4 Minute Read

When it comes to effectively structuring a market and competitive intelligence (M/CI) team in the life sciences industry, there’s no universally-accepted approach. The structure of M/CI teams is subjective and defined by a wide range of different variables, from budget to corporate structure. 

We’ve worked with M/CI teams all across the life science industry, including the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device spaces, and we’ve seen varying configurations. Each one is effective in its own way, but there are certainly best practices used by the top companies in the industry.  

The overarching question that determines how an M/CI team is structured is whether the team should be centralized or decentralized. This distinction is significant in determining how an M/CI team works and the role it plays in the wider organization. 

Here, we’ll discuss what each approach means for life science companies, identify the pros and cons of each, and share what we consider to be best practices in the industry. 

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Ultimate Guide to Competitive Intelligence in Life Sciences

Read the Ultimate Guide to Competitive Intelligence in Life Sciences

A Centralized Approach to M/CI

Under a centralized approach, the M/CI team functions as a standalone unit within the wider business. While they may interface closely with different business units—particularly therapeutic groups and service providers—ultimately, the M/CI team will likely report directly to senior management

In a large life sciences company, a centralized M/CI team may consist of 15-20 people. Each individual is typically responsible for running M/CI for a particular therapeutic group, e.g. oncology drugs, infectious diseases, etc. The team will share resources and work together on larger projects, acting as a cohesive unit that is responsible for the M/CI strategy of the company as a whole

The Pros of a Centralized M/CI Structure

There are several pros to a centralized M/CI structure. They include:

  • Streamlined vendor management, resulting in increased efficiencies and economies of scale in external partnerships
  • Avoiding duplicitous software licensing and data sourcing agreements, and reducing costs in the process
  • Easy sharing of insights, analysis, and best practices among different therapeutic groups
  • Unified reporting to senior management and increased organizational visibility

The Cons of a Centralized M/CI Structure

A centralized M/CI structure also comes with a few cons, which include:

  • Therapeutic groups may feel further removed from the M/CI process
  • Without effective leadership, M/CI can become an insular group without high organizational visibility

Ultimately, both of these drawbacks can be solved by building strong relationships between the centralized M/CI team and each therapeutic group. 

In practice, this is commonly achieved by assigning one M/CI professional to each therapeutic group, and encouraging that person to develop close relationships within their group.


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A Decentralized Approach to M/CI 

When life science companies employ a decentralized approach, M/CI professionals are located in discrete therapeutic groups across the business. There may be one M/CI professional in oncology drugs, one in infectious diseases, and so on. 

Each M/CI professional will typically report to the leader of that business unit, and there is little synergy between M/CI professionals in different departments. 

This siloed approach to M/CI is now becoming outdated. We increasingly see clients shift their M/CI functions to a centralized approach.

The Advantages of a Decentralized M/CI Structure 

While less common, there are a few advantages to a decentralized M/CI structure:

  • Each M/CI professional is embedded within their therapeutic group and develops close relationships with key stakeholders
  • As a function of increased proximity, M/CI professionals have a greater ability to react to changing business needs and share M/CI updates with key stakeholders in each therapeutic group

The Disadvantages of a Decentralized M/CI Structure

There are also disadvantages to a decentralized M/CI structure:

  • Businesses often end up paying multiple times for the same data, software, or consulting services, rather than effectively sharing resources
  • There is little opportunity for learning and development for M/CI professionals, which can limit employee growth and damage morale 
  • Best M/CI practices are not widely shared between different therapeutic groups

We’ve worked with some of the top life science companies in the world, including leaders in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical devices space. It’s our view that a centralized M/CI team is much more likely to be successful. 

When a M/CI team is centralized, it’s significantly easier for them to share resources, leading to better working relationships, improved fiscal efficiency, and ultimately, superior performance. 

There are numerous examples of this at work; from sharing access to important data sources like Trialtrove, to creating more efficient consulting relationships with external vendors. By working together, M/CI teams benefit from a unified reporting structure, the ability to codify all knowledge in a central location, and higher visibility across the organization.

Decentralized teams, while perhaps closer to each therapeutic area, result in a lot of inefficiencies and duplication in key processes. In a centralized structure, creating open lines of communications and collaboration between an analyst and their assigned therapeutic area can easily overcome any concern with being too far removed.

It’s for these reasons that many of the life sciences companies we work with are pivoting away from a decentralized approach and are embracing a centralized M/CI structure in their organizations.


The Ultimate Guide to Competitive Intelligence
in Life Sciences

Whether you’re just starting out in CI, or have years of experience, this guide will be a useful manual for your CI needs. 

Read the Guide


Managing a Centralized M/CI Team

By centralizing all their M/CI personnel into one organizational unit, life sciences companies can optimize efficiency. But their people aren’t the only asset they should centralize; they should also focus on centralizing their M/CI technology stack.

One way to do so is Knowledge360Ⓡ

M/CI professionals are looking at data from all kinds of sources: scientific journals, conferences, regulators, third party data collection companies, news sites, and much, much more. With all this data, it can be easy to overlook critical intelligence

Knowledge360 consolidates all this data into a central hub, uses AI tools to produce actionable insights, and enables teams to visualize data and conduct analysis.

Without a centralized system, data collection and parsing is a major time suck for M/CI teams. Knowledge360 exists as the centralized hub that frees your M/CI team up to spend more time analyzing data and producing insightful competitive intelligence. 

To learn more about Knowledge360, schedule a free demo

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