What Can The Cloud Do For You?

September 21, 2012 No Comments

Featured Article By Matt Wallach, Chief Strategy Officer, Veeva Systems

Market research studies trumpeting the dominance of cloud computing are a bit ho-hum by now. Yet even by today’s hyped-up standards, a new survey by Gartner is astounding. In the research firm’s 2011 CIO Agenda Survey of 2,014 chief information officers, 43 percent of respondents predicted that the majority of their IT infrastructure will run on cloud technologies within the next four years.1 That’s a staggering statistic, considering only 3 percent of CIOs today report that most of their IT systems run in the cloud.

Almost as impressive is the U.S. government’s planned migration to the cloud: the Obama Administration recently launched a ‘cloud-first’ policy that requires federal agencies to identify services that can be migrated to the cloud.2

Today’s consumers are also flying high on cloud possibilities – even extraneous ones played up in Microsoft’s hazy cloud spots airing during primetime on major networks.

Welcome to the Cloud Era.

Unquestionably, the Cloud Era is here but are you ready? And by ‘you’ that is sales reps – not just CIOs or brand managers. To succeed in life sciences’ competitive, generic-eat-brand world, sales reps must learn how to leverage cloud technology to improve effectiveness in the field (or risk losing out to cloud-savvy competitors). Cloud computing cannot be left for consumption solely by the IT team. Sure, the IT department gains huge efficiency advantages from cloud technology but the cloud floats over every department in a life sciences organization. Considering the fact that sales-support software like CRM systems are among the first to migrate to the cloud, it’s critical for sales representatives to learn what cloud computing is, its implications, and how to leverage its power.

Pinning Down the Cloud – what is cloud computing?

Cloud applications are accessed over the Internet but reside on a shared server environment. Their multi-tenant architecture enables multiple users across multiple organizations to configure critical applications as they need to with a single system installation. Think Gmail, but for a business application.

Because the infrastructure is managed by a third-party and shared by all, cloud computing applications allow life sciences companies to increase capacity or add capabilities on the fly without investing in new hardware, hiring new personnel, or licensing new software. Companies just pay per user and have nothing to maintain, install, or upgrade ever. Application upgrades can simply be turned on by users with just a touch of a key and system changes can be made in minutes (not months). It’s this massive economy of scale and unparalleled flexibility that makes the cloud so appealing to businesses of all kinds, and companies of all sizes – but especially to life sciences organizations struggling under the weight of increasing cost pressures, globalization and patent expiration.

How does cloud computing affect the day-to-day job of a pharmaceutical, biotech, or medical device sales representative? The list is long, but what’s truly awesome is that – because cloud applications are accessed over the web rather than installed on corporate servers – the list keeps growing.

Here are just the top 10.

1. The Cloud Enables Reps to Fully Leverage Mobile Devices

Mobile technologies are rapidly making both applications and data accessible from anywhere at anytime. The popularity of super-functional smart phones and tablets, such as the Apple iPhone® and iPad®, are bringing a wide range of fun cloud-based applications onto mobile devices. Consider Facebook® – it’s inherently social, accessible through mobile devices, and completely in the cloud. (Could it be the business model for the future?)

New consumer cloud applications for the iPad (widely considered to be the most popular new device to ever be launched in the pharmaceutical industry) and its souped up successor, iPad 2, emerge every day. More recently, business-specific iPad applications are starting to hit the market including Veeva Systems’ iRep™ – the first integrated CRM/CLM cloud application designed specifically for the iPad. In addition to rich CRM functionality, iRep includes a sophisticated content viewer that enables reps to quickly present e-detail materials, deliver interactive presentations, and show visual data and video content on the iPad’s stunning screen. Conveniently, it’s also available offline since all content is stored locally. Reps also have real-time access to additional resources online to further enhance customer interactions such as quickly pulling up product details to answer a physician’s question about, say, new drug indications.

2. The Cloud Supports One-on-One Co-Browsing

The coveted ‘instant on’ feature of the increasingly popular iPad has thousands of reps at pharmaceutical companies trading in their laptops and tablets for the latest Apple creation. With just a swipe of their iPad screens, reps are connected to more resources than ever before while in the physician’s office. They don’t have to waste precious minutes powering up or waiting to connect to a server, and physicians appreciate the swift service knowing that their next appointment is already waiting. Reps can immediately walk physicians through a product or company website to show them how to request samples, download product information, or access patient disease management tools. Instantly, reps show physicians how to get exactly what they need – complements of the cloud.

3. The Cloud Enables Easier Expense Reporting

Industry surveys indicate that pharmaceutical sales reps spend more than 70% of their time traveling from office to office across an increasingly larger territory. With such extensive travel in a highly regulated industry, expense reporting becomes a time-draining, administrative headache.

But it doesn’t have to be, thanks to the cloud. A new mobile cloud application dramatically simplifies expense reporting and keeps reps productive while traveling by capturing every aspect of travel and expense spend electronically. Concur (www.concur.com) enables reps to easily create, review, and approve expense reports, plus book and change travel itineraries – hotels, airfare, taxis, rail, and rental cars – all from a smart phone. Reps can simply take a picture of a gas receipt with their phone, for example, and immediately have a back-up record for compliance requirements. All corporate credit card data also goes immediately into the system so reps don’t have to wait to get back to headquarters, comb through receipts, or input data. Only the cloud makes this level of convenience possible.

“Our services help sales reps at many of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies keep track of their T&E spend”, said Michael Hilton, EVP Worldwide Marketing at Concur. “Because our system is in the cloud, it’s easy for reps to use and since there’s no software to worry about, they are always on the most current version. Wherever they go, whenever they need it, reps can access the system to record and track every expense – even individual attendees at meals or entertainment functions. This is the power of the cloud.”

4. The Cloud Makes Fast Work of Physician Call Scheduling

It’s no secret that the relationships between physicians and the community of life sciences reps who call on them have grown strained because of the increasing pressures on medical providers from every angle. Consequently, securing appointments with physicians is very difficult, and at times, impossible. But the cloud is changing that with a new scheduling application that released its second version just 18 months ago.

RxVantage allows medical offices to efficiently coordinate appointments with representatives from all medical vendors who call on them. As a cloud application, medical practices can implement RxVantage in just a matter of minutes and then invite reps to join their network to learn everything they need to know about the office and to schedule educational opportunities (i.e., visits).

“The majority of physician practices find value from meetings with reps but struggle with the amount of time needed to manage these interactions,” said Greg Gilman, CEO of RxVantage. “RxVantage enables them to publish their availability online so reps know when to schedule appointments. It saves time for the practice – up to 2 hours per day. Reps benefit tremendously as well because they can book appointments and learn about their physicians from anywhere, then show up when and where they are expected, fully versed on the office rules. Additionally, our system sends appointment opportunities, directly to reps that would have gone wasted under the old pen and paper system.”

RxVantage connects thousands of physicians with reps from nearly 300 life sciences companies across the U.S. “The cloud makes it easy for offices to deploy and for reps to use our software. Typically, neither the office manager at a physician’s  practice nor an individual sales rep, has the ability to install software on company machines so RxVantage wouldn’t even exist if it were not in the cloud. And, for a mobile pharma sales force, the fact that the application is in the cloud allows access to the system from anywhere, anytime and in real-time,” added Gilman.

5. The Cloud Increases the Efficiency of Events Management

Even though reps are limited in the level of entertainment spending on physicians, planning dinner meetings and education events continues to be an important part of the selling strategy. It can be a time-consuming complicated process to plan and manage such events – and something that takes sales reps away from their core function. Some reps work with third-party vendors to help manage this process but, in doing so; lose control and visibility into the planning process. Often, reps are flying blind.

Think how much easier life would be if reps had access to a cloud-based application that helps manage dinner meetings and other educational events. Wherever they are, reps could click to their account page and see an up-to-date list of invitees, registrations, guest comments, room reservations, menu, expenses, and more. Constant Contact®, for example, enables 24×7 self-service event registrations to invitees, offers optional email updates to attendees, and links to Facebook and Twitter accounts to make it easy to promote events online – plus reps can make manual changes to the event via the web if necessary. There’s no software installation or hardware to purchase because the application runs in the cloud. Reps can finally have access, control, and visibility over their events from anywhere, at anytime.

“One of the great things about the cloud is that it enables a much wider audience to benefit from tools that would have once required complicated, and expensive, installations and maintenance,” said Christopher M. Litster, vice president and general manager of Event Marketing Business Unit at Constant Contact. “Today, managing and marketing an event is as easy as logging into the Internet. You set up the event and the tool manages the rest for you. Of course, that doesn’t mean you are left to figure it all out by yourself. Constant Contact provides all the ‘know how’ you need to get the job done.”

6. The Cloud Streamlines the Mentor/Rep Coaching Process

District managers must do appraisals of area sales reps and provide ongoing training but it can be difficult when reps are traveling all over the country…even the world. Reps, in turn, rely on these evaluations to determine areas that need improvement and how they compare with their peers. Currently, the mentor/rep coaching process is complicated and cumbersome. But, move coaching applications to the cloud and now it is accessible from all parties anywhere at anytime. Consider Amazon, which runs in the cloud. Mentors can go to amazon.com and build a suggested reading list for their mentees to view at their convenience, from home, work, the airport, or any place there is service.

7. The Cloud Allows for Collaborative, Compliant Content Management

Content management is one of the largest areas of technology spend for life sciences companies, but today’s leading solutions are based on technology that is decades old. The technology (client/server) is not only inflexible, but fails to efficiently support collaboration and end-to-end compliance tracking. Reps are forced, by default, to rely on systems that give access to promotional materials that are old, not yet fully approved, that have been recalled, or are in some other way non-compliant. Inadvertently, reps may provide incorrect promotional or educational material to physicians, drawing the attention of regulatory organizations like the FDA’s Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising, and Communications that are monitoring materials more closely than ever. When warning letters, or fines, are issued, sales reps take some of the heat.

The cloud offers a solution. New Veeva Vault (www.veevasystems.com/vault ) is the only life sciences content management system built using the latest in cloud-computing technologies. Because it’s built in the cloud, the new application ensures all content in the enterprise is updated in real time so reps always – and only – have access to the latest, approved version of a brochure or other literature.

“Reps don’t have much of a choice when it comes to the technology they are given to do their jobs,” remarked Jennifer Goldsmith, vice president, Veeva Vault. “Consequently, they find ways to work around inefficient or ineffective technology. When it comes to promotional materials, though, compliance checks can’t be averted because mistakes put everyone at risk. Current technologies leave too much room for error because they are slow to update and difficult to use. The cloud, however, offers reps the ability to securely and simply access the most up to date approved promotional content, ensuring that the right messages go to the right physicians at the right time.”

8. The Cloud Makes You Look Good

While regulations now restrict all kinds of physician entertainment spending, if reps do find themselves needing to impress a customer over calamari, filet and merlot…the cloud can help.

New cloud applications speed and simplify the process of making dining reservations at quality restaurants in unfamiliar cities. For example, Yelp.com, provides reps with reliable reviews on a city’s top restaurants, allows them to ask questions and even make reservations – in minutes – from wherever they are working. The popular web service provides access, via OpenTable.com, to a reservation system of more than 20,000 restaurants around the world and offers a fast, efficient way to find available tables that meet desired criteria for cuisine, price and location at a specified time. Reservations can be made around the clock and reflect actual, real-time availability – a feature only possible with cloud computing technologies.

9. The Cloud Improves Collaboration

If only everyone had a Google® Calendar, life would be so much easier. This free online calendar cloud application makes it incredibly easy to keep track of all of your commitments, and share that information with coworkers, family members, and friends. There is no limit to the number of calendars that reps can create, so it’s easy to keep schedules for work and home commitments separate yet stored in one place. Google Calendar allows users to overlay personal and professional calendars on top of each other to quickly and easily view availability. Even more convenient, the cloud application enables calendars to be synched on a smart phone so reps can coordinate busy schedules without being tied to a desk. Calendars can even be set up to automatically send event reminders via email or text message directly to smart phones.

Google, arguably one of the world’s consummate examples of cloud computing, enables collaboration in many different ways via cloud applications like Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Groups, Google Sites, Google Video and Google Docs. Regional sales managers can use Google Docs, for example, to share a budget spreadsheet with the rest of the sales team and then have everyone update it so there’s only one document to review – not dozens.

Like all cloud applications, Google Apps are interoperable with other systems (i.e., email applications) and can be accessed and edited in real-time from anywhere, anytime via mobile devices. There’s no limit to their reach so pharmaceutical reps have the power to leverage these cloud applications to improve their efficiency, their productivity, and their selling performance.

10. The Cloud Enables IT to Say Yes

How many great ideas have you had about how to improve your CRM system, but either nobody listened or IT said it couldn’t be done? Well, thanks to the flexibility of cloud-based applications, IT can say yes to your requests. The innate architecture of cloud applications makes it practically painless to make changes to systems – even enterprise CRM systems. So go ahead, request a change. Email an update. Send in your great idea. The IT department might just say yes this time.

Now, you really are floating in the clouds.

Sources:

1. http://www.gartner.com/technology/cio/cioagenda.jsp)

2. Government Technology, “Cloud First Policy – what does it really mean,” Dan Lohrmann, December 19, 2010 http://www.govtech.com/blogs/lohrmann-on-infrastructure/Cloud-First-Policy–121910.html

CLOUD COMPUTING

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