Ready for an Agile Future

Change an alignment, and the next day, it’s reflected in your sales compensation reports. That’s the future of pharmaceutical sales operations—and the not-too-distant future at that.


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A top-20 pharmaceutical company has taken a bold, industry-leading step toward realizing that vision. This company initially partnered with ZS to reduce cycle times, but the project grew in scope and impact, ultimately transforming the company’s sales operations with technology. In the process, the partners worked with the field to build a cutting-edge mobile reporting platform that helps the field do what it does best: sell



The Problem



The company faced a two-part problem. First, it had to expedite its planning cycle, allowing sales planners to move at the speed of the market. In the existing model, planning was taking four to five months, from alignments to goal setting. “We’d have people miss the window on an alignment request, and have to wait five to six months before the change could be processed,” the company’s director of incentive compensation and field force deployment says. “On top of that, by the time information was getting to the field, it was pretty old.”

In all pharmaceutical companies, sales planning processes rely heavily on technology, and like most of its peers, this company used multiple, disconnected solutions, which meant that the data would often be out of sync. The amount of data available to sales planners has been on the rise, as well, which adds to the complexity. Periodically aggregating the data into spreadsheets and reports—often a laborious, mostly manual process—is proving to be increasingly inefficient and ineffective.

Second, the company was challenged to deliver the data to the field in a timely, user-friendly way. “The sheer number of reports the reps received was overwhelming them,” according to the company’s director of field tools and sample operations. And the delivery of that data in static spreadsheets wasn’t in keeping with how reps now are accustomed to receiving information, she adds. As reps become more mobile-savvy, their standards have risen. Reps expect sales tools to look and function like the apps that they use on their personal mobile devices. “They needed a helpful, easy, mobile experience and they needed everything all in one place.”

The company wanted to cut cycle times and enable an agile model, integrate sales planning processes, unite their data into a single source of truth, and give the field the kind of time-saving, mobile-friendly experience that they needed.

The Solution



The company partnered closely with ZS, gathering requirements based on extensive user experience research with the field. Within a span of six months, they implemented:

  • ARTiS, a ZS technology solution that collects and cleans disparate data sets, and integrates with reporting solutions
  • Javelin Alignment Manager to enable ongoing, agile alignment management that promotes collaboration with the field
  • Javelin Call Plan Manager to enable agile, field-driven refinements to call plans
  • A business rules manager and a roster management solution (built with Javelin Application Catalyst) that replaced a 30-year-old legacy application
  • A portal built on a MicroStrategy front end that links 12 sales planning tools and 32 reports in one interface—with many of those tools and reports redesigned to be more mobile-friendly
  • Business process changes to streamline operations

“It’s one thing to change a small company,” the incentive compensation director says, “but these are large-scale enterprise transformations. So many people pitched in on both sides to make them happen in six months. It was a huge cross-functional achievement.”

The Results



With close collaboration and rigorous user experience research driving the implementation, the partners:

  • Reduced cycle times by 40% and enabled a truly agile, industry-leading sales planning model
  • Saved 20% on annual costs
  • Reduced a significant administrative burden to reps, giving them more time to sell. Rep feedback has been extremely positive, with 93% user adoption
  • Increased data accuracy, timeliness and synchronicity, making it more useful to sales planners and the field
  • Improved working dynamics between sales planners with new processes and tools that foster collaboration and transparency
  • Gave sales planners new insight into what information the field is using (or underutilizing)

“It’s easy to have meetings and talk about gaps, needs, challenges and desired outcomes,” the incentive compensation director says, “but then to be able to take those nebulous objectives and translate them into actionable outcomes—I don’t think another vendor could have accomplished that.”

“I’ve worked with ZS for years,” the field tools director adds. “They’re so willing to partner; they never feel like outside consultants. ZS goes beyond solving a technical problem. They bring huge value to business decisions as well.”