With about 130 medical staffers supporting 5,000 sales reps at GlaxoSmithKline, the two teams needed a better system to get work done than relying on phones, email and time-consuming face-to-face consultations.
The pharmaceutical company began evaluating technologies halfway through 2012. The main requirements included video and voice capabilities, screen sharing, easy scheduling that doesn't rely on email, and scalability across platforms, including iPads, smartphones and PCs.
GlaxoSmithKline developed an application internally that lets sales reps log in to see the availability of medical team members and submit a request to reserve time to meet with customers.
For the remote communications piece, Glaxo chose a package of externally hosted software -- which it named Engagement on Demand -- that combines mobile, voice, video and document sharing. For example, when customers have questions beyond a sales rep's expertise, the rep will connect those customers to Glaxo medical pros over videoconferencing.
In a pilot of the two systems earlier this year with a group of 70 to 80 employees, the initiative reduced the amount of time it takes to connect Glaxo medical professionals with customers. The company also expects to cut the medical team's travel costs by 25% this year, says Matthew Lasmanis, VP of North America IT.
"We learned that just because capabilities like video and screen sharing exist in the mainstream today doesn't mean that's going to be easy to implement," Lasmanis says. "There's always a level of change management you need to work though."
The pilot was also important to test the IT team's hypotheses about how truly useful the collaboration tools would be.
"From the feedback we've received, I think we've proved that with some tweaks, digital or virtual interaction is something that customers find really valuable," Lasmanis says.
More valuable than the tools they implemented is the notion that Glaxo is keeping up with the rapid pace of technology and customer expectations, Lasmanis says.
"That's something that's always been important to us."