Companies from all types of industries – from insurance to life sciences to transportation – rely on data to inform their commercial operations. But where do they store, manage and manipulate this data? Many still operate on disparate spreadsheets, emails and off-the-shelf solutions, which typically result in dispersed data that doesn’t serve their specific interests. So, it’s no surprise many life sciences companies, for example, identify data organization and collection as one of their greatest commercial challenges, according to our 2019 Emerging Pharma Pulse Report.
After watching several clients attempt to use various third-party solutions to solve this problem, often with unsatisfactory outcomes, we decided to tackle it head-on by developing Mainsail™, a cloud-based, configurable platform that helps commercial operations teams get the most out of their data. Built on Microsoft Azure, Mainsail allows companies to collect, store and manage their data analytics in one place – as well as enter and view their data in real time. And now, the sales force can access the platform from anywhere, at any time with the new Mainsail iOS app.
Beghou’s experience working with our customers on this problem – whether configuring a Mainsail system or helping set up a different solution – has taught us a few things about what makes systems well-suited for this task. Companies evaluating different solutions should keep a few key principles in mind:
The system should be flexible and extensible.
Software solutions should provide a one-stop shop for companies seeking to improve every aspect of their sales operations. Mainsail, for example, can be easily and quickly expanded to serve future, often unforeseen, company needs. The immediate need may be customer targeting, but that may lead to updating customer-to-account affiliations. The chosen system should be able to adapt to that kind of expansion without a lot of headache, time or cost.
We’ve seen our clients have great success with growing their Mainsail platform in this way, both at headquarters and in the field. Examples of home-office tasks include roster management, specialty pharmacy data delivery tracking, and alignment maintenance. For sales reps in the field, we’ve built Mainsail systems for targeting exercises, affiliation maintenance, sales allocation, incentive compensation reports and calculators, CRM activities such as call logging and medical information requests, and more.
You need to understand who will set up and maintain the system, how that will work, and what it will cost.
The technology only gets you so far. Once you choose a system, a qualified expert will need to set it up to meet your needs, and then maintain and expand it over time. Many software vendors will refer you to other consulting firms for the work, or they may offer in-house services at an additional price, or you can plan to hire someone to do the work. Whatever you decide, make sure you understand the costs involved, and more importantly, how well your chosen implementation team understands your business.
We have seen the situation many times where a vendor is well-versed in the technology, but a lack of familiarity with our client’s business leads to lengthy, painful, expensive engagements with mediocre outcomes. With Mainsail, your implementation team is Beghou—our software and implementation services go hand in hand. We know our clients’ business, and our team of Mainsail configurators work side by side with our consultants to make the whole build out as painless and successful as possible.
The system needs to make it easy to get work done.
The days of sifting through spreadsheets and emails to track down data are over. Companies should be able to collect and access the entirety of their data analytics in one location. In turn, the sales force should be able to smoothly enter their data into the platform. Commercial teams can then easily visualize the data through charts, graphs and maps. Mainsail is accessible from any device with a browser, including native mobile devices. This allows the sales force to easily plug in timely information while on the go – even when offline. And Mainsail’s highly configurable user interface can be tailored to the task at hand, making it as easy and efficient as possible for the sales force and commercial team to get their work done quickly.
The system, and the development team behind it, needs to adapt to evolving industry requirements.
Companies should ensure their software solution continues to meet their needs with a steady stream of new offerings and improvements. We work hand in hand with our clients to develop new modules that enhance our capabilities and better serve client needs. In fact, our entire development process is customer-driven and tailored to what we’re hearing from our customers. Examples of how the Mainsail feature set has grown over time include:
- Affiliations management and refinement, which allows the sales force to manage data related to a customer’s affiliations with various institutions and group practices through a clean, fast user interface. This makes the task of reviewing lots of customers as painless as possible.
- Market access account management, which enables account managers to collect and manage information on key markets, contacts, growth strategies and account plans in a non-tabular way. This makes it easy to share the plans with others and input rich data, such as images and formatted text.
- Advanced analytics management, where home office commercial teams can develop forecasts, alignment scenarios and more.
- Incentive compensation reports management, where we added support for highly configurable dashboards so that our designers could develop effective scorecards without fighting limitations of the presentation platform.
- Sales apportionment management, which enables the sales force to provide feedback on how to distribute sales credit across territories, including configurable workflow approval.
- Field coaching reports, which allows sales management to provide ride-along feedback to their reps in a structured way.
Effective software solutions are a key part of any company’s operations – but they are also a means to an end. When evaluating options, you should stay focused on your needs and challenge potential vendors to provide examples of the type of work you plan on doing, as well as examples of how the tools can adapt to your changing needs over time. Also, keep in mind that it’s not just the software you’re evaluating, but the people who will be implementing it. With that holistic view, you should be able to make an informed decision that will maximize your chance of success.