July 19, 2017/David Bennett/Decision Support

Being responsive to the ever-changing needs of the pharmaceutical market is an essential consideration for a company like Aktana. Our value proposition has always been the right information, in the right place, at the right time—a moving target that we must constantly pay attention to and adjust for in order to reach. There’s simply no way we could accomplish this without applying an Agile approach to every part our organization, from our product development process through every subsequent interaction with our users and customers. Delivering consistent, high-quality results is about much more than building a solid product. Beyond smart design, success hinges on creating accessible service teams and empowered support people driven by a shared focus to get it “right” for the customer. This is one of our main obsessions at Aktana.

Inspect, Adapt, Repeat

Perhaps the most fundamental element of Agile we focus on is the cycle of inspection and adaptation. Learning what works (and more importantly, what doesn’t) and adjusting accordingly is critical to our success. There are certainly significant examples of this—our pivot to presenting our solution inside someone else’s application stands out—but our goal is to make this approach pervasive in everything we do. In addition to regional retrospectives, release retrospectives and customer success surveys, we’re even starting to incorporate this practice into our talent management processes.

That’s all well and good. In most cases, inspection is the easy part of this cycle. What’s more important is the general willingness to adapt and change once you identify something your team can improve. This is one of the areas in which Aktana has consistently dedicated time and effort. Since the beginning, we’ve strived to create an environment that’s receptive to change, dissatisfied by “good enough” and always open to a better way. One of our core values has always been pushing the boundaries—of the market, of our teams and of ourselves. By setting these limits aside, we’ve thrived. When we see something that might not be working, we’re empowered to revisit, rethink and try a different way.

The evolution of our Customer Success approach is a noteworthy example. Several functions of our company are centralized in our San Francisco headquarters, and initially, Customer Success was one of them. In the early stages of our company, this was fine. But as we grew into multiple regions, our Customer Success team found themselves spending more time on the road than in the office. It quickly became clear that this would not be sustainable as we continued to scale.

Having already experienced great success with local sales teams, we decided to create a set of empowered local customer success teams that would be closer to the customer and better equipped to address the specific needs of each market. This helped us alleviate local challenges, but had the unintended side-effect of creating silos of information that weren’t making it back to the organization. In response, we paired these local teams with global counterparts who function as critical communication hubs connecting the overall Customer Success team to each local effort. In this configuration, knowledge and best practices can be shared in a way that allows everyone to benefit, but never forces any one region to operate in a way that doesn’t make sense to their unique needs.

People, then Processes

At Aktana, our agility has always been a result of the collective expertise of our amazing team When the time comes to iterate and improve, we focus on collaborative approaches to change and spend more time in Slack talking about options than about the “right” way to do something.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in our initial interactions with customers. We’ve done workshops for dozens of brand teams now. With the insights gained from each experience,  we’ve steadily modified the discussions and structure of our deployment process to deliver more value to all parties involved. This isn’t because of a rigid form our customers fill out or some one-size-fits-all approach. We pair the incredible talents of our Customer Success Managers with a knowledge of the unique challenges and priorities of each brand, then refine based on what has worked or been challenging in the past. Once you’ve done this as often as we have, it becomes clear that the best solution is one we generate together with our customer.

Why our Agility Matters

The life sciences is an industry defined by change. It only takes one territory realignment or formulary change to make a brand strategy irrelevant. At an even higher level, the way life sciences companies address HCPs may (and likely, will) look radically different in just a few years. Pharmaceutical Sales and Marketing teams must always be prepared to respond in turn, and as a company dedicated to helping them do just that, so do we.