The rise of big data is making waves in sectors like technology, retail, and now, consumer healthcare. On this episode of Mastering Innovation on Sirius XM Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School, guest Robert Boland (WG’13), Associate Director of Emerging Science and Innovation Strategy at Johnson & Johnson, explains how his company is using external and internal data to enhance the customer and patient experience.
Boland’s team takes a systematic approach in pursuing breakthrough innovation, including a de-risking due diligence process to tackle potential obstacles early on, and a catalyzer operation to bring actionable insights to fruition. Boland emphasizes the importance of involving everyone in the organization’s innovation process, even customers. He elaborated on the possibilities around consumer data, from converting product usage into real-time data and ultimately creating more applicable, connected solutions for end users.
An excerpt of the interview is transcribed below. Listen to more episodes here.
Robert Boland: I’m on a working group that’s geared towards the consumer R&D data strategy, and the initiative around this is, “How are we going to work with the tsunami of data that we’re seeing coming in today?” The promise of machine learning and artificial intelligence is here now that we’ve been hearing about it for a number of years, so how can we use the tools and technologies to do this?
The goal for us, within our consumer data strategy, is to think about how it can connect solutions together. How can you make a connected experience for a customer or a patient? How are you driving that experience? I use the word experience a lot. The goal there is the data that you’re working with today — real-world data, real-world evidence — these types of data come in from what I call different channels, channels that are not ordinary. The metadata that comes from a usage of a product, for instance.
We’re trying to capture that and use that in a definitive way to make sure that we’re engaging the patient and the consumer in a new way, and make sure that we’re able to sustain that engagement. We have an arc, if you will, of the consumer. Right now, I’m working within the consumer space. You have this nice cradle-to-grave type of philosophy. We could be on campus at Penn today, and as a student, you might pick up a product from the company. You might use it. It might help you. As you grow older, you might get married and have a family, and you stay with the product line. You might have a baby at some point in time, and you’re still staying with the product line. We’re looking at making sure that the data that we get today from a patient and consumer perspective is integrated with a connected solution approach. It all is geared towards the experience of the person.
“How are we going to work with the tsunami of data that we’re seeing coming in today?” – Robert Boland
Saikat Chaudhuri: Is that an app, or are you talking about some other way of getting it? How do you remain connected?
Boland: It’s not so much an app, although apps were built to do these things — to ingest data. The data that I’m talking about is real-world data. You’re building, certainly, applications and a lot of mobile technologies today. You have a lot of different ways to interact. We do it today on Facebook, and we do a lot of different things on Twitter, Skype, LinkedIn, and things like that.
What I’m talking about is, how do you build and use the data in a real way that engages the customer and patient? That enables you to enhance the experience, the product, and the use of the product? Applications have been around for a long time. Mobile phones, apps like this, and different devices have been around a long time. It’s the connection of how you make that experience real for that person using the data. That’s not easy. We’re talking about machine learning and artificial intelligence. You’re talking about using these types of new tech that we’ve made in these areas to learn how someone is using a product, or how they’re using a potential product from a company or a drug that we know of. We’re also using it in ways that we will be able to predict what’s happening with either a consumer or patient.
These types of things don’t just get made. These things take a lot of time in research, but at the same time, we’re working with product development and marketing to find a way to cohesively connect the solutions that we create with the data that drives that experience.
“How do you build and use the data in a real way that engages the customer and patient? It’s the connection of how you make that experience real for that person.” – Robert Boland
Chaudhuri: You were talking about data, connectedness, and all of this. It sounds to me that you’re creating an ecosystem, in some sense, of all kinds of stakeholders, both internally and externally, in order to drive forward this innovation. Is that right, that kind of image?
Boland: Yes, what you would call an ecosystem. We’re talking about the bridging of the internal and external. You’re driving towards — I think your question, if I catch you right — if we’re trying to see, “How are you ingesting data? How are they using data?”
The data comes in from multiple channels. I’ll give you an example. We have a Neutrogena Light Mask, which is a product that we have out on the market right now, and it looks towards relief of acne and rosacea. Now, it’s a mask that is used today, but for the most part, it’s a one-way experience. You’re putting it on, and you’re using it, but not much comes back from the customer — possibly an Amazon review or some kind of website review that they loved it, and it’s actually a very, very good product, and it’s really taken hold in the marketplace. The idea would be to make that an intelligent mask. How can you make that into intelligent data, to adjust a mechanism so that you are able to detect usage, non-usage, or other things around the use cases that we have within the mask.
There’s also using the idea of imaging. If you were able to take an image of a before and after picture, say, of a customer using this technology, that is a big thing because you can see the improvement over time. There’s some privacy issues here, but if the customer is willing to post or put that data out there, other people who suffer from this can actually see the difference. It’s beyond the four to five doctors who say, “In my mind…” It’s really showing proof of something that really works. To make that happen, you have to have a mechanism to bring data in off of the device.
It just doesn’t come out of the box like that. Today, we’re looking at ways to actually do that and bring the data from that light mask to a level where we can actually use the data. Some use predictive analytics around that data, and good algorithms around it to actually enhance the experience of the customer. If you do that, you could do that for an array of different products and what we would call connected solutions. Then, you can connect these solutions and bridge the gap between the internal and the external. You are bringing in external data internally and using the engine within the walls of the company to analyze that data. Then, you make that experience much more robust for the customer and/or patient.
About Our Guest
Robert J. Boland is currently the Associate Director of Emerging Science and Innovation (ESI) Strategy at Johnson & Johnson. He is responsible for driving strategic initiatives, leading operational projects, managing the portfolio and measuring value creation for the ESI function of Johnson & Johnson Consumer R&D, while also leading JNJ Consumer’s Connected Solution & Data Strategy. Boland originally joined Johnson & Johnson in 2012 as Senior Manager, External Innovation R&D IT, and before joining J&J, he was Head of Merck Research Laboratories (MRL) Technology Innovation Group.
Boland works closely with the Mack Institute for Innovation Management at the Wharton School as a corporate partner. He holds an Executive MBA from the Lebow College of Business, Drexel University, and a BsC in Computing Technology, Drexel University College of Computer Science and Engineering along with Global Leadership Strategy from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania.
Mastering Innovation is live on Thursdays at 4:00 p.m. ET. Listen to more episodes here.