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AstraZeneca is trying to make big pharma a bit more social with Salesforce

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez September 17, 2015
Social and collaboration don't necessarily come naturally to a big pharmaceutical company. However, AstraZeneca is trying to change that with the use of the Salesforce platform.

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We at diginomica have previously written about how AstraZeneca, one of the world's largest pharma organisations, is using cloud technologies to drive innovation in the field of life sciences. At Dreamforce this week I got the opportunity to dive a little deeper with the company's Vice President of IT for HR, legal and corporate affairs, Marc Starfield, to talk about how he is attempting to make AstraZeneca more social through the use of the Salesforce platform.

Starfield explained that when he joined the company a year and a half ago, AstraZeneca had been using a bunch of intranets that had been developed in house, which weren't capable of scaling up, weren't easily consumable on mobile and weren't appropriate for social collaboration across a number of regions.

To counter this, Starfield decided to roll out the Salesforce platform globally – the company has 85,000 licences – and use it to build a social intranet for distributing content, messaging and collaboration. It has been branded 'Nucleus'. He said:

We had a growing need to get to a mobile solution, so we changed our strategy to software-as-a-service (50% of the user base has a tablet or a phone as their primary device). Then we wanted something that drives how we collaborate and share information. Something that's scalable, gives us the breadth and supports our social ambitions.

Starfield explained that the three main drivers behind the project were about driving scientific leadership within AstraZeneca, delivering growth for certain brands and markets, as well as creating a great place to work.

On scientific leadership, Starfield said:

How do I connect people and information in a very unique way? There's mass amounts of information out there, but how do I allow people to get that much more quickly. We've also got lots of environments, lots of content, and you can never find anything. We really want to simplify that experience and make it purposeful. We also want people to challenge us to create better content. People still create 12 page policy documents. But what people really want is a knowledge card or a video.

On growth, he added:

This speaks to specific brands, but we want to create the space where people really engage and they feel they can go to share information, train, get updates. Also emerging markets, such as Japan and China, are really important to us. We have 10,000 employees in China, how do we connect them to this organisation? How do we connect these scientists doing very interesting things?

And on creating a great place to work, he said:

How do you create an innovative and vibrant culture? We needed something to support that and we use Chatter for that to a large extent to connect people and create a platform where people can share. But that's a big of a journey, that's not a culture that's natural to pharma.

Championing social

Starfield's tagline for Nucleus and the Salesforce platform is 'giving serendipity a helping hand'. He wants to create a safe place for scientists and employees to share and collaborate so that they can create ideas in an environment that previously might not have been possible.

He says that there are currently “pockets of activity” across the company, with sales and commercial teams really taking to the platform, but other areas still needing encouragement. As with any collaboration software rollout, uptake usually requires significant investment in championing the benefits and changing the culture. And this is exactly what Starfield is doing at AstraZeneca. He said:

The strategy initially was launch Chatter and let people use it how they want, a groundswell up. Some people really get and live in a social world. Some absolutely don't. The second part of the strategy is a very purposeful campaign from the top-down, teaching tips and tricks to senior executives to drive that down. So, very purposeful from the top, as well as this groundswell up. Then we hope they will meet in the middle.

We also have people that we call 'Lighthouse' users. They become people that propagate so that people see the value. We give them extra support and we help them.

So far we have 60,000 active users on Chatter. We have got 17,000 posts and comments. Comments are really important for us because that means you're engaging. We've got 2,000 plus active groups. We have also had 3 million page views and 9,600 social interactions.

Measuring for success

Starfield is very aware that sharing lots of posts and publishing lots of content doesn't necessarily mean that

the platform is a success. And so he is using a lot of analytics to help form its structure and understand how people are engaging. He said:

One of the metrics we are using, which is kind of an industry standard, is that for every 100 people, one person creates content, nine review it or engage with it, then 90 just passively follow. What we want to get to is that for every 100 people, 10 people are creating content, 30 people engaging with it. It's a really purposeful journey. I'm also measuring email – are we doing less of that?

We do a lot of analytics and for every function I want to be able to tell the business what people are engaging with. I want to be able to tell corporate affairs; you think people read this stuff, well they don't. The analytics is going to help us understand that. Also it will help us understand what people are searching, what they're finding and what they're engaging with.

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