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Yes, we’re in the midst of the digital revolution. If you know me, you know I’m totally into it (and have been for a long time).

We made a slow but steady move toward taking our training and marketing and communications, and migrating them to digital formats and platforms. Learning Management Systems. Content Management platforms. iPads. YouTube. Closed-loop Marketing programs. On and on.

That’s not what’s primary, however. It’s inevitable that we evolve into using these new tools. But digital conversion is not enough.

The conversation should not primarily be about digital. When delivering information to any audience, these three things should be at the forefront, driving every format and delivery decision:

  • Clarity
  • Relevance
  • Timeliness

Whether it’s 1954 or 2014; whether it’s print or .pdf or television or Twitter; whether it’s sales or marketing or training; these three issues are our primary concerns.

> Is it clear? Whatever you’re trying to convey has to be understood by your audience, not just put in front of their eyeballs. Even the Golden Gate Bridge cannot be appreciated when it is buried in fog.

> Is it relevant? The most wonderfully formatted and expressed information will not move any needle strategically, if it is delivered to an audience that doesn’t see a WIIFM.

> Is it timely? Communications of any sort have to reach people at the point of felt need. Digital may – or may not – be an important part of the timeliness equation.

We (and our vendors) often think about tactics and programs in terms of deliverables; e.g., this is going to be blended learning module on A&P and disease state which will be compatible with iPad delivery. That’s fine, but it’s a layer below the top-tier concerns. How will the information design be incorporated to achieve maximum clarity? How can the most prominence be given to the most relevant information? How can ensure that our audience can access what they most need when they most need it?

Utility is primary

Format isn’t the focus. Utility is primary. If it’s not clear, relevant, and timely, it’s not useful.

(AP)ril 1

NYC – Pfizer Pharmaceuticals announced today its boldest corporate move yet – the establishment of a top-tier group dedicated solely to re-organizing the company on a perpetual basis.

Citing a long-standing relationship with Price Waterhouse Coopers over the years during countless prior re-organizations, Pfizer CEO Ian Reed announced the acquisition by stating, “We’ve paid them a fortune over the years anyway – why not just bring them in-house?”

ID-100246624Pfizer, which last re-organized in Q1 2014, also engaged PWC to consult on corporate shuffling in 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 (twice), 2008, 2007, 2006, and countless years before that. “Spin-offs, M&A, downsizing, new corporate jargon initiatives – we can no longer see these things as periodic in the new economy. Change is constant, and…..sorry, what’s that??? I no longer have a VP of R&D?? Ah, well, our newest division is already hard at work!”

PWC also actively helped 26 other pharmaceutical and biotech companies re-organize at least annually during the same time period. These companies will now have to figure it out on their own; or, worse yet, keep their current structure in place for a year or even more.

“We may have to deal with productive employees again, at least until we can find another re-org consultancy,” stated one unnamed president of a mid-tier pharmaceutical company. “I think our people will miss the endless turmoil and doubt of the monthly re-org meetings.”

“Like all of our peers, we’re really in two businesses,” declared Reed at the press conference to announce the acquisition. “Making drugs, and re-organizing. It just makes sense to have a permanent Division of Re-organization dedicated to the effort of optimizing our commercial human/technical footprint vis-a-vis current market opportunities.”

Asked how the new division would be organized, Reed deferred to the current leader of the PWC division, who could not be reached for comment during the current re-organization.

April 1 is known throughout the industry to be the “Spring Re-org Season,” generally kicking off around Opening Day of every new baseball season. Rumors that Pfizer was planning to spin off its OTC division and replace it with the New York Mets could not be confirmed.

(yes, it is April Fool’s Day)

Image credit: ponsuwan via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We talk a lot about design when outsourcing work to vendors.

Graphical Design. Instructional Design. Interface Design.

But one oft-neglected area is Information Design. This is the art and science of taking a mass of information, and creatively turning into a beautiful, intuitive package that is easy to navigate and consume.

Information Design

Where would a boutique vendor specializing in information design come in handy? A few ideas:

  1. On-boarding packets
  2. Career trees
  3. Training modules and handouts
  4. Slide design
  5. Internal and field communications
  6. Launches

When people intersect with information, an intuitive and attractive “map” to navigate through from beginning to end is hugely important – but often lacking.

If you’d like to look at some talented resources for this kind of work, let us know here at Impactiviti (stevew at impactiviti dot com). We’ll make the connection.

In short, The Antidote is a great read for those of us in the biopharma industry.

book The Antidote

Barry Werth wrote a previous volume, The Billion Dollar Molecule, about the early years of Vertex Pharmaceuticals. This follow-up book outlines the history, the personalities, the processes, and the high-risk-high-reward decisions that went into Vertex advancing its first drug(s) to the marketplace, and morphing itself into a commercial organization.

From the mercurial brilliance of founder Joshua Berger to all the various players who came on board to evolve the company, it’s a fascinating account of how a company struggled to shape and maintain its culture. The blow-by-blow account of deciding on drug candidates, based on the Vertex philosophy of science and medicine (and business), is eye-opening. Some of the language would be a bit technical and arcane for those not involved in the industry, but for pharmaceutical and biotech professionals, this is a great story.

The writing style flows nicely – such a book could become dry; but, in fact, I had a hard time putting this one down each night.

Highly recommended!

Many consulting groups will gladly trade a 100-slide Powerpoint deck of strategy for a bunch of your money.

And, many outsource training companies will offer you various point solutions for this and that piece of your training needs.

But what about that messy middle? What about the implementation space between the Deck and the Done? It’s awfully difficult to find the bandwidth to take on (and complete) large-scale projects.

Bandwidth

The pull-it-all-together aspect of bringing order out of chaos is where one of our Impactiviti partners specializes. Not only can this group do the more limited training projects, they have the resources (designers, project managers, strategists, technologists, etc.) to be an outsource partner for your 3-12 month “major” initiatives.

If that’s the kind of provider you’re looking for, let us know here at Impactiviti (stevew at impactiviti dot com). We’ll make the connection.

In a word: Operations.

I was speaking with a Sales Training Director in a major biotech company recently, and he put me in contact with someone in the department who is heading up things like project management, vendor management, instructional design, internal processes, and the like.

We hit it off immediately. Because we could speak each others’ language.

There are a relatively few of my life sciences clients who have hired someone with operations experience to “run” the nuts and bolts of the department. When this position is put in place, it makes a world of difference.

operations

Here’s why: most people in the training department come out of field sales. Sales is a very different world from operations, and many training managers struggle with newly-assigned project management responsibilities. Operational thinking may not be in their personal wiring, and the skills required are often not trained during on-boarding.

Result: floundering. Inefficiency. And then, since many of these training positions are rotational, a solid and consistent base of operations experience never truly develops in the department.

This is why I’ve advised many clients to create a permanent (not rotational) position to head up project and vendor management, contract negotiation, RFP process, and instructional design/technical standards. Typically, this is not going to be someone from the sales force – there’s a different knowledge base and skill set required.

I would contend that the money saved by more effective processes will probably be at least double or triple the salary expended in the first year alone.

And when new training managers are given project tasks, they now have experienced help to shepherd them through the unfamiliar responsibilities, instead of just floundering in the deep end of the pool.

Look, I really enjoy my work here at Impactiviti doing vendor/project management workshops and providing related advisory services. But some of what I do really needs to be transitioned to an internal resource – a go-to operations person in the department. I’d be happy to talk further with any of my pharma/biotech clients about how to build a stronger internal system for training operations.

Related Post: Doing Digital Learning – The TWO People You Need

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Image courtesy of jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As human beings, we always have a tendency to pop on our rose-colored glasses and talk about the “good old days.”

Remember the good old days, when pharmaceutical manufacturers were almost constantly growing and profitable? When expansion was the norm, not the exception? When a career arc was fairly secure unless you really fouled it up?

Now it’s all about lean. Entire sales forces drastically cut, or eliminated, or re-organized. Career people suddenly without careers. Downsizing sometimes feels more like capsizing.

We’re on a roller coaster these days, and with all the turmoil of the ever-shifting healthcare environment, that’s not changing anytime soon.

rollercoaster

So what is a pharmaceutical professional to do?

Do yourself a huge favor. Build your network. Build it now, even long before you end up looking for a new professional direction.

There is no corporate safety net. There is only your opportunity network.

I’ve given small and large workshops on professional network-building to industry audiences, and have also spoken to I don’t know how many dozens of colleagues in the industry who are having to re-assess their direction, usually unwillingly.

One very common regret – not pro-actively building a network ahead of time.

LinkedinUniversally, for our industry, I’ve pointed to LinkedIn as the best place to build your professional network. Don’t worry too much about Twitter and some of the other avenues (unless you’re deep into social media for other reasons). There are ways to be effective using LinkedIn that any intelligent person can employ without a huge investment of time.

This is where your colleagues are. You contacts outside the industry that should be cultivated. And probably, your next job.

If you’re in our industry, feel free to connect with me and let me know what you’re seeking to accomplish. I’ve built the Impactiviti network for you, not just me. We’re a bunch of us helping each other find what we need – not just optimal vendors, but new professional opportunities.

Get IN and let’s get started

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