Decision Expertise in the Biopharmaceutical Industry (DEBI) - a Narrative Benchmarking Study

April 17, 2024

Speaker: Tyler Ludlow (Decision Skills Institute)


Decision Analysis / Decision Quality / Decision Science (DA/DQ/DS) has a long, rich history in the biopharmaceutical industry:

  • In the early to mid 90’s companies began applying it to project and portfolio strategies.
  • Several companies established internal decision expertise groups.
  • Some of those groups have lived on for 25+ years; 2 have received the SDP’s Raiffa-Howard Award.
  • Other groups have come and gone, and even re-started, over the past 30 years.
  • To date, over 20 companies in the industry have invested in creating an internal decision expertise group.

This session will present insights gained from a benchmarking survey of many of these internal groups. Standard benchmarking efforts typically define specific data points, then collect that data from participants, and finally analyze that data, seeking to generate insights. Narrative benchmarking is similar, but different. It focuses on collecting certain stories from each participating company, which can include predefined data points (such the year a decision expertise group started, or the headcount of a group), but also seeks to capture the overall narrative (such as what led to the group being started, or how the size of the group has changed over time and what influenced those fluctuations). These narratives are later structured, sometimes producing categorical data points, other times more general patterns. The end goal is the same though: actionable insights.

The survey focuses on 4 main topic areas which are described below using some of the questions posed to participants:

  1. Impetus - What led to DA/DQ/DS being applied and when? What and when was the initial project/work that involved this approach? What led to an internal group being formed and when?
  2. Scope - What was the original remit of the group? How has that changed over time? What are the main activities/deliverables in which the group is involved? In what way is the group involved in governance?
  3. Structure - What organizational function does the group report up through? How has that changed over time? In what way, if any, does that influence the scope of activities? What sort of budgetary arrangements provide the ongoing financial support for the group? What is the basic internal structure of the group related to the in-scope activities? What is the spread of HR constructs across the team (job titles, seniority, technical vs managerial leadership, etc)?
  4. Value - In what ways does the team measure or articulate their value to the broader organization? In what ways is that value communicated broadly across the organization? In what ways is it communicated specifically to leadership?

The session will share the collective answers to these questions based on interviews with industry leaders. Charts and diagrams will summarize quantitative data, while anecdotes and vignettes will characterize qualitative data.