Business intelligence, artificial intelligence, machine learning, data-driven innovation...
I seem to hear these terms everywhere these days. Despite being a data scientist myself, I often wonder what organizations mean when they use these terms...
In my view, data is a means to an end. I like the "bake a cake" analogy. The cake is the final result we are after. The data are the ingredients. And these ingredients need to be manipulated according to a recipe. The recipe is then your machine learning model or data algorithm.
Data can be obtained from almost any aspect of your organization, but I like to start with the good old-fashioned user-feedback. User-feedback is often associated with marketing strategies, but there is much more to user-feedback than "would you recommend this product to a friend?" I define user-feedback as any information the user can provide related to the purchasing or use of your product. This is a very rich source of information.
Bringing benefit to users is the underlying reason for all products. However, measuring and quantifying this benefit can be quite difficult. For Life Science organizations, benefit can be expressed as clinical impact AND quality of life. Ofen, the differentiation between two similar products is not their clinical impact, but their convenience, appearance, ease-of-use or other features that impact quality of life. The best way to capture how your product improves quality of life for your user is to get their direct feedback.
Equipped with data that quantifies how your product improves quality of life for users and describes exactly what sets you apart from competitors, you can present a clear cost-benefit analysis that will make buying your product an easy choice.
User-feedback is not only good-to-have but a requirement by the EU Medical Device Regulation (MDR) taking effect from May 2021. In particular the new MDR increases requirements for post-market surveillance (PMS), defined as "All activities carried out by manufacturers in cooperation with other economic operators to institute and maintain a systematic procedure to proactively collect and review experience gained from devices they place on the market, make available on the market, or put into service for the purpose of identifying any need to immediately apply any necessary corrective or preventive actions."
A compliant PMS plan should contain information concerning serious and non-serious incidents, side-effects, feedback or complaints provided by users, distributors, or importers of the product. The role and importance of feedback from all stakeholders is now explicit and many organizations must establish new procedures and data channels to acquire and manage this information.
If user-feedback is so important, why don't we see more of it? The simple answer is that many organizations have no way to collect this feedback because they do not interact directly with users. Often organizations interact with distributors and intermediaries such as healthcare providers, who in turn interact with users.
But that is only partially true. There is always at least one point of contact between users and organizations: the act of using a product. What is missing in fact is an appropriate channel linking users and organization via the product. This channel could be, for example, a smart phone application or website that can be accessed via a special code in the product packaging.
This may seem like an easy option for highly digital products but in fact, this is possible for any product, no matter how traditional. All products should take advantage of the digitalization of our society as a whole and the digital literacy of most users.
Organization should take stock of how they are affected by the macro trends of digitalization. One important activity is to establish clear data collection and data management strategies that are common to the whole organization. It is not uncommon for different parts in the organization to establish their own ways of dealing with data, creating separate silos. The purpose of an overarching strategy is to ensure that all data collected by the organization can be combined into a bigger and more valuable source of information. Imagine how efficient your organization would be if Maintenance could seamlessly interact with Production, or if Marketing could help recruit participants for clinical trials, or if your users could support Sales by becoming advocates for your product.