Reacting to the iPad Buzz

Pharmaceutical CommercePharmaceutical Commerce - March/April 2011

Industry is falling in love with the Apple iPad. Is it the right move for your company?

Pharma is eagerly responding to Apple’s iPad. Does this make sense? Yes. And no.

Does it make sense for your company to invest in iPads now? What factors should drive your decision? If you decide to jump in, how can you be sure you’ll make the cash register ring?

We believe that the Apple iPad—a type of display technology we are calling a “touch tablet”—is a game-changer. But we are cautious about which vendors’ technologies will win out. And, like any other technology, successful adoption is not automatic—it will require training, preparation and skillful introduction of the technology into industry work processes.

Human factors

Our perspective on this comes from our expertise is in human factors, not technology. We’ve been concentrating entirely on the human side of the equation for the last twenty years. During that time we’ve developed extensive experience deploying sales force automation (SFA), customer relationship management (CRM) and closed-loop marketing (CLM) to bio/pharma companies. We’ve trained every major brand of hardware and software. We’ve seen the laptop, the Palm, the iPaq, the Tablet PC, and the smartphone. They were all impressive technical advances. Some of them exceeded expectations; some fell short.

In this way, they’re a bit like special effects in the movies. The users don’t care how much investment went into these shiny things, or what excites their inventors, or what had to be done to produce them. As in the movies, what we see and feel is what moves us. And if it moves us, we want more of it. So it is precisely our human factors perspective that makes the iPad interesting to us.

We believe that the iPad is much more than just a new tablet computer. It’s a new category, the touch tablet. In its first year fourteen million have been sold, mostly to consumers. We expect next year’s sales to be much higher.

But keep in mind that winning the consumer’s heart is no guarantee of victory in the enterprise space.

Apple’s competitors are scrambling to catch it. And they’re thinking beyond the early adopters in the consumer market. They want to sell to you, the business buyer. So if you’re a bio/pharma company with a sales force, are you destined to buy it? Not necessarily. But, if you don’t buy the iPad, you are destined to buy something like it, because the iPad has made us see what’s possible now, and what ought to be possible soon. That’s your key.

As in the Palm example, the corporation doesn’t behave the way the consumer does. The consumer is infatuated with the new, in the here and now. The corporation’s attentions are drawn by promises and possibilities — the future. For example, the iPad promises to make the sale a new and better experience for the salesperson and customer alike. However, nobody has won the enterprise game yet. It’s just getting started.

What to Do Recognize that touch tablets like the iPad represent an entirely new way of doing presentations

Don’t knock out the competition: the enterprise buyer is different from the consumer buyer, and iPad competitors may prove successful

Don’t overlook training: even though the iPad is remarkably user friendly, no new technology is “easy” for all users

The ‘Wow Factor’

The iPad, whenever it’s pulled out, is instantly the life of the party. There are two obvious reasons for this. The first is novelty. The second is that it’s simply a gorgeous device — slim and light, colorful and bright. Does this matter? It does. Access to the HCP (Health Care Professional) is the rep’s major challenge. And doctors are famous for their affinity to technical gadgets. So it’s a conversation-starter. If they don’t have the iPad, they want to look at one. If they do have the iPad, they want to talk about it. They want to celebrate its beauty, revel in its edgy glamour, and talk about the cool new world of apps.

In this way, it has already brought new life to the sales game. We don’t say this lightly.

The impact is real, and it’s here now, larger than life. “New” sells.

But novelty, like fame, is fleeting. And technology ultimately lives or dies in the context of performance. Right now, the iPad’s performance is like that of the unpredictable diva — brilliant, when it appears, heartbreaking when it doesn’t.

Instant gratification

Apps are the key. Speed is all-important. Prescribers are impatient. Pull out the iPad and it dazzles — in seconds. One touch and you’re in! You can sell now, because you are into your presentation now, before the doctor’s interest fades. It’s light and fast – nothing matches it. For rep detailing, seconds count.

The touch-tablet form factor works. For demonstrating and communicating, the iPad needs no horizontal space. No table top is required. So thin and light, it will fit nicely into the OR, and play smooth, sharp video on a decent-sized screen — large enough to be seen at more than an arm’s length. It can easily appear at the business lunch, without moving a single spoon, and never looking out of place.

These physical and performance changes are here to stay. We humans have this in common: once we have it fast, wherever and whenever we want it, we will never accept anything less. There will be no setting up and waiting for the clunky Tablet PC to boot, or tapping through layers of applications. From now on, only the instant will survive.

Instant dismay

No Flash. Much of the content on the web is not visible on the iPad — it is not Flash-friendly. And Adobe’s Flash is a wonderful tool, used by many talented artists to create the beautiful smooth animations on the best websites – more than 1.6 million of them.

First, consider that most of your best digital assets were probably created using Flash. Worse yet, most CLM (aka digital detailing) presentations were created with Flash. They will be worthless. Even remade, without Flash, these presentations will be motionless and dull. And despite what you may hear, as of this writing, no other tool (including HTML5) comes close to Flash.

What can the iPad show? Right now, iPad users can present with non-Flash videos, slides made in Keynote (Apple’s answer to PowerPoint) and pdf files.

It’s true that developers are scrambling to learn HTML5, while developing other approaches to spicing up sales presentations. But right now, the non-Flash presentation hasn’t caught up.

Apple’s position is firm, and surprisingly intransigent, in opposition to Flash. If you, the customer, feel it’s a problem, Apple appears to be comfortable with that. Work around it, they say. So far, they refuse to consider fixing it, even though customers want them to. Virtually all of Apple’s iPad competitors advertise that their new products will play nicely with Flash.

Flash is, and will be, the most significant differentiator among touch tablets. All of the new devices will look like iPads, and each new one will claim to have more slightly more speed or memory than the rest. Those differences will be small, short-lived and inconsequential. But you should think long and hard about whether you want to sacrifice Flash capability.

With the iPad 2, Apple made an adjustment for projecting the screen display. The original iPad couldn’t project unless you’re using a few special apps. A significant upgrade of the iPad 2 removes that limitation.

Which device?

As of this writing, virtually all phone and television manufacturers, as well as computer companies, have plans to introduce the “iPad-killer.” They all realize that their new touch-tablets must do what the iPad doesn’t. So the landscape will be changing rapidly during this transition. For this reason, we advise you not to choose until it’s time to buy.

Another of our observations from experience is this: When the tools change, the rules change. The entry of the iPad will create new rules in the sales game. The last time this happened, CLM was the game changer. CLM was a response to broad HCP frustration with selling style, perceived to be interruptive, canned and annoying. CLM brought us the Interactive Sale. Some companies perfected this sale, and elevated their reps. Surveys were made and suddenly physicians and their staffs were telling a new story. Their meetings with reps were much more rewarding, and the messages more memorable. But some companies failed completely, even though their reps had the same tablet PCs with the same CLM software as the other companies. Somehow, despite all the expense, nothing happened. These companies had different stories. The same will occur with the iPad, and all touch-tablets. Some companies will be extraordinarily successful with them; some not.

From interaction to interplay

Interplay is defined, for both the physical and social sciences, as the way in which people or things repeatedly act on and react to each other. True interplay produces a series of reciprocal actions and reactions that proceed with increasing effects. Presentation is static. Interplay is dynamic.

The iPad, like its cousin the iPhone, has a capacitive screen. It responds to the touch of your finger in a sensitive new way, and better than any touchscreen ever has. This screen works because our skin is conductive. So the human touch is actually part of the iPad’s circuitry. And, most importantly, that’s how it feels.

In terms of human factors, compared to a stylus poking the tablet screen, this refinement of technology is no longer a difference in degree; it’s a difference in kind. But the most important change to the sales environment is this: more than one person can touch the screen. With the stylus, it was always a presentation, controlled by the rep. Now it’s active collaboration — a session of interplay with three elements: two people and the platform.

And now we have gestures — an exquisite improvement over the mouse or the stylus. We can now touch with more than one finger – sliding, stretching and squeezing what we see. The best designers will produce visual environments specifically designed for this kind of activity. This session will require less time, generate more interest, answer more concerns, and proceed to more resolutions than any other sales method. And, more than ever before, the professional benefit, the personal sense of acquisition, and the enjoyable experiences of the sale will be mutual.

The iPad: What not to do with it

Every time new tools have been introduced this human factors principle has been appreciated by the winners and ignored by the losers. The major improvement is not the distribution of the new tool. It’s the successful introduction of a better work process, enabled by the new tool.

What’s important here is that the new-and-better work process doesn’t happen by itself. Your organization worked hard to acquire these tools, and you know they can have a powerful impact. But unless new skills are deliberately introduced and reinforced, most of this potential will be forfeit.

Here is what not to do with the new touch tablet platform:

Don’t give the device to newcomers to let them “play” with it.

Familiarity training should be given at the moment they receive the new device, before opinions and patterns are formed. If you send the new gadgets out without this, it leaves you with no control over their first few moments with them. These are the most critical times. Some new adopters will hate the device; some will use it in unintended ways, and some will ignore the new capabilities you want to establish.

Don’t assume that no training is necessary for “easy” devices.

Touch tablets are easy to use, but not for everybody. The initial “adaptation” training doesn’t take much time, but it’s awfully important. Most new adopters don’t read the manual, don’t follow written instructions (forget about the user manual!), and avoid the things that don’t come naturally to them. Key patterns should be ingrained — through well-designed practice – right away. It takes very little time and completely cures this issue with every rep.

It is wrong to assume that training just takes time to “sink in.” Done correctly, the training effect is instant for everybody. Your reps will be confident and eager to perform the “new way,” right away. Without training, reps will be reluctant to pull out their new device on the critical calls. Important first impressions will not be made. Why wait?

Don’t assume that this technology is no different from what has come before.

To your reps, the iPad and your new applications mean a whole new way of doing their job. These apps are, after all, the containers for your best practices. But they aren’t truly best practices unless they’re delivered with confidence. You’re hoping the reps will conduct captivating, smooth and skillful sessions. Your reps hope that too. Leaving the reps to fend for themselves will not ensure success. Let them practice and smooth over the rough spots now — not in front of the customer. They should never be worried about the device or the software. You want them to be focused on the customer and playing for the opportunity.

How to do it right

No matter what happens in the world of technology, the initial effect is the same. Organizations focus on the financial impact of the investment. They rethink strategy, reset standards, issue purchase orders, and upgrade systems. But what about the individual users? To them, there is always one dominant truth: “This is a whole new way of doing my job.” This is by far the most important effect of technology change.

The human factors formula is the prescription for effective change, especially when speed is required. This formula has three components to consider carefully: information, tools and skills. Information includes every detail of strategic and tactical plans that must be conveyed to the organization. Tools include every device that has potential to add leverage (force multiplication) to the individual’s efforts. Organizations perform well in these two areas.

Skill competency, the third process component, has defined the dominant organization, throughout human history. It requires constant redefinition of work process and a disciplined method of turning process into new individual skills. Dominant organizations leave nothing to chance.

Our recommendations are:

• Buy the iPad, or the touch-tablet that suits your business needs best.

• Then follow the human factors formula: information, tools and skills.

• Leave nothing to chance.


Bob Cannan is founder and CEO of Eagle Productivity Solutions, located in Rochester, NY and Frankfurt, Germany ( Eagle develops and delivers custom consulting, design and training solutions to serve the critical needs of Bio/Pharma companies, including 17 of the top 20 companies, in 36 countries. Its specialty lines of business are: Marketing and Sales Services, Legal and Regulatory Compliance, and Clinical Trial Solutions.

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