North Wales, PA — By the end of a typical week, my Outlook calendar looks like the bitter end of a Tetris game with meetings stacked two and three deep in any given hour. My inbox? Even worse, choked with deep chains of group emails and well-intentioned “marked as unreads” likely to be permanently left behind. Back when businesses started embracing internal social networks in 2010 and 2011, Atos did a study of its own internal email and found that employee-to-employee emails were deemed useful only 10% of the time and, worse, 18% were considered spam. As frustrating as that glut of communication is in advertising, imagine how absolutely crippling it could be to a global distribution network?

That’s just the problem Teva Canada set out to solve when it transitioned from an one-on-one communication system (email, text, phone) to a social business core.

(Disclaimer: This isn’t the typical type of story we’d cover on HxP, but we made a special exception in this case because it points to what can be accomplished in highly-regulated industries in the pursuit of better communications and more useful human connections).

In any supply chain, speed is of the essence. In pharmaceuticals, speed is even more critical, as people’s lives and health are often literally on the line. Relying on traditional communication alone, resolving a problem could take weeks. In a recent report by MITSloan Management Review, Nadine Jean-Francois, director of supply chain management, explained it this way “Microsoft Outlook is a good tool. But because people can book meetings so easily, they’re often double- or even triple-booked.” To get people out of the inbox and into collaboration, Teva launched a social network called Radar. It uses tools similar to Facebook to let people easily work together to solve problems in the short term and build a deep database of that shared data and experience over time.

Earning adoption of Radar wasn’t easy. Jean-Francois said bottom-up adoption came from seeing real value in the tools, literally improving people’s ability to do their jobs. But every time top management changed or support faded, so did engagement with the social platform. People were worried about seeing challenges or issues that would have one day been hidden in email suddenly out there for everyone to see. They needed that leadership context around the value of transparency and sharing.

It’s interesting to read how Jean-Francois thinks about the impact of the tools. It’s not just about efficiency* – although that’s certainly a critical part. It’s also about visibility into the real day-to-day operational issues the company faces. Imagine how that specific insight could change pharmaceutical marketing? Connecting with people in social environments isn’t just about solving their problems, it’s about changing how we understand our business and our opportunities to improve people’s lives.

Social business will continue to change our industry. Covance, for example, has hung up on its traditional dialing-for-delegates approach to clinical trials. Today, their strongest recruits are social ones. Maybe these small operational shifts will do more than change how we communicate with each other, they’ll change change how we communicate with our customers.

*A few numbers on just how efficient: Up to 50% reduction in the number of face-to-face meetings needed to resolve issues; 40% reduction in manufacturing cycle time; Faster, more responsive service to its global network of wholesalers. From Moxie.

Posted by: Leigh Householder

Find from: Craig Dieckhoner

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for shaping the company’s perspective on the next era of healthcare marketing. Through thought leadership, strategic innovation workshops and new products and capabilities, Leigh focuses on identifying marketing approaches that will fuel that new era and generate significant growth for clients. Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for over 17 years. She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she had several leadership roles at one of our agencies, GSW. There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business. Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes. A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice, Leigh also was recognized as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.