“There’s a war out there, old friend. … It’s about who controls the information. What we see and hear, how we work, what we think. … It’s all about the information!”
Some of you may recognize those paraphrased lines from the 1992 movie Sneakers. The point made throughout the movie was that the currency of the present and the future would be information. How true, even 24 years later!
In the medtech world, we’re not fighting an actual war, but there’s still a daily battle for survival and competitive advantage. Dealing with the barrage of information and converting it to something useful can help organizations better understand their customers and the health of the business, sell more effectively, and provide accurate and timely rewards for the sales force. Yet it’s often quite difficult for medtech companies to achieve these outcomes.
A central stumbling block for many companies is the sheer volume and quality of data out there, much of which can be buggy, incomplete and inconsistent. Before that data can help companies make better decisions and improve performance, they need to get it under control. Specifically, they need to tame it into a single, universal and reliable resource. Only then can they put it to good use.
Consider Alere, a client that ZS recently worked with that sells a broad array of diagnostic products. Like many medical products companies, it uses third-party distributors as one channel to get its products to physicians and hospitals. The catch? Its 50-plus distributors all track customer data using different formats and file types. (In some cases, they even recorded hospital names differently.) The result was a digital Tower of Babel—a flood of glitchy, unsorted, nonstandard data flowing back to Alere on a regular basis, and a huge administrative hassle to try to make sense of it all.
CASE STUDY: Alere: Driving Toward a Data-Based Future
INFOGRAPHIC: How Medtech’s SFE Investments Stack Up
Alere employees spent about 500 hours each month tracking down missing information, cleaning data files and compiling them manually using systems such as Excel. A combination of imperfect processes and errors meant that mistakes inevitably crept in, throwing doubt on all of the information. The entire process took three weeks of every month, leading to delays in everything from financial reporting to sales force crediting. Frustration galore.
In response, Alere set out to improve both the speed and quality of its customer data. Management wanted to create a single platform with integrated customer information that many stakeholders in the organization could access. We worked with Alere to map its current data flows and processes, and identify gaps and inefficiencies. We also helped the company design a new process that would pull data from all distributors, clean and standardize it, and consolidate it into a single database—automatically.
Through this exercise, Alere has tamed its customer data into a source of business insight. The sales force can use the data to gather intelligence on specific clients. Company leaders can track customer trends and broader shifts in the market. Best of all, the process of compiling sales information is tremendously faster than historical norms.
Rather than spending time cleaning and aggregating data manually, the Alere team now has an additional 500 hours each month for more valuable activities, such as analyzing pricing strategies and sales trends. Processing time has been reduced by 15 days each month, which accelerates incentive payments to the sales force. Scorecards rate each distributor’s data as a way to improve performance over time. And because Alere used an existing software platform, it saved about $400,000 on developing custom technology.
For many medtech companies, data comes in high volume, with unreliable quality and inconsistent formats. As Alere’s example shows, wrestling this into a usable format is the first step to improving business performance.
Go check out Sneakers, by the way. It’s a solid movie that still resonates today.