Eli Lilly's sales force finds CRM harmony in the cloud

Moving pharma's IT into the cloud could save a lot of money, the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics told us a few weeks ago. Eli Lilly ($LLY) may not yet know that firsthand. But its reps do know that cloud-based systems save them a lot of aggravation.

That's the word from InformationWeek, which handed Lilly an innovation award for its sales force-systems revamp. Before, reps presented sales promos on bulky Windows-based tablets that took ages to boot up while doctors stood by, waiting. After, they use a Veeva Systems ($VEEV) app on their iPads, not only for presentations, but to plan sales calls, report their results back to the office, and analyze trends, the magazine reports.

Moving from multiple data systems, reporting tools, automation software--plus a panoply of customer relationship management systems around the world--has been a daunting project several years in the making. To harmonize its CRM system, Lilly ended up adopting that Veeva CRM product, hosted by Salesforce.com.

For the bigger challenge of standardizing its data management, Lilly connected its many master data systems to a central data pool, and that data feeds into the Veeva CRM tool. Reps and other sales folks go about their business, taking notes on sales calls, scheduling time with doctors and so on.

Another Veeva product, Veeva Network, gathers that intel and funnels it back into the data pool. That all lets reps pull up customer information in the field to tailor presentations. And it lets number-crunchers ID customers who might respond to similar marketing approaches.

Lilly's U.S. sales team uses the whole shebang, while sales groups in smaller markets are migrating to Veeva Network over the next few years. Overall, some 16,000 reps are now working in the cloud, InformationWeek says.

Lilly CTO Michael Meadows says there were smiles all around when the new system rolled out. Training was quick, and sales folks jumped on board. Compared with the old systems, user satisfaction improved "to a degree way higher than we had anticipated or even hoped," Meadows told the magazine.

And yes, he expects to save Lilly money in the process. Millions of dollars per year, in fact, in IT costs and efficiency improvements. And with Lilly's sales force trimmed down because of the patent cliff, efficiency is obviously key.

- see the InformationWeek piece