Changing established employee behaviors and long-standing practices is rarely easy, especially when it comes to the working routines of thousands of field personnel. That’s particularly true in sales operations, where performance is typically measured by outcomes and not conformance to a specific checklist of tasks and/or compliance requirements.
Sales controls traditionally have centered on contractual concerns, anti-fraud and corruption, order entry and fulfillment. So when a leading medical device manufacturer set out to address supply chain challenges and compliance gaps in the deployment and disposition of the sales force’s “trunk stock” — a global inventory of more than $13 million in free goods and product samples — it didn’t have a ready model to work from.
These were not simple gaps to address — the compliance requirements were complex and unique to the industry as they included not just the handing off of the samples but tracking them through final disposition. The samples passed through a number of hands — and literally car trunks — in the journey from factory to field rep, to practice, to practitioner, to patient, and sometimes back, with multiple deployment and disposition options at each hand-off. The traditional manual process through which this was accomplished presented a number of risks, such as lost inventory, damaged goods and misplaced returned samples.
To solve the challenge, the company evaluated several compliance technology solutions available on the market. It then engaged Protiviti to validate the tool they had selected and develop an implementation, adoption, training and monitoring strategy.
Early in the project, however, it became apparent that the selected tool was not compatible with the company’s supply chain. To address this unexpected wrinkle, Protiviti brought in a cross-functional team of IT, business process improvement (BPI), and risk and compliance experts. The Protiviti team partnered with client stakeholders across IT, supply chain, human resources, legal, sales, regulatory, quality, compliance, marketing and fulfillment to identify critical parameters for an effective and sustainable technology solution. A requirement for the solution was not only to remediate risks and critical control gaps, but also to be embraced by the users for whom field functionality and ease of use was essential.
This collaboration paid off, and the solution — up and running in 30 days — allowed the client to remediate 90 percent of its compliance gaps before a critical deadline. Just as important, the Protiviti team worked closely with the client to integrate the company’s supply chain processes into the solution to ensure its long-term compatibility.
The new digital solution is iPad-compatible, with state-of-the-art reporting dashboards, and it automates many aspects of the sample product compliance process. It provides a 360-degree view of trunk stock inventory, with timely and accurate monitoring of deployment and disposition. The solution was introduced to more than 1,500 employees in a series of training sessions, resulting in a 75 percent user adoption rate within the first 10 business days of implementation. A new control self-assessment process was developed to ensure that the new controls work effectively and enable timely remediation of deficiencies.
Working within the operational and systems constraints of its existing supply chain configuration, the company was able to achieve the majority of the targeted control objectives, including an electronic store order platform and catalog, and electronic signature verification of sample deliveries. The remaining objectives were moved out of scope by the client and aligned to a future release attainable by their internal supply chain technology organization. More importantly, the company achieved full, effective and technology-enabled control over $13 million in free goods exposure. This achievement is being shared with the company’s partners who are looking to leverage the innovative solution and processes.
The success of any project of this scope depends largely on the capabilities and commitment of the client, who in this case provided outstanding leadership, collaboration and a genuine commitment to positive change. In a letter to the Protiviti engagement team, the executive sponsor of the project said, “…our successful launch makes us all innovators […]. These new tools and improvements have received extremely positive response from business partners. […] The approach and successful deployment has raised the bar for future implementations.”