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Customer Input from Around Globe Aids Design of Software for Pharmaceutical Sales

CRM On Demand Offline Client for Life Sciences Offers Tools to Improve Productivity

Kathy Miedema

Author: Kathy Miedema, Oracle Applications User Experience
April 5, 2011




In designing CRM On Demand Offline Client for Life Sciences, a tablet-based enterprise application tailored for pharmaceutical sales representatives, the Applications User Experience (UX) team tapped into Oracle’s global customer base to figure out what a pharmaceutical sales rep needs in order to work more efficiently. Employees from the top pharmaceutical companies took part in several rounds of design for Offline Client for Life Sciences and helped drive the requirements to build a successful application.  The result is a tool that can fundamentally change the way pharmaceutical sales representatives do their job.

 
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“One of the key things in this project is that we collected feedback from customers all around the world. Building solutions for them without understanding their needs and wants doesn’t make sense.”
– Madhuri Kolhatkar,
Director of the Applications Unlimited and Industry Solutions User Experience, Oracle

“One of the key things in this project is that we collected feedback from customers all around the world,” said Madhuri Kolhatkar, Director of the Applications Unlimited and Industry Solutions User Experience. “Building solutions for them without understanding their needs and wants doesn’t make sense.” Kolhatkar’s team organized research activities with sales representatives and collected input to influence the design of Offline Client for Life Sciences. She said the focus on collecting feedback needed to be global because the pharmaceutical sector is global.

Members of the UX team spent time with pharmaceutical sales representatives around the world, in countries such as the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, and the Middle East.  Many companies allowed a UX team member to ride along with them as they worked, while others participated in feedback sessions remotely via computer, offering guidance along the way that helped to shape the final look of Offline Client for Life Sciences.

The software runs on a tablet PC or netbook. Its design takes into account where sales work is done, whether it’s in the car en route to a clinic, or at a café after a sales call. Key design points were:

  • Supporting different input devices, whether a pen or light touch is needed on the screen.
  • Providing crystal clear navigation for information related to sales calls, slide presentations, and related contact information.

 
 
CRM On Demand Offline Client for Life Sciences ride-along slideshow
 
From Erika’s album on Picasa
Photos by Erika Webb, Oracle Applications User Experience
     
 

Users will find that this application looks different when compared with Oracle’s usual designs, said Piers Evans, the product strategy director for CRM On Demand Offline Client for Life Sciences. “It looks different because we spent a lot of time with the UX team, optimizing this application for pen and touch interactions,” he said. “Labels are bigger, buttons are bigger, there’s more white space.” Only information that is key to the task at hand is presented, and features such as drag-and-drop speed up the workflow.

Kolhatkar said that’s because the working environment was taken into special consideration. “People have this tablet on the go, so we have to consider the lighting conditions, like when they’re sitting in their cars and carrying it around with them,” she said. But the Oracle team also needed to figure out how to provide all of the necessary tools, and create an application that would fulfill the needs of a global customer base, no matter what their country’s pharmaceutical regulations might restrict or support.

Jayanth Ananthakrishnan, an Oracle UX manager involved in the research and UX guidance behind the design, said several key ideas emerged from research. “The primary objective of the team while designing the new touch-based tablet PC application was to make it simple, intuitive, and smart,” Ananthakrishnan said. “A one-stop offline application that holds contact information, notes, presentations, and required documents is a good start, but it also has to be easy to navigate and faster to use than familiar folders, brochures, and laminated placards with drug highlights.”

A Day in the Life of a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep

Much of the work in designing Offline Client for Life Sciences began with a series of ride-along appointments, in which a member of the Applications UX team shadowed a sales rep as he went about his daily activities.

 
 
Paper Prototyping: An Integral Part of User-Centered Design

Author: Pranavdatta Natekar, Principal Interaction Designer, Oracle Applications User Experience
April 5, 2011

Paper prototyping, a method of rapidly reviewing and improving user interface designs, was instrumental in solving problems that Oracle’s Applications User Experience (UX) team faced during the evolution of CRM On Demand Offline Client for Life Sciences, a recently released application for pharmaceutical sales representatives that was created for a tablet-based PC.

This method enabled designers to work through details about the application early. It also allowed collaboration and consideration of design solutions from multiple perspectives. Some of the design challenges for Offline Client for Life Sciences, and how paper prototyping helped resolve them, are described here.

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“One of things we kept seeing is that the system needed to be as fast and as flexible as paper, because if it’s not, then they don’t want to use it. It becomes a barrier to their work instead of an addition.”
– Erika Webb, UX manager, Oracle

A few things quickly became apparent, said Erika Webb, a UX manager who participated in the ride-alongs. “One of things we kept seeing is that the system needed to be as fast and as flexible as paper, because if it’s not, then they don’t want to use it. It becomes a barrier to their work instead of an addition.”

The whole idea, she said, is to help sales reps with the day-to-day stuff of their job so that they can better tailor their pitch and be more efficient about delivering it, since they often don’t have much time when they’re in front of medical personnel. This affects notes about contacts at clinics, information on drugs being promoted, paperwork that is required to leave samples behind, and other kinds of documentation.

For example, Webb said, in Germany one saleswoman’s company was very explicit about how she should spend her time when pitching particular drugs. During a sales call, she needed to spend the majority of her time on Drug #1. But she might know that a particular doctor doesn’t like Drug #1 and is not interested in hearing about it. So she might refine her sales pitch for him by letting him know that she is required to talk about Drug #1, giving him the overview presentation, then moving on to drugs that he cares about. Using Offline Client for Life Sciences, she would be able to check her notes on this doctor before the presentation, quickly pull the key slides she needs to show, then navigate easily to other information that he is interested in – and document the entire sales visit thoroughly and with minimal effort.

In the United States, Webb said, sales reps need to be able to leave samples as often as possible, which requires a signature. Rifling through papers for the proper document wastes time.

Image by Rob Hernandez, Oracle Applications User Experience

In Europe, Webb said, there’s an educational process about the use of a medication that might not have anything to do with the medication itself, but presentations can be very helpful in persuading a patient or doctor to try it. One salesperson she worked with was selling a drug for macular degeneration, which was delivered via an injection in the eye. Teaching a nurse, for example, about why this shot was worth a try and how to walk a patient through the process of getting it would certainly affect whether the patient will decide to take the shot. In a case like this, the education process becomes very important.

“There’s a need to create an application that provides the right tools for everyone, no matter what federal regulations they are working under,” Webb said. “Our work gave us the opportunity to refine the design -- based on real people sitting and working with it, and telling us whether or not it matches their process and model.”

She added that this was one of the more comprehensive projects she has worked on. “Continually iterating the designs, getting more feedback and more input -- that iterative aspect really makes this a superior product in the end.  We have something that looks a lot more like a product that people need.”

Pulling Useful Tools Out of Research

Ananthakrishnan said his team learned through the research how important it was for the pharmaceutical sales reps to be able to work offline. Whether they are checking their calendar, making phone calls, visiting a hospital or clinic, or heading to a nearby restaurant or coffee shop to review the day’s visits and plan for the next day, they need to be in an offline mode.

Image by Pranavdatta Natekar, Oracle Applications User Experience

This image shows how the design of a page for Offline Client for Life Sciences evolved from a paper drawing to a complicated visual design similar to the final product’s contact page.
His team also refined a handful of interaction principles to guide design:

  • The user must be able to move quickly through the application’s screens, so it was critical to streamline the user interface and make core navigation very clear.
  • The touch screen must allow users to jump from point A to point B with a single tap.
  • The experience must be designed with quick taps in mind, using finger travel as a mechanism to guide the user. Therefore, the gestural controls must be simple and intuitive, and stand out clearly on the page.
  • Fingers come in all sizes, so the team must ensure that the interface is designed for real people. The size of the button and the likelihood of accidentally hitting an adjacent element were critical to consider when designing icons and button sizes.
     

The UX team used paper prototypes to get to the right design quickly, floating many of the ideas past customers before refining them further.

This screenshot shows how contact information appears in Offline Client for Life Sciences, as well as how clicking on a person’s information allows the sales rep to access notes in someone’s profile. Calendar information is shown in the bottom right.

“Paper prototyping saves time at the start of a project,” said Pranavdatta Natekar, a Principal Interaction Designer for the UX team. “It enabled iterations and discussion to be completed before designers started their time-consuming work of creating high-fidelity prototypes and visual designs. This saves huge amounts of time because the ‘right’ product is designed from the start.”

“For the first two months of the project, we were only doing paper prototyping,” said Ananthakrishnan. “We had a very clear direction in terms of information structuring, navigation and flow. Paper-prototyping helped us evolve the design. The ability to iterate quickly and very efficiently back and forth helped us figure out which designs mattered.”

User Experience Highlights of New, All-in-One Application

“The vision here is that this next-generation mobile sales application is lightweight and focuses on the key tasks that a sales rep does in the field, but is driven by the things they do in front of a customer,” Evans said. “You have to design an application that is user-friendly and optimized for a customer-facing interaction with a pen or a finger.

Evans described a typical scenario for a salesperson: “If you’re standing in a corridor in front of the customer, with a tablet-like device in one hand and a pen or using your finger with the other, and you’re showing the device to the customer, you’ve got to be able to click through the application to show the content,” he said. “We wanted to build something that focuses on those customer interactions, and gives the sales rep the ability to show the customary application, but at the same time supports the core tasks that the sales rep needs to do as part of that. The sales rep still needs to prepare for the sales visit, still needs to add information into the sales visit report, and still needs to close the sales visit report out.”

A sales rep can see quickly who else might be in a particular clinic or hospital and available for a call with the network view.
With these key tasks in mind, the UX team created features that improve productivity and increase efficiency by offering:
 
  • A view of your network with easy access to contacts.
  • A place to store your knowledge and keep track of appointments.
  • Tools that help in planning your day.
  • The ability to navigate quickly to key presentation slides or documents such as a signature page.
  • Features that make filling out and documenting necessary paperwork less time-consuming.
     
“With our series of business cards, if you have a scheduled call, you can see the address, phone number, when you visited last, and you can drag and drop or click for more details,” Natekar said about the contact and network views. “You can use the contact list to schedule calls automatically, or you can even include hobbies and more information about that person. If you drill down to a specific person, you can see their entire profile, and your call history. This is not a typical business card, because the buttons can lead to different locations. And you can click on an icon to get to the signature page immediately.”
 
From this screen, a sales rep can easily switch between doctors and products to start another presentation with little planning beforehand.
Natekar said the structure of the information about contacts also allows for on-the-fly planning.  If, for example, a sales rep is visiting a hospital and sees a particular doctor walk by, he can immediately get more details about when they last spoke and what products the doctor was interested in. Information about other contacts associated with this particular hospital can also be linked together.

“You can switch efficiently between two doctors,” Ananthakrishnan said. “Typically, when you have a lot of paper, it can be very difficult to look for other doctor records, get them out, and get a signature.”

Natekar said that information about a particular sales call can be added automatically into the call record, once a pharmaceutical sales rep clicks on the appropriate button to initiate a call. Details are saved with one click of a button, and other information can be filled out later. If the sales rep wants to switch to a presentation on a different drug midway through a sales call, it’s easy to do. “When you are presenting a message, if the doctor says he’s not interested in that message, you can quickly move to a different drug message,” Natekar said.
 

A signature can be captured quickly and easily, without rooting around in a stack of papers for the proper document. “There’s a lot of flexibility given to capture a signature at the last moment,” Natekar said.
Evans said he wants customers to realize how much they influenced the user experience of Offline Client for Life Sciences. “The amount of work that the UX team has done, not just on the user interface design itself, but on the user research and in the usability labs, are behind what users will see.”

Kolhatkar added that Oracle is looking at improving the way Life Sciences customers work with this application, as well as providing tools for people on the go.

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