Archive for the ‘Consulting’ Category

There’s been an underlying theme that I’ve noticed in a lot of my interactions with pharma training clients lately, especially coming out of the recent SPBT conference.

Nobody has time to grasp the bigger picture.

We have air traffic controllers, and coaches above the field in pressboxes, because somebody’s got to be looking at the bigger picture. And regularly relaying crucial information to the decision-makers. Right?

Interacting with many industry clients (and vendors!), I field questions like this all the time nowadays:

I can barely keep with what I’m supposed to be doing – what are others in the industry doing?

“How can we develop a long-term digital strategy?”

What will be roles of micro-learning, apps, legacy eLearning, and LMS systems in the coming 2 years?”

We’re rolling out these iPads – how are all of these fast-moving digital advances (together) going to re-shape our sales approach?

Our company has always done training a certain way – is there a strategic approach that makes more sense and saves time and money, using new technology? And how do we plan for culture change?

Then, there’s the whole issue of looking into the future, and seeing how it should be shaping decisions we make today. Who has the time and expertise for that when you’re trying to run a department??

These aren’t one-shot-deal consulting gigs with all the answers neatly wrapped up in a slide deck. This is dynamic, guided, creative evolution. That’s a different kind of consulting.

Most vendor/providers are focused on a narrow set of solutions to sell, and can’t really provide an unbiased outlook – while most clients are under pressure to make immediate and tactical decisions that often don’t reflect a bigger-picture perspective, or a more holistic strategic approach. It’s a combination that leads to short-term thinking. And, a lot of mistakes.

Attending a conference once a year, with a sprinkling of occasional webinars and blog posts, isn’t going to fix this. Particularly for Directors and VPs of Training, I’m seeing the need emerging for a Strategic/Digital Advisor – not a full-time insider role, but a retained industry-aware outside consultant who can provide ongoing perspective and expertise in a time of rapid evolution. Someone who is not advising with the built-in bias of a vendor/solutions provider, but who can help determine what providers (and approaches) are actually needed. A role that pays for itself many times over by ensuring that costly mistakes are avoided and optimal approaches and providers are selected.

I’ve done plenty of consulting on smaller-scale strategic and digital initiatives (training, marketing, communications), but this higher-level input seems to be where I’m getting increasingly called in. It’s a recognition of the need for longer-term planning and strategy. I’m concluding that this type of consulting will be a main Impactiviti focus (for a select handful of clients). Shameless plug, I know – but it’s a great “fit” for what I do best!

What do you think? Are you seeing, and feeling, this same strategic tension?


Impactiviti is the Pharmaceutical Connection Agency. As the eHarmony of sales/training/marketing, we help our pharma/biotech clients find optimal outsource vendors through trusted referrals.

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In one form or another, I’ve heard this question a lot in the past few years. And, in fact, I’ve continually asked it of myself.

Seems heretical to ask it; but in fact, for people in their 30’s and 40’s – even 50’s – it’s a very common thought.

By now, we’ve been in our career for quite some time, and we’re supposed to be on the “right” track heading in the foreordained destination that leads to our personal fulfillment.

Yeah, right. Actually, it is only after some years in the work force that we finally begin to ask fundamental questions about our own strengths, desires, and professional direction. You’d be surprised at how many of those around you put up the brave front (as you do), but are feeling very unclear about who they are and where they are going in their career.

I’ve sat down and talked with countless professionals who are in the midst of re-thinking their career. And I’ve discovered that such consultation is almost exactly parallel to what I do with brands and companies when they are trying to figure out their identity and strategy. We need to get to 20/20 vision, we need to understand our professional DNA, but so much seems cloudy and unclear from where we sit.

I can help. I call this form of consulting Clarity Therapy <==(that’s a new website that describes this business practice). I started doing this with Impactiviti partner companies who were struggling with their identity and message. But now, I’ve decided to go beyond consulting for companies, to include the many individuals who are in the midst of re-thinking their career. I call it my “accidental” business, because it began to just happen organically over time without any design on my part.

Clarity Therapy can occur in person or over videoconference (video Skype, which is free, is a great platform for this!), and the session is 2-3 hours of intensive one-on-one discovery of your professional DNA and future direction. At times, we all need an outside perspective to help us see ourselves more clearly. That’s what I do as a clarity therapist – and what others have done for me also at times.

If you’re interested in Clarity Therapy, for you or someone you know, here are some Testimonials of others who have been through this helpful process.

There’s no shame in asking the question, “What do I want to do when I grow up?” What we really need is a safe and experienced outside voice to help us see through the fog.


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.

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Impactiviti: A Labor of Love

I’m a professional “matchmaker” and network builder. I help people and companies connect with the resources they need.

And I love it. I love writing, brainstorming, consulting, and helping good clients and partners get together. I find that when I describe my “job” to people, spontaneously the expression will pop out of my mouth, “I love what I do!

On a holiday called Labor Day, it’s hard to think of a more fitting declaration.

Have I always loved my jobs? Of course not. In the course of my long and not-so-illustrious trek to this stage of my life, I’ve worked as a paperboy, a grocery store clerk, a factory worker, a McDonald’s grillman (twice), a busboy, a waiter, a wine steward, a pastoral intern,  a mason’s assistant, a painter, a med device salesman, a sales/marketing/biz dev guy for a software solutions company – you get the picture.

Some of those were just jobs – exchanging labor for a paycheck. Some were great developmental steps along the way – at times, very enjoyable, but always with an admixture of wearing uniforms and fulfilling roles that didn’t quite fit. Working for people with whom I did not always see eye-to-eye.

I suspect that this career trajectory is pretty normal for many of us. And most of us yearn to be in a place where our work is, and increasingly becomes, a labor of love.

If that’s your yearning, here’s my advice.

[Update: related and thought-provoking post from Mitch Joel. Good stuff!]


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The Reset

It happens all the time. Like so many Lego blocks scattered on the floor, our message or our curriculum or our approach suffers from Wandering Accretion Syndrome (WAS). Over the months and years, so much stuff is added on, shoved in, and modified, and so many cooks have their fingers in the pie, that soon we have a mish-mash on our hands that has no recognizable blueprint.

Time for The Reset.

When consulting with my pharmaceutical training clients, it’s actually more the rule than the exception that departments end up in this position. Stuff everywhere with a no-longer-clear strategy. Technology platforms hodge-podged together. Roadmaps that are pretty decent up to the state line, then go off into oblivion when, like driving off the edge of the map, Phase 3 is completed.

We all need The Reset periodically. This is an area of consulting that we specialize in here at Impactiviti. Taking most of a day with you and your staff, taking a 30,000 foot level look, analyzing and brainstorming, and then drawing out a clearer map to go forward.

If you’re in need of a Reset because of changing conditions and (perhaps) an inherited hodge-podge, give us a call. We’ll guide you though a strategic renovation and blueprinting process.


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Why I Love Consulting

A very large part of my Impactiviti business is client-vendor “matchmaking” – recommending optimal providers to my clients for their outsourced training and marketing needs. It’s a pretty unique business model in the industry and immensely enjoyable.

However, I have to admit – I still love consulting.

When you’re inside a company, your ideas are unavoidably shaped and constrained by current conditions – existing people, platforms, and processes – so that it is difficult to step outside and take a big picture view. Being able to come in from the outside and ask fresh questions, and suggest new directions, is incredibly gratifying. Sometimes, in a very short period of time, an entire new strategy can emerge.

There’s nothing quite like that. It’s like a long-overdue “Reset”!

And, at times, I need it too. I’m in the process of re-focusing my professional identity and branding, and at some point, even though I provide consulting in those areas, I plan to engage some external help. Why? Because I can’t step outside and see myself and my business clearly. I need another voice. A different creative perspective. Someone not in my little box.

It’s more than OK to admit you need an outside perspective. Some consultants earn a bad name for the entire field by charging an arm and a leg for recycled ideas and a value that doesn’t go beyond CYA (“well, Big-Shot-Consulting-Group said we should do it this way!”) But others do it right – bringing not just industry knowledge, but a new way of seeing and thinking.

(btw, I provide direct consulting in the following areas for pharma/biotech: Sales Training strategy; Technology Platforms for Communication and Training; Social Media Strategy. Outside those areas, I can provide recommendations for other consultants…)


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I’ve been on both sides of them. Trying to win immediate or future new business by impressing a prospective client, or evaluating vendors who are on the other side of the table.

This week one of my (pharma) clients asked a great couple of questions about these presentations. Because my response will be a bit involved, and because I’d like your input as well, I thought I’d just turn it into a blog post.

What has been your experience with vendor capability presentations? I am really interested in your perspective about the “standard”. Do you see this as a pure review of competencies or should there be an element of “sales and salesmanship” associated?

What I have seen is that, quite often, expectations are not clearly spelled out – so vendors are left to guess (a bit too much, usually) about what they should be presenting. I’m going to put the onus to improve this situation mainly on the client side; but vendors should not be shy about trying to lay the groundwork upfront as well.

Here are the questions I think you should answer for yourself, before reaching out to vendors for a presentation:

    1. Is this presentation for a specific near-term definable project, or are we looking (in general) to add to our suite of potential providers for future projects?
    2. What are the top three things we are looking for in a short-term or down-the-road provider? What are the next three things that matter most?
    3. What are “showstoppers” that would eliminate a potential provider from contention? Can we find out that information up-front, before everyone invests a lot of time and effort into a face-to-face presentation that is a lost cause?
    4. Can we screen for a smaller pool of potential providers by having a series of on-line presentations that will cover the basics?
    5. If there is a specific project on the table, and you are looking for a short-term provider for that project;
    – have you created an RFP to clearly spell out the parameters for the project? (see this tab on the Impactiviti site for resources on RFP creation)

    – is the capabilities presentation a follow-on to a submitted proposal?

    – in the presentation, what are you mainly looking for? General company overview? Re-cap and explanation of proposal? Creativity of provider? Consultative discussion? Price negotiations? Company culture/chemistry? New ideas? Interaction with a full development team? Song and dance and balloons? Actually TELL the prospective providers what you want to see and do in the meeting, and structure an agenda that maps to your plan.

    – consider creating a “scorecard” for your (client) team so that everyone is evaluating similar specific capabilities, as well as giving more general, subjective opinions.

I do recognize that there are different “standards” in different industries or divisions. In pharma, for instance, capabilities presentations for Training tend to be more cerebral and factual, while in Marketing there is generally more flash and glitter. I’d like to see training providers amp up the creativity a bit, frankly – some of the capabilities I’ve had to sit through were snoozefests. All of it is a form of “selling”, of course – but I find that the consultative approach, by and large, is far more effective than the hard sell when doing these types of presentations (ask me sometime about the unorthodox consultative “capabilities presentation” I decided to do one day!)

Be aware that it is quite costly, in time and dollars, for vendors to come on-site for capabilities presentations; and it is an investment of your (client) time as well. Take every step possible to make sure that only well-matched vendors are brought in for live presentations, with clear expectations and directions given up front. Marching a bunch of vendors through a room who don’t have a clear grasp of the goals of the meeting is a frustrating experience for all involved. The more pro-actively you map out what you’re looking for, the better-targeted the presentations will be.

What have I missed? Add your input in the comments – both client-side and vendor-side!

And, yes, I do consult with pharma/biotech clients on vendor selection strategies and RFP design, if you want to improve your vendor relationship practices!


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This week, I attended two conferences relating to pharma and eCommunications/Social Media. The MDRx conference (sponsored by IIR) was in Philly, and the Social Communications and Healthcare Case Studies and Roundtable event was held in NYC.

Instead of writing my usual post-event description, I decided to just spill my guts a bit on where things are at with pharma and social media, having participated in these events and interacted with so many people this week. In short: we’re making progress! Let me take you on a brief retrospective tour, then give some current perspectives…


is this thing onWhen I started pharma-blogging three years ago, as a cornerstone of launching my consulting business, it was lonely out on the Internets. A handful or two of us were blogging pharma (and only a few of the original crowd have survived), there was NO participation by people within pharma companies, Twitter was a distant dream, and Facebook was not yet mainstream. Even a year and a half ago, when I first started on Twitter, there was hardly anyone on that platform with a pharma focus.

All that has changed.

Nine months ago, I ran into fellow networker Shwen Gwee at a Digital Pharma conference, when he turned to me in the back of the room and asked, “Are you tweeting?” At that point, I had just begun live-blogging and live-tweeting pharma events, which was a novelty way back in 2008. Shwen and I became fast friends and pharma conference collaborators. In fact, this spring Shwen launched the first Social Pharmer conference in Boston, where we experimented with a more informal format, and a number of those who are trying to do pioneer work in social media attended. Still, as of early 2009, it was pretty easy to identify and list all the active pharma bloggers and Twitter users (<–that link is a good starting point, by the way, if you’re just getting started in pharma social networking).

bdi_tweetup_smIt’s not so lonely anymore. In fact, spontaneously during the BDI conference, a bunch of us planned a post-event lunch tweetup, and about 15 came in order to get to know one another better, socialize, and brainstorm. And that is one of the main goals of social networking. SOCIAL. NETWORKING.

Now, it’s getting hard to keep track, because so many individuals and companies are rushing into the social networking space. And I say: FANTASTIC! Join us – and if you need some help getting started, here is an e-book I put together for just that purpose, loaded with links and resources (including a pharma-specific Appendix).


Ray_Kerins_smWe have a long way to go, but now, it’s not just consultants and agencies talking about it. Companies are jumping in, taking baby steps, learning. Ray Kerins of Pfizer (<–that’s him) gave a very encouraging presentation at the BDI event about the transformation going on in their global communications group. He’s someone to watch. Boehringer is using their Twitter account to interact, and Brad Pendergraph of Novartis is one of the most active and interesting pharma folks on Twitter.

In fact, if you want to know almost everyone who is doing stuff in social media, and where all the case studies are, leading agency thinker Jon Richman keeps a continually-updated wiki outlining the pharma social media space. Highly recommended.

One of the things to bear in mind is that, while the public case studies are still relatively slim, there is a lot going on behind-the-scenes with networked communications approaches that aren’t being much talked about. Internal blogs and social networks. KOL communities. Resource portals and discussion groups. Yes, we are all frustrated with the slow pace of regulatory comfort-level when it comes to new technology, and there’s a lot of fear abroad. but things are happening. We should start our considerations, not with ROI calculations and regulatory handcuff fears, but with two main questions: What are the needs of our audience? and, How can we add value?

I’ve seen all this before. There was the same slow uptake with Web 1.0 technology. And with eLearning. But eventually, we hit a tipping point where people stop asking “if?” and start asking “how?”

We’re getting there. We’re making progress.


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