The fundamentals of social business design can be applied to many different sectors and to many different business processes. Whilst, by definition, those fundamentals remain constant, or at least relatively stable, the application of them can vary widely. What follows are just three quick, high-level, examples of how the pharmaceutical industry could use social business design to its advantage. For these brief use cases I’ve intentionally stepped away from the usual subject of conversation, that of social media marketing for pharma, and moved back behind the firewall.
Of course everything below is open for discussion, commenting, re-interpretation addition and/or questioning. The number of use cases I had in mind as I drafted this were just too many to get down in a single blog post. Hopefully though, through the discussion, more use cases and examples will come to light.
For now though…
Most organisations try to keep abreast of the latest news and developments in their sector and it is especially pertinent to do so in the pharmaceutical industry, traditionally one of the most knowledge-hungry industries. The appetite for data, information and knowledge in the industry comes as no surprise when you consider the vast sums of money involved. Getting a $1bn drug to market just 1 month earlier means an extra $83m in revenue. Factor in the advantage of being first-to-market or first-in-class and the timeliness of information retrieval and digestion comes sharply into focus.
When it comes to information flow, currently, RSS is king. Whether it’s the library receiving and passing on competitor analysis, the in-house lawyer keeping up with the latest precedents or the researcher staying up-to-date with peer reviewed publications. RSS offers a way to pipe information between individuals, groups and departments in a much less intrusive manner than emails.
Using a single example to extol the virtues of RSS will undoubtedly lead to RSS being undersold, but for this post I’m going to focus on re-purposing the platform discussed in Robin’s post.
Below is a simple flow diagram explaining how the Climate Pulse site aggregates content from across the web. In this example content is pulled from sources such as blogs, Flickr, Twitter etc. The important thing is that, whatever the source, there is a way of pulling information from it and into the platform, either by way of RSS or an API.
Step by step, here’s how the example above could apply to a research situation within pharma:
- Find, Monitor and Aggregate – The sources included for aggregation would be systems such as internal document management systems, peer-reviewed journals, research data repositories and electronic laboratory notebooks.
- Curate and Editorialise – The curation step could be used to highlight results for lead chemical compounds or series, knock-out false positives, highlight particularly important articles and organise competitor analysis.
- Display and Participation – The display of information would serve as a project dashboard, available to all project members. It would act as a jumping off point, from which colleagues could enter the sources of information directly. It would also allow for commenting from the producers of data as well as therapeutic area leads.
- Output – Since the platform can be built to be open the output can either be directed to groups or individuals or the audience can decide how to digest it. For instance the information for several projects can be aggregated into a therapeutic area view. Alternatively the output can be pushed back into the data generating areas of the company as a prioritised to-do list. And, if you are brave and prepared to challenge some pharmaceutical industry paradigms, you could even bridge the firewall and publish some information direct the external scientific world.
- Disparate Participation – Widgets can be built which take information from and push information to the central information display allowing disparate groups to focus on the information in a manner most suitable to them.
Most companies attempt to maintain a directory of all employees. These directories are usually limited to a simple headshot, contact details, which department the colleague is in and other basic information. At most they include a very simple “biography” entry and maybe an “expertise” section.
Inevitably, as the company changes structure and adapts to external stimuli, people move departments and change the focus of their professional specialism. Classic corporate directories do not capture this well due to their inherent static nature. Since social business technology is built around dynamic core principles they are much better suited to reflect the fluid structure of most modern companies.
Most, if not all of the leading social business platforms can:
- be linked in to Active Directory to produce an automated organisation chart;
- provide customisable profile pages that enable people to quickly and easily describe themselves through biography entries;
- provide an aggregation of a person’s activities throughout the system;
- use a person’s activity to suggest connections to similar people;
- index a person’s activities to use during searches for expertise;
- include some form of unstructured expertise discovery.
At a very basic level, the use of these, more social, profiles provides colleagues with a corporate directory. On top of that, in an industry that thrives when cross-discipline teams work well together, these profiles supplement already existing knowledge networks by making use of the metadata involved in every comment, blog post, discussion, vote, poll answer and uploaded document. This provides a dynamic and searchable database of colleagues, which can be used to discover a single expert in a company of thousands, which is something of a regular occurrence in pharma.
Collaborative Document Writing
People need easy and accessible ways to work together to turn information into actionable insight. Very few knowledge-based industries escape from this fact, especially pharma. The number and sheer volume of collaboratively authored documents in the pharmaceutical industry is phenomenal; from the research presentations to SOPs; from journal publications to regulatory submissions.
There are plenty of images and videos explaining the problems associated with the current workflows used to produce collaboratively authored documents . My current favourite is an advert for IBM Connections showing how email proliferates when only a few people are involved (3mins 35secs).
This is where wiki-like functionality comes to the forefront. This allows people to concurrently edit documents, comment on documents, version control their documents and publish them in a variety of formats. Most enterprise wikis also allow for file attachments enabling authors to collect all the supporting documents in a single space and once a simple workflow is overlaid the wiki becomes a fantastic way to author, review and approve a document for publication.
For those who shy away from wikis, due to workflow, security or mark-up language concerns, with the release of Jive SBS4.0 we’ve seen a blurring between traditional office documents and a more wiki-like approach with their inline commenting. For those instances where the source document has to be very tightly controlled this functionality enables a social layer to sit across the document.
Hopefully those three examples will be enough to start a discussion on how Social Business Design can be used behind the firewall of pharmaceutical companies. There are definitely more exciting and challenging discussions to be had:
- how self-publication will alter the nature of scientific journals and the peer-review process
- the use of APIs and open data standards behind the firewall to aid cross-discipline sciences such as PKPD;
- crowd-sourcing the interpretation of complex data;
- publishing research data outside of the firewall;
- driving clinical trial recruitment for rare diseases through the use of social media;
- how the interaction of pharma companies with their audience is regulated by agencies such as the FDA (a very pertinent question following the FDA hearings on Social Media);
to name just a few, but I’ll save those for future posts.