“If we didn’t get this right, it would have been
like driving with a blindfold,” says Bob
Bennett, business intelligence and analytics
leader at Cambridge, Mass.-based
Merrimack Pharmaceuticals. “Everything
was at stake for the success of our first
Before bringing ONIVYDE® to market,
Merrimack had to build a new commercial
operation supported by a technology
ecosystem that didn’t currently exist.
Merrimack chose ZS to design this
ecosystem and began a partnership that has
produced more than just technology.
Commercial ops from scratch
When a biotechnology company prepares to
introduce its first product to the market, the
primary question is, “How?” For some
companies, the answer is building their own
commercial operation, which requires
supporting technology—and the
effectiveness of both depends on data.
Dealing with data is especially challenging in
the oncology space, where the disparate data
sources make customer insights all the
more challenging to uncover.
Therefore, finding the right partner for such
a launch is critical. A new biotechnology
company needs help making decisions with
future growth in mind.
Knowing what you don’t know
“We had a viable product and made the
decision to bring ONIVYDE® to the U.S.
market on our own,” says Bennett, who led
this transformation for Merrimack. Like any
effective leader in his situation, Bennett’s
first challenge was to determine what his
team didn’t know and plan to fill those gaps
as his team charted the future of
Merrimack’s data and reporting ecosystem.
Bennett knew that he needed a trusted
“We had the data warehouse need and the
reporting need,” Bennett says. “From our
side of things, it seems pretty simple from a
business-needs perspective, but when you’re
building this solution and considering what
data to use—inputs and outputs, reporting
formats—there’s a lot. We needed a partner
to help us.”
With so many intersecting variables to
consider, working with multiple technology
vendors—each of which might specialize in
one area—presents its own set of
challenges. Bennett was unwilling to risk
working with several vendors, none of which
might adequately understand the big picture.
Merrimack needed customer data and a way
to clean, interpret and leverage it. To
effectively educate their colleagues in the
field, Merrimack would need regular and ad
hoc reporting. And since the operation was
new, Merrimack needed a solution that
would scale as the business grew, and a
partner that understood the company’s
A partner with domain expertise
In ZS, Bennett chose a partner with deep expertise in commercial operations and technology. “ZS isn’t a typical solution provider. They understand every aspect of our business, every touch point, and the downstream effects of every action. And because there was an educational component to this launch, their insights were essential,” he says.
“We started off with data strategy and working with ZS in education mode,” Bennett adds. “ZS helped frame a lot of what was coming down the road for us.”
Together, the partners built:
- Merrimack’s long-term data strategy and road map
- A technology ecosystem that pulls and manages data from multiple sources, powered by ZS’s own ARTiSTM for Oncology and Specialty Therapeutics
- A data stewardship solution to clean challenging oncology data and make it useful and actionable
- A dedicated ZS operations team that manages data and vendor relationships
- HQ and field reporting solutions that Merrimack uses to analyze and manage field operations
“With ZS, we had a seasoned team,” Bennett says. “They were showing us what the future would look like, so we could be prepared and keep our attention on the big picture.”
Going to market, ready for the future
Merrimack has successfully launched its commercial operation, which is supported by robust and effective technology.
Together, Merrimack and ZS:
- Created an IT road map and ongoing strategic partnership that continues to support Merrimack’s commercial operation
- Provided a new operation with a best-in-class data, reporting and ad hoc analytics capabilities
- Designed a future-proof and scalable technology ecosystem that will grow with Merrimack
- Inspired high user satisfaction and adoption of HQ reports
“It’s critical to be able to project data in ways that different stakeholders throughout the organization can consume, from marketing to the field,” Bennett says. “Without this data and our reporting capability, insights would be disconnected.”
“But it went beyond just the technology with ZS,” Bennett adds. “It’s been an end-to-end consulting relationship. I’ve worked with vendors who are always in sell mode and there isn’t a high level of trust. With ZS, I can really brainstorm and partner with them, like they’re part of my team. It’s more of an ‘us’ instead of an ‘us and them.’ ”