Case Study

Digital transformation at Merck

8 pages
August 2020
Reference: IMD-7-1999

Big corporations have structured processes and frameworks for strategic projects review, and professionals are well trained and versed on developing detailed project plans. But, the execution discipline is frequently overlooked or completely neglected, which results in staggering project failures, even when they are strategic to the business in a fast-changing environment, and even when it has the appropriate sponsorship from the senior management. This case study is based on the events and outcomes of one such project, MyCHC, driven by Merck in China. It demonstrates the benefits of a structured framework to secure a successful strategic project execution. MyCHC was a key strategic digital transformation project to develop a digital platform to support physicians and patients make informed decisions for diagnosis and treatment of diseases and to diminish the transactional friction to set appointments and follow-up. Although the project was solving both patients and physicians’ problems and had strong support from the senior management it ended up discontinued and was eventually merged into another project. The framework for smart execution from Gilbert et al. 2008 was utilized to analyse the case to better understand what went wrong during the execution of the project that was set for success with the appropriate focus, scope and sponsorship. An application of the framework highlights the need to secure the best team, a better rehearsal of the execution to identify risks and potential roadblocks, more investment to inspire and engage the team members and key stakeholders, and to follow through and keep the team energized, which were the missing elements that led the project to be folded eventually. The case demonstrates not only the importance of a structured approach to secure the success of a strategic project in a complex internal and external environment, but also the challenges to bring about a key digital transformation in an industry incumbent.

Learning Objective
  • Digital is a buzz word. What factors do you need to keep in mind when you embark on a digital transformation journey?
  • Strategy is important, but what about execution?
  • What are the execution steps you need to plan before embarking on any key change initiative?
  • The China healthcare industry is prime for disruption. But, is China the best market to enter? And is Merck addressing the market’s needs? We believe they are, but they are not alone. Will Merck be able to win? Alone or in partnership?
Digital Transformation, Project Planning, Execution, Framework, Life Science
Merck KGaA, Healthcare, Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals
Field Research
© 2020
Available Languages
Related material
Teaching note
Case clearing houses
IMD case studies are distributed through case clearing houses. In order to browse the collection and purchase copies please visit the links below.

The Case Centre

Cranfield University

Wharley End Beds MK43 0JR, UK
Tel +44 (0)1234 750903
Email [email protected]

Harvard Business School Publishing

60 Harvard Way, Boston MA 02163, USA
Tel (800) 545-7685 Tel (617)-783-7600
Fax (617) 783-7666
Email [email protected]

Asia Pacific Case Center

NUCB Business School

1-3-1 Nishiki Naka
Nagoya Aichi, Japan 460-0003
Tel +81 52 20 38 111
Email [email protected]


Research Information & Knowledge Hub for additional information on IMD publications

Discover our latest research
IMD's faculty and research teams publish articles, case studies, books and reports on a wide range of topics