Attn: Commercial Ops – Who is the most important member of the team?

I’ll never forget my first drug launch kick-off meeting. Our SVP of Sales and Marketing (a very important person) stood up in front of about 75 of us on the commercial leadership team and presented a slide that asked “who is the most important person on the team?” As he inquisitively and dramatically paused, I am sure some people thought it was the CEO, others thought perhaps it was the VP of Sales or maybe even some thought the SVP himself. I remember thinking that the answer might be the sales rep, as after all, they meet with the doctors that generate the scripts.

His next slide surprised many of us; it read, in pulsating, animated letters, the “Division Manager.”

“Why is that?” he began. Simply put, the division managers are the ones responsible for directly leading the teams of people that are going to make our drug a success or not. They are the intermediaries between all of the crazy home office ideas on what should be done (from expense policies to promotional messaging) and the realities of making it happen in a world of restricted access, varying personalities, experience and large geographies. They are where the rubber hits the road and their efforts to train, manage and lead their teams will dictate our success.

“So what is your number one job?” the SVP next asked us. We didn’t have to wait long for the next slide to answer this question: “to support the divisional managers.” In fact, he asked all of the Division Managers to stand up, so we would know exactly who our new bosses were.

As leader of the analytics team, I thought to myself, “What can I do to make this person’s life easier?” I had spent months designing a data mart, buying data, building Excel-based reports and creating an incentive compensation plan – but, until that moment, all that effort had been for anonymous figures in my mind. Now, I knew them and wondered if I had done it right. Had I set them up for success?

Over time, I learned that the SVP was correct. Want to understand how that new metric is (or isn’t) being used? Ask the Division Manager. Unsure if the reports are easy enough to use and understand by an average rep? Ask the DM. Curious to know if the comp plan is going to work . . . you get the idea.

Over time, his role may not have changed, but the way we support him has. The DM still wants to know how effective his sales calls are. Are they generating scripts? Is he stealing share? Who are his top physicians and payers? Is he over or under-calling certain HCPs? Which doctors show the most potential, etc.? He is the maestro of a small orchestra with each territory playing its own, important and unique instrument.

Compared to today’s analytics, I had capable but rudimentary analysis tools at my disposal. With sophisticated business analytics solutions, we can now much more effectively support the Division Manager. No longer does he need to spend hours interpreting multiple reports to find the answers – we can provide them through targeted, actionable insights. Does he need a new KPI to better run the business? These can be added in a matter of hours. By giving him better analytics that are configured to his needs and business process (as opposed to lists of data), we put the power in his hands. This translates to less reliance on the home office and more proactive, self-sufficiency on his part – something every leader wants. And, if he needs additional support, for the more complex issues, the home office analytics team is standing by with the bandwidth to quickly respond to his request.

So, as you design your BI solution, keep in mind what my SVP told me years ago. It’s all about the DM. Know what he wants, deliver it, and we all succeed.