Sparking Data-Driven Change in Your Organization


Sanofi Genzyme is the specialty care division of Sanofi. Every day, we endeavor to bring hope to patients through our products and solutions. Look around the walls of our office and you’ll see them covered in photos of the patients we serve. We are constantly reminded of empowering life and contributing whenever we can to make a difference.

Everything we do has one focus: to bring patients the right therapy at the right time. We know when we ship out a drug, it’s going to a real person who needs care. 

As Head of Business Operations, my job is making sure our sales organization is empowered to impact patients in the most effective way possible. But when I first started here five years ago, my presence created some reservations from sales. Their initial reaction was, “Who is Michael, and what can he possibly tell me about my business that I do not already know?” 

The initial doubt from others was the toughest part to overcome. I didn’t come from a sales background—I’m a chartered accountant. I was an outsider trying to tell them how to get better and not everyone was receptive to the idea. 

Using spreadsheets won’t help you with data analysis on the fly. Your data needs to live with your users.


When I came on board, the sales team shared their data through cumbersome Excel files. The analytics weren’t actionable. Obtaining insights was not something they could do on their iPad, and they couldn't conclude anything from the data without sitting in front of a computer for three hours. Complicated Excel files meant they either needed to be an expert data scientist or  they needed to spend a lot of time with my data team understanding the information. This data chasm wasn’t helping us impact our patients’ lives to the high standard we had set for ourselves.  

I also came into a data landscape where reports didn’t match because there wasn’t a single source of truth. Information from multiple systems did not match and even worse, some data sources were not complete. Working with only half of the picture, the team simply could not trust what I was giving them. To make our business successful, I needed to move us from an organization of doubt into one of empowerment.

Those Who Don’t Learn From the Past... 

In my work, I try to understand and predict the future by building on historical patterns. By providing those insights, colleagues start to understand the value I can add. My motto is “leave no data behind.” As an organization, we’re most successful when we aggregate all our data into one place and come up with a story. Then, and only then, can we start looking forward. 

For example, we have access to aggregate market prescription data, so we know how many prescriptions are being sold for a certain drug in a particular area. I can combine this with field-level sales data, call volume, and information from various vendors to predict where the rep in that area can be most effective. We can direct activity to underserviced areas and redirect activity away from places that are oversaturated.

Want to get the full picture on your organization’s challenges? Leave no data behind. @Qlik

As a sales rep, you need to continue engagement with core customers to ensure stability, but growth does not always come from those customers. Growth might come from those who you have yet to engage, and we can use our data insights to tell us where to play. These are the deep, actionable insights that come from truly understanding your data.

Investing in a Data Solution

When we started looking into solutions that could help us achieve our data aspirations, I quickly became interested in Qlik. First of all, Qlik was very easy to configure. You didn't need to be a data geek to learn how to use Qlik. If you knew how to manipulate Excel, you could build a Qlik dashboard.

The next reason was Qlik’s tremendous mobile functionality. Decisions and company drivers happen everywhere. They happen in the hospital, at the doctor's office, over coffee or on the road in the sales rep's car. They happen everywhere but our office. Qlik gives us the answers quickly, wherever we are. 

On top of being both user- and mobile-friendly, Qlik was cost effective. I didn’t need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get my proof of concept up. 

Getting Internal Users Trained and Excited

Once we’d decided on Qlik, the first step was rolling out our initial dashboard. Right from the start, I decided to make our development entirely internal, rather than outsource to contractors. We hired some really smart people who are amazing at programming, but who are also personable and love engaging with the business.

We began with a nimble development approach, which Qlik enables us to do. Our developers go on field rides with our reps so they can understand their world. As I said before, our business doesn’t happen at our desks—it happens everywhere else—so it’s crucial to go out and touch the data to understand the impact it has on the organization.

Plus, my developers are also my analysts. They can make changes on the fly as they ride with the reps, and build a predictive model simultaneously. 

To really get reps engaged with this new approach, I knew they had to be involved. We built our dashboards in partnership with the sales reps, since they were the ultimate end users. We created something that ultimately was built to their specifications, so the answers were useful and relevant to their needs. This relationship also means the developers are their partner in continually improving the dashboards.

Once the dashboards were done, I selected some lead representatives and worked with them very intensively to walk through our dashboards and talk about new customer acquisition strategies.

When we had advocates on board, we started getting calls from other members of the sales team who saw those reps doing better in their territories because they understood the data. We moved the needle from begging to work with the reps, to them inviting us into their sales territory. Our work was making a difference.

To get even greater engagement, we use an internal video platform for user training. We post the videos on our company intranet, so people can view the videos if they have a question about the dashboard or how to use it.

Building Trust in Your Organization 

If you’re looking to build trust in the data at your organization, there are four things to consider. 


1. Understand the data  

For my team to be effective, we had to understand where the data originated, what trends it suggested, and more importantly, how it could be used to drive business decisions. By partnering with our users, we could ask effective questions. Then, through the answers, we could see into their world and how the data would impact their work. Once we acquired these insights, we had the picture we needed to make change in the company. 

Understand your user’s world by being their partner. Don’t come to them with an answer, start with a question.

The right approach is to be humble. You shouldn’t go to your organization with an answer; you should come to the end user with a question. 


2. Make Qlik the source of truth

We also must establish the single source of truth. Some reps aggregate information on their own computer. They'll pull Excel files from a whole bunch of different sources and try to come up with their own conclusions about the business.

This mess of files and sources has disappeared, because your data now needs to line up. Our finance data has to match our operations data. When I put the data together with my market intelligence and my field analytics, a picture of our world forms that no one can argue with. This means they must acknowledge that Qlik is the source of truth, and trust what they’re seeing.  


Eliminating ad-hoc requests for reports is also crucial. In the old days, when we had very heavy Excel files, we’d look at a file and a rep might want something different, or ask for a field to be shown in a different way. Now, with Qlik, we can show the reps how to navigate themselves.

Having one source of truth means your data tells a coherent story for users to work with. 


3. Always speak the same language  

Whenever we do a business review, we open up Qlik and use it in the meeting instead of spending time generating PowerPoint slides. This way, we allow everyone to talk from the same dataset, see the same information to make decisions, and explain how their business is performing. 


4. Focus on making the data actionable

The dashboards we created are also useful because we can embed actionable recommendations within them. That way, the information we're able to pull causes a definitive decision. If reps see they have an underperforming territory relative to one of their colleagues, they’ll want to do everything they can to perform better.

Sales reps are very competitive. If there’s something the top sales rep is doing and others are not, you can be sure everyone wants to follow—and Qlik is now an integral part of their toolkit.

How to Change Your Organization  

The most important thing to do when implementing a big change in your organization is to set realistic expectations. If expectations are set too high, you risk frustration and a decline of effort when you don’t come close to the target. With the Qlik rollout, I told my team this would be a fun pilot, but didn’t put any pressure on the project. 


That lack of pressure means you can just go for it. Qlik dashboards don’t take long to build but the visuals and empowered analytics makes our analyst team shine. Show up to a meeting with a new dashboard and it will start a discussion that will hopefully be the catalyst for change. 


Analytics projects are not about creating data silos; companies must realize that success is directly proportional to the distribution of data. The most successful projects put data, and decisions, into the hands of end users. When it’s in their hands, I’m not doing their job for them—they’re enabled to control their own destiny.

Now, with Qlik, the company can make quick actionable decisions based on data and in-depth insight. Our reps and company can continue to make a difference in the lives of patients and continue to provide hope to our future patients.