How Daiichi Sankyo
Built a Customer-Centric, Omnichannel Commercial Approach with Agile

A success story by their Agile CoP


Nikolaus Mersits, Agile Coach, Daiichi Sankyo Europe

Reynoud Foppen, Agile Coach, Daiichi Sankyo Germany

Pedro Arce de la Fuente, Agile Coach, Daiichi Sankyo Spain

Daiichi Sankyo is a global pharmaceutical company and the second-largest pharmaceutical company in Japan. Our mission is to create innovative pharmaceuticals addressing a wide spectrum of diverse medical needs. 

We saw our core company values of innovation, integrity, and accountability reflected in the pillars of a customer-centric, Agile methodology and decided to bring greater agility into the way we understand our customers' needs, engage with them and position our products.

In the pharmaceutical industry, there’s a huge need to become more customer-centric as customer demands and the healthcare system are constantly changing, requiring ever-new ways of interaction that are meaningful to customers. The pandemic has only accelerated the big shift from only focusing on personal visits to doctors to employing a more omnichannel approach for a seamless customer interaction.

Why the Pharmaceutical Industry Needs to Become More Customer-Centric

In 2021, the largest affiliate of Daiichi Sankyo Europe, Germany, marketing and commercial operations showed a clear desire to tackle these challenges by using Agile to improve their collaboration, prioritization and collection of feedback from the field force. That’s when they sought out training and coaching support from AgileSherpas to guide them through the implementation of this new way of working.

Word traveled fast and accelerated by Daiichi Sankyo’s Customer Experience (CX) Evolution, an increasing number of employees were interested in developing their Agile skills.

From 2021 to 2023, AgileSherpas trained 250 employees all over Europe across several departments (commercial, medical, market access, etc.), and IT functions in Agile ways of working. 

“The AgileSherpas training works because it combines practical examples with the right content, and the right presentation stance for our organization.”

Reynoud Foppen

Agile Coach, Daiichi Sankyo Germany

This scaled training approach resulted in excellent consistency between what teams and leaders were learning about Agile and how they talked about it to each other afterwards. 

The Agile Mindset 

Through exposure to the Agile mindset in a training environment as well as during several events, our company culture has begun doubling down on self-awareness. We’re already seeing a shift to servant leadership throughout all levels and hierarchies. Teams are also more self-organized, empowered as well are encouraged to make their own decisions. Therefore accountability has become a more important part of our culture at every level – from customer-facing roles all the way to leadership. 

As a result of a growing Agile mindset, the feedback loop between the various levels of our organizational hierarchy is tightening and team members from the Specialty Business Division (SBD) are being equipped with new skills and tools to work together more effectively. As a result, we receive enquiries from all areas of the company (Corporate Division, Oncology, etc.), and colleagues from all over Europe come to us asking for support.

Orchestrating Frameworks & Tools Across Europe 

The training from AgileSherpas has catalyzed changes in the way many of our teams operate. 

The Customer Experience Strategy Team has shifted their planning cadence from annual to quarterly in order to be able to catch up with changes in the market and customer needs. Agile ways of working are considered to help implement this new operating model.

From Annual to Quarterly Budgeting

Brand teams for our cardiovascular products now also work in more consistent cross-functional teams, instead of temporary project teams. 

Execution teams, such as content creation, are working even more closely with sales to test new on-the-ground messaging with health care practitioners (HCPs) in a rapid, low-risk way. 

Beyond the teams at our European HQ in Munich, many others across the entire continent began their journeys with Agile around the same time. This led to several key challenges, such as:

  • The imbalance that comes with having varying levels of Agile maturity when there are trained and untrained colleagues in one team as well as new hires coming in 
  • Implementing stable governance around Agile as a new way of working to ensure people feel safe to experiment with Agile practices
  • Coordinating across teams and sharing learnings in the name of continuous improvement

Throughout 2022 and 2023, practicing Agile teams, from strategy to execution, turned to AgileSherpas and internal Agile Coaches alike for support as they began to apply their learnings and work towards resolving some of the challenges associated with applying Agile on such a large scale

“In addition to training, AgileSherpas has also supported teams to make the first steps with Agile ways of working on the day-to-day. With formal training, the first 10%, we build a solid base. Then it is a matter of social learning, the next 20%, to accompany all colleagues to make them fit for the remaining experiential 70%. Together with the AgileSherpas, we work shoulder to shoulder to keep the ball rolling by helping teams to navigate through that journey.”

Nikolaus Mersits

Agile Coach, Daiichi Sankyo Europe

Within this time frame, a team of senior coaches led by AgileSherpas EMEA Training and Delivery Lead, Monica Georgieff, supported eight different teams in their practical implementation of Agile with open coaching as well as more structured, tailored programs for kicking off new Agile teams, like the 90-Day Jumpstart program.

Campaign Scrum & Brand Kanban Teams 

Implementing Agile, from team structures to frameworks, across Daiichi Sankyo affiliates looks different. However, a common Agile mindset and deep understanding of the two leading Agile frameworks, Kanban and Scrum, provided a strong foundation for everyone to make decisions on how Agile will manifest in their specific circumstances.

For example, in Germany, we were initially working from a blueprint provided by one large strategy consulting firm. We began to bring in some elements of SaFe and after some meetings with the leadership team, we got back to more of a LeSS framework

We currently have Agile campaign teams, all named after German scientists, that work mostly in Scrum, where one Agile coach supports all teams. Soon, we will also have officially kicked off brand-oriented teams that act as our product teams. They will be working more in a continuous flow method, like Kanban.

We anticipate that as the Agile campaign teams pick up speed and increase their velocity,  the brand-oriented teams will also need to adapt to that new pace of delivery. 

With support from AgileSherpas coaches, we’ve run Big Room Planning sessions across campaign teams before, but we eventually also want to coordinate a formal program increment planning between the campaign and brand teams. 

In Spain, Agile practices are currently being used on the campaign level as well. Adaptive campaign execution is helping break down silos and reduce review cycles because teams collaborate closely and respond to customer feedback. This ensures campaigns stay relevant and impactful, improving customer engagement and brand perception. 

Related Reading: Your First Quarterly Big Room Planning

Most Popular Agile Practices

For our teams, the most compelling Agile practices raised in the AgileSherpas training were:

  • Kanban boards for workflow visualization
  • Work in Progress limits to prevent context-switching
  • The power of operating in a stable, cross-functional team
  • Techniques for prioritization (ex. Impact vs Effort, Eisenhower, MoSCoW etc.)

Related reading: The Many Powers of WIP Limits for Agile Marketing

Tools for Measurement

We know we want to measure outcome metrics, not output metrics. But we’re not there quite yet. We are launching an Agile Toolset, Jira and Confluence will be part of it, to introduce process metrics like lead time on the team level and how the achievement of our objectives and key results is affecting our bottom line. 

In the meantime, we’ve been using the Team Radars tool in TeamRetro to capture more quantitative data over time about team happiness, resistance, and efficiency. This helps us capture insights about how teams are feeling as they go through these changes.

Scaling Shared Understanding in Record Time

To level up the understanding of Agile values, principles, and practices, we needed a partner to rally support for agility and relay a consistent story in a credible way.

“In sports, amateurs do everything on their own (often due to lack of awareness and resources). People who are or want to become professionals though create the right environment that supports their growth and development. Having the right professionals to support us in our growth – our team at AgileSherpas – was and remains a game changer for our organization.”

Nikolaus Mersits

Agile Coach Daiichi Sankyo Europe

AgileSherpas coaches were invited to train cohorts in Agile Marketing Fundamentals, Business Agility and Agile Leadership, with an overall very positive reception. 

“The pragmatic approach and specific expertise in Agile marketing that AgileSherpas bring to this partnership is crucial for our journey.”

Pedro Arce de la Fuente

Agile Coach Daiichi Sankyo Spain

Through these training sessions, AgileSherpas was able to build a strong and trusting relationship among the members of our company because they know their stuff and their approach makes them a reliable partner to our organization. The credibility they have built across Daiichi Sankyo Europe helped immensely in building a positive perception of Agile across the company.

“AgileSherpas helped us cut the time it took to scale Agile out to more parts of the marketing organization massively.”

Reynoud Foppen

Agile Coach Daiichi Sankyo Germany

Ensuring Sustainable Growth and Agile Longevity

The entry point for our CX Evolution and Agile ways of working is often accompanied by the "why" question. Therefore, we have created online modules to answer this question for all colleagues. AgileSherpas provided the content and 'narrative' for one of our seven CX Foundation Modules: “Introduction to Agile ways of working”. It equips experienced as well as new employees with a sufficiently broad understanding of our CX journey. The Agile module in particular is regularly cited as being one of the clearest and compelling of the CX foundation module series and also formed the basis of several training sessions across the organization. Thanks to the AgileSherpas core content and training know-how we have an excellent foundational resource which has been translated to all DS affiliate languages across Europe - thus providing one single source of truth about Agile ways of work.

In addition to the activities around the online modules and training, we also brought in AgileSherpas to facilitate the inauguration of our Agile Community of Practice at the beginning of 2023. The Agile CoP is an internal group with a common interest that continues to guide more and more teams in the continuous improvement of their day-to-day Agile practice.

Whenever we have had a question or felt like we needed a sounding board for a new idea, we always felt we could bring it to a peer at AgileSherpas. This makes our Agile Community feel like we have a very strong partner when it comes to Agile training and coaching.

“I strongly believe that with our commitment to agility and AgileSherpas’ support, we are well-positioned to thrive. Our leadership's engagement and support, coupled with the teams' openness to learn and apply agility, are key strengths that will contribute to sustainability and success at Daiichi Sankyo”

Pedro Arce de la Fuente

Agile Coach for Daiichi Sankyo Spain

If you’re on the fence about professional Agile training and coaching services, we suggest following our example. Don’t be afraid to knock on the virtual door of AgileSherpas and let them help your organization reach its goals through programs tailor-made for your specific needs.

Don't Climb Alone.
Bring a Sherpa.

Pitch the right guides to ensure your Agile marketing journey starts out right and ends at the peak, not at a dead end.

Contact Us