Visual Transformation and Data Transition: How We Empower Our Sales Reps Using Mobile Analytics at Novartis


At Novartis, we leverage cutting-edge science and technology to seek breakthroughs to some of society’s most challenging healthcare issues. We like to say we are reimagining medicine to improve and extend people’s lives. We have big dreams, big goals, and even bigger ambitions.

But in order to transform peoples’ lives and, by extension, society as we know it, we must first transform ourselves. For us, that transformation begins with how we handle our data—the building-block of our business insights. 

Transforming the world starts from within: clear, easily accessible data has a domino effect on what your people and your business can accomplish.

When you have a solid understanding of your strengths and areas for improvement, you can formulate a blueprint for success. We’re in the business of healthcare transformation, so we’re well aware that nurturing partnerships, as well as sharing information and best practices, is how you make progress. That’s why we’re working with the data management and visualization experts at Qlik to help us transform our data management processes.

Novartis has worked with Qlik since 2011, when we first implemented QlikView. In 2018, we rolled out Qlik Sense, their out-of-the-box visual data analytics technology. We quickly graduated to enhanced visual analytics later that year, including more visualization types and extensions. Among the new initiatives we’re implementing, we’re now focused on rolling out advanced and embedded analytics. From the beginning, enhancing the user experience (UX) has been at the core of our mission, particularly for our sales reps.

Managing Mountains of Data Within a Growing, Global Organization

At Novartis, we maintain vast datasets that need to be routinely accessed by our sales reps and various managers. Within our QlikView and Qlik Sense guided analytics platform, we have 3.8 billion records and more than 410 published applications that attract approximately 9,000 active monthly users.

In our Qlik Sense self-service analytics platform, we have 17.1 billion records, more than 830 published applications, and 5,600 active users per month—and all those numbers are increasing, by the way. 

There are a lot of people to govern when you consider that more than 20,000 sales reps and over 5,000 first- and second-line managers are able to access the data in Qlik Sense. It certainly poses some challenges when it comes to user access management, such as data security, data accuracy, and data management. 

We’re a growing, global organization, so our people are trying to access the data from servers in different countries with their own data governance laws, and with varying levels of connectivity. As we grow, we need to ensure our framework is scalable, as the number of users, data volumes, and desire for offline connectivity all continue to rise.

Sales reps are mobile individuals. For the greatest impact, their data should travel with them.

Our sales reps were feeling especially challenged as they’re naturally mobile individuals. They don’t sit for hours on end working on a desktop computer; they’re constantly travelling, so they needed to be able to access necessary data while on the go from their mobile devices. It was clear that we needed to provide better ways to give users easy access to our data so they could leverage key business insights in their moment of need.

Data on the Go: Mobilizing and Simplifying Business Insights

The world has quickly become mobile-centric and our reps need the correct tools to succeed in this hyper-competitive environment. That’s why we decided to implement the Data Insights Customer Experience (DICE) initiative across Novartis. DICE is a commercial analytics platform we’ve built overtop of our existing, proven big data platform.

Qlik’s user-friendly and action-oriented dashboards make it much simpler for everyone to review and understand our data so they know what their next steps should be. 

For example, our executives want a 360-degree view of what's going within Novartis. They need to see how their teams are performing, including being able to quickly review the numbers of their top talent, identify their top markets, and review other key performance indicators (KPIs) like customer coverage. 

Clean and simplified dashboards reduce the amount of time they have to spend analyzing the data—they can just glance quickly and take action. Simply put, this data transition has transformed our data management and business insights capabilities.

In undertaking this data transition, we’ve experienced faster, more cost-effective, and better-informed decision-making. 

Democratizing Our Data to Boost Business Intelligence and Employee Engagement

Our team tested out different frameworks to see which would work best, but we needed to settle on just one framework that was simple to work with. Democratized data means our sales reps and managers can access the data freely without compromising its integrity or security. We can take the raw data from all areas of the organization and transform it into visualized, analytics-ready information that all individuals can explore and ingrain into their work.

As our organization was already using Qlik for business intelligence and data analytics, it made perfect sense to us to continue to build out this existing framework. Evolving from our original out-of-the-box analytics solution to enhanced analytics allowed us to create a visually gorgeous framework that was also comprehensive, secure, and stable. 

Truly, this was a transformative and defining moment within our organization. Every growing company wants to simplify and streamline data frameworks that offer business insights, especially as we all have budget constraints and tight timelines to contend with in order to find ways to deliver faster. And we’ve been able to do just that—we’ve been delivering applications to 11 countries using the same core template.

It’s great to see that our sales reps are really excited about what they do. While the iPad data management isn’t yet perfected, it’s still successfully enhanced to become much stronger, manageable, and intuitive, and the user experience has improved along with it. 

The next step is providing an equivalent experience via the iPhone. We’re not quite at the level at which we’d prefer to operate, but we’re getting closer every day. Even still, our sales reps have easier and quicker access to important, relevant data in their moment of need, no matter where they’re located. This has allowed us to transition our insight management from phone calls and meetings to independently sourced, instant insights. It’s an incredible step toward our goal of a complete data management transformation.

Reimagining What’s Possible to Transform the Future

Novartis’s next move will be to pursue more geoanalytics capabilities using Qlik GeoAnalytics, layering these new capabilities on top of our existing use of geo-mapping. Combining different data sources and adding more value to our maps will help our reps make even better decisions. 

We’re also seeking ways to improve the offline mashup experience for our users. It’s not uncommon for reps to lose connectivity while on the move, but that shouldn’t impact their ability to get data. We want the offline experience to be as streamlined and user-friendly as the online, connected experience. We expect Qlik Sense iOS offline mashups to come very soon, and we’ll be taking advantage of that when it goes live. 

Finally, we’re going to refine our approach to big data because our databases are growing exponentially. We’re focusing on speeding up access to our CRM data as well as sales and market share data. 

Our goal is to complete this journey by 2020, which is an aggressive target date. This is not a data migration project by any means—it’s a data transformation undertaking. We’re taking this opportunity to completely redesign our original application and bring more value to our growing number of active users. We’re poised to take our analytics to the next level.

Transformation never happens by accident; it’s a natural or forced cause and effect. But by controlling specific variables and being intentional and ambitious with our strategies and goals, we at Novartis have been able to transform our data management without removing what we’ve already built. 

Instead, we’re simply improving on an already-solid foundation of data analytics tools and processes. We’re taking the same approach to this project as we do for our healthcare initiatives: the first step is always to reimagine what’s possible.