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Archive for August, 2011

I believe in outsourcing. Actually, I believe in right-sourcing – using the best combination of resources (internal and external) to get the job done. But I’ll focus our discussion here on outsourcing – tapping into external resources.

With many pharmaceutical companies making massive cuts in headcount, outsourcing is an even bigger deal – because the work still has to get done somehow. So let’s talk about what your company is doing with outsourcing (we’ll focus here on sales training in pharma, but many of the principles applies to other divisions of pharma, and to other industries).

I see at least three levels of outsourcing typically happening, each of which requires different types of relationships with different kinds of providers:

1. Project – Very common form of outsourcing, where you contract with a company to create or perform something, while you still manage the overall process. Typically, there is a final deliverable at the end. Sales training departments work with external providers to develop launch training modules, workshops, digital tools – you get the picture.

2. Project/Process – When internal resources (personnel and infrastructure) are too thin to carry out an initiative, an outsource partner is often engaged to take over much of the project. Learning technology and data management is now commonly outsourced at this level with externally-hosted solutions. Large-scale meetings, with a million logistical details, typically come in at this level as well.

3. People; or Project/Process/People – Companies are demanding lower headcount and more flexibility, so the engagement of personnel from outsource providers is ramping up. Larger and more specialized companies are able to provide staffing in ways that avoid “hard” headcount, and in some cases, can also take over entire functions with both people and large-scale solutions. Building new capabilities and centers of excellence can be outsourced to companies with specialized skills, infrastructure, and people-expertise.

(Let me interrupt the flow of thought to remind you that Impactiviti can help you find right partners for all of these needs, including large-scale outsourcing. We’ve done the homework for you. Just call us at 973-947-7429)

Outsourcing can be scary business, so what most clients are looking for includes the following:

  • Proven experience (at the level of service desired)
  • Capacity and scale (the ability to nimbly and flexibly meet changing needs)
  • Change Management/Process blueprint (for larger-scale outsourcing – do NOT underestimate this!)

As with everything, there are tradeoffs. Outsourcing has great benefits, but the more you outsource – particularly when you get to the “people” part of the equation – the less the training department may be a seedbed for deepening corporate culture. As one of my clients eloquently put it in a phone call last week, as leading employees rotate into and through the training department, there is an impartation and spread of corporate culture and values that may be lost if more central functions are outsourced. That’s a legitimate concern.

What other benefits – and drawbacks – are you seeing from outsourcing? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments, or e-mail me (stevew@impactiviti.com) to extend the discussion. We’re going to see this trend grow and evolve – let’s prepare ourselves and each other by talking about it.

Recent Impactiviti posts:

Doing Digital Learning – the TWO People you Need

Are You in Compliance?

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Impactiviti is the Pharmaceutical Connection Agency. As the eHarmony of sales/training/marketing, we help our pharma/biotech clients find optimal outsource vendors for training, eMarketing, social media, and more.

Learn more about our free services here

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Sign up for the Impactiviti Connection weekly e-newsletter (see sample), chock full of news and resources for pharmaceutical professional

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Compliance training – it feels like a necessary evil. It doesn’t have the cachet of iPad rollouts or the intellectual stimulation of new product training.

But, like brushing your teeth, everyone’s gotta do it!

In discussions with a vendor/partner this week, we talked about the growing demand for reps to be credentialed (demonstrated training in certain areas important to, say, a medical facility/hospital) in order to get access. We discussed the pending Sunshine Act requirements, and various state requirements for training and disclosure.

As they say on Facebook, it’s complicated.

As I spend a couple of months talking with clients and vendors about what’s top of mind for pharma training, compliance is never far away. But the mix of internal vs. vendor-created solutions varies greatly, the relative responsibilities of compliance folks and (sales) training folks have some grey areas between the black and the white.

What is your company doing to improve compliance training? Who are great outside service providers? What questions do you have, or what challenges are you facing? I realize that on a public blog you may not be able to attach your name to a comment about internal stuff, but feel free to drop me an e-mail (stevew@impactiviti.com) or call me (973-947-7429) and let’s see if we can use our network to safely and anonymously share best practices and resources.

And, yes, that is my eye up there. It may be scarier-looking than Hurricane Irene!

Recent Impactiviti posts:

Doing Digital Learning – the TWO People you Need

Pharma and the iPad

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Impactiviti is the Pharmaceutical Connection Agency. As the eHarmony of sales/training/marketing, we help our pharma/biotech clients find optimal outsource vendors for training, eMarketing, social media, and more.

Learn more about our free services here

_________

Sign up for the Impactiviti Connection weekly e-newsletter (see sample), chock full of news and resources for pharmaceutical professional

Read Full Post »

I was having a conversation with a friend in the industry (pharma sales training) this week, and a topic came up which I’ve addressed before with other clients.

What do you need as far as personnel to really get ramped up with digital learning/eLearning/distance learning?

The default answer – an “eLearning guy” (or gal) – is actually not the advice I give. At minimum, you need two people to start making digital learning really take off in a pharmaceutical environment.

You need a Digital Learning Strategist, and a Digital Learning Project Manager.

Two very different, but complementary skill sets and responsibilities.

The Digital Learning Strategist is in charge of setting direction – doing high-level needs analysis; program design; platform/solution evaluation; internal communications, evangelism, and change management (this takes up a HUGE percentage of the time); rollout sequencing; business case analysis; high-level curriculum design – need I go on? It’s a major job, and it requires a mix of strategic thought, business savvy, great communication and team-building skills, commitment to training as a discipline, and a love for technology. Oh, and curiosity.

On the other hand, to actually make all this stuff happen, it is crucial to have a Digital Learning Project Manager. This is an operations- and technical implementation-minded person dedicated to the myriad tasks of making technology training solutions happen in real time. Working under the direction of the Digital Learning Strategist, primary responsibilities including interfacing with vendors; coordinating with IT and user support desks; RFP/technical spec design; user experience analysis; troubleshooting; scheduling; and, of course, overall project management. This is NOT an IT position – you need a tactical person with proven project and administrative skills who is excellent at getting results working through and with a wide variety of people. Someone with the patience of Job.

Trying to combine those two positions is disastrous. It’s too much to do, and two very distinct skill sets are needed.

Once you have a Learning Management System fully up and running, there is yet another position dedicated to that – LMS Administrator. That role should not be conflated with the two positions I’ve outlined above – it’s a huge job in and of itself.

Some of you have put in place positions like this, and in a very large department, other roles also may evolve. But at minimum, these two roles should come into play if you’re going to take digital learning at all seriously.

Now, I have a favor to ask of you, for the sake of your colleagues who want to do this right. If you’ve spec’ed out job positions similar to these, would you mind sharing your documents (edited for any company-specifics, of course) with me? I’d like to come up with a couple of generic documents to share here for others who want to justify these roles. If you’re willing to let me see (no-one else will get your documents) what you’ve come up with, please send a however-edited-you’d-like copy to stevew@impactiviti.com. Maybe we can create our own “Best Practices” documents for creating these important roles!

Recent Impactiviti posts:

LinkedIn wants your Privacy!

Pharma and the iPad

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Impactiviti is the Pharmaceutical Connection Agency. As the eHarmony of sales/training/marketing, we help our pharma/biotech clients find optimal outsource vendors for training, eMarketing, social media, and more.

Learn more about our free services here

_________

Sign up for the Impactiviti Connection weekly e-newsletter (see sample), chock full of news and resources for pharmaceutical professional

Read Full Post »

This is the second guest post  by an (anonymous) guest blogger from the Life Sciences training industry who has offered to give us some insider perspectives. It’s a continuation of the theme of the first blog post, about surviving and thriving in difficult times for the industry and economy:

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When you find yourself in a merger or acquisition situation, it’s now just a matter of time before change is a reality. How can you prepare when your job fate is uncertain? Here are 5 tips to help you prepare for ‘Day 1′ of the new company.

1.  Plan ahead. Don’t wait for the business to ask you for integration deliverables. By having them prepared ahead of time, you are showing the new company that you are diligent, organized, and you have your job function and operations under control when it’s time to look under the hood of your work/team/business. Having been through this on both the asking and receiving end of several integrations, there are some standard items for a learning function that you or your team can organize. These can include: itemizing any physical assets such as product modules and workshops, status updates for major projects and associated budgets, metrics on classes/programs/evaluations, overview of any learning technology such as a testing platform, web conferencing, or LMS. A list of commonly used internal acronyms also goes a long way, since every organization seems to have different names for the same thing (DSM, SM, SL, DSL, BSM, CTM = field manager).

2. Be helpful vs. hindering. I have seen too many colleagues squander their knowledge and responsibilities thinking it will make them more valuable to the new company; i.e. ‘if I am the only one who knows how to do this, they won’t get rid of me’. Unfortunately this tends to have the opposite effect, as these folks are typically viewed as non-team players. Being helpful through an integration demonstrates collaboration and commitment to the success of the new organization, even if you don’t want to stay. As a leader managing people through several integrations, it’s much easier to justify for the collaborative people to keep their positions. Why fight for the people who are hindering the inevitable? Helpful people seem to have more choices coming out the other side of these integrations, and those choices give you back control of your career.

3. Support your staff. If you are leading people, they will look to you for direction, emotional support, and the latest information on the integration. They will have their moments of doubt, frustration, and fear of the unknown. Ambiguity is paralyzing for some people. While it may be personally difficult for you too, it’s your job to help them through this time. I’m not saying you should become their personal counselor, but maintaining very regular two-way communication and an open door policy goes a long way. Since you’re probably going to be representing them as you discuss your staff with the new company, your team needs to feel confident that you have their back and know that you care. It can also be helpful to know their wishes. Some may want to continue with the new company and some may not, so having a sense of this can help make the most difficult decisions easier if it happens to align with their requests. Support your staff because, ultimately, it’s the right thing to do.

4. Update your résumé. Certainly seems obvious, but I still know too many people who have worked for one company for a long time and never created one. It takes longer than you think to remember everything, deciding which pieces to include or not, and formatting is a pain! If you are on the acquiring side of an integration, don’t be lulled by a false sense of security – there are always bodies left behind on both sides. Just go ahead and update that résumé. If you’re on LinkedIn, this is a good time to update that on-line version as well.

5. Be flexible. No matter what the outcome, be open to the possibilities. This might mean keeping your role with reduced responsibilities. After checking your ego at the door, you may realize this is an opportunity to develop an area of expertise when previously you only had functional knowledge. You were a people manager, and now you are an independent contributor. Won’t it be great to not have to write annual appraisals, or manage a difficult employee? You did one job, now you are being asked to take on a completely different one.  This happened to me several years ago. While it was happening, I was mad that I didn’t have any choice in the matter. Looking back now, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I took on a niche job role that enabled me to learn a part of my business that previously intimidated me, and it gave me a huge competitive advantage when I ultimately decided to leave and pursue the next level of my career. You were gainfully employed, and now you are holding a severance package. After you sign up for unemployment, why not consider taking that money and start that business you’ve always been thinking about?  I’ve learned something with every change in my career, and being flexible has helped to improve my outlook and perspective.

I’ve learned that just because two companies are coming together, it doesn’t have to mean the outcome is bleak.  Following the above tips helped to set me up to have choices and ultimately opportunities, which is how I now measure success. How do you measure it?

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Impactiviti is the Pharmaceutical Connection Agency. As the eHarmony of sales/training/marketing, we help our pharma/biotech clients find optimal outsource vendors for training, eMarketing, social media, and more.

Learn more about our free services here

_________

Sign up for the Impactiviti Connection weekly e-newsletter (see sample), chock full of news and resources for pharmaceutical professional

Read Full Post »

I am thrilled to welcome an (anonymous) guest blogger from the Life Sciences training industry who has offered to give us some insider perspectives. The first blog post is about surviving and thriving in difficult times for the industry and economy:

—–

Are you part of a pharmaceutical learning function and facing a merger, buyout, or downsize?  This could be triggered by lackluster product sales performance, or safety concerns uncovered during phase 3 trials for that promising new compound in development. In the case of a merger, there may be redundant sales teams and support functions. While instability may be the new norm in pharma, it doesn’t get any easier to experience it. If you haven’t yet been affected by these types of events, you more than likely know people who have lost their job, lost their responsibilities, or simply ‘lost their mind’ due to living in fear of the unexpected!

I have been through ‘all of the above’ situations during my pharma career:  survived three downsizes, two mergers/buyouts, and lost my job once. It doesn’t mean I don’t cringe, sigh in disbelief or sometimes panic when the company du jour announces workforce reductions, because it’s more than just the job that’s at stake. How will I tell my spouse that I lost my job? Tell the kids? How will we pay the mortgage? Do we have enough money saved? When would we have to switch our benefits to my spouse’s employer (which, by the way, is not nearly as comprehensive as what we have now)? What will happen to that major training initiative I was overseeing? And, how will I ever find another job that I love when it seems like no one is hiring?

After this last free-association rant you might think I’m crazy, or maybe you can identify completely. In either case, I have learned how to not just survive, but thrive when uncertainty is the norm. It’s a very freeing experience when you realize you can still be in control of your career, instead of being controlled by uncertainty about the future. While there’s no such thing as job security, I’ve found myself giving the following advice when people ask for my advice during uncertain times:

1. Get in the gutter, then get out.  When news hits about impending negative change, people flock together to talk about it. It’s simply human nature. Speculation abounds as to who and what will be impacted (and, of course, they can’t cut us because ‘what we do is sooooo important!’). Many folks in leadership positions will say ‘don’t commiserate’, but we all need to vent. As a past and current leader, you have to give your people the opportunity to share their feelings. There’s nothing wrong with a little speculation and commiseration; the trick is to not go to the extreme and spread poison around the office. Certainly don’t share anything confidential if you are privy. Be choosy about who you vent to, do it, then cease. Moving on is paramount- nobody likes listening to poison all the time (eventually it will kill your attitude). Get in the gutter, then get out.

2. Focus on what you can control.  You’ve probably heard this one before, but take it to heart. While it may not feel like you have any control, you can positively impact your attitude, behavior, and performance in your current role. Even when performance may have nothing to do to with a job loss, delivering above-average work helps to secure your next job. When I found myself in a job loss situation, my boss and his boss had been very happy with my work. I consistently delivered results, instead of sitting back waiting to see what was going to happen when rumors of downsizing surfaced. Both provided glowing recommendations and tapped into their networks to help me get that next role at another company. I doubt they would have gone the extra mile to help me if they were not happy with my contributions. ‘Focus on what you can control’ is a great mantra to share with others who show signs of freaking out during difficult times, especially if they are your direct reports.

3. Grow and nurture your network.  Building contacts outside of my current company has been one of the most important investments I have made over the years. When times are great, your network is a valuable sounding board for problem solving, idea exchange, and finding a great solution provider for a specific need. When times aren’t so great, such as when facing a job loss, your network can surface opportunities you might not have ever known about. Ongoing communication is key – if you only tap in to your contacts when times are bad, it can appear one-sided. Make it a ‘win-win’ for everyone and give as well as take from the relationships.

4. Build a portfolio.  Rolled out a major initiative that demonstrated a positive impact on the business? Overhauled a process to streamline efficiencies? Created an effective certification form for a new product launch? Don’t wait to build your portfolio of work! As time goes by, we tend to forget about our successes as we rush on to the next fire drill. By taking this next step beyond your résumé, you have further documentation and examples of your work to show to new leadership or a prospective employer. Keep a copy of those valuable contributions you built that you are proud of!

5. Continue to learn.  Just as your network needs nurturing, so does your competency.  Attend conferences, take on stretch assignments, acquire a certification or MBA, and keep up on industry happenings. Why? It doesn’t matter if you have 20 years experience if you’re using yesterday’s techniques. Today’s fast paced environment demands out of the box thinking, and making the investment in yourself gives your brain the ability to identify the right solution for the right need. It also keeps you more marketable compared to other candidates should you need to compete for a new position.

While uncertain times can be unsettling, it doesn’t mean you have to put your career and life on hold. Adopting a positive, yet realistic attitude while staying busy with a focus on investing in yourself is empowering. I am most thankful for making the conscious decision to not put my life on hold for fear of what might have happened. Job loss did happen to me, and not only did I survive, I learned to thrive. Had I let the fear of the unknown take over my world, I probably would have put off starting a family. And when I look not only at my job, but at my amazing kids, it certainly puts everything in perspective.

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Impactiviti is the Pharmaceutical Connection Agency. As the eHarmony of sales/training/marketing, we help our pharma/biotech clients find optimal outsource vendors for training, eMarketing, social media, and more.

Learn more about our free services here

_________

Sign up for the Impactiviti Connection weekly e-newsletter (see sample), chock full of news and resources for pharmaceutical professional

Read Full Post »

Awesome Leukemia News

Yes, it’s still early – but research results like this make me do a happy dance!!!

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Impactiviti is the Pharmaceutical Connection Agency. As the eHarmony of sales/training/marketing, we help our pharma/biotech clients find optimal outsource vendors for training, eMarketing, social media, and more.

Learn more about our free services here

_________
Sign up for the Impactiviti Connection weekly e-newsletter (see sample), chock full of news and resources for pharmaceutical professional

Read Full Post »

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