Putting Customer-Centricity into Practice with Grünenthal’s Florent Edouard

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This is a podcast episode titled, Putting Customer-Centricity into Practice with Grünenthal’s Florent Edouard . The summary for this episode is: <p>As Grünenthal’s Global Head of Commercial Excellence, Florent Edouard is a champion for change. In today’s episode, we learn how he’s leading the charge for digital transformation and customer-centricity in a traditionally risk-averse industry. Listen as he shares how he’s applying the same analytical rigor typically found in R&amp;D to the commercial side of life sciences, his tips for creating a professional environment that sparks innovation, and the importance of transparency and trust in driving tech adoption. And don’t miss “Florent Edouard in Context,”&nbsp;where we discuss his favorite recent read, a dream dinner in Sao Paulo, and why you’ll never find Florent on TikTok. </p>
The difference between talking about customer-centricity and actually practicing it as an organization
01:46 MIN
What prevents customer-centricity from being embraced
01:31 MIN
Moving from a product-oriented to customer-oriented mindset
01:03 MIN
How to ensure the commercial side of life sciences benefits from the same analytical rigor as R&D
01:51 MIN
What's holding back the most ambitious digital transformation initatives
01:35 MIN
The Nessie Project (or why it's important to take a deep dive into your data lake)
02:10 MIN
Transparency and trust are key to accelerating adoption
00:52 MIN
Florent's predictions for the role of the rep in the new normal
01:06 MIN
Florent's favorite recent read
00:45 MIN

Florent Edouard: Every single customer, every single HCP, is an individual. And, in his normal life, he's just like you and me. I mean, they are going on Snapchat. They are going on Twitter. They are being alive. They are informed by Dr. Google, like everyone. And we were completely absent from that. And the only way for us to get there was to say," You know what? We are going to shift the thing around." We keep the basement, the fundamentals of strategy, decided based on patients and patients' outcomes. But we need them to serve. We shouldn't push. We need to give to the people, enough for them to pull. Because they are interested, because it's high quality, because it's a format they want, it's a channel that they want, it's when they want.

Clay Hausmann: I'm Clay Hausmann, CMO of Aktana, and host of Contextual Intelligence. How many times have you heard the phrase digital transformation lately? Or what about patient-centric? The life sciences industry seems to know exactly what it wants to do and to be. But getting there is a much bigger challenge. Today's guest is working hard to solve that. I'm very excited to introduce Florent Edouard, Global Head of Commercial Excellence at Grunenthal. For the last three years, Florent has been re-imagining the organization's commercial model and cultivating a culture that's relentlessly customer-focused and not afraid of change. Before that, he spent 12 years shaping and delivering global strategy at AstraZeneca, in Japan and the UK. Florent, welcome to the podcast. And thank you so much for joining us today.

Florent Edouard: Thanks a lot for inviting me. And really happy to have that discussion with you.

Clay Hausmann: Your background is so interesting, both in terms of industries, in terms of startup and very mature companies, in terms of geography, as you've been in multiple places. Can you just take us on a little bit of the path that you've taken in your career, and where you've landed now?

Florent Edouard: I started in banking in a French bank. That was very interesting. At the beginning of a career, that kind of shapes part of your style. And I think I learned a lot in banking, specifically around long wage, and the importance of long wage in a corporate world, where finance talks finance, sales talk sales, marketing talks marketing. And if you talk to those people, you need to use their language. That's very important. And then, at some point, they said we are launching a startup. That was beautiful times of startup. And I was like," Okay, you know what, why not? Let's go there." It was in healthcare, that I totally didn't know, but that didn't matter. We learned from the best, like all consultants do, right? I mean, at the beginning, you know nothing, the customer pays a lot of money to get your services and your workforce, and then you learn everything. And we sold the company. And then I moved to AstraZeneca, where I held various commercial roles. I think the startup part taught me the responsibility on paper, like when you are in a startup, at the end of the month, if you have not sold, you can't pay the salaries. And that puts on you a very heavy burden and responsibility. You're not going to waste your investor money. And you're not going to not pay your people who are working for you. And also that need that, okay, you know what, at the end of the day, the show must go on. You need people on stage doing the show. You need the techs. You need someone to do the lights, and this type of stuff. So there's always a way out, and preferably a whip. So that's what I learned there. And then I moved to AstraZeneca, and that's where I learned pharma, basically, and everything. And then I've moved into various directions, always in commercial.

Clay Hausmann: So let me ask you about your geographic travels. You've been in roles where global standardization is a priority. But you've been also in a variety of different regions around the world. So you've seen the importance of being able to customize, according to local markets or behaviors. How do you think about that balance now in your career? And what did you learn along the way about how to strike that balance?

Florent Edouard: So I think, first, it's not a gimmick to say that diversity and inclusion is an absolute necessity, and an incredible strength when you get it right. Working across team that were over the world, so having a 24, 24 job being based in Europe, or being four years in Japan in a completely different culture, what matters is the people. How you interact with them is how you try to understand, and work with them to make them better professionals, and to be successful from a business standpoint. And, literally, I don't see any organization that is really successful, that would be built only of exactly the same people. Yes, alignment is good. Yes, discipline execution is paramount. But you need also to have different inputs. You need to have different people. You need to have a real, real collaboration across geographies. That's very important.

Clay Hausmann: But, Florent, you wrote what I thought was a fantastic article in pharmaphorum, which I would encourage everybody to look at, called The Four Principles for the Future of Pharma Marketing. But there are a number of things in there that I think would be very interesting for us to probe here a little bit. And you talk about those four principles, one of which is patient-centricity or customer-centricity. And that's a term, as I mentioned in the intro, that we use quite often. But I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the difference between paying lip service, and speaking to the importance of it, versus actually practicing that, and how difficult that is, but how important that is to be able to achieve.

Florent Edouard: It's been an ongoing story about should we be patient-centric? Should we be customer-centric, right? And the industry has been going left and right. And depending on the companies and location, it was one or the other. And, in fact, we have realized, I think over the last years, that we took a company that was kind of virgin to that debate. Yes, the patient-centricity in Grunenthal was in the values. But, for instance, when we were talking about broad plans, or marketing, or medical, the patient who was not really core to everything that we were doing. And we had to have that phase where we said," You know what? Anything that we do should ultimately benefit the patient. Anything that we do should result in patient outcomes. Otherwise, we don't do our job." And then that was a phase. But once you've done that, we think it's not enough. Once you've done that, once you have baselined your strategy, when you have decided your investment, when you have made your research and your clinical studies, with that in mind, then needs to come the customer. Because, ultimately, we are a business where we are serving people who are prescribing and treating patients. We are not serving directly the patient. The patient is not the end customer. And the world has changed. Every single customer, every single HCP is an individual. And, in his normal life, is just like you and me. I mean, they are going on Snapchat. They are going on Twitter. They are being alive. They are informed by Dr. Google, like everyone. And we were completely absent from that. And the only way for us to get there was to say," You know what? We are going to ship the thing around." We keep the basement, the fundamentals of strategy, decided based on patients and patients' outcome, but we need them to serve. We shouldn't push. We need to give to the people enough for them to pull. Because they are interested because it's a high quality, because it's a format they want, it's a channel that they want, it's when they want. And that is an absolutely massive transformation. That is really hard, I think, personally, far harder than the patient centricity. For the patient centricity, if you think about it, you give a purpose to the people. When I was working in banking, my purpose was to increase the earning per share. When I'm working in healthcare, my purpose is to help patients feel better, in our case, eliminate pain. You, I, are future pain patients. We know it. It's going to happen one day. You will feel the pain. And, at that point, you will think," If Florent had done a better job, I would not feel the pain."

Clay Hausmann: That's true. I have found myself, over the last year, every time I have an interaction with an HCP, using them and probably annoying them in a little research study, to ask them how they have seen behaviors change themselves, in terms of their embrace of digital tools. Or if they've seen different changes in the way that pharmaceutical companies and medical device companies communicate with them. And it's very interesting. What this has really forced upon the industry, and a behavior change, has unfortunately come with a great cost. But there have been some things that have accelerated as a result, that I think will ultimately be positive for that relationship. Is that something that you have seen in your experience as well, over the last year or so?

Florent Edouard: Absolutely. I mean, I'm unfortunately already enough to have seen the old style marketing, the race to share a voice. I wouldn't say the creating unmet needs. We are trying very, very, very hard to discover an unmet need, that only your product can satisfy, and then build a whole communication strategy around that, even if the doctors will see these specific patients, maybe once a year, right? And pushing your product with that. And now what we've seen is the physicians retreating from that, saying," I'm not interested in seeing that." They never go by themself to see that, on your website or whatever. The number of apps, website that the companies have been creating to support their brands, and that got zero views except the search engine, is enormous. That's a waste of money. When you see that the doctors and the physicians and the nurses still go online, and will go into communities, into forums, to try to find the right information that they need. And that's where we need to offer our services, our support, our right, for them to become better professionals at their own reason, consuming what they want to consume, not us spoonfeeding them.

Clay Hausmann: So what prevents customer centricity from being embraced? Because, obviously, I think you would get almost 100% agreement, from anyone you speak to in the life sciences industry, that that's the right approach, that that would be positive for patient care, that would be positive for the relationship with HCPs. But it is harder to achieve. So what do you think prevents that from being embraced?

Florent Edouard: I think we love our products. We spend 10 years developing them. When they fail, it's a blow to the whole company strategy. It makes the headlines. Every time the FDA rejects a project, or a clinical study fails, everyone talks about that. So we love so much our product that it makes us completely blind to the real customer. But it's the fact that the customer is not the payer, and also the customer is not the one that's going to take the product with the patient, makes it quite an atypical customer. So the standard techniques of marketing and sales don't apply to that. So the people rely on what has been successful in the past, because it's easier. And going down to let's reorganize ourself. Let's imagine we have a product, and we're working in respiratory. And, in fact, we are dealing only with respiratory specialist, and some generalist practitioners, who we are treating elderly patients. Which company has set up themselves this way, saying," I'm not going to set up myself by respiratory biologics, and then triple therapies, and then monotherapies, I'm going to set up myself by specialist. And then everyone's going to work for the specialist. And then I've got a unit who is doing for the GPs, and everyone's working for the GPs." Even with done business units, they were then clustered below that by product. So the product is always on the front line, in terms of thinking. That's a hard thing to change.

Clay Hausmann: So you're leading a transformation at Grunenthal right now. Is that part of what you're trying to transform, a structure or a mindset that is more customer oriented than product oriented?

Florent Edouard: Completely. The idea for us now is to say," You know what? We don't need to do those huge grand plans once a year, that contains a stratospheric strategy, that never lands on the ground, by the way, because the sales team can't execute it. Because they cannot identify the physicians that marketers are talking about in their target list, in their Veeva system." And no commercial for Veeva, but that's what, more or less, many people are using. And so we said," What we need now is to make sure that we are going to create the right customer experiences." So asking the customer what they want to see, and making sure we deliver against those demands. And so we will have people who will be specialized in creating good customer experiences, for a dedicated group of customers. So it's not going to happen overnight. We can't suddenly rewire the whole sense of marketing and commercial, and everything in the company. But, by really pushing in that direction, by creating the jobs, by changing the approach of the people, by changing the process, then we will get there, with time.

Clay Hausmann: So a second thing that I thought was very interesting in the article, that I want to talk a little bit about, is the focus of analytic teams within pharma companies. And this is something that is very interesting in our experience at Aktana. Because, quite often, when we first start talking to a potential customer, the analytic team can think of us as a challenge to what they do, because we have a similar capability. And then, over time, it goes 180 degrees in the other direction, where we become great partners. Because we can be complimentary in what we do, and what we bring in terms of value. And you mentioned in the article that the talent, or the attention, or both, of an analytic team, can be split between R& D and commercial. And commercial, quite often, is a lower priority. How do you address that? How are you addressing that at Grunenthal, to make sure that the commercial side of the operation gets that analytic focus and talent?

Florent Edouard: The first thing is we build on the internal strengths, and which is really interesting that we have... I think we have a board who is very analytical. We have that luxury to have senior guys who understands maths, who loves maths. And we can go to them and explain them that correlation is not the only statistical model that you can use in the world. And they understand what we are talking about. So that's really fundamental. I mean, in a former life, we had surrealist discussions with senior managers, who are telling us," You're telling me that you can predict based on the portfolio, and based on the mix that is going to apply to customer, how much sales we're going to do? This is the Holy Grail of pharma. I don't believe you. You can't have possibly found that." And we're like," No, it's just..." You know what? The guys in R&D are doing it. The guys in R&D use statisticians and mathematicians, and they build super sophisticated models, to understand the data. And to be sure, and to guarantee that when the study comes out of their labs, it is bulletproof, from an analytical standpoint. Let's apply that rigor in the commercial world. Let's clean the data. Let's aggregate the data. Let's make sure everyone builds also a culture of data. And that's very important, that everyone in the organization understands that reach and frequency are slightly outdated KPIs, in terms of understanding the performance of an organization, and that we have now methodologies and approaches that use, yes, more complicated mathematics and analytics, but nothing that normally someone in the company shouldn't be able to understand. So really, really simple stuff. But that gives you a real insight on what is working and what is not working in your business. So it's working on the people, working on the system, working on the data, and making sure you got the backup from your board, that understands what you're trying to.

Clay Hausmann: Do you think it's more challenging in the commercial side of the business? Because you're now much more externally focused, which increases the number of touch points, the number of characters in the story that you're trying to understand, the number of data sources, all of these things. Is that what makes it more challenging and complicated? Are there other factors at work that you've seen?

Florent Edouard: This one is a critical one, because it's garbage in, garbage out. So if you have one data source that is of low quality, it may pollute everything that you do. And all the analysis that you're going to do are wrong. So it's tedious, it's painful, but you need really to make sure that the explosion in volumes of data is not going to compromise the quality of your analytics. But I think, more importantly, the change management on the people is really what will stop the most adventurous, and what will stop the most ambitious initiatives. Because, at the end of the day, you've got that super meeting, and you're looking at forecast for the next 10 year for that project. And with your sophisticated analytics, you come up with, okay, you know what? I think this project can reach that number of patients, and we can get that benefit from it. And then you've got that random dude around the table, who says," Well, you know what, Florent? Yesterday, I had dinner with a key opinion leader. And he told me that." And that's where you eat the hippo. You eat the highest paid person opinion in the room, highest income person in the room. And then it's finished. Your whole analytics goes down the drain. No one believes in your number anymore. Because one KOL, that has published something 20 years ago, said the opposite of what your members are proving. And so building that transformation, saying, You know what? Sometimes the machine is going to tell you, turn left. You should turn left. If you don't turn left, there is a wall." And the machine doesn't care. It doesn't tell you to turn left to protect your life. Just turn left, because that's the way you should be going.

Clay Hausmann: And somebody may say," But that's the way I've always gone." And you're like," Well, but they've built a wall since you last went on this road."

Florent Edouard: Exactly.

Clay Hausmann: Well, let's talk about that for a minute. So the change management aspect, the pace of pharma, obviously, there is a lot at stake in our industry, much more so than other industries, where it might be retail or travel. And so there's a lot of sensitive data. There's a lot of sensitive information. So, understandably, the industry is more cautious. But how do you think pharma can accelerate its ability, and life sciences in general can accelerate its ability to embrace a data and analytic orientation? Because I think there's widespread belief that this is now a matter of when and not if. Most other industries are further down the path. And early adopters in our industry have seen value. What accelerates that?

Florent Edouard: The will of a few. I think you need a few people who are going to take a very simple approach, saying," I'm going to go under water for sometimes. I'm going to connect the system, do all the plumbing. I'm going to get the data in the same place. I'm going to work with the ITIs, to build a lake, and to make sure that the data in that lake is clean, and the water is transparent. And then, from there, I will build some analytics. And I will go to the rest of the business, saying,'This is the single source of truth.'" And that's where you need the leadership endorsement. Seeing the number that are coming out of that system are representing the reality. And now, from known, we're going to work based on that. And, this way, you will have the people with you. Because they will see that," Yes, okay, my old system had 19. Maybe, in this one, I have only 18. But, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter. What matters is what I can do with the new system, and the insights it gives me, capability to manipulate all that amount of data, and capability to see the impact of my own personal actions." One thing in the past, was very frustrating in pharma, is that no one really knew what was the impact of the actions we were having. Because no one could calculate anything. And we didn't care about the customer experience. So we didn't ask the physicians what they were thinking about that. And when you do that... And then, for me, the next stage there is let's start to talk with patient associations. And let's educate them on the value, and the power of the patient data, and what they can and should be doing with it, how they should deal with the healthcare system, and with the industry. I don't think we are so far from a world where the patients will have their data in hand, and will be compensated for the usage that the industry, or the healthcare system, is having with their data. It's only fair. Yes, okay, GDPR says," No one owns data." Really in Europe, you can correct it, but you don't own it. But, still, if you look at the US, it's starting today. And I think that's really important, because it's in that patient adherence to treatment, reaction on treatment, feedings, emotions, biometrics, and stuff, that is really the future of improving the healthcare for every single patient, not only treating one disease in one patient.

Clay Hausmann: Well, there's another term that you used in your article that I love. And it's in the section where you talk about the embrace of AI, and how important that's going to be. And you refer to the Nessie Project, this notion of AI swimming around the data lake, which I think is a great visual. But talk a little bit about that. What does that mean? And what is the value that's derived from that, this notion of AI that's just existing within the data lake, and identifying different opportunities or different insights that are critical?

Florent Edouard: So let's talk a little bit about volumes. I think, in Grünenthal, we are interacting more or less on a yearly basis, with 2 million customers or something like that, right? I don't have the exact number in mind. And in a world where we are in an omnichannel with those 2 million people, we will have 40, 50, 60 interactions per year, whether it is an email, webinar, things like that. So you're talking hundreds of millions of data points, where you show a specific content to a specific individual. And you want to get the feedback from that specific individual. Do you like it or not? Is it working or not? Did you learn something or not? Is it going to the next content or not? And these type of things. To be able just to compute this volume of data, and generate insight out of it, it's impossible to do it with standard dashboarding. It's not a question of creating KPIs. It's literally you need something, you need Nessie, that is going to dive into the lake of the data, that is going to detect patterns, that is going to detect trends. Oh, that content, very specific on that medical point, is resonating with that group of customer who have those characteristics, here and there. And, therefore, maybe that's something I need to surface back to the humans. Maybe I need to bring it to the top and say," You know what, guys? Those people look at that, and they're really interested into it. And they search for more information. So maybe you creators of content should address a need, and give them what they want." That would be, for me, the Nessie Project. The monster goes down, swims in the water, finds stuff, and brings it back to the humans. Because we can't do that. The lake is just too big. We did set up our analytical capability. And I think, after six months, we were sitting on 9 billion of data rows. I can't compute 9 billion of data rows in my little Excel on my computer. Sorry. I need some kind of AI machine learning, what have you, to be educated, and go and find the nuggets that are sitting in that lake.

Clay Hausmann: The greatest compliment I can give you is I'm jealous that I didn't come up with that. That's a great-

Florent Edouard: Well, you can take it. There's no trademark. So I'm ready if you popularize the idea.

Clay Hausmann: I love that. So these principles, I think, are all really helpful. I'm curious to dive into almost your situation, and what you've been doing for the last couple of years. So we can see the actual impact of the challenges, the growth that you've been able to achieve. So maybe start by telling us... You've been leading this commercial transformation for the better part of three years, is that right?

Florent Edouard: Yeah. I started beginning of'18, and we are now already'21. Yeah.

Clay Hausmann: So what motivated the transformation in the first place? What was the recognition about the way the company was operating, that made you say," We need to transform, and we need to do it now?"

Florent Edouard: I think there was first the recognition by the owners of the company, that a bit of rejuvenation of the company was a good idea. A middle size, very European player, even if we're in Latin America, there was a need for a broader, more ambitious strategy. Also, the fact that we are nearly the last ones to do active research and development in pain. That's an area that the big companies have kind of left, because it's not a super profitable area, even if it's something that has an absolutely huge lead. As I was saying, we all suffer from pain. So there was something around that. There was something around strategic repositioning of the company, new people coming in and saying," Guys, I need to understand how the business is running, what is working." And also discovering, arriving in this company, that there were some fantastic products that were under-exploited, underused by physicians. Because no one had taken the time or the attention to believe in those products, and to tell the physicians what they needed to know to use the products appropriately. And I think we started there. And that's what I was saying about the patient-centricity, which was at the beginning, really thinking," Okay, you know what? Someone comes out of chemotherapy, or someone comes out of the surgery, how can we help them alleviate that pain? And, yes, we have products. Are they appropriate for them? Are they indicated for them? And then from there, how do they feel?" So we started from there. And then we said, after that," Yeah, the next step is logically to go to the customer. And how can we better serve them?" We have good relationships, like most pharma companies, with some doctors. So we asked them," What can we do for you? What are we failing? What are we missing, in the grand scheme of things?" And that was the beginning of a new culture and new approach, a new idea. The culture is super important.

Clay Hausmann: So this is where I want to try to give you truth serum virtually through our call here. But what is your self-assessment of where you are, compared to where you thought you would be in the transformation, at this point?

Florent Edouard: I was hoping we could move faster. But I had underestimated the very challenging aspect for people to do things in a different way, and not being sure that it's going to be successful. It's quite fascinating, actually. When you go to two people and you tell them," You know what? We are having a new culture. So we are safe, you're safe. You can fail, no problem. If it fails, we'll do something else. It's going to work. No one's going to shoot at you." First, no one believes you. Everyone thinks if I show him something that doesn't work, he's going to kick my ass, and ask me to redo it, firstly. Second thing, they are somewhere in the mind, and most people are somewhere in the mind, that notion that every dollar that we spend, every Euro that we spend, needs to be an investment for the future. So when you go agile, you start to do prototypes. Prototypes are prototypes. The SpaceX has probably broken hundreds of prototypes, that were worth million dollars, before getting it right. And they did it with zero remorse. But, in pharma, the prototypes needs to evolve into a version zero, that is going to evolve in a version one, that will evolve in final version, put in the hand of the customer. So that means that, if your prototype is wrong, you never correct the thing. Those are the things that delay where we are. Now, what I find fantastic is that the people are really on board. And they are eager to do it. We just need to simplify, create psychological safety for all, that they are humble, where they can make decisions. And that means that, in a management, taking the ends off and saying," You know what? I am not a digital native. A 25 year old kid knows more about digital than me. And so let's listen to what they have to say." And that's very hard in the pharma industry.

Clay Hausmann: Isn't it fascinating that, in the equation between humans and new technologies and AI in particular, we tend to think that we're the simple element, and it's the technology that's the complicated element. But, in a lot of ways, it's the exact opposite. The complicating factor is the human behavior, the human mind, the human process. I've heard numerous times what you just echoed right there, which is," It didn't take us nearly as long to institute or install or change our technology stack, it actually took us much, much longer to build new processes, and get people to embrace, and to get them to drop their insecurities about what it might do to their role." And that's the challenging but essential part to get right, it sounds like.

Florent Edouard: No, absolutely. I think just an anecdote on that. When I was working in Japan, we worked with Aktana. We said," Let's try it." Because we had that vision of, in 2020, that the reps would be equipped with a personal assistant, and would help them manage their agenda, and their interactions, and remind them stuff. And we made a nice video. And we worked very hard on the project, and we implemented it. And we set up that recommendation engine. And what we realized very rapidly, the field teams that were looking at the recommendation from the machine on," You're going to that hospital. You should be going to see the doctor, because you have not seen him in the last month. And you ask information on that. So maybe you can bring the information." So this type of suggestions worked. Because the human could understand the suggestion of the machine. Every time we tried to put algorithm that way, more sophisticated, where the relationship between the cause and the decision of the thing to do was not super clear at the beginning, the human rejected it. The system is wrong. It does what it already does. What is that stupid lady? And I'm not going to do it. The first case, 80% of the suggestion ended up drag and dropped into the agenda, and being executed. In the second case, nearly none of them. But what we discovered after that, once you have established that trust between the human and the machine, exactly like you and me, when we set up the GPS in our car, and that tells us what? Turn left, turn right, because that's where I want to go. And I know the best road to go there better than you. Right? We have established that trust. Then they were trusting the machine, even if they didn't understand the reasoning that it was behind. And they started just to drag and drop the recommendation of the system. So it can work with the hard part, to augment that intelligence that we have, is to establish the trust. The human cannot not trust the machine. If we don't trust it, then the collaboration is broken.

Clay Hausmann: Well, one of the things we've found to establish that trust, that's critical, is transparency, that you need to be able to give the human user the reasoning behind why the recommendation is being made, or to reveal what is going into the intelligence that you're passing on. Because, if you don't, it becomes a battle of wills. I know better than you know. I have more history in my territory than you do. I know my customer better than you do. But, if you share that, if you get what we call reason texts, if you give them the reasoning behind the recommendation, then it starts to chip away at that pride or that conflict. And it allows them to partner, as you say, augment, and augment what they do. And they say," Oh, I see this as an asset, and not a threat to my experience."

Florent Edouard: No, absolutely. And even I would build on that. They enrich the data stack, in that case, willingly, where, in the past, if you add up all the intention to prescribe, that are declared by the doctors, to the right for the product following a visit, you end up sending more than the US are making money in a year, right? It's astronomical. But either they start to understand why we are using the data, and how we are using it, then the people start to feed the system with the correct data. And then the algorithm become better, serving them efficient recommendations.

Clay Hausmann: Florent, have you found parts of your transformation moving faster than you expected, or facing fewer obstacles, that you've been pleased by how much traction it's gained so far?

Florent Edouard: Well, I think we moved really fast, when we had the support of a group, or an organization of customers that were interested to do something, and wanted to collaborate in transparency. I think we have moved faster, where we could pre- collaborate with legal and compliance, for instance. Our approach to things has been to say from the beginning," Yes, I'm collecting consent. Yes, I'm collecting data. And I want that to be totally transparent." Because I want the doctor to be able to call me and say," Florent, what are you doing with my data?" And I need to be able to explain to that person exactly what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. And I'm doing it because I want to give you, doctor, the best possible experience, the content that you want, on the channel that you want, when you want to consume it. I'm not trying to bully you into prescribing my product. And I think the places where we have established, as you were saying, this type of trust, relationship, and transparency, are the places where we move faster. Because then compliance and legal supports us. Medical is interested. The marketing teams really focus on the customer, instead of trying to oversell their product. And the whole thing become more virtuous.

Clay Hausmann: One of the topics that we hear more than anything right now, I think, is that, as in a lot of regions of the world, companies are looking to put their reps back into the field, that the opportunity to go back and visit doctors and visit other HCPs is becoming a reality. Not everywhere, certainly, but in some markets. And it's becoming more common. But they're being very introspective about what has changed, and what has changed with regard to the role of the rep, in his or her interaction with all of the different touch points, digital and otherwise. And it's now becoming more of a hybrid role. It's a new toolkit that they need. How are you thinking about that at your company, in terms of the way that the role of the rep has changed, and their interaction with the other teams and channels?

Florent Edouard: So the way we approach it is by educating people. I think in this new normal, yes, the role of the rep has changed. But, fundamentally, the good reps from yesterday were already doing that. If you think about it, it's just a question of making sure that what you say is relevant to the people you are saying it. And then, okay, yeah, there are some technical skills, how to set up a Zoom call, how to send an email, and this. That just reconciling your professional self with your personal self. It's stopping being schizophrenic. And, in our private life, using WhatsApp, Snapchat, Tinder, Uber, and all that. And then you go to the office, and you use only the computer given by the company, and only one channel of communication. That's where, for me, the mental tension was for most of those people. If you educate them properly to do the rest, they will do it. What we will see is an increase in content quality. What we will see, in the reduction in contact frequency. Probably, the visits are going to be longer, because they will be more interesting, which can be unsettling for the rep, because that means it's going to be a two way conversation. But we have been preaching that for years. The best people in the sales team, in the field teams, were people who could actually ask questions to the physician, and bring them answers on the questions the patient were asking, not the people who are just going around, running with an iPad, and showing you a fancy shot. So I don't think it's fundamentally different. What could be different is really the self service by the physicians. We need to find a way to bring back those doctors, from going on some random sites, where no one checks the quality and the accuracy of the information that is there, to sites of trust. And I don't really care if that trusted site is owned by WebMD, or Doctor. net, or MFree, or Grunenthal, or someone else, as long as the information that is on it is accurate, and is what the customer needs.

Clay Hausmann: Yeah. I think it takes me back... In the early days of Aktana, we often talked about, and we still do today, that a lot of the value of what AI and machine learning like ours can do is that it takes the best habits of the best reps, or the best practices, and it models that for the rest of the organization. And it gives them the right toolkit, the right data approach, the right customer empathy, to use when they go and speak to customers. It's back to that transforming your way. And this is probably central to what you're doing. Rather than thinking inward about your own products, or your own processes that you're comfortable with, if you think externally about what the customer's preferences are, in terms of channel, frequency, content, then you're going to be much more successful. Everybody wants to feel like they're being respected and heard. And it's no different in our industry.

Florent Edouard: No, absolutely. And if you think about it, it's just us catching up. Today, when you look at something like, I don't know, the physician who is sitting behind the screen, who is video called by a patient, as a whole, AI helping him or her to understand the patient file, to look at the patient on the screen, understand the emotions. The AI is helping them. The AI is helping everywhere in all day life. And then, suddenly, we go to the office, and we are back to Windows 3. 1. Sorry, doesn't match. Doesn't work. Not in 2021. Not after COVID.

Clay Hausmann: Well, Florent, I could keep talking to you. This has been fascinating. But I am also very excited to get to our second section here, which, as listeners know, is called Florent in context, where we ask some questions about you, and your personal inspirations, or personal approach. So if you are willing, we'll dive into that section here.

Florent Edouard: Yeah, with pleasure. I don't know exactly what it is, but, yes, let's go.

Clay Hausmann: Okay, let's do it. So, the first question, who has been an influence on your career, that might surprise us?

Florent Edouard: A patient. A patient with schizophrenia gave me a purpose in life, in my career. Because he was on stage. And that was those type of standard convention. And this guy comes on stage, and he talks about the voices in his head, how the voices in his head prevent him from having a normal life. Because he can't articulate what he thinks, because there are so many people talking in his head. And when he's taking the product, the voice go off, disappear, and then he can think. And I was like," You know what? This is why I'm here. This is why I'm working in this company, to do that." Now, just to steer, influencer in terms of business approach, I think is a guy from AstraZeneca, someone called Bruno Angelici. Was kind of the very important person when I joined AstraZeneca. Was highly feared by everyone. Was very straight on the business, and gave me the numbers, and no bullshit. But that was a fantastic experience, to learn from him how to drive a business, how to steer, how to challenge people, and also how to show empathy, and rework talent, and diversity. I think that was really one of my most impressive managers.

Clay Hausmann: How long ago was it when you heard the patient with schizophrenia?

Florent Edouard: That was 16 years ago. Yeah.

Clay Hausmann: Wow. I can imagine that being very inspiring and influential. If money was not a factor, what career would you most like to pursue?

Florent Edouard: This one is easy, because that's what I will do once I'm retiring. I will be publishing books. I want to be a book editor. Because there is something fascinating in writers. There is something fascinating in the fact people put all their brain and energy and stuff in writing books, novels, or whatever. And I would like to help them publish them.

Clay Hausmann: So you won't be the author, you'll be the publisher, the editor.

Florent Edouard: No, I'm bad at writing. I'm too lazy, I fear. I mean, I tried to write a novel, and it never ends. So I can write articles, because that's short. I can be an author. But publishing and it's fun... I had, in the past, an interesting experience. We did the literary death match, where we brought some authors on stage, and they were reading parts of their books, and the public was voting for this one or for that one. And that was a fascinating experience. And those people are... I really loved them. So I think I would do that.

Clay Hausmann: I'll make a note to get in touch with you. Because I would like to do the writing part.

Florent Edouard: Cool, we can make a deal.

Clay Hausmann: Yeah. I spent a few years pursuing screenwriting. It was fascinating to me. It actually changed my view of the work that I do now, and the way that you build and architect a story, and the way that you're empathetic to an audience. So it's fascinating. What profession would you most not want to pursue, no matter what it paid?

Florent Edouard: I don't want to be a TikTok influencer. Being scrutinized, analyzed, having to do those dances and stuff, my energy for 50 second video with no meaning, it must be exhausting. And it's not me. I would end up in a mental asylum. I don't want to be a TikTok influencer, no matter how much you pay me.

Clay Hausmann: Have you been approached for this, Florent?

Florent Edouard: No. No. I don't think people are blind enough to approach me for that. But no.

Clay Hausmann: Oh, that is my favorite answer so far. That's excellent. Well, what is the best book, film, or show that you've enjoyed recently? I know it's not on TikTok. And why?

Florent Edouard: Recently, I think it dates back a couple of months. It was The Hype Machine by Sinan Aral. So Sinan is a professor at MIT, is an evangelist of technologies, an investor. And he specialized in analyzing social media and their impact, among other things. He's a great analytical mind. And it shows in that book, how social media has disrupted the elections, has disrupted the economy. Also hype can be used for good, but how we need to be, as citizens, as human beings, really careful with the social media. And I think that's really a recommendation for everyone to read this book. Because it's really a modern, important book from 2021, The Hype Machine.

I have not read it. It's on my list. Because I do want to read that. It's obviously very timely, for all the reasons you mentioned. But I think that's a great idea. Okay. So you're at a family gathering, and your eight-year-old nephew or niece asks you what you do for a living. What do you tell them?

Florent Edouard: I tell him," I'm going to work every day to make sure that, when you're going to fall in the courtyard, you feel less pain than if I'm not going to work." Because I think that's something people can relate to. Or, when you will go to the dentist, because of my work, you will feel less pain. There are a few things you can't really escape. I mean, this is one of them. French tax is one of them. And pain is another one. And I'm trying to work on the last one.

Clay Hausmann: Excellent. I know you'll also tell them," Don't search for Uncle Florent on TikTok, because you will not find me there."

Florent Edouard: No. You won't find me. No.

Clay Hausmann: Last question, your ultimate dinner party for four, who is there, and what is served?

Florent Edouard: Well, it depends if it's just a dinner or a party. If it's a dinner, I would say it's-

Clay Hausmann: I have a feeling it's a party, with you, Florent.

Florent Edouard: Yeah. Well, yeah, the other two aspects. So the family dinner in Asia, in a street restaurant, like, Teppanyaki in Kyoto, old town stuff like that. That's fantastic moment. I mean, just the atmosphere, the food is amazing. The people are great. It's just something. Now, if we are talking about party, I think I would do exactly the same thing, but I will do it with friends. And that would be in Latin America, like Brazil. They have some amazing street restaurants in Sao Paulo. It starts at 10:00 PM, and you never know when it's going to end. That's a really a nice experience I would recommend to everyone, specifically the meat lovers. Because they bring meat from Argentina. And I'm not vegan. And I'm sorry, but I like meat. And that's amazing.

Clay Hausmann: And are there any particularly notable guests that you would have there? Anybody in the world that you would want to have in attendance with you, to enjoy that kind of experience?

Florent Edouard: I think there are a couple of writer, of philosopher, of French that I would have. I would love, for instance, to have a dinner with Michel Houellebecq right now, to know where it is where I stand. He has been very influential in France. It's always interesting to see important people, but I don't think they are the ones who are shaping you and making the best parties. So I could go, like on Clubhouse, trying to find Elon Musk, and P. Diddy, or Kanye West, but I'm not sure I would enjoy the dinner really. They must be fascinating individuals, but I don't know, it's not for me. I mean, when I party, I party. So, in this case, I'd rather be with Beyonce, just that would be probably more fun.

Clay Hausmann: Oh, Florent, I have had so much fun talking with you. We have learned a ton, and been entertained as well, which I imagine is what the party and the dinner with Florent would be like. So thank you so much for coming on and talking with us. We really enjoyed it.

Florent Edouard: Well, thanks a lot for inviting me. And I will hold you on the discussion about writing and publishing. And probably we can do that somewhere in Brazil, around a nice dinner and a nice party.

Clay Hausmann: I would love that. And it will go and go, and who knows when it ends?

Florent Edouard: Exactly.

Clay Hausmann: That's it for this episode of contextual intelligence. I'm your host, Clay Hausmann. And you can find all our episodes on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. And please leave us a review, or a comment, or a question, or all of the above. So we can make sure that this podcast brings the proper context to your work. Thanks, everybody, for joining us.


As Grünenthal’s Global Head of Commercial Excellence, Florent Edouard is a champion for change. In today’s episode, we learn how he’s leading the charge for digital transformation and customer-centricity in a traditionally risk-averse industry. Listen as he shares how he’s applying the same analytical rigor typically found in R&D to the commercial side of life sciences, his tips for creating a professional environment that sparks innovation, and the importance of transparency and trust in driving tech adoption. And don’t miss “Florent Edouard in Context,” where we discuss his favorite recent read, a dream dinner in Sao Paulo, and why you’ll never find Florent on TikTok.