Magazine article Online

Planning More Powerful Ways to Deliver Information to the Desktop

Magazine article Online

Planning More Powerful Ways to Deliver Information to the Desktop

Article excerpt

OVERCOMING THE MYTH OF INFORMATION OVERLOAD

In their book, The Information Mosaic [1], Sharon McKinnon and William Bruns suggest that, for experienced managers, the notion of information overload has been exaggerated. If overload exists, they say, it is not because managers receive too much information, but rather because they receive it in a form which is not useful.

As knowledge workers of the 90s become more sophisticated, they "demand equal access to external data from myriad sources: commercial online services, the Internet, public and private research databases, newsletters, journals, trade magazines, CD-ROMs," etc. [2]. One of the many challenges facing information professionals today is the ability to "provide the proper mix of financial, competitive, industry-specific and technological data needed to ensure the information health of the company" [3.] However, news about the external environment may reside in different databases, on different systems, which are accessed through different user interfaces, from different database structures, at different time intervals. One of the ways to meet this challenge is to create a news filtering and integration system for the company.

BUSINESS REQUIREMENTS

AND PROCESSES

The pharmaceutical industry is undergoing a major transformation, with significant changes in the way companies do business. The industry average to develop a drug has been estimated to be as high as $350 million, with development times often taking 10 to 12 years. Backlash from the healthcare payers, with mandates to contain costs, has resulted in increasing pressure to shorten development times - many companies are trying to reduce this time by as much as half.

Companies are also looking for ways to increase their value to consumers and customers. No longer is it sufficient that a drug or treatment work; now it has to be cost-effective in addition to being efficacious.

Changing channels of distribution requires reassessing traditional marketing practices (e.g., the physician must often make drug choices based on What is approved in the patients prescription plan or included in the hospital formulary).

All these factors contribute to a competitive business environment that is critical to monitor. The company's decision-makers need a common basis or set of assumptions about the environment in order to manage effectively. There is an increasing need to create a memory or knowledge base to capture the knowledge of the organization - the information that has value over time. "A convergent [knowledge] system...holds `packaged' information that's scrubbed, evaluated, and judged useful and valuable to the greatest number of people"[4].

A PLANNING TEAM

In late 1992, a mandate was created at Boehringer Ingelheim "to explore systems capable of gathering, consolidating, distilling, storing and delivering targeted, strategic information in support of the business decisions of the Company." By the middle of 1993, a matrix-style team had been formed to explore available options, and the search for a system began.

The team was comprised of individuals who understood the business requirements of three primary user groups: executives and managerial personnel, analysts, and information professionals. The team also included Information Systems personnel. Each user group had different requirements, which needed to be factored in with the existing infrastructure and business processes of the company. The framework for these requirements is illustrated in Figure 1.

USER REQUIREMENTS

To identify and understand the user requirements, we grouped users into three primary types:

* Executive/Management (primary decision makers)

* Analysts (including Competitive Assessment [R&D], Business Research [Marketing], and Medical/Regulatory)

* Information Scientists from Scientific and Corporate Information Services (SCIS)

Members of these groups had achieved different levels of experience with computers and information. …

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