After a week in Brussels, I am now happily back home.
Last week’s DIA Medical Information and Communications meeting was fabulous, we had more attendees than ever before, the event was a success from beginning to end, great shares, some wonderful new contacts and inspiring presentations.
It will take me some time to process it all but I will share my key takeaways from the meeting with you in future blog posts.
-Metrics and insights – a vending machine example
-Medical Information transformation – how not to get lost
-Business: Are you using tech to bridge or block your customers’ path?
-Leadership: effective transformations
Metrics and insights – a vending machine example
At the airport two vending machines stood, side by side. They were stocked with similar items, only one was full, and one was empty. Both machines are managed by the same company.
If the performance of the machines is monitored independently, with different teams involved, they might not connect the information. One team may overlook any issues with the fully stocked machine, or incorrectly conclude that stock is not moving, because of the location of the machine, or unappealing products, while another team, focused on the empty machine, could mistakenly attribute it to their superior product selection.
Both teams would be looking at simple metrics, trying to draw relevant business conclusions from that data set. This is a frequent occurrence in companies when data sets of interactions with the same customer group are not integrated and are assessed in isolation.
Wanting some water, I approached the machines. The full machine had the product I wanted, but it didn’t take credit cards. Like many people nowadays I rarely carry cash, so I couldn’t buy anything. Unfortunately, the empty machine didn’t have what I needed, so no sale was made, despite there being a willing customer with a credit card on hand.
The reason the vending machine was full was simple: customers couldn’t access the products.
Key takeaways: If you look at your data in isolation you can neither understand your business environment nor adapt your strategy to enhance your business. Metrics represent raw data, while insights emerge when you combine this data with your understanding of additional factors from diverse sources, revealing what truly matters.
Medical Information Transformation – how not to get lost
Last week I got lost between Brussels airport and the hotel. It’s embarrassing I know.
I hopped on a train. Because I was distracted by thoughts of my lost luggage and the conference ahead it took me a while to note that the train was speeding through open countryside. This seemed odd, so I asked a couple on the train to confirm my direction of travel. They confirmed that “yes, you are heading towards Brussels”. When we got to Leuven it became apparent that I was not.
As the next station was fast approaching decisions on next steps needed to be taken fast. Luckily another local helped me: he identified the stop I should get off at, the train I needed to switch to and which platform I would take it from. With little time to spare his help was invaluable in helping me course correct.
I used this example when talking about implementing changes in companies. Often the roadmap seems straightforward, the task appears manageable and the topics clear, whether it be the implementation of a new IT system, working with different cultures and languages, content revision strategies, cross-functional collaboration or any one of the other myriad topics that teams face when improving how they work.
However, even if what you want to do seems simple, if you don’t know the terrain it can be more challenging that you might imagine. This is why people hire guides and city maps have circles with “you are here” I have experienced this many times, the first time I take a route I ask for directions, and I still sometimes get lost, but once I know the route I can do it blindfolded at midnight.
Key takeaways: Even if you know where you are and where you are going, and you have a map to follow, if you haven’t taken the path before, you are more likely to get lost. Plan in extra time and budget and hire a guide if you don’t have the experience you need in your team.
Business: Are you using tech to bridge or block your customers’ path?
Last week at Brussels airport travelers clapped as their luggage arrived. It struck me then that we now celebrate things we used to take for granted.
While the world celebrates automation, and conference presentations are all about efficiency gains through digital means and the power of AI to improve things beyond recognition, my customer experience in the real world is often unsatisfactory.
Technological advances can be wonderful, provided they are used intelligently and they are used in conjunction with a customer service foundation that works. Unfortunately, often tech is implemented before processes have been improved in order to support it, or it is used as a barrier instead of as a bridge. A classic example is that new customers can always reach the sales team fast, while existing customers often struggle to reach anyone.
Beyond using tech as a barrier, companies often also use tech to provide services that do not serve the customer. A key consideration here is “just because it is easy and cheap to implement, and it keeps you in constant contact with your customer, it may not serve your customer and your customer can tell.”
Classic examples of services that do not serve include daily reminders that I booked a restaurant or that I will soon be staying in a hotel, or the invitation to download a hotel app so I can check in ahead of time, which, according to a colleague changed her check-in experience at the hotel not at all.
Ultimately what customers want is straightforward and identical across industries: a fast tailored solution to their problem without extra mental load.
I experienced an almost perfect example – Lufthansa put my luggage on a later flight, they sent me a text message telling me where it was and when to expect it, they also sent a link so I could register my delivery location. I was impressed. Only the app didn’t work, so I went to a service kiosk, entered all my data and then was told that delivery may take nine days. The gentleman at the kiosk recommended I pick my luggage up myself.
Key takeaways: Technological solutions cannot compensate for underlying system errors so ensure your business foundation is solid before you implement. Make sure whatever you implement works. Automation cannot replace a human connection, automate with care.
Leadership: effectively leading transformations
Last week during the DIA Medical Information conference I ran a workshop on operational excellence and strategic alignment. I provided participants with a tool to self-assess digital and harmonization maturity within their function and organization.
A participant said, “from the perspective of the global team we are fully harmonized and digitally mature, from the perspective of the non-global teams the situation is very different”.
The situation highlights something that happens frequently when transformation programs are run from the “head” downwards. If your head, or global organization, sees a goal on the horizon and decides that that is the destination, but the “body” and the “feet” and the “gut brain” of the organization, i.e. everyone else, is not informed nor involved in designing and charting the journey, what happens is the head believes that a change has occurred, because it has “thought” its way there, whereas the rest of the organism has remained exactly where it was before, growing disengaged and frustrated in the process.
If this is where you landed, the problem is, you may not even be aware of it. Also, if after a long time of running a transformation programme this is where you are at, it will take a big effort to get back on track.
Key takeaways: Good transformation programs take time, the involvement of all stakeholders and clarity of vision and approach. Be clear on how you will approach your transformation and ask anyone consulting to you or supporting you how they approach and monitor transformation success.
Thank you for reading, I enjoy sharing my thoughts and I love hearing what piqued your interest or any feedback. If you are currently working on a demanding project in the fields of medical, digital, systems, analytics, channels, or facing any team or personal challenges, feel free to reach out to me for a chat. I am always happy to explore how I might be able to support you.
Isabelle C. Widmer MD
Photo credit: Isabelle C. Widmer – Airport Basel-Mulhouse