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Cheat Sheet

What every CIO must know when choosing a digital marketing solution


Today, the CIO is a key figure, tying many different departments together – commercial, medical, R&D, manufacturing – and providing a broad perspective that no single business unit can have.

As technology experts, they have a big say in which digital platforms are chosen, helping colleagues in other departments understand the technical issues and anticipating any potential impacts on a company’s IT infrastructure. CIOs also often have specific responsibilities for the data that digital systems generate and how this is turned into insights to inform the customer engagement strategy.



Growing responsibilities, however, are not always matched with growing budgets. So, in addition to asking the right questions when choosing a digital marketing solution, CIOs also use their wider perspective to see the practical implications and potential pitfalls of any new solution.

The following ‘cheat sheet’ gets you asking the right questions from day one.

1.Consider the company
as much as the software

The solution provider is just as important as the technology. Don’t get burnt by companies that make big promises but then fail to deliver — or vendors that lack the track record that will give you peace of mind.

The solution provider should be able to present case studies, showing how their system works in practice. They should also be able to provide clear advice on how to set things up properly — taking on that work themselves if required.

So, it pays to ask detailed questions about the process, timelines and project milestones – and see which specific services they provide so that the impact on IT is minimized. Also make sure that the vendor has a deep knowledge of the life sciences and fully appreciates its specific challenges e.g. compliance and data handling.

2. Look for
hidden time traps

Always consider how the system will be used in practice and the impact that it will have on IT workload and that of thewider organization.


Speed is essential - Assigning access to content is time consuming unless the system makes it easy

In a sales enablement system like e-detailing, for example, there will likely be a large number of customer-facing users who need to be assigned to different kinds of content. Some reps will have a traditional sales function, others may be medically focused, or have a particular specialization. There will also be geographical differences and complications that arise out of regulation.

What this means is that each rep and local marketing organization will likely have a particular level of content access. Often, it’s the IT Department that will enable this. And if the solution doesn’t make this process easy, it’s a hidden time trap that can be very costly. This may well be an area that your colleagues in Marketing & Sales won’t consider, so look for a solution that makes this process simple and painless.

3. Minimize risk
and ensure stability

A key area that CIOs focus on is minimizing risk through system stability. Examine in detail vendors’ service level agreements (SLAs) to ensure that support is not simply available but that it is planned for and delivered in the right way.

Getting detailed insights – and vendor commitments in the SLA – is crucial. How does a vendor ensure system uptime? How do they plan software updates so that they don’t disrupt the business (e.g. running dual systems during this process)? What guarantees does a vendor give to fix any software bugs? And which specific processes do they have in place to make this happen in a fast and efficient way?

Further, how does a vendor ensure system accessibility globally? Again, the SLA should detail how a they provide support in different geographic areas and across time zones.

As every CIO or CDO knows, when systems are unstable nothing else matters. It might be a remarkable technological breakthrough but without reliability that means little.


4. Look beyond IT issues in
a vendor’s product support

Digital sales software like e-detailing or remote introduce numerous issues that overlap with other areas of the business such as user training, creative agency guidance, data capture, analysis and reporting.

In some cases, the responsibilities for these areas might be unclear or cannot be handled internally because of a lack of resources or specific expertise in those areas. And if the organization is new to digital communication, such issues might not even be known and therefore are not considered during the procurement process.


Holistic view - Making sure vendors consider the wider organization and individual needs

That’s why it pays to see whether a vendor takes a holistic approach, considering not just IT issues like system integration, but also factors that impact the wider organization. Do they have the experience to anticipate issues? And are they capable of supporting other departments during the implementation process – especially in the initial deployment?

Look for a company with an experienced professional services team to support IT – and liaise directly with Sales & Marketing as required.

5. Review the
security implications

Data security is obviously of paramount importance and a system’s vulnerability to penetration is always a major concern. The vendor should be able to discuss their data security measures in detail and, once the system is in place, participate in ‘pen tests’ to simulate an attack.

Also look for other factors that impact security, such as access control. Obviously, if the system offers ‘single sign-on’ (SSO), this can mitigate risks as user passwords are not stored or managed externally (as well as reducing user password fatigue).

6. Check for hidden
compliance issues

Even more than in other industries, one of the key challenges in the life sciences is compliance. There are obvious areas to explore here, such as a vendor’s ISO certification with regards to data handling, as well as GDPR legislation.

There are also more ‘hidden’ areas relating to the interactions between the industry and medical professionals – precisely the point where digital marketing software is used. A good example is communication tools that use screen sharing. This can be highly problematic because such systems potentially expose files on desktops, company emails and other non-compliant communications to HCPs.

For peace of mind, look for solutions that are specifically created for the life science industry, as they should be designed to overcome compliance issues.

7. Seek integration

In complex international organizations flexibility is key, especially when working with data flows. It’s common, for example, to find multiple CRM systems within the same organization – something that has to be considered when choosing a customer-facing communications system like e detailing or a remote solution.

Will it be able to connect to all CRM systems? And how might any potential future system changes impact connectivity? Look for easy integration with an open API and, preferably, a system that is customizable to perfectly match your organization’s needs.

Flexibility is also an important consideration in data dashboards, which are increasingly essential in customer-centric organizations. Standard dashboards might only be able to capture transactional data – the number or length of customer interactions – and miss out on other types of indicational data entirely.

It pays to look closely at customization options to ensure that dashboards can provide the leading indicators that are relevant for your organization, whether that’s assessing levels of content engagement or customer satisfaction.

8. Ask for a
technology roadmap

Acquiring any new technology is a commitment. Investing the time to make the assessment, communicating internally about the decision, ensuring that everyone is trained – it all takes time. That’s why it pays to learn if a vendor has a long-term plan for their product and, if so, how that matches your needs.

Ask for a development roadmap to see the concrete plans for the solution, at least over the next couple of years.

You want a solution that is as close to future proof as possible. Talk to the vendor about their long-term plans. Then consider how this matches your own technology roadmap. Things can and do change but, if the vendor isn’t thinking ahead, you’ll find it hard to plan ahead.

9. Explore the data
and analytics capabilities

One of the major benefits of digital marketing is the data that it provides Sales and Marketing to be more effective and deliver better service to HCPs around the world. Obviously, this has to be done in a GDPR compliant way and so the vendor must be able to explain in detail how their system handles customer data securely.

It also pays to closely examine how a system captures data. In some cases, the possibilities for data capture are limited – with only some kinds of tracking possible or a restricted number of data points. You need to keep all options open.


Capturing data - Consider the extent to which data can be captured and how it can be accessed in your organization

Also consider analytics and real-world use cases. Unless data is easily accessible and clearly presented it cannot drive customer engagement and the wider desire for digital transformation in pharma and medtech.

Look for a system’s ability to deliver data in a comprehensible way (e.g. data dashboards) throughout your organization. Also consider a vendor’s abilities to support you and your colleagues with data analytics expertise.

10. Know that a poor user interface
means more IT service tickets

How a system does something is just as important as what it does. A poor user interface not only frustrates your colleagues in Sales & Marketing but also drains your resources by requiring additional support.

Good systems are intuitive, enabling users to immediately understand how it works and solve problems themselves. Talk to the vendor about their user experience, how they’ve designed their system to be intuitive, and ask for any feedback that they’ve received from existing users.

11.For remote solutions, look for
broadcasting not screen sharing

Colleagues in commercial departments want to get their message across to healthcare professionals but may not fully consider that they need audience feedback too. Systems need to support twoway data flows and it’s not always immediately apparent when this is missing. Screen sharing, for example, doesn’t allow the customer to interact with content and therefore produces little or no useful data.

As more and more communication is done virtually with a remote solution, the ‘broadcast’ method that allows for interactivity becomes increasingly important – as the data shapes how your company can respond to customers. If customer feedback isn’t possible, a whole new solution might be required later.

12. Consider scalability
to meet future needs

In addition to understanding a vendor’s own plans for the system (their technology roadmap), it pays to consider how a potential system might respond to changing needs in your own organization. How scalable is the solution?

There are obvious requirements here such as being a SaaS solution, which makes deployment around the world relatively fast and generally easier to handle. There are also other issues like system flexibility – what else can it do beyond the initial requirement?

While the initial need in Sales and Marketing, for example, might be for a remote solution or e-detailing software, this could later lead to a desire for other communication channels for multichannel engagements. The ability for a solution to fit the different needs of multiple geographic regions, and changing needs over time, is a key consideration.

13. Meet the technologists
not just the sales team

Where possible, speak to the people who speak your language. It pays to talk directly with the creators of the system because they will better understand IT’s needs and answer your detailed questions.

It’s a good sign if a vendor brings one of their technologists to a meeting or connects them to you personally. (At Agnitio, we ensure that a technologist is on every customer team.) A peer-to-peer discussion can clarify things quickly and also give you deeper insight into a vendor’s approach and long-term plans.

14. Know that good systems
reduce IT workload,
poor systems increase it

Overall, consider the total impact of a new system – taking into account not only the opportunities it provides users but also what effects it has on IT. The best systems will deliver a great experience for healthcare professionals and patients, be easy for customer-facing staff to use, and be easy to maintain and regulate.

How a vendor answers a direct question – What’s the impact on my department’s workload? – can tell you a lot. If they can only talk about the front end of the solution, the practical use case may be lacking.

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