Swissmedic 4.0 Embarking on the digital journey

With its digital initiative Swissmedic 4.0, Switzerland’s therapeutic products agency has created a framework for exploiting the constantly changing requirements of the digital age as opportunities – an experimentation space for change and innovation in the years to come. The digital transformers Alexander Horst and Dominic Michel tell all.

The background

At the end of 2019, the Management Board of Swissmedic came to the conclusion that the isolated and poorly coordinated efforts to cover all the aspects of digital transformation and exploit the resulting opportunities were falling short of the target. An integrated approach was needed – a project group evaluated various options and devised a proposal on how to proceed. An independent, agile organisational unit was formed. Alexander Horst and Dominic Michel are part of the five-strong team. Since the end of last year, the two Swissmedic employees have been driving the digital initiative forward. "There is no specific phased plan. We adopt an iterative strategy and proceed according to the trial-and-error principle ", observes Alexander Horst. And Dominic Michel adds: "This rolling planning requires great flexibility – which is both exciting and challenging."

“We proceed according to the trial-and-error principle”

Alexander Horst
Initial phase

The digital initiative is still in its early stages. A key focus of this phase is on the integration of employees in the processes. "We try to keep people informed about our work at regular intervals and through various channels – for example by allowing the staff to take part in the transformation process", explains Alexander Horst. "Change processes always trigger anxiety and resistance. But I am confident that we can enthuse people with an open and communicative approach towards the chances and opportunities offered by the digital initiative", adds Dominic Michel. In times of corona, personal interaction loses out. Planned workshops, specialist presentations and lectures have had to be postponed or cancelled. "But for us this has been an opportunity to raise the awareness of staff about new opportunities for cooperation and communication," notes Alexander Horst on looking back.

Alexander Horst and Dominic Michel
Alexander Horst and Dominic Michel
City of Bern at night
Timetable and action

The Management Board provided the Transformation Team with a budget for the next five years. The digital transformation is to be driven forward over this period. In addition to the independently acting team, ambassadors have been appointed (for each division) in order to identify cross-divisional synergies and discover potential opportunities for digitalisation. The digital initiative focuses on three areas for action: Employees, Organisation and Technology. In the "Employees" action area the focus will be on personal opportunities and challenges of digitalisation, while processes and structures will be reviewed in the "Organisation" action area, and the "Technology" action area is devoted to experimentation with innovative approaches, for example involving machine learning or big data.


The independent Transformation Team will identify, analyse and process specific issues. They will then aim to implement problem-solving approaches and feed the resulting findings back into the organisation. Swissmedic 4.0 operates in an agile and iterative way with the aim of producing presentable prototypes as swiftly as possible. This approach makes it possible to learn quickly from mistakes and continuously question the findings. Finally, working in close cooperation with the individual divisions and IT, the team will decide what findings and results can be transferred to the organisation.