July 6, 2015/Derek Choy/Decision Support

Things move fast around here at Aktana, but occasionally we get the opportunity to reflect on learnings and share best practices with our peers.  Such an opportunity occurred at the Veeva Commercial Summit two weeks ago where we presented with our customer Pfizer on the topic of connecting personal and digital customer engagement.  Both Pfizer and Aktana were able to share some of the best practices developed in our work together. At Aktana, our core mission is Decision Support: synthesizing insight out of data and delivering actionable suggestions and insights directly into a rep’s workflow to help them be more effective.  With that focus, we’ve developed some best practices for Decision Support design, application, and implementation. In this six-part blog series, I’ll share those best practices and how they might be applicable to your business needs.  We’ll start where most design efforts do: by screwing it up the first time. Like many in the technology business, we thought the hard part of Decision Support design would be getting the math right.  In our first implementation, our algorithms were smart.  Oh so smart, we thought.  Considering practical trade-offs like how far a rep would need to travel to see a customer, what the reps schedule looked like (and when their availability matched times their customers would likely be available), and how long it had been since the last interaction. And we saw positive results.  Our math was good!  But the feedback from reps was not nearly as positive and we knew that the initial wins were not sustainable.  We had provided intelligence, but not in a way that reps wanted to engage with it. We came face-to-face with the reality that reps will only utilize a tool that understands their environment and workflow, and, most importantly, has been designed to empower their independent decision-making, not override it. So we put together a panel of sales reps to help us redesign our interaction model to be something that was enjoyable, valuable, and empowering.  With their immensely helpful input, five key tenets of Decision Support design emerged:

  1. Less is More.
  2. Make it Real.
  3. Keep it Current.
  4. Ownership = Engagement.
  5. Be Easy.

What do we mean by Less is More?  The key value of a suggestion is the ability to pre-synthesize only what is most relevant to a decision at hand and ignore the rest.  So, if a large percentage of a physician’s patients were affected by a recent formulary win, you want to bring that to the surface, and avoid cluttering the rep’s mind space with other less important context. Sounds simple as all ‘Less is More’ guidance does.  But it’s incredibly difficult to say no to information.  It’s easy to convince yourself that while a piece of information may not be vital, it’s certainly helpful, so why not include it.  The problem is that the more data you allow through the filter to become rep suggestions or insights, the less effective those suggestions or insights will be, and less value you will ultimately deliver.  And when value declines, so does usage. You can quickly find yourself heading down a hard-to-reverse path.  So be strict in your synthesis.  Your sales reps will thank you for it. In the next blog post in the Decision Support series, I’ll cover design tenets #2 and 3: Make It Real and Keep It Current.