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Archive for October, 2016

You have a product launch coming up – how do you get ready?

Early, says Bob Holliday, a veteran industry training professional who has been involved in training for over 30 launches. As early as 2-3 years before the anticipated launch, in fact, when budgets are beginning to be discussed.

bob-hollidayBob has worked his way up the training ranks with Novartis, MedImmune, Boehringer-Ingelheim, and Sanofi, and he has participated in product launches with long timelines…and very, very short ones! I asked him to share some hard-earned wisdom for colleagues who are facing their own product launch initiatives. We focused on two main subjects.

First, vendor selection. What is the best way to work with outside resources who will support a launch endeavor? Bob has settled on a two-pronged approach – select one vendor (with deep expertise in clinical knowledge and instructional design) to develop the core learning materials, and then also work with another vendor who will be responsible for the workshops and training activities for the pre-launch and launch timeframe.

Why two vendors? Well, it comes down to skill sets, and capacity. The skills needed to develop core learning modules have more to do with the steady and precise process of creating full-spectrum, approval-ready training. These materials can (ideally) be developed, iteratively and progressively, with the relative luxury of a longer time window.

On the other hand, the inevitable crunch that occurs just before launch requires a company that can move quickly, scale as needed, and turn on a dime as PI approval and marketing messaging often barely come in under the wire. Event companies, with rapid production skills, tend to shine in those panic-mode moments of overnight re-dos and tactical shape-shifting.

Bob has noticed what I have also seen over decades in the industry – event companies tend to be much better at live-meeting workshops and other launch events, but are often unable to maintain a full and well-rounded staff for the longer-term development of learning modules. On the other hand, many boutique training development companies simply do not have the capacity to execute rapidly-changing plans bumping up against a rapidly-approaching deadline. By letting each type of company focus on what they do best, the probability of success is increased.

So, having considered the vendor selection process, how much time do you need to properly plan and execute a launch? The short answer that everybody agrees on is: more than we’ve been given! However, depending on the nature of the launch (New company? New therapeutic area? New indication for existing product? Level of in-house expertise and resources?), the proper time frame might range between 9-12 months on the low end (an established company launching into a familiar area), up to 2 to 2.5 years on the high end. In Bob’s experience, very few companies budget enough time, enough money, and enough advance planning to make an outstanding launch.

(Note: if you’re launching with a co-promote partner, add even more time to the equation. And stock up on aspirin. You’re going to need it.)

This is sometimes because of a lack of company awareness of all the steps and variables leading up to launch, so I asked Bob to create a high-level chart showing the sequence of steps and events that need to occur for successful launch planning. Like an accordion, the actual timeline may be compressed or expanded, but everyone involved in launches should be pro-actively planning with this kind of framework in mind.

launch-sequence2

Because of the rotational nature of many marketing and training positions, and because there may be large periods of time between product launches, there is often a loss of corporate memory (and expertise) when a new launch sequence is initiated. Or, for new commercial companies making their initial foray into the marketplace, there may be no launch experience at all. This can lead to a compromised product launch due to poor planning and spotty execution. I met with one startup company recently whose initial product launch has resulted in very slow uptake, because the actual prescribing obstacles in the marketplace were simply not foreseen and planned for.

With the right level of time, resources, and planning, launch success can move from possible to probable. There is a great opportunity for training professionals to educate their executive leadership on just what is required to succeed.

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Who’s hiring for life sciences training positions? Here are a few listings I’ve come across:

California

Associate Director Leadership Development, CL&D, Gilead Sciences (Foster City)

Senior Director, Sales Training, Relypsa (Redwood City)

Lots of openings at Genentech (South San Francisco)

Director/Sr. Director, Training & Corporate Development, Aries (San Diego)

Training and Development Manager, Biotech (Calif)

Heading steadily eastward…

Senior Global Sales Training and Education Manager, Medtronic (Minneapolis MN)

Associate Director, Hematology/Oncology Sales Training Lead, Jazz (Philadelphia PA)

Director, Oncology Training, Medical Affairs, Janssen (Philadelphia PA)

Sr. Manager, Sales Training, Valeant (Bridgewater NY)

Sales Training Manager, Bracco Diagnostics (Monroe NJ)

Director, Sales Training, Allergan (Commack NY)

Remember – your company can always post (and you can search for) job openings at the LTEN Career Center.

 

 

 

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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.

GlenDrummond2.png

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.

 

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