Case study

Case study: Pharma firm fought through hurricane to keep marketing tool on target

Lindsay Clark

The right marketing messages may seem simple and direct, but in the pharmaceuticals industry, at least, managing them is not. 

Bristol-Myers Squibb, one of the world’s largest healthcare firms, creates and manages marketing material for 2,500 products around the world.

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With global reach, each piece of marketing literature can be governed by different rules in different jurisdictions, and must be approved by legal and medical experts, as well as marketing teams. 

Meanwhile, the content may be printed, distributed across websites and published in emails; it may be aimed at consumers or medical professionals.

Two and a half years ago, Bristol-Myers Squibb needed to replace its marketing communications system, which managed the creation and approval of such a daunting spread of content. 

But when the business decided to change its processes at the same time, it added another layer of complexity, says Dinesh Salvi, global director of marketing solutions at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

“We started the technology replacement, but when the business people saw it, they said, ‘Great technology, we can do this, that and the other’. Suddenly, we had new processes to go alongside the technology programme,” says Salvi.

The pharmaceuticals and healthcare firm, which achieves revenues of around $17.6bn (£11.3bn), had been using SmartPath, a marketing management product from DoubleClick. The product was acquired by Aprimo in 2005, which was in turn bought by Teradata in 2011. 

After deciding SmartPath was struggling to meet business demands and difficult to upgrade, Bristol-Myers Squibb conducted a competitive tendering process and elected to upgrade to Teradata’s Aprimo software.

Take time to understand

Speaking at the recent Teradata Partners conference in Dallas, Salvi advised other businesses embarking on an application refresh and business change simultaneously to take more time than they think they need to understand the product. 

Certain Aprimo functions just don't work like the well-loved features of the old SmartPath application, but we minimised customisation

Dinesh Salvi, Bristol-Myers Squibb

“We evaluated the software but did not really understand it until later. Make sure at all levels of the team you really understand it. Take time to get into the details – only then can you explain your vision of how you want the application to function in the language of the business,” he said.

Salvi's team opted for an iterative approach, with users reviewing the design and making adjustments as the system was built. A strong user team is needed for this approach, he says.

“We had users, but we realised later on that the right users are key. It is not that the users we had were bad, but their influence in the organisation was not as strong as we thought. What you want are the best people. Although it is always a challenge to get them, when things go wrong, they are the loudest,” says Salvi.

The application was designed to be hosted as a managed service. Because many users are used to software as a service (SaaS), on iPads and smartphones, there is demand for fast upgrade cycles, Salvi says. The supplier can only support this if application customisation is kept to a minimum, he says.

“This was a big feat and hard to work. Certain application functions just don't work like the well-loved features of the old application, but we minimised customisation. We aligned that with executive management. They had to understand that if there is a customisation we want them to make the decision and understand its value and impact,” says Salvi.

Hurricane Sandy troubled project

During the development, the project had to cope with a change in senior management, and a switch from going live first in the US to starting the roll-out in Europe. 

Then Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in the US during the autumn of 2012, and threw the project off by a couple of weeks as the severest impact was felt in New Jersey, where Bristol-Myers Squibb has its head office. 

“We had to cope with all the change you could think of. It is one for experience,” says Salvi.

Once the application was designed, the team introduced it in Europe in November 2012, and the US in January 2013.

This was accompanied by a change management process. From executive management to specific functional teams, the business needed to understand new responsibilities and decision-making processes. 

While the team employed online tools, roadshows and live training, the go-live in the US was accompanied by a "support concierge", set up in a large room next to the cafeteria. Webinars helped reach out to third-party marketing agencies which also use the tool.

While the new application was built and introduced because of a technology imperative, Salvi expects it to reduce product cycle times, which will be measured by a reporting regime added during the development programme. Lower cycle times improve time to market, an important advantage in the pharmaceuticals industry. 

Through his team’s hard work creating new technology and processes, Salvi hopes to offer the business a competitive edge.


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