify areas where value could be added or costs reduced. This analysis was particularly useful for identifying opportunities to streamline operations and enhance the value proposition of the company's oncology treatments to payers and regulators.

The organization implemented Value Chain Analysis through the following steps:

  • Mapped out the entire value chain from drug discovery through to patient delivery, identifying key activities and processes.
  • Analyzed each activity for cost drivers and potential for differentiation, focusing on regulatory approval processes and market access strategies.
  • Implemented strategic changes to optimize these key activities, such as enhancing data collection for health outcomes and streamlining the regulatory submission process.

PEST Analysis was utilized to assess the macro-environmental factors affecting market access, including political, economic, social, and technological trends. This framework enabled the company to tailor its market access strategies to different geographies, considering the specific external factors at play in each market.

The organization implemented PEST Analysis with the following steps:

  • Conducted a comprehensive analysis of the political, economic, social, and technological factors in each target market.
  • Identified risks and opportunities presented by these factors for the company's market access strategies.
  • Adjusted market access plans to address identified external factors, ensuring strategies were resilient and adaptable to changing environments.

The strategic application of Value Chain Analysis and PEST Analysis significantly enhanced the company's market access strategy. By optimizing internal processes and tailoring strategies to the external environment, the company improved its ability to navigate regulatory hurdles and market access barriers. This led to a more effective positioning of its oncology treatments in target markets, resulting in improved access for patients and increased market share for the company.

Learn more about Value Proposition Value Chain Analysis Value Chain

Strategic Planning Process Enhancement

The Strategic Planning Process Enhancement initiative capitalized on the Gap Analysis and the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework. Gap Analysis was crucial in identifying discrepancies between the current state of strategic planning and the desired state, facilitating a targeted approach to enhancing the process. This framework allowed the company to pinpoint specific areas within its strategic planning process that required improvement to better align with its long-term goals.

The organization implemented Gap Analysis through the following steps:

  • Defined the organization's strategic objectives and the current state of its strategic planning process.
  • Identified gaps in alignment, resources, capabilities, and execution that were hindering the achievement of strategic objectives.
  • Developed action plans to address identified gaps, focusing on enhancing cross-functional collaboration and strategic agility.

The OKR framework was employed to set clear, measurable goals that would guide the enhancement of the strategic planning process. By aligning objectives across the organization and focusing on measurable outcomes, the OKR framework helped ensure that all teams were working cohesively towards the same strategic goals.

The organization implemented the OKR framework with the following steps:

  • Established clear, ambitious objectives for enhancing the strategic planning process, with measurable key results for each objective.
  • Communicated objectives and key results across the organization to ensure alignment and focus.
  • Monitored progress against key results on a regular basis, adjusting strategies as needed to ensure objectives were met.

The successful implementation of Gap Analysis and the OKR framework led to significant improvements in the strategic planning process. The company achieved greater alignment between its strategic objectives and operational execution, resulting in enhanced strategic agility and responsiveness to market changes. This initiative not only streamlined the planning process but also fostered a culture of continuous improvement and strategic focus throughout the organization.

Learn more about Continuous Improvement Objectives and Key Results

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Key Findings and Results

Here is a summary of the key results of this case study:

  • Accelerated development of innovative oncology treatments by focusing on personalized medicine, resulting in a 25% increase in R&D pipeline productivity.
  • Improved market access and increased market share through optimized pricing and reimbursement strategies, leading to a 15% revenue growth in key markets.
  • Enhanced strategic agility and responsiveness, achieving a 30% improvement in the Strategic Alignment Score.
  • Streamlined regulatory submission process, reducing time-to-market for new drugs by 20%.
  • Identified and invested in core areas of expertise aligned with future market needs, preparing for a range of potential future scenarios.
  • Implemented strategic changes to optimize key activities in the value chain, enhancing the value proposition of oncology treatments.

The strategic initiatives undertaken by the specialty pharmaceutical company have yielded significant results, marking a successful turnaround in several key areas. The 25% increase in R&D pipeline productivity and the 15% revenue growth in key markets are particularly noteworthy, demonstrating the effectiveness of focusing on personalized medicine and optimizing market access strategies. The improvement in the Strategic Alignment Score by 30% indicates a successful enhancement of the strategic planning process, leading to better alignment between strategic objectives and operational execution. However, while these results are commendable, the journey is not without its shortcomings. The anticipated impact on reducing operational inefficiencies was not as pronounced as expected, suggesting that further efforts are needed to streamline operations and leverage digital technologies more effectively. Additionally, while the company prepared for a range of potential future scenarios, the rapidly evolving healthcare landscape necessitates continuous adaptation and flexibility.

Based on the analysis, it is recommended that the company continues to invest in personalized medicine and digital health technologies, focusing on areas where it can leverage its core competencies for competitive advantage. To address operational inefficiencies, a deeper dive into process optimization and the adoption of lean methodologies may yield further improvements. Additionally, fostering a culture of innovation and agility will be crucial for sustaining growth and responsiveness to market changes. Finally, continuous monitoring of the external environment and adapting strategies accordingly will ensure that the company remains well-positioned to navigate the challenges and opportunities of the oncology market.

Source: Strategic Planning Initiative for Specialty Pharma Company in Oncology, Flevy Management Insights, 2024

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