Conformity is Not Competitive

In recent 1:1 conversations with life sciences CEOs and countless VPs and Directors at conferences and exhibits, I’m heartened by the focus on the patient. In fact, in a recent Adaptive Fulcrum survey, 97% of life sciences employee respondents indicated improving patient outcomes was extremely (76.7%) or somewhat important (20.0%) to them. For them, this is the “why” of their career. This is directly stated as the primary mission in virtually every life sciences company’s mission statement.

In the same survey, 100% of respondents indicated they believed an effective customer relationship management system could—to a large extent (50.0%) or to some extent (50.0%)—improve patient outcomes.

But I was disheartened with further responses: when asked to what extent they believed their current CRM system helps their company be successful being competitive in delivering improved patient outcomes, an astounding 77.1% indicated their current CRM system helped them only to some extent (64.5%) or not at all (22.6%).

So, question #1: Why are CRM systems failing to achieve, or assist in achieving, the primary mission of life sciences companies?
Answer: They were never designed to.

Question #2: Why do companies continue to deploy them?
Answer: Because everyone else is.

Allow me to explain my reasoning.

CRM systems fail to improve patient outcomes because—as Systems of Record—they were never designed to be nimble enough to evolve to address rapidly changing business requirements, such as moving to a “patient-centric” model. They are databases and are excellent at the historical “bookkeeping” functions of: call/activity recording, contact(s) management, opportunity management and capturing sample management data; their workflows have been designed for the “reach and frequency” and “territory coverage” models of field reps calling on general practitioners. They are not designed for real-time collaboration and communications.

In a recent Gartner report, “How to Recognize CRM Systems of Innovation” (June, 2015)*, Gartner authors state: “Most IT organizations struggle to implement new and better ideas fast enough to meet sales and service needs because they use the same approach for all systems, regardless of their pace of change. Pace layering breaks this restriction by matching the marketing, sales, service or digital commerce needs to an appropriate systems approach, based on the expected rate of change.”

Two of the key findings from the report noted:

  • “Systems of innovation allow IT organizations to address innovative CRM opportunities for the business, enabling them to play more strategic roles.
  • Systems of innovation generally have different processes, technologies and organizational structures than those of traditional CRM systems.”

Gartner further illustrates their point of view in this diagram:

Gartner Pace-Layered Application Strategy

So, as the commercial models evolve because of competitive pressures, it is incumbent on IT organizations – and their commercial counterparts – to recognize their systems for what they truly are, and where they exist in the stack, if there is any hope of aligning expectations with commercial realities. Expecting systems to perform in ways they were not designed is like using a hammer when one needs a drill.

The latest buzzword in the CRM space is for a 360° customer view. What is intended is for a CRM user to having a holistic view of their customer. While well-intentioned, this limited vantage point does not take into account the 360° view of the users’ own company: Who are my virtual teammates? Who is counter-parted with whom? What activities are planned? When will they occur? How does the calendar mesh with the customers’ calendars, etc.? No, traditional CRM systems are not designed to provide a 360° view, let alone the 720° View™ field employees really require.

Question #2 begs: But how did we get here?

The traditional life sciences CRM model accelerated through the late 1990’s and 2000’s because government oversight and prosecution dictated that “bookkeeping” CRM systems be implemented so legal departments could easily conduct discovery and hopefully defend, or justify, the actions of their field forces. And once companies started benchmarking each other, they adopted “best practices” of each other. In other words, they copied each other.

But, once best practices are adopted by the majority, they become the “mean”; they become mediocre; they become the norm. So, what were intended to be “centers of excellence” have inadvertently become “centers of mediocrity.” If we are all using the same systems, to do the same things, in the same ways, where does competitive advantage come from? Executing mediocrity faster? I don’t think so.

What is required is fresh thinking; a fresh perspective; a new vantage point. This is where we come in. We have completely reimagined mobile engagement and CRM for the new era of wellness and patient outcomes. We’ve designed from the customer’s perspective; and, we’ve designed to deliver on the mission of improving patient outcomes. This requires: collaboration, content, communication and context – what you will find in the new Prolifiq mobile engagement and CRM system.

The choice is yours: you can conform to the norm or you can lead and compete.

*Gartner Report: “How to Recognize CRM Systems of Innovation” by Kimberly Collins and Ian Finley | Published: 23 June 2015

Posted on August 23, 2015 in Mind of Jeff Gaus by Jeff Gaus
Minding the Gaps of CRM in Life Sciences