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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Curse of the Patchwork Monster

Does your content management system resemble the type of patchwork monster that Victor Frankenstein might have roughly sewn together with different body parts? Does it work, but only just, struggling to keep up with the increasingly complex demands placed on it? Does it threaten to collapse at any moment – or worse, endanger the effective running of your commercial content lifecycle? In short, is it turning your marketing process into a horror show?

If your answer to these questions is a resounding ‘yes’, then you are not alone. Despite operating in a digital age, with skyrocketing volumes of promotional material, many companies in the life sciences industry are still stuck in a world where commercial content and assets are managed using paper-based processes and disconnected data systems. Yet there are huge benefits to slaying this content management monster once and for all, and adopting a fully integrated digital supply chain.

Digital Dilemma

Online technologies have set a new, accelerated pace in the race to bring commercial content to market. An avalanche of new clinical data, channels and regulatory requirements have combined to challenge even the most experienced companies. Keeping track of each commercial asset at every stage in its lifecycle, while maintaining compliance across all channels, has become nearly unmanageable.

This explosion in online marketing is further coupled with a growing demand for global brand alignment and cost savings achieved through content reuse across the digital supply chain. Campaigns are increasingly global, requiring marketing assets to be shared, distributed and repurposed widely across international locations, each with a unique regulatory backdrop that may slow approval and time to market.

Every part of the promotional materials process – from content creation to review, approval and distribution – comes with the potential for detours, such as hiccups during medical, legal or regulatory review, regulatory impediments or other unexpected delays. Yet many companies are still held back by inefficient processes and multiple discrete systems that limit visibility, collaboration and sharing across the digital supply chain.

Patchwork Approach

Findings from the Veeva 2015 Life Sciences Commercial Content Management Survey (1) reveal that 41% of life sciences companies are still using paper-based processes, and 60% are using email to manage at least some steps along the commercial content digital supply chain. And Frankenstein’s monster is still alive and (un)well throughout the industry, as 89% of organisations continue to employ multiple systems and procedures to manage commercial content, suggesting the type of serious break points in existing processes that can breed inefficiency and hamper effectiveness.

Many companies are dissatisfied with such a multi-system, patchwork approach, in terms of both speed to market and compliance. While roughly half (52%) of participants in the study have automated review and approval, many have identified capabilities they are lacking that would improve speed to market. For instance, 85% of respondents do not have the ability to report on content status and process bottlenecks, while 75% are missing global digital asset management (DAM) systems. Meanwhile, 60% of those surveyed say they cannot simultaneously distribute content electronically to multiple channels. The participants also reported that they lack key functions for compliance – including visibility into where claims and content are in use (81%) and an audit trail to manage commercial content throughout its lifecycle (49%). Only a small fraction of those surveyed (6%) use systems to manage commercial content that supports the full digital supply chain. However, this group reported better satisfaction overall with speed to market and compliance capabilities, as well as use of fewer systems on the whole, thus reducing handoffs and break points.

Understanding the Digital Supply Chain

So, what exactly is the digital supply chain? In the life sciences industry, it encompasses multiple touch points and includes all of the stakeholders and departments involved with the creation, sharing and approval of digital content. It is important to remember that all departments that ‘touch’ a digital asset at any stage in its lifecycle will impact its potential time to market. Therefore, these departments will be an integral part of the DAM workflows from the onset of project delivery. These divisions include core marketers, commercial managers, and the medical, legal and regulatory team, as well as creative agencies responsible for finessing content and designing the way in which it is presented.

Deploying a system that supports the full digital supply chain can yield a number of benefits. These include: a reduction in the overhead costs associated with the development and adaptation of marketing content and promotional materials; an established and unified end-to-end DAM system to manage and consolidate all assets across the supply chain; high efficiency, quality and compliance in the development, approval, management and support of digital assets; a decrease in the time and effort required for content to be approved, published, and repurposed; and a collaborative environment in which operations can enable and support the transformation of marketing tactics into content that can be shared across multiple channels and markets.

Outlined below are three case studies of companies that, having replaced paper-based processes and multiple systems with single, complete cloud-based solutions, now manage their commercial content through the full digital supply chain:

From Paper to Increased Productivity
A leading global medical device company found itself slowed down by its combination of a paper-based system and a basic software tool. The organisation markets more than 50 medical device products and produces more than 100 pages of commercial content for each of them. In 2013, the company implemented a cloud solution to automate the commercial content supply chain, starting with 350 users. Three years later, it has seen a rise in productivity due to process improvements, a reduction in handoffs, and a greatly lessened need for face-to-face meetings to drive content to market. Today, the solution is leveraged across multiple geographies and has more than 900 users.

Standardising Approval Across the Globe
In another example, a top 10 global pharmaceutical company, operating in 160 countries, saw the need for a specialised commercial content solution early on and developed their own in-house. But the internal system had become slow and cumbersome, whereas the company was looking for a partner to implement a solution that was easily accessible worldwide. To resolve this, the organisation selected a life sciences-specific solution that provided full capabilities – ranging from powerful workflow management to cross-referencing analysis, full project lifecycle management and state-of-the-art reporting tools.

The business was particularly interested in being able to automatically generate US FDA Form 2253. The initial implementation included multiple brands across several therapeutic areas and 900 users originally, which has since expanded to 4,000. This client was able to standardise approval processes around the globe, therefore enabling a streamlined system, collaborative planning and increased efficiency of document review and approvals. Materials and references are now shared throughout the company, with many jobs being reviewed across multiple countries with ease and minus delays. The organisation is also now able to run metrics on a global scale to review the productivity of its entire business.

Improving Collaboration Across Geographies

The maker of several globally recognised consumer healthcare brands was using manual, paper-based processes to manage promotional content in its UK affiliate. For instance, individual commercial claims were tracked in Excel spreadsheets, while brand managers struggled to collaborate across the organisation and with outside agencies. Further to this, multiple handoffs among stakeholders resulted in bottlenecks as duplications and omissions showed up in revised versions. In addition, medical, legal and regulatory reviews took as long as 40 days on average. The company eventually decided to act when an impending office move was about to physically separate the team, making it impossible to keep up this paper-based process.

Within six weeks, both the internal team and partners at eight creative agencies were up and running on the new system. The company cited improved collaboration, global accessibility, better visibility and easier compliance as some of the benefits derived from employing an end-to-end solution that manages commercial content throughout its lifecycle.

Facing the Monster

While the majority of life sciences companies still use a patchwork approach to commercial content creation, distribution and compliance, these case studies show that it does not have to be this way. The life sciences industry needs to recognise that outmoded ways of working and the continued use of multiple systems impacts content quality, reduces speed to market and hinders compliance. It is only by facing up to this Frankenstein’s monster, and pulling the plug on it for good, that companies can enjoy the benefits of embracing a full digital supply chain.

1. Veeva 2015 Global Life Sciences Commercial Content Management Survey. Visit: commercial-content-management-survey-full-results

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As Vice President of Global PromoMats, John Chinnici is responsible for leading Veeva’s Vault PromoMats business globally. An engineer by trade and a business consultant by early experience, John has always been at the nexus of technology, addressing real business needs. Prior to Veeva, he spent 14 years as a business consultant at IBM and Accenture, focused primarily on commercial organisations in life sciences companies. During this time, John had the pleasure of serving 10 of the top 15 pharma companies, helping each solve some of their most difficult problems. John holds a BS in Computer Engineering from Penn State University and an MBA from Columbia University.
John Chinnici
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