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Building pharmaceutical software that actually looks great

Pharmaceutical software has something of a reputation for being opaque and tough to use. And when it comes to accounting software for pharmaceutical companies, well, it’s an even messier situation. So when Akara approached Table XI to develop pharmaceutical software solutions, we knew we had to make things a little easier for the users, even if only a precious few would be using it.

The healthcare consulting firm came to us looking to build pharmaceutical industry software that could take a complex web of sales data, existing and future contracts, and prospecting information about where markets are headed and turn it into intricate financial forecasting that could drive decisions.

The Goal: Turn complex consulting services into sellable pharmaceutical software

In talking with Akara’s founders, we realized their initial vision was something akin to an Excel spreadsheet. We understood what they meant by that — it’s necessary to build something the user base can understand — but we saw the value in taking it a step further. We showed Akara how an Excel sheet could be elevated, giving people in pharma software that delivered what they needed and looked great. In essence, we hoped to give Excel users a Quickbooks subscription.

“As a consulting company, we were inexperienced with building software. We didn’t understand all the different factors we needed to consider, so we needed an experienced partner to lead the project. That was Table XI.”

—A co-founder and partner of Akara Group

Making pharmaceutical accounting software that was not just usable, but lovable, had real business outcomes. Because each software sale had the potential to be worth millions of dollars to Akara, it had to feel like a million-dollar product to buyers.

User Research
Product Strategy
UX Design
Software Development

The Results: An MVP that shows where pharmaceutical software can go

In the end, we were able to deliver an MVP that helped Akara sell the product. Our software showed it's possible to pair very specific and technically complex user needs — like keeping an audit log and being able to split screens on mobile devices — with a UX that felt like a refreshing change of pace for users trained on systems that think about aesthetics last, if at all. Using React allowed us to make a very frontend-heavy application that still felt approachable and useful, meeting user needs in a clean and efficient way. Then, when we had done all that, we helped Akara find a different software development company that could follow our outline to create full pharmaceutical database software in the most cost-effective way.

Get software that's a pleasure for anyone to use

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Collecting user research when you can’t reach pharma software buyers

There aren’t that many potential buyers for pharma accounting software, but each deal can be worth millions. That means we needed to know everything about the small set of users, so we could create a product that would delight them enough to buy.

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This proved one of the biggest challenges on the project. For one, pharmaceutical software products are only bought by large companies and used by a handful of knowledgeable employees. Getting access to those people was near impossible. Not only that, we needed the software to make a great first impression with all of the possible buyers. We couldn’t put anything less than a fully developed product in front of them for pharmaceutical software testing.

“Table XI really took the lead and guided us to design the best user experience.”

—A co-founder and partner of Akara Group

This was where we leaned on Akara for assistance. Akara’s founders doubled as our focus group, with them giving us input and passing the software to their closest confidants. Through them, we were able to interview a user about his experience with a prototype of the product. Even though these test users wouldn’t be making million-dollar purchases like real users, we gauged their reactions as if they were. We trusted Akara’s feedback and really took stock of this small pool of research, paying attention to every response we gathered as we went through the process. Even without a full set of user data, we were able to make informed decisions and adapt the product so it would best serve users at launch.

Building a pharmaceutical software MVP capable of closing million-dollar sales

Our second challenge was to show users how well the product would meet their needs — without having anything really to show. Akara had to sell the product while we were still building it. To help them, Table XI set a goal of building a minimum viable product that Akara’s founders could then show to prospective buyers. It needed to be sleek while still showing off all the mathematical elements users would be scrutinizing.

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Adding a demonstration version to pharmaceutical software development did add to the timeline. Ultimately though, we were able to build something that immediately showed the product’s value. The MVP ensured that when the software landed in the hands of pharmaceutical distributors, they could utilize it right out of the box.

“We wanted to deliver the app as fast as possible. Table XI was tremendous in managing the scope accordingly. The team proactively offered suggestions and flagged any potential issues early.”

—A co-founder and partner of Akara Group

Building in React Native helped to ease some of this work and save time and money. Because React Native is a cross-platform solution, we were able to account for both iOS and Android users immediately. We were also able to take the MVP and build from there, helping Akara realize their vision.

Giving intricate pharmaceutical accounting software a simple user interface

While pharmaceutical accounting software is a true B2B product, we knew the user interface could feel as intuitive as any consumer product. Design tends to get skipped when you’re building for a professional audience, because the theory goes that workers will have to use the software regardless. We’ve worked with enough healthcare and pharmaceutical companies to know that, while bad software may get used, only user-friendly software can really deliver the ROI people are looking for.

“Table XI delivered exactly what they promised. I constantly changed my mind, but they were fantastic in accommodating my requests.”

—A co-founder and partner of Akara Group

Given that we were making software for a very small group of users, we could know enough about their current tools to make something that felt fundamentally different without feeling alien. We put the extra effort into build a product that felt like a natural addition to their process, knowing it’d be easier for Akara to sell the product. Instead of creating software that felt like a series of souped-up spreadsheets, our product allowed users to track their purchases and consult prospective data with the same ease as checking their Venmo balance. That’s what ultimately set the software apart.

Delivering a convincing pharmaceutical software solution — and helping Akara make it real

We worked closely with Akara to create an MVP that helped them sell and showed what was really possible with pharmaceutical software technology. Then we helped Akara find a team that would take the project from MVP to final product. We certainly could have done the work — and we wanted to — but we knew the best thing for Akara would be to hand the reins over to a team that could knock out the remaining development work as quick and as cheaply as possible.

Our collaboration gave Akara a vision, and a working MVP that sold it to future customers. Then we it was on Table XI to help them realize their product in the most effective way possible. Even though it meant transitioning the work to another team, it was worth it to get the product out in the world. 

“Their ability to lead us was really important. Table XI is a fantastic company, they put a lot of care and attention into what needs to be done. I would definitely use them again.”

—A co-founder and partner of Akara Group

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