Interview with Daniel Kohlstaedt

Enavia Co-creator

Daniel Kohlstaedt is co-founder of AvenueBio Associates and part of the team behind the creation and development of Enavia. We find out why Daniel was motivated to create a cloud-based brand planning tool capable of transforming the entire brand planning process.

What made you want to create Enavia?

It all started back in 2011.  I remember when my co-creator, Michael Craig and I, developed a brand planning process for a big US-Pharmaceutical Company. In those days, the COO was flying to core countries to run commercial review meetings where the brand plans were a core part of those meetings. We put ourselves in the shoes of this guy and questioned: “How do you compare ten different brands across a country or compare one brand across a geographic region, such as Asia-Pacific? Does this involve printing out hundreds of, mostly inconsistent, PowerPoint slide-decks and placing them side-by-side?”

There was then a moment that made me ask: “Why are we using PowerPoint to store the most valuable core brand essence in a closed-up system like PowerPoint.” While PowerPoint is a great presentation tool, it isn’t designed to store data in a structured way and is not capable of supporting strategic thinking with interactive tools.

It was then that we thought, there must be better ways to do this out there.

However, we knew that a simple translation of a PowerPoint template wouldn´t solve these problems. It needed to include the best-in-class brand strategy development methodology as well leveraging the huge potential cloud-applications can bring to brand teams.

Who was behind the tool development?

So, it all started at that point, back in 2011. Michael and I started to draft the first ideas and even had a web-built solution as a test-drive. Sadly, full-time jobs got in the way but the motivation and inspiration remained. Skip forward to 2017 when we really started to realise our ideas and concepts and then to March 2019, when Enavia was launched, just 18 months later.

I am enormously proud that we have taken the concept to launch in such a short space of time. We were lucky to be able to hire a very smart and creative cloud-development team consisting of highly skilled web-developers and top-notch UX Designers.

They still amaze me of what they can do!

I can confidently say that Enavia is powerful enough to be capable of transforming the entire brand plan process – yet in a simple but highly effective way. I do believe it’s the first of its kind in the industry. It is the creation of 8 years of thinking between Michael and myself and I’m absolutely convinced that in 5-10 years’ time, the whole pharma industry will be utilising flexible cloud systems for their planning. Obviously, I would love this to be Enavia, but we will see

Can you describe what Enavia does?

Enavia’s foundation is built on a strong academic planning framework combined with automation and connected data sources, which allows “builders” and “reviewers” to reduce time and efforts at many stages in the process.

Utility was always important to us, as the theory can be very complex. We knew that teams would want Enavia to be very easy to use. It also embraces very sophisticated theories and concepts of pharmaceutical marketing.

Finally, at its core, Enavia uses cloud-technology to take as much legwork away from brand teams as possible. For example, it connects to external databases, such as clinical databases, but Enavia can also be connected to company internal databases to make lives easier for everyone involved.

Typically, who would buy Enavia?

Working alongside the Enavia team at AvenueBio we have a branch focused on brand strategy consulting and planning support. As the team get to appreciate first-hand, the frustrations clients experience during strategy development and the annual brand plan process itself, this is great intel which we can then feed into the tool.

So, this experience has contributed to Enavia’s development with two main user groups in mind:

The Builders – these are the brand teams who, in a cross-functional team setting, need to collect all the meaningful research and knowledge; derive and instil the insights into core business issues and determine the drivers and barriers to develop the strategy. This strategy then needs to be reflected in a realistic, yet smart tactical plan. This exercise can be time consuming and laborious but is probably the most important task of a brand team, as the result informs everything else that these teams do.

The Reviewers – a key benefit for this group is that Enavia lets them review consistent plans across therapeutic areas and geographies. Users can simply view the content to answer core burning questions, such as, “Where are we losing patients in the journey?” or “Who is the decision maker in this therapy situation and what makes him behave as he/she does?”

Enavia uses a behavioural change model to unlock brand potential and combined with design thinking elements, is able to identify the anxiety, motivation and jobs-to-be-done.

Although we´ve developed Enavia in a way that it could be rolled-out and utilised fully in a global setting, it became clear that post launch, we received the most interest from customers to run pilot projects, initially. As an example, we have seen great success with a large global pharmaceutical, using Enavia for a brand plan across five countries only. We have taken these findings and then tailored Enavia to fully meet the individual client´s needs, before embarking on a larger roll-out. This way clients receive a fully customised bespoke version of the tool.

However, we’ve learned that Enavia’s “out-of-the-box” version that comes without tailoring, is a very interesting solution for mid to small sized pharma and bio-tech companies, who wish to implement a best-in-class brand planning system, but don’t have the funds nor is priority to run a six-month process-development project with a large consulting group.

Where would one see the greatest positive impact of Enavia on their business?

This depends on who in the organisation you ask, but generally “time” is predominantly the top answer.  We often get great feedback from brand teams who are delighted that Enavia is making their job so much easier, in that it is taking them considerably less time to prepare their plans. This is because we have tried to overcome seasonal thinking. Enavia removes the need for teams to start collecting research at certain times and running workshops at other times. Enavia can be used as a tool for regular brand team meetings so insights can be collected throughout the year. As everything is stored on one platform, one can run an automatically generated presentation from Enavia at any time.

Those frustrating times of what we called “slide-monkey” are over. Teams can spend their energy on strategic thinking or indeed, executing the plan.

Another point is the quality of the strategic decision-making process. Customers report that even when they are working on mature products, which are probably 15 years in the market, Enavia forced them to re-think their strategic options and associated drivers and barriers.

In the end, time saving is nice, but the process is only valuable if the quality of strategic thinking increases.

A nice side effect is that the reviewers always have access to the latest version which is hard to achieve when using PowerPoint. We have often witnessed the ease at which multiple team members can sneak extra content into PowerPoint templates resulting in several different versions of the same plan. So, besides always having an overview of the company´s planning process and progress on their fingertips, reviewers also save a lot of time and effort.

How would you like to see Enavia develop in the future?

Enavia is building the foundation for the next generation of brand planning. We will continue to successfully enable teams to discover that planning can be made easier with the use of Enavia.  But what comes next?

Enavia uses a database-system that will automatically be filled by using it, which means, companies using Enavia are building their own Excellence library. With such a database at hand, companies could use machine learning and AI modules. We are excited to be piloting this right now and look to answer really important questions, such as, “What are the drivers for success in a launch situation? What have we done well, what needs to be improved? What decisions lead to a better patient satisfaction? What were the best marketing channels in a certain situation?” And many more.

We are also trying to integrate more external data sources and are in discussion with data vendors. Imagine certain questions could be answered by secondary market research? Imagine if Enavia gave you the possibility to load this piece of research on the spot?

Furthermore, we continue to work with our clients on tailor-made modules. One example is an idea that stemmed from one of our clients, who had really benefited from our Patient Flow module. They challenged us to see whether we could use the values from the Patient Flow module to inform a new module running a Monte Carlo forecasting exercise. We were delighted and motivated to pick-up the challenge and help create practical solutions bespoke for them. The more input we get from clients, the better the tool’s development and usability.

What has been the most positive or uplifting experience since launching Enavia?

It’s great to receive feedback from clients who are so complimentary and upbeat about the tool. It is the comments we get from our clients to solve their unique internal challenges are the most exciting. The feedback has confirmed that this tool really does what it says on the tin and is starting to make a real difference to team’s brand plan process.

I have been overwhelmed by the number of positive comments about Enavia. I am loving making a difference.

And finally, when as a team, we look back to what we have already achieved, in that we’ve successfully found a solution for the challenge we identified, that makes all of us very proud.

Would you do it again?

Yes. Like any new challenge I have learnt a lot on the journey, especially about software development but admit, I would do some things differently. However, I feel confident that the outcome would still look the same. The passion to create something transformational has not gone away.

Learn More Get Started