Better Comms Means a Fitter Future for Pharma, Part 2: Realizing the Benefits of Unified Communications

In Part 1 of this blog, Richard Freeman looked at some of the challenges faced by pharma firms today as a result of growing competition, regulation and globalization, and argued that more effective communication and collaboration was key to their continued success.

Guest blog by Richard Freeman, sales manager at MeetingZone

In Part 1 of this blog, Richard Freeman looked at some of the challenges faced by pharma firms today as a result of growing competition, regulation and globalization, and argued that more effective communication and collaboration was key to their continued success. Part 2 outlines how unified communications (UC) can help overcome some of these challenges.

Any UC deployment is about connecting people with one another (and with data) in a faster, richer, simpler way. Of course, no technology is a silver bullet, and a firm will only realize the full benefits if it is a truly collaborative organization, or making serious efforts to become one.

As well as the right type of culture, companies also need to have appropriate infrastructure in place to support such a solution. For example, getting different modes of communication such as voice, video, and text working together seamlessly requires the right underlying network and hardware. While that could be an in-house system, for smaller and mid-market firms, a hosted, cloud-based offering that allows you to avoid hefty set-up costs is often a more cost-effective and hassle-free option.

The success of pharma firms will increasingly depend on how quickly and effectively they can innovate-which means sourcing ideas from anywhere, and collaborating with people all over the world. Being able to connect with people on a video conference is often far more effective than using voice alone, particularly where there are geographical barriers. Since people can simultaneously share their screen, files and data, and scribble on interactive whiteboards, the experience (while it may never be as effective as face-to-face collaboration) is far smoother and richer than the telephone and email. If discussing the results of a specific clinical trial, for instance, being able to point to an x-ray or scan while they talk is far more natural than having to send files back and forth.

Web conferencing is also far cheaper than flying people around the world. For instance, as part of a cultural change program, one of our clients increased the number of virtual meetings they held by 66% in six months. The travel savings alone amounted to tens of thousands of pounds a month and the ongoing benefits of better collaboration mean new processes are speeding up decision making across all departments. There are times when a quick instant message is far preferable to trying to contact someone by voice or video, and is more likely to be read and acted on quickly than an email message – particularly if the recipients’ presence indicator shows they’re online and available – this speed of response can be critical in eliminating lost time on projects.

The type of solution you opt for is critical, however. Since pharma firms increasingly need to collaborate with a wide variety of external parties-researchers, universities, triallists, regulators, hospitals, other pharma firms, etc-they should ensure any platform they choose can be used as effectively by those outside the organisation as those within it. That means opting for a popular, reliable solution that adheres to industry standards, such as Cisco WebEx or Microsoft Lync. If it’s too clunky or obscure, people simply won’t use it. You also need to ensure staff are given sufficient training and support to adopt a new way of working. To this end, providers that take an interest in providing best practice and a service wrap are worth their weight in gold.

Once a collaborative, open, culture is ingrained in the very fibre of your organization, many other benefits begin to flow. It’s easier to form and maintain productive external relationships that help you understand your markets and build greater trust among the wider public. As the movement for “citizen science” and crowdsourcing of data gathers pace, that’s going to be really exciting. Indeed, the public could be the industry’s greatest untapped resource when it comes to developing the successful pharmaceuticals of tomorrow.