Agile Healthcare 4.0

To react to current challenges such as COVID-19 and be prepared for future disruptions, healthcare companies should act now and transform into agile organizations


Executive summary

An increasingly complex customer landscape and growing competition require healthcare companies to update their capabilities in line with their “way to play”. The COVID-19 pandemic further spurs these market challenges. Many healthcare companies have already started to apply agile principles to transform into the required nimble market participants and retain their “right to win”. However, many firms struggle to conduct a seamless and successful transformation into “Agile Healthcare Organization 4.0”.

In our research we identified the following six key success factors:

  • Ensure empowerment of teams and speed as the most important agile principles 
  • While agile opportunities exist along the entire value chain, focus on the most promising parts: new drug search, market access, and marketing and sales
  • Transform all four organizational building blocks for business agility at once
  • Decide on the right level of agile for the organization as a whole and for its units 
  • Apply a targeted piloting approach and establish ambassadors for rapid adoption of agile
  • Build bridges between agile and traditional parts of the company

Acting upon these key success factors, helps companies to effectually undergo a business agility transformation to combat the short-term challenges of COVID-19 and to develop required future healthcare sector capabilities.

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How healthcare companies are implementing agile

Once companies have identified their future business model – triggered by market changes and disruptions such as COVID-19 – and assessed where agile techniques will add the most value, how do they put these changes into action? Our survey respondents identified four key areas to address: culture, organization, ways of working and infrastructure:

Prioritizing agile principles in times of uncertainty

We believe that an agile transformation can help healthcare companies combat the near-term challenges of COVID-19, such as disrupted supply chains, as well as to adapt to the longer-term reality in which restricted direct access to healthcare providers and patients will require a new go-to-market model.

To achieve both these goals and build a strong company for the future, we advise healthcare companies to take the following five practical steps:



Select a “way to play”, based on the organization's strengths.


Develop differentiating capabilities in line with the chosen “way to play”.


Kickstart an agile transformation by selecting the most promising initiatives.


Include all parts of the value chain where agile principles have a strong chance of succeeding.


Build bridges between the agile and traditional parts of your organization.

By engaging with people at every stage of an agile transformation program, companies can reduce the problem of resistance to change. Crucially, management can also pinpoint key employees who, as standard bearers for transformation, can encourage less committed colleagues to embark on this five-step agile journey.

Nicola Werra, Jonas Grefe and Dr. Marcel Stagnier also contributed to this study.

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Pieter Lommelen

Pieter Lommelen

Director, Strategy& Switzerland