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November 22, 2017

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How BIAL Transforms Information Into Knowledge

BIAL Case Study Image.jpeg

An Interview with Dr. Teresa Silveira
BIAL, Portugal’s leading pharmaceutical company, is transforming information into strategic knowledge that drives business. Teresa Silveira brings a unique perspective to BIAL in her role of managing scientific knowledge. Dr. Silveira’s experience as professor of information management at the University of Porto supports her work in transforming the company’s information workflows into a global strategy for building a knowledge-driven pharmaceutical brand. Reprints Desk recently spoke with Dr. Silveira about her mission and her work. 

RD: Tell us a bit about BIAL.

TS: The BIAL Group is a leading pharmaceutical company based in Trofa, Portugal. I joined BIAL in 2014, and co-opted the company’s motto, “Caring for your Health,” to craft a motto of my own: “Caring for Knowledge” — an idea that the company has also bought into as it continues to support my strategic vision. BIAL, which invests over 20% of its revenues in R&D to discover, develop, and deliver therapeutic solutions, is developing its knowledge management processes in order to ensure its continued successes.

RD: Walk us through the journey of BIAL´s scientific information services makeover from an information service to a knowledge manage ecosystem.

TS: We have eliminated the barriers that previously stood between vital content sources and the people who rely upon a smooth, efficient, and unimpeded content workflow. In doing so, we have elevated the very definition of the real challenge: “The core problem is not accessing information, the problem is transforming that information into knowledge that can drive the business. There is a huge difference between the two.”

RD: BIAL’s document delivery service was a manual process. What were the challenges with adopting a more automated approach?

TS: The first challenge was to make access to content fast, easy, automated, and independent of anyone in document management. What BIAL had was a manually-intensive process that was single-threaded through a mediator. You can’t scale up a system like that. It was also impossible to capture the vital business information associated with the actual content usage. It was a long process. I contacted all the main solution providers and discovered the Content Workflow 2015 event in London, which I attended. I was searching for companies that could provide a robust content delivery platform. That’s where I discovered the Reprints Desk solution.

RD: What attracted you to the Reprints Desk Solution?

TS: What impressed me about Article Galaxy was its flexibility, and the collaborative way that Reprints Desk works with its customers. BIAL´s knowledge management vision needs partners that are able to adapt to specific requirements in this domain, being able to provide information on a micro level (daily literature searches), as well as information on a macro level (decision-making). On top of that, to be able to tell a story — a narrative that reveals how the new capabilities are having an effect on the company’s culture.

RD: How has Article Galaxy changed the way your team works?

TS: There are three big things that support all research. The first is in-house experience and the connections you have with your partners. The second is the access you have to information to improve what you know and to help you discover new things. The last but, no less important, is the network you can create with your knowledge, especially in-house. The big difference, what changed since deploying the Reprints Desk platform, is that people feel much more comfortable gaining access to things because now they don’t have any barriers. And as for us, as Documentation and Scientific Service at BIAL, we no longer have to spend so much time preparing statistics and trying to understand users’ information behavior, because all the needed data is just a few clicks away.

RD: How does having a more open system help?

TS: The more open a system is, the more people will use it. It’s natural. We are a company based on research. The very foundation of our work is accessing and reading new content. Once we eliminated the bottlenecks and barriers between people and information, we saw an immediate increase in the article orders to 1,200 annually — just by removing the barriers.

RD: Tell us how Article Galaxy was deployed at BIAL.

When it came time to deploy the system, we were very systematic. The strategy wasn’t to roll out the platform for everybody at once. Navigating the human factors is also key to our approach. People get used to particular processes and systems. And even within those familiar systems, people still fear anything that is new — even when the new is faster and easier. So, the plan was to open slowly, selecting very deliberately the targets who would likely have the greatest interest and an urgent need of it. And it was easy to find them. In this profession, you can’t sit in the office and manage content without interacting with people. It’s important to talk with people and to understand their needs, giving them training, support, and some very important attention. You have to stay connected.

RD: What can you tell us about how the new system helps with knowledge retention?

TS: Training is one thing, but one particularly underserved aspect of managing knowledge is simply retaining it. The company invests a lot of money in highly skilled professionals because BIAL´s scientific collaborators have knowledge that is valuable to the organization. Whenever people order a journal article, that activity also constitutes a part of the investment. But what happens when somebody leaves the company? How does BIAL ensure that it captures the knowledge that those people take with them? How does BIAL retain their thoughts, ideas, the fruits of their collaborations? In the absence of such a process, the person taking their place has to start from scratch. But what if BIAL could actually transfer those knowledge bases to new people coming into the organization? That person would then be able to open the libraries of interest, and at minimum discover the key collaborators, the shared bibliographies, the comments and annotations added to that content, and everything else that goes with it. It would be like following a story: no matter who comes or goes, there would be a continuity. This is why I emphasize the fact that if a company wants to be a strong performer, the focus can’t just be in terms of information access, but also on managing the knowledge of all their collaborators.

RD: What results you have achieved since deploying Article Galaxy?

TS: Results come quickly when one takes this approach. It’s a challenge, of course but it is doable. The way that you proceed with information management makes all the difference, whether you’re in a small, medium, or large company context. It’s not a problem of size, but of strategic vision. So far in this process, the feedback from BIAL user communities has been positive. They are enjoying having a system like this because it is such a simple way for them to access information. That includes not only BIAL researchers, but also everybody in our global medical affairs group and everyone inside the company who needs to have access to this type of content. All of them are now in a better position to share knowledge and close gaps.

RD: Have you encountered any problems working through the Reprints Desk process?

TS: Well, I really cannot call them problems. A problem is something that stops or blocks the work. That is not the case. Things are running so much faster and more smoothly. The few things that we believe could be improved will only make the process run even faster. It’s good to discover so many new things and new possibilities. It’s very satisfying to work with partners who understand what BIAL wants.

RD: Can you explain your vision of a knowledge-driven brand?

TS: In Portugal, perhaps like anywhere else in the age of information and speed, we currently work for today. And of course, you need results today, or at least in a short-term. But the creation of a strong brand image takes time. Why? Because one of the pillars is the development of a strategic knowledge management culture and that requires peoples’ full engagement. This is very important. Interaction with physicians is much more difficult nowadays because everybody wants quick access to everything. If you want to capture physicians’ share of mind, a strong knowledge image will help you accomplish that. If that value is elevated as a key aspect of your brand, your constituents will respect it. I hope our experience will inspire other companies to pursue a similar vision, because the most amazing thing in the pharmaceutical industry is caring for people´s health, and without institutional knowledge created by people and a system designed for that, it is not possible.


Topics: scientific knowledge information access bial