By Life Sciences LCI Core Team members Claudia Campbell-Matland,
Dave Dalessandro and Haresh Keshwani
In June 2019, PMINJ placed its focus on
members who work in the life sciences industry – pharma,
biotech, devices and healthcare. Our ensuing Life Sciences LCI
hosted its first stand-alone event on December 3, 2019:
“Beyond Pills and Devices: Driving Healthcare Innovation by
Embracing Project Management.” Our evening quickly sold
out due to our world-renowned project management guest speaker
- John McGrath - from the Technological University Dublin,
Ireland. In his consulting work as a global Project
Management Advisor, John has helped over 250 companies,
government and other international enterprises improve their
strategic and project management processes. During his
engagement, John seamlessly wove together trends and
challenges with humor and insight as to how life science
project managers can ready ourselves to lead in and be
strategic contributors to the impending digital transformation
Grabbing attention with, “People are living longer than ever
before thanks to advances in healthcare, but organizations are
dying faster than ever,” John drove home for all that
healthcare organizations and its project managers need to
embrace the reality that healthcare will change - more in the
next 10 years than it has in the last 20 – with this to be
driven in large part through digital technologies.
Some information John cites:
- Healthcare companies fail to fully integrate digital.
- 70% of digital healthcare projects fail to deliver
their expected value.
- 95% of collected data is not used in meaningful ways.
- Digital megatrends such as Big Data, AI (artificial
intelligence), IOT (internet of things) are shaping
healthcare and our broader society.
- Big Data will transition to “Fast Data” to be better
utilized in healthcare.
- wearables will transition to clothing with embedded
sensors analyzing real-time biometrics.
- digital will not supplant clinicians, but instead
provide information that enhances their expertise and
ability to care for patients.
He further convinced us to look at current events - AI is
being used to track and model patient data to support the
world’s response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak,
with Google and other digital giants participating. Those
tasked with managing response efforts at healthcare companies,
hospitals and beyond are leading their teams to integrate
outcomes from AI data analyses, and are likely using digital
tools to manage these rapidly-evolving projects to accurately
deliver mission-critical outcomes.
Why should project managers in life sciences care about all
this? It is because we will soon be expected to embrace
digital – with enough acumen to be able to manage its
integration in our project outcomes as well as apply it
through PM tools. John’s lesson learned - healthcare
organizations must seek agility to deliver before the
competition - the value differentiator is how the organization
delivers to its customers and market.
John further defines Project Management as the how:
- Anyone can start a project – project managers are
finishers ensuring the outcome delivers value.
- Project managers drive innovation – a strategic
exercise, too often considered “operational”.
- Healthcare organizations are looking for project
managers that can lead and drive change.
- Many organizations don’t understand project
management, but will perk up when they hear change
management. The two are symbiotic - they both
focus on people.
- To be project managers that drive change and strategy,
the traditional triple constraints of scope, cost and
time must transition to triple constraints 4.0 of
change, innovation and continuous improvement
(surrounding creative people and projects).
The rapidity of change puts new demands on life science
project managers – organizational needs may advance faster
than our skill sets. John challenged us to understand
how we need to evolve, using any and all opportunities to
educate ourselves on digital at a high level:
- Healthcare is moving from knowledge scarcity to
knowledge abundance, so the essence of project management
isn’t what you know but what you can do with what you
know. We need to be ready to solve the new, massive
- Doing Agile is a straightforward process to a
destination; Being Agile is the journey. We need to
develop a mindset of creative growth and continuous
- The most important skill in both healthcare and project
management is emotional intelligence (EQ) -
self-awareness, internal motivation, social skills,
self-regulation, empathy. Many think they have EQ
Using himself as an example, John demonstrated we may not have
it all (EQ), so we need to honestly evaluate what needs
improvement. The future will be collaborative
intelligence (AI with human).
What followed the presentation was a lively panel discussion
with John - including Life Science LCI members Dave
Dalessandro, Charles Rosen, Marion McGlynn and representatives
from our event sponsors - Peniel Ortega of PharmAllies,
Darragh Cunningham of Cora Systems, Michael Milutis of CAI and
Venkatesan Muthukrishnan of HCL – as they further discussed
the evening’s topics and how we can better ready ourselves for
the oncoming future.
John’s great surprise for the evening – copies of his PMO
Roadshow magazine – Ireland’s first project management print
and digital magazine – given out to all our attendees.
Audience member feedback for continued collaborations was
“excellent speaker and panel.
enjoyed entire evening w/sponsors. very well done and very
interesting for non-pharma PMs”
“Glad to get to know others in the life sciences”
“John McGrath was outstanding and the presentation was
In closing, some of our own perspectives:
“The overwhelming response
confirmed our belief that there is a real need for a
community of learning focused on life sciences in NJ. It
also marked the beginning of several relationships with
corporate sponsors which will allow the LCI to plan for
future events meeting the needs of the PMP community in
NJ.” Dave Dalessandro
“It really brought us together, helping professionals to
network, connect and share their experiences. We need such
events for us all to be relevant and successful in this
marketplace.” Haresh Keshwani
“This event showed our Chapter is on the cutting edge –
developing new collaborations to bring today’s emerging
life science trends to help us all get ready for
tomorrow”. Claudia Campbell
A recording of the event is available on the PMINJ website on
the Member Webinar page (login required). To join the Life
Sciences LCI email list and for information on upcoming
events, visit the Life Sciences
LCI web page