Life sciences organizations, and pharmaceutical companies in particular, are facing significant changes in the business and technology environments that are redefining what success will look like in the 21st century. On the business side, organizational structures are adapting to the shifting power balance across providers, payers and consumers, prompting sales roles to evolve. The underlying sales operations function is changing, too, supporting these new engagement models with comprehensive information and seeking the benefits of global support programs.

Change also is coming from the technology side. Data—both big and small—present opportunities for deeper insights and better decisions, but companies need scale and skills to mine them. Maturing mobile platforms make it easier for field personnel to plan, track and deliver service, but they also pressure organizations to design innovative, new applications and tools to ensure that relevant and actionable information is accessible. Cloud computing supports many of these new systems by reducing costs while increasing speed, but it also compels companies to rethink processes and business models.

What’s more, these forces generate crosscurrents. The arrival of cloud computing, for example, makes global sales operations much more feasible. When operations are globalized, organizations can realize operating savings that can be plowed back into technology development or sales innovations.

These fast-moving business and technology forces carry implications that leaders must start thinking about and addressing today. The coming years will bring difficult challenges, but they’ll also usher in powerful opportunities to deliver more value and impact. How sales organizations respond will determine whether they are leaders or laggards as we move into the next decade.

In this article, we expand on six major forces impacting life sciences sales planning. These shifts have been validated in conversations with our clients, industry observers and our own experts.