A successful product launch during the ‘New Normal’ is anything but a leap of faith.

On the contrary, the assumption-based decision-making and persuasive selling that were commonplace as recently as January 2020 are being replaced with evidence-based decision-making and remote validation.

These paradigm shifts are among the key points covered by Nick Bogaert, Co-Founder of Board of Innovation NYC, during our recent online event Innov8rs Connect – Business Design & Venture Building.

In his talk, he outlines the behavioral changes that define the New Normal in the life science industry. He also describes the role of remote validation in developing a go-to-market strategy.

Nick Bogaert’s talk as recorded during Innov8rs Connect – Business Design & Venture Building. Check the summaries from all talks in the event playbook. Free download via https://innov8rs.co/get-playbook-bdvb/

What does ‘The New Normal’ look like for product developers in the life science industry?

Behaviors are changing rapidly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As innovators in the life science industry come to grips with the fact that the coronavirus is not a short-lived problem, they are gradually shifting their approach to product development. With aftershocks expected to occur in the near future, the most successful developers are adapting by perfecting a low touch journey to their product launches.

Before diving into remote validation and its benefits, it is helpful to understand how the product development landscape has changed in the life science industry. Below is a look at some key elements of the New Normal for developers and manufacturers.

Digital Innovation

Digital innovation has played a critical role in expanding virtual work capabilities for manufacturers and innovators across the globe. From Zoom meetings to online continuing education, live events are being replaced with digital experiences. With advances in digital innovation, product developers are able to maintain relationships with vendors, compliance personnel, and prospective buyers.

A Contactless Journey

As social distancing and protective masks become commonplace in the business world, organizations continue to tighten restrictions on guests and live meetings. In the life sciences industry, some new products are being launched following development cycles that are virtually contactless in nature.

From the moment a product idea is born to online testing to virtual meetings, product developers are able to complete key phases of the development journey with minimal physical contact.

Increased Sharing of Personal Data

The reduction in face to face contact has increased the usage of online platforms and tools used to share and exchange information. Many of these platforms require users to divulge personal information and data. Given the physical limitations imposed by the pandemic, consumers seem more willing than every to provide this information in order to communicate with others.

Low Touch Sales and Marketing

Within just a few short months, the coronavirus has transformed the way new products are sold and marketed. Before COVID-19, innovators conducted research and promoted their products during face to face meetings, at busy trade shows, and during live demonstrations.

But the health risks associated with face to face interactions has forced sales and marketing professionals to adopt a lower touch approach.

What is remote validation and what is its role in the product development cycle?

As manufacturers and other businesses take steps to limit face to face human interaction, remote validation continues to gain traction among product developers.

The definition of remote validation differs very little from the definition of validation itself. Nick defines validation as the process of gathering information through experimentation and user testing to make informed, less risky decisions faster.

Remote validation is the process of experimenting and testing without engaging in a face to face meeting. When properly executed, remote validation enables developers to gather useful, unbiased information that often plays a key role in guiding the product development process.

By featuring evidence-based decision-making, remote validation can help prevent assumptions from influencing development.

What are the four key benefits of remote validation?

Remote validation offers a host of attractive advantages to innovators who embrace it. In addition to offering convenience and time savings, this strategy allows innovators to devote more resources to critical issues surrounding compliance, pricing, business development, and securing capital.

Nick highlights the following four benefits as ways that remote validation can expedite experimentation and facilitate a product launch.

1) Cost Savings

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost of employee business travel was steadily increasing. With companies spending nearly $1,000 per employee for each business trip and more than twice that amount on international trips, employee travel costs were rapidly becoming a heavy burden for companies to shoulder. By eliminating many travel and lodging expenses, remote validation can help companies save thousands of dollars annually.

2) More Frequent Interactions

Remote validation can help shorten the product development cycle by making it possible for experimentation to occur with greater frequency. In contrast to face to face experimentation, which requires analysts and subjects to be present at the same location simultaneously, remote validation can occur with more spontaneity. With only a computer and interactive platform required, experimentation can occur more frequently and on a more continuous basis.

3) Increased Access

Before the coronavirus, access was often granted during pre-arranged physical meetings. But with remote validation, experimenting and testing hypotheses is easier because subjects are easier to access. Additionally, you can easily access data online through activity on your website and social media pages.

4) Ability to Experiment at Any Time

As long as you have a computer or mobile device, you can carry out experiments at any point in time. For instance, you can compare responses to various online advertisements in the middle of the night or during the time of your choosing. You are no longer limited by regular office or meeting hours.

How can you validate remotely?

Using experimentation to gather information from your favorite remote location is easier than you think. In fact, you can run your experiment from the comfort of your private office, living room, or even from your back patio while you are sheltering in place.

In general, you should follow the same protocol you would follow during a traditional experiment. Nick suggests following these five simple steps to achieve validation remotely:

Step One: Identify risky assumptions and leaps of faith

The path to remote validation begins by removing any assumptions that may impact your results. Unless your team is filled with seasoned pros, multiple assumptions may exist.

The best way to manage these assumptions is to prioritize them in order of their potential impact to your product or business. Then, be sure to exclude any assumptions that are impossible or difficult to test. Focus on those that are easy to test.

Step Two: Design your experiment

During the design phase, you need to develop an experiment that meets some specific criteria. Ideally, the experiment you choose should be one that you can run from any location and should possess the following three qualities:
• Simple to carry out
• Budget-friendly
• Easy to replicate

Keep in mind that you may end up running multiple experiments simultaneously. Be sure you have sufficient resources to adequately manage each experiment or you could miss out on key findings.

Step Three: Carry out your experiment

Once you designed an experiment that is easy to run and replicate, it is time to move forward with execution. Before you carry out your experiment, make sure you have taken the necessary measures to protect subjects. Seeking guidance with a compliance officer is a great way to ensure that your experiment is ethical, unobtrusive, and non-offensive.

Step Four: Analyze your data and results

Reviewing your findings through an objective lens is critical. Be sure to use caution during this step, as bias can rear its ugly head again and pollute the decision-making process. For example, you cannot arbitrarily decide to ignore a particular set of findings because they do not coincide with your own personal hypotheses. Your conclusions must reflect the results you obtained during your experiment.

Step Five: Make decisions based on your findings

After you have completed an objective analysis of your results, it is finally time to move to the decision-making phase of the validation process. During this phase, you can use your findings to make evidence-based decisions about your product.

For instance, if 250 healthcare professionals click on an ad for a patient monitor that features a blue background but only 60 people click on the same ad with a red background that is positioned right next to it, then you have evidence to support your decision to choose a blue background.

How can you secure buy-in from stakeholders and management?

Your efforts are more likely to be successful if you have the support of stakeholders and management. But securing buy-in and involvement from key decision makers is not always easy.

For starters, some of them may not fully understand the concept of remote validation or why it is necessary. Others may have biases of their own that influence their opinion of your experiments.

Here are some tips to help you earn the support of key leaders in your organization:

• Educate them quickly. Use clear and relevant language to tell them how your experiments will positively influence product sales.

• Tell them what’s in it for them. This may require you to estimate how remote validation can lead to a much healthier bottom line.

• Cite previous cases. Touch upon the ways that past experiment results have led to stellar product design and impressive sales.

• Ask for their support. Let them know two or three simple, specific ways they can support your efforts.

• Don’t ask for money right away. Nick notes that a canned pitch that involves a request for a big check is not the best way to proceed.

• Keep them informed. Provide a clear, concise update on your results. Be sure to link proposed decisions to actual results.

With the support of your executive team and by following the five steps above, your organization can make a successful transition to remote validation.

And by building an organizational culture that values evidence-based decision-making, your products will be developed without bias and in response to actual feedback or results from your subjects.

Most importantly, you will gain an edge over your competitors by designing products that are truly desired.

Playbook Innov8rs Connect - Business Design & Venture Building

Get all summaries of 16 sessions from our recent online event Innov8rs Connect Business Design - Venture Building on 12-13 May 2020 in one 90+ pages Playbook.