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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

RobotMy newsfeeds last week were unusually rich with glimpses of the future. I thought I’d share some cool items with you here:

> IBM Developing a Brain-like Chip – 5.4 billion transistors!

> How about a virtual shrink? Meet Ellie

> Siri’s inventors go for much greater intelligence.

> Humans Need Not Apply – here come the robots (after your job, maybe??)

> The robot “swarm” that learns together (I think Michael Crichton wrote a book about this…)

> And, finally, RoboThespian. We’re doomed…

So…are we the latest endangered species? ;>)

 

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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.

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I was recently asked by a consulting client to explain the value of making site visits to suppliers of digital platforms. I believe in the value, but until I started spelling it out in more detail, I didn’t realize just how important I know it to be!

While it may be appropriate to make vendor decisions for smaller projects based on a proposal and a client-site presentation, that approach is probably inadequate for larger-scale (and long-term) digital platforms. Over the years, I’ve seen some sub-optimal digital learning/communication platform decisions. The results are not pretty.

I thought I’d share my reasoning with you, in case you’re thinking about adopting a major platform (especially for use with iPad deployment – many are now looking beyond individual apps to multi-functional systems for meetings, comms, training, etc.). Your comments and insights are most welcome in the comments:

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Evaluating digital solutions providers can be complex. Generally speaking, for a smaller-scale point solution (say, a specific app), it is not necessary to perform a site visit. However, for a large-scale solution that will be a strategic and growing communications platform, it is often worth a deeper look under the hood at the technology, and the solution provider (who will become a long-term partner).

Site visits: Better solution/company evaluation process

The four aspects of the platform that need to be analyzed more deeply are:

  1. Technology framework of the solution – specifically, how the underlying software is designed, and what interface capabilities it has (and will have) at the middleware and database level to work within a larger enterprise structure. This typically involves direct discussion with people in a software engineering role.
  2. Roadmap of the platform – it is vital to have a detailed discussion of how and why the solution evolved into its current state, and what the development plan is for the next 3-5 years. A snapshot of a solution at one moment in time is less revealing than a view of its developmental context. Digital provider and platform direction need to align with anticipated client needs.
  3. Current functionality – general group presentations often gloss over details of what actually works (and how it works). A more meticulous advance examination can reveal platform strengths and weaknesses. It’s also important to determine what is currently rolled-out to living clients, and what is still in an earlier development phase.
  4. User experience – many solutions seem great on static slides, or with brief, scripted demonstrations, but the overall user experience (for end users, administrators, and managers) needs to be carefully examined in-depth. The quality of the interface design will make or break the adoption of any system.

In addition, deeper interaction with multiple personnel at a potential supplier site can give a clearer sense of the corporate culture and talent pool, which often cannot be accurately detected at a client-site presentation with a few representatives. In most cases, this type of decision is just as much about the partner company as it is the specific technology solution.

Site visits: Better decision-making process

A visit on-site by an expert makes the entire platform evaluation process more efficient by allowing in-depth assessment with a range of technical and strategic personnel – many of whom cannot be uprooted to be part of a client sales presentation. Also, potential suppliers that don’t make the cut can be eliminated in advance instead of creating a waste of client (& supplier) time and money going through an entire sales presentation/proposal cycle, only to be found unsuitable later. In addition, client-site presentations can be made much more efficient as a variety of detailed questions can be pre-answered through the prior provider-site visit.

Site visits: Summary

PROs

-More in-depth look at the “guts” of select platforms

-More complete evaluation of user experience

-Deeper assessment of leading potential provider partners

-Potential elimination (or escalation) of particular providers earlier in the process

-More efficient use of client and provider personnel resources during process

CONs

-Up-front time/travel investment (1 person) for site visits

What do you think? Does your company do site visits for these larger-scale platform decisions? And do you employ consulting expertise in the process?

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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 through our unique trusted referral network. Need something? Ask Steve.

Learn more about us here.

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Over the past couple of decades, we’ve seen the slow, incremental incursion of computers (and the web) into the daily lives & workflows of both patients and healthcare providers. And drug companies. And everyone else.

Computers (and the Internet) are now ubiquitous. Just try to imagine life, and work, without them.

Watching the evolution of processor speed, interface design, enterprise apps, web technology, wireless access, and ever-shrinking form factors has been fascinating, perhaps even painful at times. Then the iPad showed up.

Two and a half years ago, when the first-generation iPad showed up, I predicted it would be a game-changer for healthcare; but frankly, the rapid adoption rate by doctors, patients, and provider companies (including pharma) has taken even me by surprise. The uptake, even in regulated industries, has been phenomenal.

Which means we now need to step back and ask a very important question: Is the mobile computing device destined to be the new (inter)face of healthcare?

My answer is a resounding “Yes” for one simple reason: smartphones and tablets are rapidly becoming the new interface of life and business. Period. End of story.

Within 2 years, portable devices will take on the mantle of “first-screen” status – that is, more people will be accessing digital-everything through mobile devices rather than through desktops. And that trend is accelerating, not slowing down. Already, about 62% of U.S. physicians are using tablets (mostly iPads, currently).

Quibble with me if you wish (you do have every right to be incorrect, after all!), but let’s grant, for the sake of argument, that personalized mobile computing devices will be the interface of life, business, and (therefore) healthcare.

If that is so – and I’m now turning to address my friends in pharma/biotech/med device companies – who is redesigning your entire business infrastructure and customer experience to reflect this inevitability? Anyone?

The “face” of your company to patients and doctors has traditionally been a human face (sales reps, for instance) – but we know where the field sales model is heading. The digital noise of broadcast TV and websites and banner ads – these models are all based on non-mobile computing approaches. The new channel is in the pockets of our customers – all of our customers.

This transcends being merely a training, or sales, or marketing, or technology issue. This is much bigger. It is fundamentally an interface issue. The entire healthcare information and delivery cycle will become “mobilized.” For the smart life sciences companies, that means at least one sure-bet avenue for competitive advantage – get ahead of this trend. Even if you have to take a go-slow approach to social media, the mobile interface is not going to be optional or off-label. It’ll be first-line.

And don’t get hung up on Apple vs Android, etc., etc. Flavors and versions are secondary. The inexorable mobile trend is primary.

Person-to-person contact will never lose its importance in healthcare (or life, or business). But when you look at how patients and doctors and administrators and caregivers and news outlets and everyone else is interfacing with information and with each other, the writing is on the wall. Or, more accurately, on the tablet. And the new “writing” is digital, multimedia, personalized, real-time, geographically aware, and mobile. It’s the new normal. Today.

As the great hockey player Wayne Gretzky put it, you need to “go to where the puck is going to be.” That place is in customers’ pockets. If you’re not in the process of thoroughly mobilizing your business, you’re already behind.

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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 through our unique trusted referral network. Need something? Ask Steve.

Learn more about us here.

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Over the past several years, the pharmaceutical industry as a whole has been wrestling with the whole complex issue of what to do about social media.

Is it a blessing or a threat? Get involved or stay on the sidelines? What is allowed or what is not?

Let’s step back for a moment and ask a far more fundamental question: Why should we even care? Do we need to become a social business? (the term “social business” is now on the ascendancy, to describe a company that embraces the use of connected people networks on every level to evolve the business).

Here’s why: the idea of social media in business is founded on a very important premise: The Gold is Everywhere.

Gold (valuable information, resources, connections, insight, new opportunities) is in our customers (patients and HCPs). Gold is in all of our employees. Gold is in our partners and distribution chains. Gold is spread out all over the marketplace. And in order to mine that gold, we need a technology-fueled approach to connectedness that will enable us to listen, learn, speak, and evolve. Highly recommended: this brief by SideraWorks on Social Business (be sure to download the .pdf).

We have some very valuable gold in our pipelines and patents and products – true. But when there is a field full of scattered gold all around us, is it wise to put on the blinders and impoverish ourselves? Particularly when all those people across the marketplace are shaping the future of healthcare?

So, let’s return to the premise: Gold is everywhere.

Does your pharmaceutical company leadership actually believe this? Is this perspective settling into the DNA of the organization? Because if it is not, then social media is just one more channel for us to push our message, and advance our agenda.

We have the gold (products), and we want your gold (money, loyal usage) in return. The commercial transaction mentality will only see social networks as a short-term means to an end. Sales.

Of course, we’re all in business to make money, and no company survives long without making profitable commercial transactions. But for pharmaceutical companies to begin to evolve into true social businesses – that is, to compete in the “new normal” world – there is a core perspective that needs to be embraced at the highest level (and this entire principle extends way beyond pharma, to every type of business).

Social media is predicated on the notion that more connections with more people communicating with less friction will create more value – because the rich ore is distributed, not centralized.

The gold is scattered out there everywhere, not just within our labs and corner offices. And the company that has the humility, wisdom, and foresight to build a people-network approach to communication and growth will mine more of it than others that cling to the past.

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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 us here.

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Short answer: we all do.

I’ve been spending a lot of my time lately with clients and partners working on digital strategies, including multi-year blueprints, next-generation platforms, and development approaches. It can be quite complex – and I live/love this stuff! For someone with a day job in pharma training, sales, and marketing, it’s difficult to take a long-term strategic view of our rapidly-moving technology environment and formulate a clear digital strategy.

Yet we must.

Pulling back the veil a bit from the image of these huge, money-generating global pharmaceutical companies, what you see behind the firewall is, in the vast majority of cases, a digital mess. This mainly because of what I call Wandering Accretion Syndrome (WAS) – the adding together of multiple systems and platforms duct-taped together over time with very little overall architectural design.

This means a jumble on the back-end, AND an interface and usability jumble on the front-end for users in the field and home office. It’s not pretty.

With the rapid adoption of iPads, the growing acceptance of video solutions, and the typically slow-moving reaction time of internal IT depts. (which now also have to interact with a growing variety of hosted and cloud-based solutions), you have an INCREASED need for a strategic blueprint. It all starts with a 30,000 foot view of business goals and plans, joined to a realistic understanding of the A –> B shift that needs to occur, and a synthesis of multiple avenues of needs into a plan that will accomplish the most effect with the least pain and overlap.

A digital strategy is, in reality, simply part of a business strategy. Nothing more, nothing less.

The adoption of iPads, or other game-changing initiatives, provides a unique opportunity to pursue a well-thought-out digital makeover strategy. I hope a lot of my clients will pursue that open door. The alternative is perpetuating an environment of one-off apps and systems – just running on a new tablet. That would be a lost opportunity for digital success.

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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 us here.

_________

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

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Last week, I had the privilege of once again attending the Digital Pharma East conference (put on by my friends at ExL Pharma). I have attended most or all of these annual events in past years, and have enjoyed watching it grow and morph. Grow it has – this time there were about 600 attendees, and a very full exhibit hall! Kudos to the team (Bryon Main, Jason Youner, Jayson Mercado) and  the two co-chairs (Marc Monseau and Shwen Gwee) for an exceptional job organizing and running the show.

When covering these events, I tend to give immediate, real-time impressions and factoids via my @Impactiviti twitter account, then after a few days reflection, write up a blog post giving higher-level observations and thoughts. This post is that!

1. The Mobile Bandwagon – The exhibit hall was filled with companies showing off mobile tech, and one entire extra conference day was dedicated to mobile. As well it should be – mobile is rapidly becoming the new normal. Frighteningly, we saw plenty of statistics showing how woefully behind the 8-ball many pharma (and other) companies are in having even their basic web sites mobile-optimized – let alone having a well-thought out mobile strategy. The awareness that mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) are rapidly moving into first-screen status simply has not sunk into the place where practical implementation is being done. That will change!! (note to pharma clients and vendors – this is the lowest-hanging fruit imaginable).

2. Mobile is huge – The adoption rate of mobile devices among doctors (especially iPhones and iPads) is breathtaking. These devices are being integrated increasingly into the healthcare delivery chain. Pharma companies are (or should be) looking for ways to add value and provide service outside of merely peddling drugs. Get some innovative thinkers working on mobile approaches – not mere e-detailing or e-signature apps, but whole new ways of providing information and connectivity among patients, healthcare professionals, and industry. This will happen and is happening via mobile – be part of it or be left out of the equation (hint: you don’t want to do that).

3. Compliance and mobile – Not only is mobile-optimization a far easier task to tackle than thorny culture-shift issues like social media, but it may even become a regulatory issue. Did you know that information optimized for a standard website may not show up properly on a mobile device? It’s not hard to foresee a time in the near future when digital information presentation has to be vetted for fair balance, accuracy, etc. across platforms.

4. Sales forces are going to go mobile. And, most exciting to me, I’ve been in contact with a company that reached out to me after I wrote this post in August about having an intelligent “middle layer” engine to make sense of iPad apps/deployments in pharma. They showed me last week what they’ve developed, and I am very encouraged…if you’re looking at deploying iPads to the field, we should talk! Maybe we can keep you from the iPad “freaking mess” I described in that post…

OK, have I made my point? MOBILE IS HUGE! Now, we did discuss many other digital initiatives at the conference, including social media and the like, but I really want to highlight the lowest-hanging fruit that will have the most near-term impact. And that’s mobile. Mobile is not simply “another channel.” It’s the new normal.

Now, onto two other observations – categorize these under “soapbox ramblings”:

- A lot of folks still don’t effectively engage the audience when presenting. We really need to improve. Please read this post and apply as needed. I know we can do better. Some of the presenters, however, were outstanding (including Olivier Zitoun, Aaron Blackledge, and Seth Perlman – I’m sure there were others but I couldn’t be in every track!)

- As these conferences get larger, it’s increasingly difficult to foster an environment of open sharing and discussion. I did lead one “unconference” session, which was quite lively (and could have gone on for much longer – we were just getting warmed up!). Over the past 18 months, I fear that we’re starting to slip back in our more cutting-edge pharma events into the old default mode of up-front presenter and passive audience. We’ve got to pro-actively design sessions to maximize engagement way beyond the old, “I think we have 5 minutes left for questions…” mode.

Oh, and for those who care about such things: Shwen Gwee and I finally found our Texas-style BBQ “home” in Philly. It’s called Percy Street BBQ. Highly recommended!

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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 us here.

_________

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

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