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Archive for the ‘vendors’ Category

The Star Wars Rogue One movie comes out this week, so what better time to discuss moving over to the “Dark Side” than today?

(for those not yet in the know, sometimes training professionals within life sciences companies take on new career roles with vendor-providers. This is, tongue-in-cheek, referred to as moving to the Dark Side!)

darkside

In the Life Sciences industry, there’s a close collaboration between people in Training and Development departments, and their outside vendors. In fact, many people cross over from one side to another at points in their career – some for a season, and others permanently.

 Life is not the same on both sides of this fence. We discussed what it is like to launch a consultancy in an earlier post, but for this article, I’ve interviewed three industry professionals who have worked on both the client and the vendor side. Here is the question we’re working with: what are the main lessons learned about the nature of work once we leave the training department and join the “Dark Side”?

andreapagnozziAccording to Andrea Pagnozzi (who has done multiple stints in training within pharma and medical device companies, and also worked for a time with a training vendor), one of the biggest realizations was how many people, and moving parts, were involved in developing training on the vendor side. While clients within T&D departments only see a few faces (typically an account manager and a project manager), there is, in fact, a whole host of professionals involved in a tightly-choreographed dance behind the scenes. Most vendors don’t burden their clients with all those details, and rightly so; however, it is important to remember that every change or delay in a project has ripple effects in the workflow behind the scenes.

Having worked on the vendor side for many years, I know about this first hand. To help clients understand, I often show a picture of the inner workings of a clock – you know, the old-fashioned kind with lots of gears – to build awareness that there is just as much complexity and collaboration on a project on one side of the fence as there is on the other. That’s why a detailed project plan is so important – it keeps everyone on track so that the development process does not spin out of control.

davidboyleDavid Boyle, who has worn a variety of hats within large life sciences companies as well as with training vendors, stated that he has ended up learning far more about learning development from being on the vendor side. Those who cycle into training roles in pharma/biotech/med device organizations often only receive a bare minimum amount of training in project management and instructional design, and many times are not empowered to take a holistic view of existing training assets compared to the short-term necessities of the project at hand. As an outside supplier, David has found that he can often take a more strategic view of any given project and approach the needs more thoroughly. This underscores how important it can be to allow vendors to serve as strategic partners, and to bring their expertise and outside view to bear. This approach can end up saving enormous amounts of time and effort.

sueiannoneSue Iannone has occupied many leadership roles in major training organizations over the years, having worked on countless initiatives both small and large. Recently, Sue took on a leadership role with a vendor/partner, and her input to me revolved around how absolutely crucial it is (for both sides!) to arrive at a very clear project definition. Most of the time, we tend to have a basket of problems on our minds, which, when unloaded on a vendor, may lead to a lack of clarity. Sue suggests a strategic definition session when appropriate, perhaps including a whiteboard, to try to narrow down the scope of the project and arrive at the true strategic business imperatives. This approach helps clients to get exactly what they need.

Those who know me well know that I often promote the phrase, “You can’t read the label of the jar you’re in.” One of the most valuable roles a vendor can play is to bring outside perspective and holistic thinking. All of us get too involved in our own forest and trees, and working more closely with smart and collaborative vendors in the definition process will always lead to greater success.

One interesting point that those on the vendor/partner side bring up is that the opportunity set is different when working with provider companies. Vendors tend to be much leaner, and generally value creativity and initiative more than conformity and narrow focus. The pace is faster, the hats you wear are more varied, and the “cocoon” of infrastructure that one often enjoys on the inside of a client company just isn’t there. Moving in one direction or the other can be scary for some, but refreshing and empowering for others. In either case, it’s a great growing experience!

More in the Impactiviti Interview series:

Training Journey – From Major Pharma to Startup

Training for the New World of Specialty Pharma

Becoming a Consultant – Should You?

Two Keys to Successful Product Launches

Clinical Training Innovation at Depomed

Development of Field Leadership at Gilead Sciences – “Touchpoints”

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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).

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Certainly, there are interpersonal and relational aspects of a client/vendor relationship that are vital to long-term partnership success. After all, who wants to work with a jerk or an insenstive boor (on either side)? ;>}

But those skills are not enough to make projects go smoothly. One of the most important practices that any client can cultivate is a great process for spelling out project requirements.

Here is a very helpful article on the outsourcing process (including a good definition of the acronyms RFI/RFQ/RFP), reinforcing many of the skills and behaviors that I have seen work well over the years.

A pull quote:

The quality of proposals you receive will only be as good as the RFPs you send to them. If you do a poor job of articulating your needs, the supplier must speculate and make assumptions. Being vague communicates to the supplier that you are not sure of your own needs. Your objective is to get the supplier to put forth their best proposal.

Read the whole article. There is an art and science to drawing up good proposals, and projects often go off the rails not because the developer is “bad,” but because there simply weren’t enough details to get on the right track.

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