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Archive for the ‘Vendor Selection’ Category

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.

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workshopThis year, I’ve had a growing number of requests for workshop recommendations. As 2014 approaches, I expect that to grow – we’re all making plans, right?

So, here’s a short list of workshops Impactiviti can help connect you up with. And, yes, this is just a sample – whatever kind of workshop providers you’re looking for, give Steve Woodruff a call at 973-947-7429.

(the first two listed are ones that I facilitate; the others are by various hand-selected Impactiviti partners):

  • Vendor and Project Management
  • Building Your Professional Network
  • The Digital Future in Pharma (including mobile and smart technologies)
  • Managed Markets Landscape (and ACA update)
  • Critical Thinking/Business Acumen
  • Own Your Room (Effective Facilitation)
  • Communicating and Training via On-line Video
  • Effective Presentations (Executive and Management levels)
  • Effective Business Writing
  • Growing Employee Engagement
  • Questioning Skills
  • Negotiation Skills
  • Hospital Selling
  • Sharpening Specialty Selling Skills
  • Total Office Call/How to Think like a Physician
  • Coaching the Millennial Employee
  • Deploying Your Strengths to Prevent Conflict
  • Delivering the NEW Elevator Pitch

…and many more!

ALSO – if you’re looking for great keynote speakers, I’m connected to some top-notch folks – let’s talk over your needs! Impactiviti is here to brainstorm with you, and connect you with the optimal providers.

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Don’t go all squiggly. Things can get ugly fast when you don’t apply best practices for vendor and project management (you’ve seen this happen, right?)

So – sign up for the one-day Successful Vendor Management workshop, co-sponsored by SPBT and Impactiviti. The next public session is December 12th in Florham Park, NJ – you (and your colleagues) can sign up right here!

It’ll help you understand how get from A to B without the squiggles.

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over capacityPeople sometimes ask me how I determine whether a particular vendor is a good fit for a specific client/project.

One of the factors I consider is capacity – does the vendor have the bandwidth and talent and structure to do this particular project well?

Vendors have a hard time saying “No” to clients even when they know they’re about to overload their capacity – it stems from a fear of both losing face, and losing business. But this is where high-risk-of-failure starts to enter into the equation.

I encourage vendor/partners, particularly those with whom I do a Clarity Therapy session, to target their business development efforts at their capacity sweet spot. For instance, one of my partners is a great choice for niche product launches – but would be overwhelmed by a large launch. So, it doesn’t make sense for them to target those opportunities. Some of my solo consultant partners stand a much better chance at succeeding with emerging biotechs than trying to compete on a very un-level playing field with bigger providers for the business of Top 5 Pharma companies.

Here are some capacity questions to consider:

1. How much of this work will need to be outsourced to others? Outsourcing isn’t always bad – in many cases where specific domains of expertise are needed, it’s unavoidable – but a complex and multi-faceted project may demand a supplier with a higher internal staffing level just to manage the many moving parts. On the other hand, for more limited projects, that may be unnecessary overhead.

2. Does this project require dedicated staff from the vendor (especially dedicated project management)? Some work can be juggled successfully without a more focused team, but some projects require a fixed amount of ongoing bandwidth. Find out in advance if that is the case.

3. Does this vendor have the capacity NOW for this project? Last year’s success with a similar project does not guarantee this year’s success if the vendor is already loaded up with other work.

4. Am I giving this vendor too much work? One client can overload a vendor such that their performance degrades – and, can put that vendor in a dangerous position of being too dependent on a single client for their financial health. I have seen this latter scenario play out time and again – no vendor should have a single client providing more than a third of their revenue.

5. Is this the right KIND of vendor for this project? A marketing agency may not be a great choice for a given training project, because their staffing and processes doesn’t match up to the requirements. A training agency doesn’t always have the bandwidth and expertise to develop software well. A consultant may do a fine job on a curriculum map, but may be the wrong choice for a courseware build-out. Both sides have to be realistic about where the sweet spot is – and isn’t.

What has been your experience (both good and bad) with vendor capacity?

photo credit: 96dpi via photopincc

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AvoidYou remember how, in the schoolyard, certain people were so difficult to be around that you just began to avoid them?

That still happens. In client-vendor relationships. And sometimes, it’s the client company that is poisoning the relationship.

Why do certain vendors begin to have an allergic reaction to specific clients, and start to back away?

Here are the main issues I’ve seen:

  1. Hostile Attitude“We’re the client, we have the money, and you’re our servant.” This disrespectful and arrogant posture is a formula for future failure. It ensures that only the most desperate yes-vendors do work for a client-with-attitude.
  2. Non-Communication – Vendors that don’t get clear instructions and updates during a proposal process – or, that don’t even get a notice or explanation once a bid has been awarded to someone else – often decline the next “opportunity” to be frustrated by the prospective client.
  3. Convoluted Process – This usually occurs when Procurement drives the outsourcing bus. Process moves from being a help to being an entangling and confusing hindrance.
  4. Feeling Used – When a vendor feels like they’ve gone through a time-consuming and expensive process of bidding on a project that basically goes to an incumbent (maybe with a few “borrowed” ideas from other proposals), that vendor concludes that they don’t have a fair shot at gaining the work. Hence – a hesitancy to invest time in future work where they might actually be the best choice.

Not all of these things can be changed by training professionals seeking outsource suppliers, and there isn’t always a bad motive at the core of each difficult client-vendor relationship. But these are some warning signs.

Just as clients choose vendors, vendors also choose clients.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Some outsourcing mistakes can be very costly:

BadOutsourcing

(click to biggify)

If you’ve been in the pharmaceutical training/communications/marketing/sales industry for any length of time, you’ve witnessed some expensive mistakes working with outside agencies and vendors.

But it doesn’t have to happen to your department. A one-day training course on Vendor and Project Management is just what’s needed to make sure your staff is vendor-ready.

Most client-vendor failures occur because of: 1) lack of process; 2) bad communications; 3) poorly-managed expectations. These are all fix-able issues (with the right approach). We teach that right approach.

Coming up in December is the next edition of the acclaimed 1-day Successful Vendor Management workshop, co-sponsored by SPBT and Impactiviti. Just sign your trainers up via the SPBT site, and make sure they’re equipped for a vital part of their job (and future career).

Most people learn about vendor and project management the hard way – through costly mistakes. Far better to equip your department with the tools and procedures that will ensure success!

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A few months ago, I introduced the first-ever comprehensive Vendor Map for biopharma training departments (see this blog post - if you don’t have a copy yet, let me know and I’ll forward the file to you).

ImpactivitiVendorMapFinal

I’ve talked to many of my pharmaceutical clients about their vendor landscape, and here are the major reasons why we’ve concluded that it’s really, really important to create a company-specific Vendor Map:

  1. Regular turnover in the training dept. – which means that a lot of knowledge about particular vendors (and their performance) is never captured for future reference.
  2. Lack of communication across the dept. – leading to a lack of understanding of which vendors are good (or not so good) for which projects.
  3. Unclear understanding of vendor sweet spots – good vendors (for one type of project) are often given work for something that isn’t in their strike zone, because vendors have not been properly categorized by their strengths.
  4. Rushed decisions on projects – so often an ad-hoc list of potential vendors is drawn up in light of an impending project, instead of having a well-thought-out grid prepared in advance.
  5. Confusing vendor claims about being able to do it all – ummm, no. A pro-active approach to drawing up a vendor map helps bring discernment to the process of vendor selection.

In light of this need, Impactiviti now offers a low-cost annual subscription service that includes creating (and maintaining) your Vendor Map; intelligently categorizing your suppliers; recommending new potential partners; and customizing a standardized process (including templates) for your vendor needs. Contact us (stevew at impactiviti dot com) to discuss how we can work together to improve and streamline your outsource vendor selection process.

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I get involved in a growing number of vendor selection processes with my biopharma/med device clients. For many, it can be a potentially painful experience to choose an outsource vendor. Here’s why:

  1. There’s an whole lotta vendors out there. More than you can look at (and it seems like they’re all calling, every week)!
  2. Many vendors say they do (almost) everything. That really helps narrow things down!
  3. Sometimes it’s quite difficult to tell if you’re looking at reality, or getting a dose of smoke-and-mirrors.
  4. The players keep changing. Wasn’t that account manager just selling for ______ last week? And, wait; _____ just got bought out by whom??
  5. There’s no current, updated, internal list of which vendors are good for what (based on past experience).
  6. Go through an extensive evaluation process? – nobody’s got time for that!

Sound familiar?

At Impactiviti, we get it. We built our network of best-in-class vendors AND great clients in order to make the whole process of vetting and selecting vendors much less painful.

Trusted recommendations beat guesswork any day of the week. Call on us (973-947-7429, or stevew [at] impactiviti dot com) when you’re looking for the ideal outsource vendor.

Save yourself some pain you-know-where!

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What are the Top 10 things clients wish vendors understood (or would do better) – and vice-versa?

Here are the answers, in one brief and engaging white paper – download and enjoy! Client-Vendor Success

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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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Every vendor/provider should seek to be outstanding in at least three ways:

  1. An outstanding track record of success and great service;
  2. An outstanding and focused set of clearly-understood offerings;
  3. An outstanding message that makes clear what you’re about.

Many companies are good at 1., but not so good at 2. and 3. For example, here is the generic and unfocused language used by one training company I recently found on the web:

generictrainingUmmm…what’s the differentiating message here? None. Nada. Generic, vague biz-speak (they even claim in the text above that they “don’t subscribe to the routine or generic” – ha!). It’s a bad case of JATS (Just Another Training Supplier) marketing.

If your description could fit just about any other company you’re competing with, then you don’t stand out. You need to discover your fit in the marketplace and express it with clear differentiation.

I’ve worked with many of my training partners to help them define their offerings, refine their message, and focus their marketing (see Clarity Therapy). If you need something better than generic branding, let’s talk. Commodity messaging won’t make you stand out, even if you are outstanding.

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