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Archive for the ‘Training Needs’ Category

got bandwidthAs I talk to many biopharma/medical device training directors, a common theme emerges over and over again.

Everyone’s out of bandwidth.

Headcount reductions in the training department have been a regular feature for the past few years in most companies. But somehow, the number of regular tasks and new initiatives doesn’t seem to go down. Only up.

I hear a lot of stressed voices.

Since I work a lot with vendor recommendations, outsourcing comes up frequently – but how do you outsource major training functions? We’re used to outsourcing the development (and/or delivery) of some specific training programs – but will we need to go further because of the chronic need for more bandwidth?

What do you think?

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I was having a long talk this week with a business partner about workshops for biopharma sales training.

Back when I was immersed in the technology aspects of training, I didn’t pay much attention to live workshops. But 7 years ago, upon starting Impactiviti, I came to realize how big a role workshops play in our environment.

And, I now facilitate my own workshops, on Vendor and Project Management (as well as some other topics).

There are purely off-the-shelf (standard) workshops, semi-customized standard workshops, and fully-customized workshops. And one of the things I’ve always wondered is this: do  off-the-shelf workshops, by and large, truly resonate with the audience and all the surrounding stakeholders? Or are they often too general to really have high impact?

Are fully-customized workshops, perhaps including some up-front assessment and post-hoc impact-measurement, too costly for most needs?

Some material may lend itself to a more off-the-shelf approach, but I’m guessing there are swaths of topics that really need a more custom approach. Which topics are best suited for which approach?

I’d really love to hear which workshops seem to ring the bell best with your customers, and how much customization you feel is needed in most cases. You may not want to leave a blog comment but please send an e-mail to swoodruff at impactiviti dot com with your thoughts. I’m always seeking to better understand what clients need and what seems to be working best.

And if there’s a workshop you need which doesn’t seem to exist, let me know that too! I can try to find a resource…

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Last week, I enjoyed several days of learning and networking at the annual SPBT (Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers) conference.

It was held at the impressive Peabody Hotel (Orlando), where ducks rule. Which is cute; though I’m sure no-one is going to launch a boutique hotel chain any time soon with, say, angler fish or centipedes as the designated mascot.

I’m liking the visual of a lobby fountain full of angler fish. But anyway…

One of the things I liked most about the hotel setup: the general session room, the exhibit hall, and the breakout rooms were all in a compact and easily-navigable area. Which sounds like it should be a no-brainer, right? Trust me, I’ve seen some less than brainy conference layouts over the years (“oh, yes, that session is in Bldg C, 4th floor, East Wing, Lower Level, in the Obscurantist section. Would you like a GPS?”)

The pool was nice, too. Oops, we’re back into extracurriculars. OK – to business.

SPBT’s leadership has been in a steady changeover mode for the past few years, and I say this with appreciation – the new leaders are forward-looking, invested in seeing the organization grow and adapt, and willing to try new approaches. And that leads to my main observation summing up the entire conference this year.

The SPBT was upbeat and energetic.

Yes, we’re still facing challenges with membership numbers and exhibitor commitments. Yes, the industry keeps changing rapidly under our feet. But something else was missing at the conference this year, and I didn’t miss it at all.

Negativity.

There was energy in the exhibit hall (and I heard very little of the complaining I’ve heard in past years). There was energy around the new formats for learning and networking opportunities provided. There was energy around the idea that the organization is pro-actively looking to the future, including a name change to more accurately reflect its evolving membership.

SPBT diseaseOn the other hand, there was rampant disease-spreading, thanks to the fine folks at A.D.A.M. I ended up with MRSA, E. coli, chickenpox, and mad cow disease. —-> You?

As for the keynotes, Peter Diamandis was top-shelf (do understand that I have a real fondness for futurists). His stories and perspectives were mind-stretching. Sally Hogshead was entertaining and thought-provoking with her ideas on what makes people fascinating. Linda Cohn (ESPN anchor) did a fine job trying to interview Misty May-Treanor, but this talented Olympic champion, awesome at beach volleyball, was not made for the stage. I’m trying to be diplomatic here. Hey, if I tried to do competitive beach volleyball….let’s not go there.

Since any one person can only attend a handful of workshops, it’s impossible to give a broad overview of the many sessions that took place. My favorite this year was on Getting Your Message Heard, by Patricia Scott (Uhmms) and Susan Velani (Genentech). This very practical session on effective communications led me to immediately go back to my room and make some changes to my upcoming presentation the next day. Since Uhmms is an Impactiviti partner company, if you need great communication skills workshops for your company, just let me know and I’ll connect you up.

I also enjoyed  hearing how Eisai handled the seemingly impossible task of a six-month iPad-centric training implementation. Mary Myers (Eisai) and Susan Caldwell/Jennifer Hughes (Metrix Group) led the workshop. Technology + insurmountable odds? Of course I’m into it.

We are now beginning to leave the first-generation of iPad deployment and companies are starting to think about bigger systems. The most interesting tablet days are ahead of us, as we begin to work on the enterprise “plumbing” of mobile communications. I have an entire workshop on The Digital Future in Healthcare. Favorite topic!

For SPBT 2013, I got to lead a workshop Thursday on Vendor Management, and it was a fun group of folks with diverse perspectives. Everyone has a horror story (or three – or more) about projects that have gone off the rails. It’s amazing how common the causes are across the board…and how preventable a lot of this truly can be.

Appropriately, SPBT did feature some jugglers. They were throwing around a lot of unusual items, keeping up an entertaining banter throughout. Stuff got dropped occasionally, as more and more items go thrown into the mix. Seems like an apt metaphor for the biopharma training role these days.

Personally, my favorite aspect of the entire conference was that which I enjoy most – long, brainstorming talks with clients and partners. I put on my (learned) outgoing disposition for these events but I will always be a one-on-one, dig-deep kinda guy. In that respect, I wish the conference went much longer – there’s never enough time for relationship-building. But I left happy and upbeat. SPBT is in good hands. I look forward to next year in Dallas!

Need expert recommendations selecting your vendors? Plug Into Impactiviti!

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Anyone that knows me well knows that I have a passion for writing – in fact, it’s really a passion for all things communication (including speaking, video, social media, etc.)

ID-10087526Writing clearly and succinctly is crucial to work effectiveness. And it’s a rarely-trained skill. It doesn’t matter what position people occupy in their profession. Everyone from the newly-hired salesperson to the CEO needs to sharpen communication skills.

If people are spending an average of 28% of their time dealing with e-mail – then just improving that one area of business writing can return a lot of potential productivity gains!

In the past month, I’ve sat down with a couple of great providers who do corporate training on communications/writing skills. I found myself nodding so vigorously during discussions that it’s a wonder I didn’t end up at the chiropractor’s office. As I underscore in my Vendor/Project Success workshops, the basic principles of project and vendor management will be used in all future career areas – just like learning to drive a car, it’s an “evergreen” skill set. Writing and communicating clearly? –even more so!

Clear communications lead to clear actions. Foggy communications lead to misunderstandings, back-and-forth clarifications, and frustration.

Let’s train our people how to effectively move thoughts to the keyboard and beyond (and if you need a vendor/provider recommendation, just let me know – stevew [at] impactiviti dot com). It can never be wrong to sharpen this skill!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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AskImpactiviti

As we launch into 2013, I’m going to ask you to do me a very simple favor.

>>When you need advice on a vendor for training, compliance, or digital marketing needs, let’s talk. That’s it! Easy enough, right?

You have a need. I apply my expertise (and that of my vast network) to find you the optimal vendor/partner. Everyone wins.

The Impactiviti network exists to make targeted vendor recommendations. I do the work of intelligently identifying the best resources for you.

You win. The (most suitable) vendor wins. I win when my client and partner win. No tricks, no hard sell. Just expert advice to make your job easier. At no cost to you (I work on a referral fee basis with vendor/partners – a win for them, replacing the overhead cost of new sales).

And every time we brainstorm together, and identify top resources, the entire network gets better. Avoiding faulty decisions and weeding out lousy suppliers – that’s a win, too.

What’s the catch? Well, in 6+ years, I haven’t been able to find one. Nor have the many clients who’ve benefitted from the Impactiviti referral network. But if you really want to put in more time and effort on your own, and not look at recommended options…maybe calling Impactiviti isn’t your best move. ;>}

So, do us both a favor – let’s talk. Whatever need you’re planning for, Ask Steve (phone: 973-947-7429) – I’m happy to brainstorm with you and save you time (and headaches). If you’re within NJ/NY/CT/Philly area, I can also come in and chat.

Outsource failures are far too common. I’m here to help you win!

. . . . .

What types of training needs can we assist you with? Glad you asked! Download this quick cheat sheet! Impactiviti Vendor Advice

. . . . .

Impactiviti vendor services

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I give a full-day public Successful Vendor Management workshop quarterly for my pharmaceutical audience. These principles, however, are universal for all client-vendor relationships. So, for my readers, I’ve decided to capture some of these practices in one-minute videos.

Here is the second principle: Spell out, up front, what your communication style and expectations are:

Give it a listen:

Never assume that people have the same needs and desires for project communications. Talking about it up front can save a lot of irritation and aggravation downstream!

(First principle: Be Realistic)

_________

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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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:

—–

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?

_________

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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