Why Do We Spend More Time in Project Meetings than Doing the Actual Job?

In our experience, in conversations with managers at several levels in  organizations whether  Project Managers,  Program Managers or Functional Managers we hear this consistent complaint. This is the one complaint from everyone; “I spend 9-5 going from one meeting to another meeting and then once the day is over, I get to start my actual day job”. So, why is this happening?  Here is a picture of a typical calendar and there is no room for any work to be done. Since when did meetings takeover our normal working day? While, there is no doubt that meetings are absolutely necessary in order to gain alignment and ensure that projects are tracking on time;  there has to be a more efficient ways to execute successful projects, campaigns, launches etc. without all of the meetings.

We have noticed that  there are several common factors across organizations that lead to too many meetings:

1. Every meeting involving a project has an element of playing catch up!

For the first 20 minutes of a project meeting, each person goes over what had been completed and what hasn’t been completed.  Strategizing how to keep the project on schedule and important items such as how to manage risks and issues are not brought up  until half way through the meeting.

2. Issues and Risks are not visible to everyone.  There is no consistent forum to table the issues and risks relating to the projects and therefore they are not visible to everyone and so many meetings become the forum where they are surfaced and discussed in order to begin planning solutions and strategies to keep things moving on target.

3. Past Decisions aren’t visible. While companies do record the project topics and decisions in  meetings minutes, a lot of time is spent reviewing the decisions that had previously been made. Mainly because there is no way to formally record a decision along with the rationale for the decision and therefore the  For some reason, people weren’t always up to date on what had been accomplished during the last meeting. – this was probably because after 20+ meetings a week, they tend to blur together.
4. Meeting Minutes are simply attachments to yet another email.

 There is a flood of emails every day.  The meetings minutes are just another attachment that got stuck in a shared drive somewhere.  This is also the reason why so much time is spent on updates. 


  5. Confusion on Task Assignments.  I have attended several meetings where it was unclear who had been assigned a specific task.  So, when things are not done a lot of time is spent in finding out the real reason why they were not done. This is also the added reason for such long updates at the beginning of meetings.

 It isn’t anyone’s fault that this occurs.  We are all trying to do so much more with less and it becomes nearly impossible to keep track of everything that needs to be done and what had been discussed 15 meetings prior.

Is this just the reality of work nowadays?….I certainly hope not.

We need to search for tools that can help us manage and decrease our meetings.  Otherwise, the meetings really aren’t that beneficial. Ideally, we would have a central location for our meetings.  They can come from templates or be generated as new ones.  It will store all of our minutes, discussions and most importantly, capture all of the decisions that are made.  It will also  stream tasks to the accountable person so that there is no confusion as to who is responsible for what.  And dare I dream? It would also generate a report prior to the meetings to serve as a status update for what has been done and what hasn’t.  That way meetings are shortened and managed by exception.  Finally, the minutes can be stored and streamed to everyone so that they don’t become static word documents in a shared drive.

These tools do exist and it is very satisfying to see them work.  There is an immediate need for them in order to make our lives a little easier.  Work/Life balance is a possibility, We need to choose the most efficient and effective tools to help us.


So I Bought a Car with No Engine…

When I went to the car lot to buy a car, the salesman asked me what I wanted in my car.  Obviously I wanted something that could get me from Point A to Point B.  I needed an engine, seats, a gearbox and locks.  So when I went to buy a car these were obviously all items I looked for in order to have a fully functional car.  When I gave him this answer, the salesman looked at me with a – “Duh, of course you want that in a car”.

It was true though – I didn’t need four different packages, one each for the engine, gearbox, seats and locks. I just needed all the basics to be integrated to simply work together to make the car work and get me from A to B.

This got me thinking….

This concept of simplicity is exactly what many businesses are missing now.  Companies, specifically in the Life Sciences industry are developing life saving medicines using a range of collaboration tools.

On one extreme some of them only use SharePoint sites or document management systems and sometimes just through email and shared drives.  That’s like trying to make a car run with only seats and a steering wheel – how does it actually run?

At the other extreme, companies have individual systems for everything.  There is a system for clinical trial information and a system for document management and a separate system for the document workflow and yet another for project management.  All of these fragmented systems overcomplicate the development process and often result in unnecessary rework.  Just like a car delivered in four different packages.

The business world needs a simple, integrated and consistent vehicle to drive successful and efficient launches.  Companies need to start thinking about how this process is done currently and if there could be a simpler or more efficient way to accomplish what they do now.  Let’s face it; there are enough x factors that get thrown our way during launches.  Why complicate things even more?

We need to start looking for solutions that can get us from Point A to Point B with all of the necessities and none of the complexities.  An ideal system would streamline the development process and bring together document management, project management, and workflow tailored to support each function in accomplishing their goals.

The current fragmented way of doing things does get us to our goal.  If you buy a car with no engine, you can still use it to get to where you want to go but you have to push it there and realistically, you would never have purchased that car in the first place.  So why do we purchase tools that give us ad hoc processes to get to where we want to go? We need to start looking for the simple and most effective solutions; especially when it comes to launch success.



Janaki Joshi to Present at Best Practices in Pharma Product Launch Conference

Iris’ CEO Janaki Joshi has been asked to speak at the 2013 Best Practices in Pharma Product Launch in Brussels, Belgium on April 10th.  She will present on “Achieving Launch Excellence through Superior Cross-Functional Collaboration to Maximize Revenue”.

In this case study, discover how a world class pharmaceutical company used an innovative Web-based platform to achieve launch success and exceeded the forecast by collaborating with the cross functional teams in particular Marketing, Market Access, Clinical, Medical Information and Sales to deliver a superior result.

In addition the presentation will cover key aspects of launch such as:

  • Visibility of Launch Status: How does the team gain a clear insight into the status of issues, risks, milestones and key decision documents for important launch activities?
  • Cross Functional Collaboration: How to enable global and distributed cross function teams to work together and have real time visibility of information.
  •  Execution Efficiency: Ultimately how does the launch team transform the launch strategy into tangible outcomes

We invite you to come join us on Tuesday, April 11th and 1:30pm to learn how you can Achieve Launch Excellence


Digital Marketing – Past, Present & Future

Marketing teams have always been ahead of the curve when it comes to using new and innovative ways to reach patients, payers and KOLs; in the most recent years, they have done this through digital marketing.  It has been an interesting and fast journey for the pharmaceutical industry; so fast in fact that the FDA hasn’t even caught up yet.

If we hop in the DeLorean and travel back a couple of years – even just 2 years-  the digital marketing world in pharmaceuticals was vastly different than it is now.  It was quite uncommon for iPads to be a standard device in companies; let alone a sales and marketing tool.  I attended CBI’s iPharma Connect 2013 conference (which I highly recommend to marketers in the industry) and the discussions were discovery.  Marketers were discovering what digital media tools could be used to reach patients and how to successfully use them.  There were discussions about updating websites and using them to reach patients and create forums.  This is something that the internet has enabled for years but the pharmaceutical industry was just figuring out how to use it to their advantage.  I heard discussions about mobile devices and simplistic games that could be developed to increase patient adherence.  Thus began the journey of digital marketing in pharma.

Fast-forward a few years and iPads are now almost standard in most pharmaceutical companies.  Websites have been updated to create interactive and informative forums for patients to learn more and share stories.  Mobile apps have been created that can provide doctors with more health information than taking vitals during a check-up; and iPads are now being used as a sales tool.  I attended the same conference this year and the innovations that marketers have developed are very exciting.  I was especially impressed by a particular company that has created an interactive social game for healthy living.  It encourages individuals to record certain daily items (such as diet, exercise etc) and allows you to invite friends to join in a contest to see who is living the healthiest life style.  I found this so creative!  Marketers have found a way to encourage people to live healthier lives while still reaching them with targeted messages. 

In addition, the amount of data that can be pulled to create the most pin pointed targeted market is incredible.  Digital and research agencies have also taken great strides in the strategies they have developed to empower marketing teams to best reach their audience. They have also done wonders for the material that is now being produced to enable sales teams to inform their KOLs.

Unfortunately, not everyone has come up to speed with today’s technology which can cause some bumps in the road for marketing teams.  The FDA in particular has only set up guidelines for digital marketers.  Although digital compliance regulations are at the top of their list, I can only imagine the stress and frustration felt by marketing and brand teams when trying to develop these sales and marketing tools with little guidance as to what is considered “compliant”.  This brings me to another great aspect of this conference…

Everyone seemed to align on the challenges that are currently being felt when it comes to digital marketing.  It seems that among all of this innovation, sits a rather ad hoc process for review and approval of these materials.  I partook in many great conversations with marketers about the need to streamline the digital marketing process.  Hopefully by the time I attend the iPharma conference next year, we will all have taken the DeLorean for a ride into a future where the digital process is seamlessly streamlined with clear compliance regulations to empower marketing teams to create the next level of innovation in the pharmaceutical industry.


Iris Interactive CEO, Janaki Joshi, Shares Successful Case Study at iPharma 2013


Iris Interactive’s CEO, Janaki Joshi spoke at the iPharma 2013 conference – CBI’s 12th Annual Digital Innovation Forum.  Among the conference attendees were members of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry such as GSK, Pfizer, Teva and MedImmune as well as digital marketing partners such as HealthLink, Manhattan Research and Gartner.  Iris Interactive also sponsored a Wine & Cheese event at the end of Day 1.

Janaki spoke on Day 2 of the conference about “Achieving Digital Campaign Excellence through Superior Cross-Functional Collaboration”.  Specifically, she spoke about the many challenges that are currently facing the bio-pharmaceutical industry regarding digital marketing.  Iris conducted a survey of conference attendees prior to Janaki’s lecture to investigate if Iris’s experience with marketing team’s challenges aligned with those who were participating at iPharma.  There was a clear consensus among the participants of their current challenges as digital marketers.  The top 5 challenges found were:

1.  Digital Projects are often delayed due to last minute changes in scope caused by late involvement of cross functional team members

It is difficult to get feedback from the MLR team, sales and IT as digital content needs to be converted into a PDF for review and approval

3.  Digital campaigns often cost more than the initial budget due to technical complexity

4. Digital projects are often difficult to manage as timelines have to be coordinated among internal teams and external agencies

5. It is often difficult to ensure compliance due to added complexity with web, social media and iPad apps.   

Janaki went on to share a case study of a customer who suffered from these challenges as well and as a result, suffered a severe financial hit and a failed digital campaign.  She then walked the attendees through how a simple platform that streamlines the entire digital marketing process, achieves cross-functional communication and ensures compliance helped bring this particular company to a whole new level of success in the digital marketing world.  Janaki was well-received by the audience.


Compliance in Digital Marketing

Digital Campaigns are not only newly chartered territory for Pharmaceutical companies but there also seems to be little guidance on the FDA front. The lack of FDA guidance on Digital Marketing adds complexity to creating a Digital Campaign.  How do known you if your content is compliant?  This is another reason why digital marketing project teams should align on when each team member should be involved in the digital marketing campaign process. Picture yourself in the following situation (hopefully you haven’t already been here):

You are the project manager for a digital marketing campaign.  You and your team have a great idea to use an iPad application to really drive home your brand messaging to the doctors.  Your sales force is completely onboard and very enthusiastic about their new sales tool.  You have even coordinated a timeline between your internal team and external agencies.  The content has been developed and sent to the digital agency.  The digital agency has sent you a final version of the content…and it looks great!  Now all you have to do is go through one final approval loop and your digital campaign can go live.  The content is sent to the appropriate team members for MLR approval and all is looking great until it reaches legal.  Apparently, the mechanism of action diagram on the pdf that went for review is a different size than when animated in the iPad application and according to the legal department could cause an FDA violation.  You now have to spend an additional $100,000 to make the appropriate changes and get the content finished and approved by the Go Live date to avoid delays.

This situation occurs more than you might think among marketing.  iPads, web and social media have allowed brands to be marketed on a whole new level.  This tends to resonate well with doctors, patients and KOLs; however, it adds a lot more complexity to the process.  One way to avoid this situation is to make sure that the MLR team members are your partners in the process and are able to provide their input from the conception stage through to MLR Approval. Involvement at the right time is the surest way to avoid compliance mistakes.  By following this rule, you minimize the risk of very costly FDA fines and rework.

While we await FDA guidelines on social media, some food for thought with speculation from fellow bloggers as to when this might happen:’s-‘highest-priority’/


Turn your nightmare into a dream digital campaign

It’s no wonder that with all of the frustrations involved in the Digital Campaign process that too often the “Go Live” date is pushed back. There are 2 very negative outcomes that can result from a delayed Go Live date.  The first of these nightmares is an ineffective presentation to an HCP.  Why wouldn’t the material be effective?  Well, if we combine delays in timelines due to lack of coordination and the added complexity of newer technology, we are left a potentially disappointing digital campaign.  These delays can rush the process of putting good, quality content in the application.  If there is mis-communication throughout the process and the campaign goal is not fully understood, teams run the risk of missing a home-run with the HCP presentation.


The second nightmare that can happen with a delayed Go Live date is that there isn’t enough time for the sales team to be trained on the material.  A dis-empowered sales team is just as risky as material that doesn’t quite hit the point.  You can’t expect a sales team to hit these home-runs if they don’t have ample time to train with the material.   The end result in not meeting the expected date for “Go Live,” is ineffective presentations to HCPs because of the insufficient time to train the field force. The Digital Campaigns are not only taking longer to get the message to market by being delayed but they are also not as effective as originally planned.

However, when these digital projects are executed effectively, they can be a huge game changer when trying to empower HCPs to correctly prescribe the product.  Digital marketing campaigns create a whole new world to present to industry experts and they are a great way to really get your brand messaging across in a creative way.  If you can streamline your digital marketing process, align timelines and utilize new technology to best reach your audience, you can create a truly effective campaign.




How can I coordinate both internal and external team timelines effectively?!?

Trying to coordinate timelines among internal teams and external agencies is not a new frustration in the Digital Campaign world.  It is necessary to include multiple agencies, as well as additional departments such as IT which increases the complexity of an already difficult task.  It is difficult enough to manage the timelines of an internal team but when you add external agencies into the mix , a successfully executed digital campaign can seem daunting. If you are feeling this pressure, rest assured you are not alone.  The biggest risk that teams face with timeline challenges is a delayed Go Live date.  Unfortunately there are so many parties involved in digital campaigns that it is very easy to fall behind schedule.  So how can you avoid this?

Digital campaigns are an innovative tool being used by the bio-pharmaceutical industry to bring an interactive experience to patients and doctors.  Why not explore a similar option when trying to coordinate multiple timelines?  I suggest using more than just a shared excel sheet or an MS project timeline that is bounced back and forth between multiple emails.  This can create confusion among the various teams.  Not everyone may be looking off of the same version or even have the most up-to-date version.  This is when miscommunication occurs, mistakes happen and delays ensue.  A beneficial tool will be one that coordinates all internal and external timelines and tasks with real time updates.  Just as you are trying to create an interactive experience for your audience, try implementing an interactive tool.  In other words, make sure everyone is singing off of the same song sheet.


Structure Doesn’t Necessarily Impede Creativity


One thing is for certain, digital campaigns are on the rise.  There are some early adopters of digital campaigns that may have already begun to put a process in place.  My guess is that these processes were implemented after falling into some pitfalls that come from not having a plan.  Unfortunately, these pitfalls often come in the form of lost investment.  Whether it be added expenses from lack of alignment early on or a fine because of non-compliance, the cost of creativity can be quite significant.

More and more pragmatists and conservatives are finally realizing the benefits of using Digital Media, however, they will soon come to realize that not having a process is going to be the cause of major frustration.  When concept, strategy discussions, scoping and business requirements are ad hoc it’s a wonder that Digital Campaigns are ever completed. Many companies are pioneering the uncharted territory that is Digital Campaigns; it’s no wonder that a “Process” is un-heard of.

The risk of digital campaigns should not deter marketing teams from taking on a digital campaign however.  With great risk can come great rewards.  The key to this reward is to take the strategic risk inherent in a digital campaign while mitigating the operational risk by putting a process in place for your campaigns.

A good place to start would be to:

  • Start including additional stakeholders when the strategy is being agreed (i.e. privacy, IT, legal, drug safety, medical & regulatory)
  • During execution, ensure that the standard requirements of all cross-functional team members are addressed systematically
  • Prior to “Go Live”, make sure that the key stakeholders have signed off on the final digital output

By ensuring processes are in place and streamlined and by including the right team members early on, the risk is less and the potential for reward is greatly increased.

And as always…some more food for thought:

“Experts say there is a clear need to develop digital tools and resources that help support and educate patients, and the increasing use of online videos, diseased based websites and apps specifically designed to meet physicians’ needs will help in this regard.  It is important however to have a strategy in place before adopting digital channels into the mix”Digital Marketing: Driving New Strategies in 2013, PharmaVOICE (Nov/Dec 2012) .


Digital Marketing Campaign Challenge Numero Uno – Delayed alignment among cross-functional teams

When creating a Marketing Campaign it’s no surprise that there is usually only one department (marketing) that develops a strategy for the campaign. Marketing typically invests in a creative agency to help bring their ideas to life.  Ideally, they will involve cross-functional teams (brand teams) before pushing a Promotional piece out into the field – but how soon is too soon to bring in the brand teams?

Because Digital Marketing has varying levels of complexity, too often teams do not realize that buy-in is needed early on in the process. Cross-functional teams should not wait until the intended MLR approval date prior to going live to collaborate on a Digital Campaign.

A leading top 10 Global Pharmaceutical company, that I had the pleasure of working with, waited several months into their project to bring in the brand team.  The prolonged wait of bringing in the right team members early on resulted in last minute changes coming from the need to address privacy concerns and adverse event monitoring due to the interactive nature of the social media aspects of the campaign.  In addition, the IT department requested changes in order for the iPad application to sync properly with the company’s infrastructure.  This resulted in a substantial investment of close to $1M to address the issues raised. Had the appropriate team members been brought in, the company could have avoided this headache.

I would recommend that marketing teams start asking for input during the concept development stage.  This enables the external agencies and internal team to align on the digital marketing concept.  Additional team members such as legal should be brought in to review and approve the content layout.  This will ensure that the content is compliant with internal promotional and privacy-related guidelines as well as FDA guidelines before any money is spent in creating digital material that will need to eventually be changed.


Some more food for thought…

“Develop a digital marketing culture: foster an environment in which innovation is actively promoted and deployed through specific solutions organised in a roadmap consistent with the overall vision and strategy and where digital marketing knowledge is consolidated and spread throughout the organisation as part of employees’ daily interactions”,   Unlocking Digital Marketing Opportunities for the Pharmaceuticals Sector: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Digital Marketing Implementation (L.E.K. Consulting).


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