John Chinnici looks at how pharmaceutical companies can overcome the different internal governance challenges that arise while trying to efficiently manage promotional materials on a global scale.
Ten years ago, life sciences companies were largely autonomous. Drug development, research, manufacturing and marketing were often handled in house. Today, it’s another story. What was once an industry almost solely reliant on corporate resources is now made up of broad and heavily interconnected ecosystems of partners, vendors and affiliates. In a nutshell: collaboration is now an essential part of life sciences operations.
Now factor in the globalization of the industry. Organizations are now attempting to scale marketing to operate in a truly global manner with such actions as introducing global Medical, Legal and Regulatory (MLR) committees to approve promotional pieces. These pieces are then sent out to local affiliates, who tailor the content to their specific market while adhering to that market’s unique regulatory requirements.
Complicating matters further is the variability of the content itself. Companies must manage multiple translations of the same piece for products that may very well be at different stages of regulatory approval; for example, a drug may be approved for marketing in one country, but still in regulatory review in another. Managing properties across all these stages and countries quickly can get tangled, impacting a definition of a branded piece of content as well as what claims can be made in each country.
These complex global processes require many teams – internal and external – collaborating to move content from initial concept to approval in each market.
According to Senior VP, Global Marketing at Bayer Schering Pharmaceuticals, Ian Talmage, “When it comes to promotional materials specifically, there are dozens of different people touching documents – from internal brand teams and operations to writers, designers and programmers at marketing agencies. We need a clear audit trail so we know exactly where these content assets go, when, and who they were transferred to internally and externally. Pharmacos must move away from the days of working in isolated narrow silos toward working closely together and leveraging all of the knowledge and data collected by different teams.”
Today, for the most part, global affiliates are often left to their own devices when it comes to managing content. While a content management system may exist, consistent use of it is another story. Traditionally, collaboration with any internal or even external teams is complicated with most client/server-based content management systems. That’s because consistent access and collaboration across the globe is nearly impossible with the various devices and platforms being used by varying teams, both at headquarters and around the world.
“Today’s systems have failed to keep up, especially considering the fact that there is a greater expectation of control over the distribution and tracking of content assets,” added Talmage.
This is painfully obvious when it comes time to update or withdraw content worldwide. Say, for example, corporate marketing language has changed and needs to be reflected in local content. Without visibility into where or how a piece has been used, companies must manually track down the now-outdated content (often impossible given the lack of process consistency and transparency), request its withdrawal from distributors, submit a local-specific version to regulatory agencies, wait for approval, and, if approved, communicate so to corporate and send the new content out for distribution. Then consider that this is happening to many pieces in many countries, operating on disparate systems. All told, the internal governance of promotional materials across borders is a complicated mess, opening life sciences organizations to unnecessary risk with too many unaccountable versions of a document floating around between company teams worldwide.
Existing promotional materials management systems built on aging on-premise client/server platforms lack the flexibility to enable complex collaboration on a global scale. Often it takes too long, is too complicated, and is too expensive to give secure access to tens or even hundreds of external collaborators that are now an important part of pharmaceutical teams. These teams must often be given access to the system on via VPN or be given their own company laptops. However, VPN access is never easy, and sending out and maintaining company laptops can put quite a strain (both financially and productively) on a company’s IT resources. Furthermore, connections to a company’s system are usually slow and cumbersome.
To make matters worse, these teams often have little to no IT support at their place of work. This lack of support combined with old, non-user friendly interfaces that require extensive training means affiliates and teams from around the world are more likely to resort to non-compliant means of collaboration, such as email and file shares, that don’t provide the process visibility companies need.
This problem is compounded when managing promotional content on a global level, when companies must share assets between advertising agencies and marketing departments across multiple countries. As a result, it is almost impossible for a global life sciences company to maintain a consistent, structured global process.
Companies spend countless hours reviewing, tracking down and updating content using these systems. It’s a totally inefficient process that hinders valuable collaborations across a pharmaceutical company’s global resources.
Keeping Up with Data-Driven Marketing
Today, marketing and advertising have become largely data-driven, requiring marketers to adapt and respond quickly based on new information, such as the response rate from an email campaign or new data from field sales. Communicating these updates to affiliates is one thing; getting everything updated is another. Like the withdrawal process detailed above, tracking down content using today’s systems is overwhelming; on-premise or hosted systems rarely give global visibility into the use of a specific piece, so companies are often playing catch-up when it comes to updating promotional materials.
Global Collaboration in the Cloud
Life sciences companies are realizing that the status quo no longer fits their plans for global expansion. Searching for more flexible, modern and productive ways of managing content, these companies are increasingly turning to cloud-based – and specifically, SaaS-delivered – solutions. Armed with this new technology, life sciences companies can turn content management into an offensive advantage instead of just trying to keep their heads above water.
Cloud-based solutions increase productivity because:
Autonomy and self-reliance have been replaced by shared partnerships across nearly all areas of a life sciences company today. The companies that find a way to collaborate efficiently and effectively will have the advantage – especially as markets continue to expand globally. As many industry leaders are discovering for themselves, the answer is in the clouds – literally.
Want to hear more on this topic? Read Global Marketing: Managing Promotional Material Across Borders, by Veeva Systems.
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