Investing in Success


Dr. Troy Sarich of Janssen reveals the company's approach to tackling financial challenges as they pertain to tech

While firms have the best intentions to deploy emerging technologies into their workplaces to drive innovation, the probability of failure is high. With McKinsey’s 2020 research pointing to how CIOs reported that 10 to 20 percent of their technology budgets dedicated to new products is diverted to resolving issues related to tech debt; in this Harvard Business School Healthcare Alumni Association Q&A, Dr. Troy Sarich, shares his team’s strategies to overcome such odds.

Michael Wong: With your responsibility to lead Janssen’s global commercial capabilities across Data, Data Science, RWE, Precision Medicine, and Digital Health to grow the firm’s $50+ billion worldwide commercial pharmaceutical business, how does your team minimize this continued pain point that permeates across several Fortune 500s?

Dr. Sarich: Investment in any digital capability is a major strategic consideration and requires a relentless focus on the problem to solve—so that technology efforts are strategically aligned. For us, it’s a balanced commitment to grow capabilities that inform and accelerate innovative health solutions—across our entire company.

As Jennifer Taubert, J&J’s Executive Vice President who leads our global pharmaceutical business, shared at your alumni group’s 2018 annual conference,1 our pharma franchise is focused on building strong enabling functions to utilize analytics for decision making, using integrated data and digital tools. My team at Janssen is the tip of the arrow when it comes to analyzing potential new technologies that could be commercially deployed to drive business value.

We prioritize which business pain points should be solved. In other words, we take a problem-first—versus a technology- or tools-first—approach to ensure we’re laser focused on the areas where digital- and data science-driven solutions can have the biggest impact.

Troy Sarich

Troy Sarich

We also take a broad collaborative approach across the J&J company; we work with J&J’s Technology group, Janssen R&D, our Janssen regional businesses and beyond, to identify potential new data science and digital health solutions that support our $50B+ pharmaceutical business. We plan, in partnership with our regional business leaders, for 12 to 24 months of capability building so that we are well positioned for production level deployment and success.

We scan internal and external landscapes to make sure every investment is tracking on target to deliver outcomes and, ultimately, impact for patients.

During my consulting days with bio-pharma firms, digital transformation was a common theme across the C-suite agendas. Yet per my conversation with a leader of the MIT Center for Information Systems Research, she shared findings which revealed that some large companies are securing only 5% of their revenues from new digital value propositions.2 Based upon your team’s experience with supporting J&J’s pharma growth engine, what are the top recommendations for readers to consider as they strive to convert digital ideas into realized revenue?

We know that our success is dependent on bringing to market highly innovative pharmaceuticals that improve the lives of patients. We don’t view digital assets as a separate business—rather our approach to digital solution investments is an integrated one, linked directly to helping support and expand the impact of our pharmaceuticals. A key success criterion is to be able to scale such innovations across the marketplace where our pharmaceuticals exist.

Having a framework of key operating principles is essential so that your entire organization becomes familiar with the criteria that should be met prior to investing. Some key operating principles include thorough analysis of value creation and long-term ownership.

  • Value Creation: What value does the tool create—such as medical benefits for patients like earlier disease diagnosis or helping patients stay on their therapy longer? What value might be derived from healthcare data captured that can provide key patient insights at the same time it protects privacy? Is there a patient-facing tech solution that enables us to understand their behaviors and change our future go-to-market strategies/engagement plans?
  • Long-term Ownership: Who will own the longer-term technical support and quality assurance of the tool? What would be the ultimate value proposition for leaders to maintain a project’s long-term operational support? While failing fast might be a popular mantra in today’s agile world, to ensure long-term impact, it’s critical to focus on ring-fencing future funding to ensure the success of the winning ideas.




Dr. Troy Sarich is Chief Commercial Data Science Officer, The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. He received his PhD from the University of British Columbia and attended J&J’s Strategic Leadership Program at the Harvard Business School.

Michael Wong is an emeritus board member of the Harvard Business School Healthcare Alumni Association.

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