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Applied innovation meets customer experience

  • Posted on December 12, 2018
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
Applied innovation meets customer experience

The following blog post was written by Avanade alum Ellen Cowan.

Information is everything. Well, almost.
Unless it’s accessible to the right people – when, where and how they need it – information isn’t worth much. That’s the dilemma many organizations face today: how to provide value to the right stakeholders in the right way at the right time.


Here’s how a global pharmaceutical company transformed the way they deliver life-saving information to a vast audience through applied innovation and digital transformation.

Information for the public good
Since 1899, the Merck Manuals (known as the MSD Manual outside of North America) has been the most widely used, comprehensive medical resource among professionals and consumers. Originally designed for the public good, it still remains that way today. In fact, the primary goal of The Manual is to enable the organization’s Global Medical Knowledge 2020 initiative: To provide free access to accurate and reliable medical information on every continent by 2020. The targeted user base is up to three billion professionals and patients, worldwide.

The Manual started to emphasize digital strategy in 2014, yet still faced a number of challenges:

  • The content update cycle was long, complicated and labor-intensive, which presented the risk that science could change by the time updates were published. Given that the amount of clinical information in circulation around the world doubles every 18 months, this posed a significant problem.
  • The editorial process involved multiple systems that each required integration with a specialized CMS to enable peer reviews and provide a familiar interface for contributors.
  • Marketers struggled with limitations with regard to analytics, SEO, social media and multimedia integration.
  • Site users faced obstacles: limited accessibility, in terms of both language availability and variety of devices, and inability to perform comprehensive site searches or to easily switch between languages.

Product design to bridge the gap between design and technology
The publisher leveraged Avanade’s innovation cycle of design thinking and envisioning in order to use product design and development expertise to execute a complete rethink and rebuild of the new online manual. Avanade’s approach involved several discrete streams of work:

  1. The multi-disciplinary product Envisioning Team, comprised of digital strategy, user experience design and technical architecture experts, worked with stakeholders to co-create the product vision and confirm design in service of user-centric design principles, including user research and persona development. The work included swift completion of a clickable prototype to successfully demonstrate the new product design and vision against multiple prioritized use cases, as well as creation of a product roadmap validated against “realistic” feasibility, and with confirmation of technical approach details.
  2. Following Envisioning, an Upgrade Team transitioned the medical manual from Sitecore’s standard publishing platform to the new Sitecore publishing service, enabling new built-in features, doing away with some third-party plugins, and vastly improving integration with multiple content delivery networks. The team followed an Agile Product Design and Development methodology that led to the launch and subsequent expansion, measured against several KPIs.
  3. Following the launch, a Managed Services Team provides day-to-day maintenance and support for front and backend website functionality, meeting uptime targets, optimizing for the Microsoft Azure hosting platform and – crucially – continuing to ensure that servers are right-sized to handle fast-growing traffic levels.
  4. And, to ensure evolution and continuous improvement, a Business-as-Usual Team collaborates with the Managed Services Team on longer-term innovation, including roadmap evolution through ideating, creating and implementing new website features such as potential application of artificial intelligence.

The project followed a full product strategy, design and development lifecycle, bringing innovation and transformation potential beyond vision to reality and measurable success.

Large-scale societal impact
The award-winning (Sitecore Experience Award: Best Web Content Experience) information platform runs on Microsoft Azure, providing much-needed scalability to handle a huge volume of traffic, allowing for the management of consistent growth and for the medical manuals to serve a vast global audience. The result is meaningful impact on medical professionals, patients and employees alike:

  • The site’s audience continues to grow in every market, with incoming traffic currently at more than a million pageviews per day.
  • Users experience support in 10 languages across different geographies and on a variety of devices.
  • Site users also have access to comprehensive search capabilities, along with social media links and integrated multimedia resources.
  • Content editors enjoy near real-time publishing, beneficial for the patients and medical personnel using the online resource, as well as for experts who submit content.
  • The medical manual marketing team enjoys comprehensive SEO and analytics capabilities with which they can proactively plan and manage reach.

Customer experience, transformed
While not every organization publishes content that can help save lives, we all have external and internal customer experiences to transform. With applied innovation, including the right mix of creativity, digital technology and product strategy, design and development, the “possible” becomes immediately realistic.

Learn about how Avanade approaches Digital Marketing and makes every moment count for stellar customer experience.

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