Websites and associated blogs and social media outputs are, with very good reason, an increasingly important part of the healthcare communications mix, with both agencies and pharma companies producing customised outputs for numerous digital platforms. New media channels are therefore one of the fastest growing sectors in medical education and healthcare communications and numerous specialist providers have emerged (along with new digital or e-business departments within traditional agencies). Getting the best from these newly emerging expert delivery teams can be challenging due to a lack of mutual understanding between stakeholders. The commissioning teams are more used to traditional print and presentation channels and the digital specialists are not always conversant with medical jargon or the heavily regulated bio-pharma environment. Good communication and absolute clarity of project objectives and expected outputs are therefore paramount to ensure optimal delivery and to avoid the perception of ‘mission creep’ and overspend.
Despite the fact that digital communication has been with us for some time now, and more and more individuals in pharma clients and agencies are familiar with the digital world, there can still be a disconnect between expectation and execution. I am sure there are many examples of good practice and smooth running digital projects across our industry (there are certainly many fine examples of excellence in execution – but who knows how many of these came in on time or on budget!?). At a recent MedComms Networking lunch and learn organised by the indefatigable Peter Llewelyn in Oxford, a representative group of agencies all acknowledged that there is significant scope for improvement in digital commissioning. Having recently been involved with 2 very different digital experiences (both website development projects) I can attest that this disconnect remains an issue within our industry.
One emerging idea from the MedComms group is to try to achieve consistency in briefing with a simple project flow chart. This flow chart is currently being refined with the help of James Harper at digital agency twentyeightb. One pivotal step in this flow chart which led to a good deal of discussion in the meeting was the ‘Functional Requirements Specification’ (FRS) or detailed project blueprint. It strikes me that getting this step right can save a lot of heartache later on in the project and it is therefore worth spending a good deal of time and effort on it. However this time and effort comes at a cost and clients may not be fully appreciative of the detailed work involved in getting a sound and highly detailed technical blueprint or FRS together. It would therefore be helpful if agencies and specialist digital suppliers alike begin to educate our customers on the importance of this step (and explain why it should be paid for as part of the main project budget).
The outcome from our ‘lunch and learn’ was an agreement that a flow chart, including the detailed blueprint/’FRS’ as a key component, would simplify and enhance the commissioning process. Once such a piece is finalised, we should all aim to educate pharma clients, colleagues and digital partners alike to embrace and adopt it. This blog is my small way of starting to spread the word and the finalised flow chart will be shared soon.