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Changing human behaviour forever through software – only if humans allow

By David Williams

We do love a good game of buzzword bingo especially when it comes to software. Who else likes to press the big red buzzer in a meeting when the threshold of jargon is reached? So, we’ll avoid all the jargon and cut through the noise to focus on some key tectonic issues facing us all, namely the accelerated change in healthcare catalysed by COVID-19 and how we can prepare to address it.

Before diving into the narrative about how technology will change our business model forever, I’ll start with a quote from the great Jack Welch, former CEO of GE: ‘In the end, it was all about the people.’

From our experience you need to go back to the basics of change management, because 60-70% of the success of technological deployment is about the people.

The reason for this fundamental issue is that human beings are not resistant to change. Rather we are resistant to being changed and there lies the problem for any system change that alters previous practice.

The digital world is the great new frontier for pharma with everything changing at a much greater pace, but the question is, are organisations ready for it? Evolution takes time and revolution can be violent.

How many of us have had a platform, software or app provided to us in our roles? Something ‘proclaimed’ to make our lives better and more efficient, only to spend the next two years finding workarounds or, worse still, avoiding using it.

So, what is the answer to nudge our behaviour into this new, increasingly fast-paced, data-intense world. Make no mistake, the need to consume data, the need to turn that data into insights and the need to use those insights have increased exponentially.

Software can do many things, but it can’t decide for you. It can enable, but it can’t take the next best action. Long before we get into the power of AI, there are some basic steps to working with technology to support the adoption of new solutions.

What do you want to achieve? We are often asked for a success dashboard, something to measure progress and report to the board, so our response is ‘what do you want in it?’. Often people don’t know, so this is a good place to start.

Who do I need to get there? How many companies have done an audit of the skill mix they have and compared it to what they need to make the strategy successful?

Which behaviours, information and skills will I need to deploy? Launch excellence is one of those bingo phrases but, with so many launches failing over the years, who has measured what has worked and whether the teams are executing the right choices and behaviours?

How do we know we are succeeding? What are the KPIs and metrics, and how do we measure outputs rather than inputs?

Considerations when leveraging technology for behaviour change

Visibility: do you have visibility of the behaviours that you’re looking to change to increase engagement? The more your people and workflows can be managed through a software platform, the greater visibility you will have on the underlying causes and effects of poor performance, as well as opportunities for training strategies.

Alignment: are you at a point where your people are aligned to the direction you want to go in, but need help getting there? Or are you trying to fundamentally change their behaviour in ways they’re opposed to when it comes to field engagement? Do you understand what push-and-pull factors are currently driving behaviour? In both cases you will likely need to support your software strategy with training.

Opinionated software: once you understand the push-and-pull factors driving current behaviour, your technology can:

*Remove barriers and frictions impeding the desired behaviour

*Nudge, prompt and remind people of best practice at the point of making a decision

*Equip you with the evidence you need to develop your strategy.

Opinionated software in practice

In its simplest terms, opinionated software solves workflow problems, providing better business processes. Co-created by those using it, opinionated software will answer pharma’s need for better engagement in a fast-paced world. The process involves:

*Prioritising which features to build and what not to build

*Innovation through completely new features

*Design of the software – workflows, copy, presentation of information.

Basecamp is an excellent real-world example. A project management tool aimed at remote, distributed teams, it believes in reducing stress and fatigue within organisations. Its creators believe that replacing meetings and calls with written messages and discussions results in deeper reflection, prudent research, better quality decisions and more flexible workflows, reducing the burden on teams.

Warning: Do not assume that software can force behaviour change. In all cases, people are smarter than computers and will find workarounds. They need to work together in sweet harmony.

David Williams is Chief Medical Officer and Head of Medical Strategy at VISFO

In association with

27th September 2021

From: Research, Healthcare

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