Doing More with Digital: It's Just Good Business

Matt Lasmanis, US CIO, GSK
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Matt Lasmanis, US CIO, GSK

Over the last decade, we’ve seen digital technology disrupt business as usual, drive remarkable returns for some companies, and utterly change the way we all live—from how we order a taxi to planning our next meal. But we are living in dynamic times. Customers expect even more from business than digital disruption, they are insisting on both value creation and business values.

Putting values into value creation

Living your values does more than contribute to a positive culture and create a possible halo effect. When it is done well, it can serve as a lens to see new business opportunities, customers, products, and ways of working. The key here is that your values can and should help you see opportunities for your business to profit and thrive while also advancing a greater good–like tackling hunger, increasing graduation rates, or improving health outcomes.

Some refer to this as “doing well and doing good” or “the triple bottom line” (people, planet, profits). Others call it “corporate citizenship”, “corporate responsibility”, or “shared value”. Still others call it “building trust” or “sustainability”. I think of it as just good business, and I believe over the next decade digital technology will continue to be the catalyst for businesses to improve how they integrate values into value creation.

The traditional commercial model

We sought to apply this same integrated approach to how we modernized our commercial model at my company, GSK—a global healthcare company that discovers and develops medicines, vaccines, and consumer health products.

  ​Digital Technology can better position our companies to do well and do good   

As we reconsidered our industry’s traditional commercial model, we knew we could do better. The industry’s old marketing and sales practices include:

• Paying sales representatives based on the number of prescriptions written without necessarily regarding what’s best for the patients.
• Paying doctors to speak on behalf of the very same products the industry wants them to prescribe.

These practices were developed decades ago and have certainly done their fair share in contributing to a widespread perception that the industry values profits over patients.

Changing the way we do business

Acting on our value of being patient-focused, we made first-in-the-industry changes to these old practices:

• GSK sales representatives are not compensated based on individual sales targets. Instead, they are motivated and rewarded on their scientific knowledge of our products, customer service, and broader business success.
• External doctors are not paid to speak about GSK pharmaceuticals or vaccines.

We replaced the old practices with new, world class digital ways of working. As you know, the world is digital. It’s a world where we check our mobile phones 150 times a day and 6 out of 10 consumers expect Amazon-levels of customer service from health brands. And candidly, doctors don’t want to live in a world where, to be educated on a new treatment, they have to give up their Thursday night to go to a random hotel, eat cold chicken, and listen to someone talk about a drug. Wouldn’t they rather be in a situation where they could, when they need that information, go online and have a direct interaction with a highly qualified GSK physician who can give them the information they need 100 percent compliant with current regulations?

The crucial component: Digital Technology

Rather than the former model of dictating how and when we deliver information to our customers, we have moved towards a global digital capability, which is enabling us to make all of our knowledge accessible to our customers at their convenience. This approach is more in-step with society’s expectations and it’s ignited a huge shift at GSK in the way we think about how to be convenient; how to be there when the doctor needs us, and avoid forcing ourselves into the doctor’s world whether they want to hear from us or not.

Prior to my current role as CIO of GSK's US business, it was my privilege to lead the global team of technology experts in the launch of this new global digital platform. The platform includes a global information portal with webinar capability and click-to-chat in select markets, allowing doctors to get questions answered by our internal medical experts in real time. These platforms are accessible across almost any type of device: smartphones, tablets, and laptop devices. 

Last year, we ran a 90-minute webinar across 20 countries with 16,000 doctors in attendance. On average, we’re getting 83 minutes’ dwell time on our interactions. We are seeing higher HCP engagement scores, receiving more follow up, and hearing more questions in the new digital world than we’ve ever had in the old system. Why? Because it’s the way we all want to work.

Doing well and doing good

This value-based change is global in scale—guiding our practices from Africa to Asia to the Americas–and giving us a competitive edge as the only pharmaceutical company in the world to pioneer revolutionary changes to legacy industry practices.

Despite the many critics unsure if this new model would work:

• GSK’s full-year results for 2016 showed overall group sales and profits were up for all three of GSK’s global businesses (consumer healthcare +5, pharmaceuticals +4 percent, and vaccines +12 percent.) 

• In the US, 2016 Respiratory sales increased 7 percent to $4.5 billion Constant Exchange Rate(CER) with 14 percent volume growth, and Vaccines had an unprecedented year, ending the year up 12 percent on a pro-forma basis to $2.2 billion CER.

• And GSK has the #1 most trusted pharmaceutical salesforce in America, as rated by US physicians through a 2016 survey.

The path ahead

As I reflect on our journey, it was a values-infused approach to digital technology that illuminated our path forward and delivered for our shareholders and society. This strategic level of engagement between the CIO function and the business is more important than ever as firms chart their own course through this journey. Each of us has an opportunity to help our executives think differently about how we do business and show that digital technology can better position our companies to do well and do good. Bottom line: doing more with digital is just good business.

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