Recently, I sent out an email to my industry colleagues bemoaning how little innovation I was seeing in our training and development world.

Which led to an interesting reply from Glen Drummond (Senior Director, Learning and Development, Depomed), who mentioned something new they had initiated to better equip their sales reps. Depomed is a leader in the commercialization of therapies for central nervous system (CNS) conditions including pain.


Intrigued, and already planning to be in the San Francisco Bay area for another client, I decided to visit Glen and interview him.

The business challenge was this: how to more deeply equip field reps (and managers) with clinical expertise in Pain Management arena. This is a common challenge in many therapeutic areas – not only is it no longer easy to arrange preceptorships, but time out of field for advanced levels of training is increasingly resisted.

Enter the AAPM Foundation (American Academy of Pain Medicine, which is devoted to optimizing the health of patients in pain by advancing the practice and the specialty of pain medicine).

It turns out that one of Glen’s senior executives at Depomed had been talking to the business development director at a convention with the Foundation, and the question arose about how to utilize some clinical/video assets that AAPM had already been developing. Once Glen was pulled into the discussion, the idea quickly evolved into a strategic alliance between Depomed’s L&D group and AAPM that would be a true win-win.

Depomed worked with the AAPM to develop a 12-module distance-learning program, consisting of archived videos and webinars that were the equivalent of physician-level clinical learning. The case study format is used extensively in this program. Each module has a required test at the end, and there is a summative exam that also must be passed at the end of the 6-month course. All results are tracked in the company LMS.

The webinars are led by KOLs and are not “dumbed-down” in the least – the learning is quite challenging and the exams are demanding (even Glen failed the first exam because he was trying to get away with multi-tasking while taking it!). The testimony from reps, managers, and directors who have completed the program thus far have stated their confidence level in the field has soared, and their physician interactions have improved, once they have had a chance to absorb this kind of practical, high-level knowledge.

Those who successfully complete the course – and over 300 field sales and leadership people have done so in 2016 – receive certificates of completion from both AAPM and Depomed, and are differentiated from other reps in the pain space by having the AAPM logo on their business cards.

What I like about this program, which now will be embedded in the normal course of Depomed training as a Phase II curriculum (following initial sales training of multiple phases), is that it does not require any time out of the field. Glen estimates that a motivated rep should be able to successfully complete the program with about 2-3 hours of dedicated time per month, without leaving their territory. And since the program is pulsed over 6 months, there is the opportunity for more effective absorption of the material with application of the learning.

One tenured rep remarked that he gained more clinical knowledge through this program than he had acquired in 10 years out in the field.

Now that all the material has been developed and archived, with only a modest amount of ongoing expense, the program can continue to provide value with (mostly) administrative support going forward.

Kudos to Glen and his colleagues at Depomed and AAPM for having the imagination, and the initiative, to pursue this joint venture. I have to believe that other commercial organizations can use this idea as a template for enriching their advanced clinical training in the years to come.


I’ve had two client discussions this week that are leading me to write this blog post as a public service to all my professional training colleagues.

lockPlease beware of getting locked into proprietary software platforms!

I have a long history with technology-fueled training, and I understand the appropriate place for software development. Many new systems had to be developed from scratch over the past 20 years, and I enjoyed being a part of that evolution when working with Pedagogue Solutions back in the day.

However – the software world has matured now, and when it comes to training applications and delivery platforms, if you have a fairly complex need, such as learning management, content management, on-line video training, event management, HQ-to-field information exchange – there are very likely some commercially-built solutions that you can license.

In the vast majority of cases, you do NOT want to have a custom shop (or internal IT people) re-invent the wheel for you.

One of my clients had some modules developed a couple years back into some kind of proprietary eReader software. Now, when it comes time to update it, what happens? They’re either stuck with the original supplier (with a very high price tag), or they essentially have to extract the content and have the modules re-developed using a commercially-available authoring tool so that it can be maintained and updated in the future by anyone they choose.

Another client told me about a pretty complex platform that cost an arm and a leg to develop from the ground up. After consuming all kinds of time and effort, it never really got off the ground in its intended form – while there were other commercially-available platforms that could have been quickly deployed, and would have been supported in an ongoing way.

Some thoughts, based on many years of experience in the industry:

  1. Developing new, complex platforms and applications is extraordinarily difficult and time-consuming. It should be left to companies that specialize in platform design and support. License what already exists!
  2. Training development companies that happen to also do some digital stuff are absolutely NOT the companies you want to take on the creation of an ambitious complex-system platform. They won’t have the resources to do it right, or to support it. I am especially thinking about overly-ambitious marketing/advertising agencies, who like to say that they can do anything.
  3. Every sophisticated software platform takes 2-3 times as long, and costs 2-3 times as much, as you and your development partner initially think. Trust me on this.
  4. Supporting a sophisticated software system custom-created for one client is enormously expensive. On the other hand, when a commercial software shop – say, a Learning Management System vendor – is spreading ongoing development and support costs across a larger number of clients, then it becomes a viable business model.
  5. It’s not just about the immediate need. You must think about sustainability.

One other thing: whatever software platform you choose to use for whatever purpose, make sure that it is written into the contract that you always have full access to all of your content and data, in a usable and industry-standard format, including the ability to completely remove your “stuff” and migrate it to another system.

I don’t want to tell you how many times I’ve seen this lesson learned the hard way. And I’d like for you to avoid costly mistakes. So here is my offer, for any of my life sciences colleagues who are considering training software applications and platforms: feel free to reach out to me ahead of time and let’s brainstorm a bit. I’m quite serious about this. I don’t charge you anything for this kind of advice, and I want you to succeed.

Just send me a note: AskSteve@impactiviti.com. I’m glad to chat with you.

Fifteen minutes could save you…well, you know the rest of the ad!

15 minutes


LTEN siteIf you were there at the LTEN Conference last week in Washington D.C. – well, you know how much fun it was.

If not – make a non-negotiable commitment to yourself to be at the 2017 event in Nashville, TN!

(by the way, you thought the Gaylord National was a spectacular sight? Wait until you see the Gaylord Opryland – if you’ve never been there before, your eyes will bug out of your head!)

My favorite part of every LTEN conference – and this year was my 20th – is seeing all the great colleagues and friends from both sides of the aisle (vendor/partner, and practitioner). It’s like a big class reunion, but with better food and official-looking badges.


(yes, that is Sue Iannone photo-bombing a selfie with Jim Page. This is becoming an annual “thing.” ;>)

Each year I write a blog post recapping the event, and this year, I’m glad to report that my theme is “happy days are here again.” Quite frankly, in recent years, there’s been a bit of a pall hovering over the conference, as the various disruptions in healthcare, the endless downsizings, and the uncertainty about the direction of LTEN as an organization all contributed to some feelings of anxiety and negativity. Did you notice that? Yet, this year, it seems like the cloud has lifted. The overall vibe was upbeat and positive. It’s not that all the questions about the future of our industry have been answered. I just think that maybe we’ve hit the rebound point as a professional community in our changing marketplace.

LTEN fameA touching element of the conference was the entry, into the LTEN Hall of Fame, of two of our now-deceased colleagues, Jerry Clor and Mack Thompson. Two leaders who have left behind that rarest of legacies: you may not be able to find anyone with a negative word about these beloved professionals (and true gentlemen). Their family members came up to receive plaques and were warmly welcomed by the LTEN community.

Other leaders, past and present, were there in force, to encourage their fellow training professionals. Mary Myers (who had her own patriotic marching band), Ian Kelly, and David Fortanbary did fine work on the stage serving as hosts and emcees. It was also great to see Kevin Kruse and Mike Capaldi, two important past leaders in LTEN who have helped shape the direction of the organization as we know it today.

LTEN leaders

(Mike C – bring the Dramamine next time!)

LTEN MelKeynotes were an interesting mix. Mel Robbins exceeded my mostly non-existent expectations (since I really didn’t know anything about her) – her talk was both interesting and practical. It was mostly about taking immediate action as a way to change habits. She got right down into the audience and drew us out of ourselves – a fun and dynamic speaker for sure. She also wears very sparkly shoes. Like, very. Very very sparkly.
LTEN drums

The Sewa Beats drummers were quite entertaining – they injected a lot of energy into the crowd for their session. As a keynote element – nah, I don’t think so (the attempts to tie what they were doing to the science of training felt forced). HOWEVER – I have experienced Sewa Beats in a small-group team-building exercise, and for that, I highly recommend them – especially if you can also drag Ian Kelly on stage. It’s worth it just to see their infectious smiles…!

Walter Bond? Well, what can you say? Such a high-energy, funny, and open-hearted motivational speaker (and former NBA player). I loved what he had to say, and quite frankly, I’m still digesting and applying his message. He had the place rocking and rolling.

LTEN Walter

The short “TED”-like talks on the last day were a good idea, and went well. The Learning Labs over lunch in the exhibit hall were packed (definitely needed more room in those). The evening socials were great – lots of chances to network.

Oh, and this year we had our inaugural GxP training track (something John Constantine has been advocating for), and the response from the many who attended was quite positive. One of the workshop sessions was a forum to help map out a more focused Learning Leader track, to address the specific issues of those who are running departments. This is a very positive development.

And, the two areas where I historically have heard the most complaining in past years – exhibit hall traffic/productivity, and workshop quality – I just wasn’t hearing it this year. As I mentioned at the beginning, the overall climate seemed upbeat, and the vendors I spoke with were quite positive about their experience during the week. Plus, we had the bonus, being located in the commutable region of Washington DC, of gaining dozens of unexpected walk-in registrants. That was a nice problem to have!

The conference mobile app was excellent this year, by the way. It finally broke me of my dependence on paper. Go ahead, laugh – I’m still a late adopter on some things!

LTEN group

When I make client visits, I’m often asked, “So, what’s new out there?” For the past couple years, I’ve had to say, “Not much.” And, again, I didn’t see much that was new and exciting in the training world. I think we’re all still figuring out the roles of these new technologies we’ve tried to implement over the past 5 years. And, we’re constantly tinkering with the size and shape of learning experiences (like micro-learning). We’re still in the “do more with less” mode, so maybe we can do without shiny new objects for a little while longer!

OK, so how to improve the conference? Here’s my biggest idea for consideration (and it’s not original with me, nor is it brand new): I’m just not sure we need all the workshops to be 90 minutes in length. For some that have clear interactive elements, that’s fine – but I’d like to see us experiment with a creative mix of 90-minute, 45-minute, and 20-minute presentations. The current format excludes many potentially valuable topics and speakers. Also, by having a number of shorter sessions, we can potentially have some topics presented twice in the schedule – we all experience the conflict of overlapping sessions that are only presented once. Your thoughts?

Kudos, as always, to the LTEN crew who does such a great job putting on these events – Dawn, Christine, Tim, Nanette, Miki, and Gregg. And, special thanks to the very dedicated Board who put so much time and effort into the planning. We have a very special Society and brighter days are ahead, for sure!



Steve Woodruff, President of Impactiviti, is a Vendor Consultant and is occasionally referred to as the Mayor of LTEN! If you need vendor recommendations: AskSteve@impactiviti.com

There are over 30 pharma/biotech training jobs currently posted on-line. Here are helpful links to those I have been able to find (note: do not contact Impactiviti regarding any of these positions – apply directly to the listing company).

New Jersey

Bristol-Myers Squibb

EisaiAssociate Director, Commercial Leadership Development

OtsukaManager, Sales Training and Development (Hospital)


ShionogiSenior Sales Training Manager (Leadership Development)

ValeantManager/Senior Manager, Sales Learning and Development



Infinity PharmaceuticalsDirector, Commercial Training

PurdueDirector, Sales Training and Development


Vertex PharmaceuticalsDirector, Commercial Training


AstraZeneca – Commercial Learning Manager, Hematology/Oncology

MerckAssociate Director, Oncology Learning and Development

EndoSenior Director Sales Training


AbbVieNational Sales Trainer, Patient Outreach


LundbeckSenior Sales Training and Development Manager, Neurology

Takeda – Manager, Sales Training


UCB – Neurology Training Manager


AllerganManager, National Sales Training (Eye Care)

AmgenSr. Manager, Training and Development

Although I have put together and delivered this kind of information for my Project/Vendor workshop for years, I never created a simple worksheet with the questions that need to be considered at the front end of a training initiative.

Until today. When I realized that I always ask a variation of these questions of my training clients whenever they ask for a vendor recommendation.

Why not just put it together one time in a simple document? So, here it is – the finalized version after a number of y’all gave great input on the preliminary document:

>> Training Project Worksheet Impactiviti

sample worksheet

Feel free to download and use freely!

PLUS – I’m regularly asked how to compose a solid RFP, based on best practices of project definition. Here is another document you can download and adapt:

>> Training RFP Sample Impactiviti

sample RFP


I had a call recently from one of my preferred training partners, letting me know that a proposed project which had been put on hold some months ago was suddenly resurrected, and is now about to kick off. Awesome – I love that!

Sometimes client needs end up on uncomfortably longer-than-expected timetables, right? So, once a vendor-partner has had a helpful conversation to scope out a potential project, and they’ve submitted a proposal, how should they follow up?

50 shades follow up

I am asked this regularly by my partner companies, and here is my standard advice:

  1. Don’t panic. Initiatives, and even responses to inquiries, just get delayed.
  2. Don’t pester. By and large, clients dislike that. The follow-up process shouldn’t be punishment for expressing interest.
  3. Gently inquire as to the status on an occasional (and by this I don’t mean twice-weekly!) basis. Make it a very succinct e-mail or VM – not an extended sales pitch.
  4. For all prospects with whom you hope to develop a good relationship, occasionally forward interesting and value-adding resources and news items relevant to them or their company. No pitch – just, “thought you might like to see this.” It’s a valuable way to stay top-of-mind.
  5. If you’re going to be in the area geographically, offer to meet for coffee or lunch. Not a capabilities presentation. Just talk. And see if you can make connections and introductions for your client within your network.

follow up 2

I was on the vendor side for years, and carried plenty of sales responsibilities over the past 3 decades, so I know the pressure. But you have to take the long view. I cultivated a friendship with one individual whom I got to know a long time ago (2 or 3 companies ago for him!), and with whom I stayed in touch even though there was little or no immediate business. And then, a referral door opened up into a very large new business opportunity. Had I been a high-pressure pest, that likely would never had happened.

Add value. Not pressure.

Here was one client’s take recently: I hate being oversold and told that they can do everything. Trying to hard to get the business. I also don’t want to get 100 calls and emails; my time is precious.”

That’s my take – now, what about yours, training professionals? What do you prefer, or dislike, as far as a follow-up procedure from a vendor? Add your input in the comments so that your vendor-partners can benefit from your advice!

(P.S. From the vendor side of the equation, this input): One helpful piece of feedback from a vendor perspective to clients:  Please respond to the inquiry or follow-up. It is sometimes the case that a vendor puts in a tremendous amount of effort in developing a proposed solution to a stated need. In follow-up the client goes totally silent. The courtesy of a short email, such as “thanks for the follow-up and the proposal it is much appreciated. Priorities have changed slightly I will be back in touch in a few days/weeks/months” would be extremely helpful. Right now we’re seeing a trend toward shorter response cycles for more complex requirements, accompanied by very poor client feedback (or none at all).

What is the Impactiviti network? It is where Steve Woodruff helps life sciences training professionals get clear on their outsource needs, and get connected to optimal vendor-partners.

This unique “matchmaking” network works so well because Steve also helps training vendors get clear on their message, and get connected to new training clients.

Steve is the eHarmony of the Life Sciences Training community, saving everyone from wasted time and effort.

Working on new training initiatives? Whatever you need, ask Steve!

Our training consultations are free – just ask Steve at steve@stevewoodruff.com.