Archive for the ‘eLearning’ Category

Way, way back when Apple’s iPad was first announced – you know, a year and a half ago – I predicted openly on this blog that it would be a game-changer for eHealth. Which goes to show that even someone as crystal-ball-challenged as me can get it right – sometimes!

At least 6-8 pharma companies (so far) have already committed to deploying the iPad to their sales forces, and I predict that it will become the new standard for delivering marketing messages, implementing eLearning and eCommunications, and facilitating territory management. In short, the iPad will displace the laptop.

And this means that an awful lot of applications will be re-designed for the new platform.

So here’s my new prediction for the rest of 2011-2012 – it’s going to be one freaking mess. Fun, because it’s the iPad, but a big tangled digital mess nonetheless.

Why? Because each company is going to have to “piecemeal” over a bunch of legacy functions and apps, from a variety of vendors, plus each department in the pharma company that communicates electronically with the field force will be throwing their stuff into the electronic stew.

Let’s say the iPad initiative starts with a major brand, or a therapeutic area. And the initial focus is on eDetailing. Do you realize how quickly, and how chaotically, everything else will start jumping on board once the initial commitment is made to go iPad? You’d like to think there was a master plan somewhere, right? Someone thought through all the ramifications and made a big-picture blueprint? Yeah, right.

The mess is already happening to the first wave, because this is how the transition will go initially:

As I was saying to one of my clients a few weeks ago during our brainstorming lunch, it’s just going to be the wild west for a year or two, and much of the true potential of the iPad will not be realized because we’ll be too busy moving the used furniture into the new house while still putting up the drywall.

The solution to this will come from the vendor side, and it will take the form of an “engine” underneath to

  1. handle the data flow,
  2. consolidate content management, and
  3. provide a common UX (User eXperience) interface to multiple applications.

It will allow much easier “plug-in” capability for new apps and give an integration layer that all the onesie-twosie apps we’ll see in the first wave won’t have. The user experience will be the starting point, not the afterthought. I’m guessing that one or more of the eDetailing and eTerritory providers are already working on this. I would be surprised to see this come out of the eLearning camp.

It’ll be a bit rocky getting there. But of all the vendors peddling apps and solutions for the iPad, keep your ears tuned for someone taking this approach (and having more than vaporware to show). That’s where the big win will be.


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Here at Impactiviti, we identify the top providers of marketing and training services – companies and people that are high-quality, proven, and recommended by our clients – to make your selection process much easier.

One of our partners does an exceptional job with Immersive Learning – eLearning simulations and case studies.  This type of development requires robust experience in both technology and instructional design – along with deep pharma expertise.

Download this one-pager: Immersive Learning, and let us know how we can be of assistance!


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AstraZeneca still waiting for the upside of MedImmune acquisition.

Pfizer: More Lipitor, fewer heart complications – A reanalysis of research data found a high dose of popular cholesterol pill Lipitor lowers risk of heart attack and stroke in some patients with both heart disease and kidney disease, the drug’s maker said Mondaymore

Fred Hassan heads to Bausch & Lomb.

Novartis‘ Tekturna post-heart attack: Not a good idea. “Given these results, we are not currently recommending the use of this agent in addition to other inhibitors of the renin-angiotensin system in this specific patient population.”

Access to docs flat, but appointments on the rise.


eLearning Development – From modules to virtual preceptorships to virtual worlds, we’ve got the partners you need in the Impactiviti network. Contact us (stevew at impactiviti dot com, or phone at 973-947-7429) for recommendations.


“I hate her uterus!” DTC, infertility, and a very effective on-line campaign. IncreaseYourChances.


Human, squirrel, or anvil? A great Dilbert cartoon today!


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In my consulting work with pharmaceutical sales training departments, I have the privilege of working with many quality companies (and quality individuals) – and my goal is to help them succeed.

However, I see a serious “structural deficiency” in many groups that almost guarantees waste, inefficiency, and higher probabilities of failure. Some departments have put the right people in place to make the cogs turn much more smoothly, and others can learn from these examples. I’ll describe a structure I strongly recommend.

For many sales training departments, training managers are coming through on a rotational basis. That is, this is a stop along the way to higher sales/management positions. Yet, these folks are expected to function as quasi- project managers, vendor managers, and instructional designers – that is, they are given operational responsibilities for which they are rarely trained and equipped. “Here’s the deep end of the pool!” <push>

One of the less-publicized but sad truths that grow out of this is that many vendors take full advantage of this situation by over-pricing and under-delivering, based on the inexperience of those who are making project decisions. Also, many training projects are developed and deployed outside of an overall training blueprint because no-one is minding the “big-picture” store on the technology, instructional, and strategic fronts.

So, departments end up with a patchwork quilt of training programs that sometimes have very little coherence. Sound familiar?

Once a company/department reaches a certain size, it makes sense to have head count that is more or less permanent – these are not rotational positions, probably not occupied by people with a sales background or career track (different skill sets), and these individuals are charged with the operational roles of saving a bunch of money and inefficiency by bring discipline and design to the training development process.

In short, there are at least three roles (in a larger department, these may be three groups) that need to evolve in order to get the training house in order:

1. A Manager of Instructional Design – this person is charged with ensuring that training programs are put together to fit into an overall strategic blueprint, and he/she interacts closely with all vendors and other developers to ensure program quality.

2. An overall Project Manager – this individual is responsible for helping to craft RFPs, is the leader in all vendor interactions and negotiations, and maintains the fiscal and operational discipline as projects move forward. In larger departments, there will be multiple PMs.

3. A Manager of Instructional Technology – this specialized role focuses on the deployment and use of systems such as LMSs, webcasting, on-line assessments, DVDs, etc. He/she interfaces closely with Training Managers, Instructional Design folks, and IT stakeholders.

Each of these roles involves specialized skills and a different mentality than that possessed by most typical salespeople. And the depth and intricacy of each of these responsibilities demands a long-term commitment – someone in the department for 18-30 months cannot possibly master these roles.

When the right people and structure is in place, these roles more than pay for themselves – hundreds of thousands of dollars can be saved annually by putting systematic design and development discipline in place. And in the end, you’ll improve vendor relationships as well (though they won’t be able to take as much financial advantage of you!) because each project will have a far better chance to succeed.

As I’ve said ad nauseum to my kids, “You can do it right – or you can do it twice!” No-one wants to throw away or re-do a costly project. Having the right people on board will help you do it right – the first time.

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FREE Webinar next week: Learn what’s shaking up the learning industry and what’s causing it to reevaluate its strategies when you join Training magazine for a live, interactive Webinar, as Training Technology in Action Conference & Awards host Bryan Chapman discusses the five major trends driving changes within the industry. Tuesday, Sept. 30 – all the details and registration here.

Chief Learning Officer on Leading with Substance and Style.

Chief Learning Officer on Social Media implementations.

CLO’s InfoZone – free downloads (must register first).

NEW THING – one of my roles is to find new things (or be available to be found by people with new things!). I’m eyeballing a device/service which is an inexpensive, branded, one-time use digital player for training and/or marketing purposes. This would occupy the middle ground between your typical audio CD-ROM, and a low-end iPod. You produce the audio – the company loads it onto the player, brands it, and you distribute to your audience. Sound interesting to you? Let me know what you think!

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Are you looking for:

    eLearning development (courses, simulations, etc.)?
    LMS/portal solutions?
    On-line assessment solutions?
    Other technology training solutions?

Contact us here at Impactiviti. We’re pretty tech-savvy and we have a lot of contacts in the training technology field. We’ll save you a lot of time and trouble by walking through your needs with you and identifying the best suppliers.

(Of course, we provide recommendations on FAR more than technology – live workshops, selling skills, curriculum design, leadership development, event training – our network of providers is broad and deep!)

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hair-pull-sm.jpgMaybe you don’t actually WANT to! Maybe you HAVE to (really, it’s not all that bad. It can even be fun, in a root-canal kind of way)! And, if you’re in a smaller and mid-sized pharma company, you may be facing this for the first time. I feel bad putting the hair-pulling picture in, because I actually enjoy technology, but if you’re facing a technology training initiative for the first time and have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what the issues are and how to begin, it can be…intimidating!

Here are a few introductory thoughts, brought to you in good old consultant-speak (but, hopefully understandable):

When trying to come up with a strategy for using training technology, the many options now available are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the sheer number of possible avenues (and providers) can seem overwhelming. On the other hand, however, there are so many mature platforms now, many of them far more cost-effective and scalable than in the past, that this is a great time to be making technology decisions. Trust me. I was working on these in the wild west days of 6-10 years ago. The options are so much better now.

As your training department evolves and matures its approach, and continues to support a growing field force, it is crucial that a technology solution be put in place to help administer the process. It’s either that, or drown in paper. Care must be taken, however, that the right solution for both present and future circumstances be chosen. These are the primary factors that must inform your decision:

1. The solution should ultimately bring greater simplicity, not more complexity, to the department. Your training department may be stretched thin personnel-wise. Internal resources to spec out, evaluate, implement, manage and administer a technology application may be scarce. Therefore, a solution that will subtract from, not add to, the workload is highly desirable. Do you want more work? I didn’t think so.

2. The provider and the platform must be solid, reliable, and proven. No fly-by-nights need apply. This is mission-critical data and functionality. A provider that is non-responsive, not established in the field, or out of touch with the realities on the ground of pharma field training will not be a good fit. The provider must have a track record of partnering with similar companies. And, a platform that is not already being used in a similar way to that anticipated by your department, with good success, is not an ideal candidate. A lot of these companies talk a good game. Mere words, and $2.85, will buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

3. The platform must be flexible and scalable. Your needs will evolve and grow over time – guaranteed. The platform needs to grow with it. It must be scalable, not only in sheer number of users, but also in price (that is, you are paying for what you need right now, not investing a huge amount up front for overkill), and in capabilities (new functions, compliance regs, extension to other departments, globalization, internal/external hosting, etc.). The provider of this platform needs to be viewed as a long-term partner in your overall learning approach. Let’s put it another way – this is not simply a one-time transaction. You need to be really comfortable with the platform and the company, because you’re now basically getting engaged.

4. The platform needs to adhere to relevant data security and learning technology standards. I recently heard about one LMS that apparently doesn’t conform even to basic AICC data standards. That’s like having a car with the steering wheel in the back seat.

5. Some form of “outsourcing” should be available. Since there may not be sufficient resources to manage a learning technology platform in the short and/or mid-term, there should be the possibility of outsourcing the hosting, and possibly the administration, of the platform for some period of time.

Projected Requirements

At minimum, the learning platform should have the following features and capabilities (warning – large list of bullet points, some of which may be obscure. That’s how consultants make a living):

– Ability to house, and/or launch, web-based courseware
– Ability to house, and/or launch other electronic files (.pdf files, Word documents, Powerpoints, etc.)
– AICC-compliant code to track launch and completion of courses
– Ability to house, and launch, on-line assessments (and possibly surveys)
– Ability to interface with other database systems (such as HR and internal LMS platforms)
– Ability to be hosted and/or administered by external (outsourced) resources
– Ability to be “brought inside” in the future, with no loss of data
– Ability to present to each student a customized learning plan – all assigned and required Learning Experiences (LEs) are shown in a personalized fashion upon login
– Ability to provide customized management views/reports to both field and inside managers, with view rights based on login (e.g., a DSM can only see his/her reps)
– Ability to capture electronic signatures, if needed, for 21CFR11 compliant record-keeping
– Ability to scale to multiple thousands of users, and to multiple languages, if needed
– Platform must track user and LE (Learning Experience: course, test, etc.) over time, and provide basic analytics and statistics
– Secure database schema, and login protocols, so that user data cannot be accessed by unauthorized users
– Web-based interface with no plug-ins required

The right decision will be based on which solution most closely meets both your short-term and long-term needs and requirements. Existing software applications in your enterprise may or may not actually be suitable – perhaps R&D already bought a Learning Management System. It may not be a good choice for Sales. In fact, it usually isn’t. I’m just saying.

And now, the shameless consultant plug. I’ve had my head wrapped around training technology for over a decade, and I groove on it. I enjoy working with clients who are trying to figure out what is needed (establishing requirements and specs), articulating that internally and to vendors (RFPs), and selecting solutions. So, if you need some expert help, from someone who will add value but not take you for a ride financially, give me a call. I speak your language, and I can hold my own with the geeks, vendors, executive stakeholders, and everyone else who gets involved. Except Barclay. No-one understands him.

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