Pharma and the tech giants

Big Pharma and Big Tech – Challenges and Opportunities Part 2

30 October 2019
| |
Reading time: 3 minutes

The healthcare industry faces an increasingly competitive situation, especially between Big Pharma and Big Tech. We have just argued, that both sides would benefit from a more collaborative approach. Now, we will show what such a collaboration could look like.

What are the challenges of a collaboration?

For many years, Zühlke has put into practice projects in multi-disciplinary setups. Our customers normally have a background either in Big Pharma or Big Tech and our mission often includes compensating for missing skills and experience. We have learned that the collaboration between experts from both sides is not without obstacles – especially as problem-solving strategies are fundamentally different with regard to Big Pharma and Big Tech respectively.

These differences are not unfounded, though. If the next step in your project includes conducting a multi-million-dollar clinical trial, you need to rely on the most stable product possible and to think about every possible risk before you spend the money. On the other hand, Big Tech is predominantly based on developing software which is not bound to physical limits. Therefore, iterative development methods have evolved that allow a quick feedback cycle.

If we look at how experts from both sides would build a house, the differences in problem-solving strategies becomes even more obvious.

Big Pharma starts with the basement and then builds walls to get a stable and reliable skeleton. From there, the details which are needed but not affecting stability – like windows and doors – would be added. Big Tech on the other hand is not bound to physics and starts with a window because the view is a high-priority asset. After they have checked if the window provides a scenic lake-view, they proceed to build the walls around that main feature (see also the blog from Thomas Rahn).

These different ways of thinking are rooted so deeply in our brains that it is very difficult to understand how the other side works. But how to solve this issue?

Three simple rules for multi-disciplinary projects

1. Use every possibility to explain your world. Get as visual as possible.
During meetings, in the coffee corner or at the social event – show your colleagues how your world works, for instance with simple drawings on the wall or on a napkin.

2. Speak up if something will not work in your world.
Your teammates from the other world cannot know about the experiences you have made in your world. It is important to tell people why you think that something is a stupid idea.

3. Find a balance between “think before you act” and “build, measure, learn”.
Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages. If you are from Big Pharma, it might be worth rethinking your quality systems because maybe they can get a bit more flexible. If you are from Big Tech, then you should think about how to fulfil the regulatory requirements without losing your agility.


At Zühlke, we strongly believe that the tremendous complexity of state-of-the-art digital health solutions can only be tackled by combining the best ideas and skills from Big Pharma and Big Tech.
We are convinced that this collaboration will lead to revolutionary solutions that are beneficial for the health of all humans.

It is not about the competition between Big Pharma and Big Tech in a limited market – it is about jointly creating a new market that has more than enough potential for both sides.

Comments (0)


Sign up for our Updates

Sign up now for our updates.

This field is required
This field is required
This field is required

I'm interested in:

Select at least one category
You were signed up successfully.

Receive regular updates from our blog


Or would you like to discuss a potential project with us? Contact us »