Ways to Implement a Tier-Based Review
Implementing a tier-based review approach could mean a significant amount of change not only in terms of processes, but also in terms of people (and their roles) and support systems that are needed to manage the asset across the review life cycle. What is more important to understand for a lot of companies is that, review teams are formed from a centralized pool (who are mandated with other responsibilities) to bring in diverse capabilities across medical/legal/regulatory aspects for reviewing assets. Since this might not be their core job, any proposed change might require to showcase significant benefit over the status-quo for it to be widely adopted and successful.
Most companies that are trying to do something on these lines have witnessed maximum success when they have gone ahead with one of the following approaches:
1. Big Bang Approach:
In this approach, the most innovative and novel brands, particularly those in large markets were the first to adopt tier-based review followed by established brands. This approach has enabled success for the clients because of the 2 reasons-firstly, it has been able to generate significant delight for the marketing group that relies on the review process, and secondly, it has been able to show significant impact in the short run due to the large size of markets and volumes for which the approach is precisely suggested.
2. Big Market First:
In this approach, all brands (irrespective of the life cycle phase) within 1 or 2 large markets will perform the tier-based review, followed by a market-by-market rollout. Again, this approach seemed to work for 2 key reasons-firstly, it was able to provide the volumes and variety needed to establish and fine-tune the tiering mechanism, and secondly, it gave companies the flexibility to consciously avoid markets where change management was just not worth it.
We also observed that companies going with traditional approaches of small pilots followed by scale took a significant amount of time to adapt to the approach because the benefits were simply not visible on a small pilot scale. Irrespective of the nature of implementation chosen by companies, there were a few changes that were witnessed at varying levels by various internal and external stakeholders who were part of the review process.
Change Management Efforts to Effectively Implement a Tier-Based Review
Regardless of how the tier-based review is implemented, a significant change management effort is required to ensure the desired benefits. However, if implemented correctly, it can be a source of differentiation, and pharma companies can gain a competitive advantage in terms of getting the right information across the right channel in an accelerated manner. It is also worth noting that the change management here goes beyond the traditional realms of continuous communication, implementation of software programs, so on. It necessitates a change in reviewers’ way of working and would need significant training, motivation, and nurturing. Although the changes seen would vary from organization to organization, a brief summary of some must-haves are described below.
Organizational Shifts While Moving to a Tier-Based Review Approach
In many organizations, we find that a marketing operations function owns the process and is responsible for determining whether a submission is complete. In addition, a wide variety of stakeholders are able to submit assets through the MLR process, including brand teams, agencies of record, offshore/low-cost agencies, internal agencies, sales training, and market research. While moving to a tier-based review approach, we believe that the following 3 major organizational shifts must be borne in mind: -
Focus on Agency Performance Quality In = Quality Out
Increasing migration from live reviews to offline reviews – reliance on systems and processes
A shift of sign-off accountability to asset owners-typically brand team members
When review team members (medical, legal, regulatory, and clinical) tend to be company employees, editorial and proofreading functions are outsourced in approximately 70% of the organizations that we work with. The tier-based reviews offer the opportunity to reimagine editorial and coordination functions with the review process.
In order to facilitate the shift in ways of working listed above, we believe that editorial and material coordination functions must become more business-facing as a partner in the process rather than a downstream eventuality.
For instance, current coordination activities of moving jobs through the system can be complemented by a service desk function for marketing teams who are now expected to sign off on low-tier assets. This is a function that is not customary, and for which many marketers are not accustomed to using on a day-to-day basis. In addition, during one of our major engagements, we have objectively found that a major source of rework and additional review cycles within the MLR process is the quality and completeness of review packages at the agency level. For that organization, we recommended the reconfiguration of the coordination role to include agency oversight. The on-ground staff who are directly interacting with assets are best positioned to identify quality culprits and enable quality measures. Marketing teams have limited bandwidth to continually onboard agency teams that are constantly turning over.
While every organization is different in staffing and configuration, we believe the following areas are imperative in facilitating the shifts in ways of working.
Elevation of current roles to brand or portfolio-centric business-facing roles. This ensures alignment of volume forecasting and business requirements on a rolling basis.
Creation of fungible coordination and editorial pools that can work across brands and business units to keep the process moving.
Agency management function is to ensure ongoing QA of submission quality, particularly when final sign-offs will be increasingly borne by asset Creation of fungible coordination owners through agency scorecard.
Creation of a robust data and analytics owner to continually monitor through performance and quality. Quality includes accuracy of tier determination as well as day-to-day metrics such as accuracy and completeness of review packages.
Change Management for External Teams
Most external teams, especially the Agency of Record, have increased in terms of accountability of content shared for review. External teams would also have to invest in training themselves to learn the new processes and ensure that the team members understand the company-specific tiering structure to avoid the risk of rejection. Other trends/changes in terms of the role played for review depend on the extent of overall process outsourcing. Agencies would also have to understand and have to be trained on the new metrics of quality on which they would be measured against, which would ultimately improve the overall content supply.
Managing Change While Adopting to a Tier-Based Review
Initiatives such as tier-based reviews require a comprehensive change management plan. Creating awareness for change would require the internal and external stakeholders to understand the differences in ways of working as compared to the traditional environment, and they must be equipped with the right tools and training for understanding the new process and accompanying systems. It is also important to understand that creating awareness should not be a one-sided monologue, but a strategic partnership between change agents and the stakeholders to understand diverse perspectives on hindrance to adoption and actively hear suggestions for improving the overall process in subsequent releases.
Periodic surveys including guided and open-ended questions about-(a) systems, roles, and processes, (b) concerns, (c) self-assessment on readiness for change adoption, (d) additional training, and (e) feedback on the overall training and change process can help companies to improve the adoption rate by fineturning their change management approach. From our experience working with companies, we suggest the following as the main findings in driving change management while implementing the tier-based reviews:
Organization and change agents must own up the critical paths of transition and make it easy for people to adapt to new ways of working
Drive faster adoption for a large market and realize full value faster
Technology enhancements need to be aligned to ensure smoother deployment and rollout. For example, the Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) requires provision for alteration or creation of new workflows that enables categorizing the asset by tiers
While communication is the most important component for driving change, practical gaps were seen even in companies adopting all kinds of communication.
In one of our implementations of a tier-based review, where a company was working with a large number of agency partners, we found that despite penalizing agencies for poor tagging of content for tiering, they were just not able to maintain the required inputs for tiering. Further analysis found that the agency partners who were using the downstream resources kept changing continuously and hence required constant training. We partnered with this pharmaceutical company to create training videos and other short-training materials highlighting the tiering mechanism, how the agency played the critical role, and guided on how to fill up response questionnaires for accurate tiering, and so on. This was then taken up by the agency and they were able to provide much better inputs for accurate tiering of assets.