Globalization: IT Tools to Collaborate and Bridge Language Gaps

How BBK Worldwide uses graphics software to bridge language gaps and collaborate with doctors to recruit patients globally for clinical trials.

By
Wed, June 16, 2010

CIO — Somewhere between indecipherable hieroglyphics and pictures that say a thousand words stand the computer-generated graphics that adorn business communications. They typically range from pie charts that try to be informative to clip art that’s supposed to be funny.

Yet any company aiming to do business globally had better learn to do graphics well, says Victor Bradley, head of information systems as part of the leadership team at BBK Worldwide, a company that recruits patients for clinical trials of drugs and medical devices. Employees and partners don’t always speak the same language, but they have to work together. Pictures can bridge language gaps.

BBK Worldwide deals with language barriers every day as it works with 50,000 physicians in 60 countries. In May, BBK was running 47 trials, including one requiring translation into 23 languages. “We have to simplify and articulate complex operations to a vast audience,” Bradley says.

Business communication that is visual—incorporating pictures, video and interactive interfaces—can efficiently reach more customers and employees, and leaves a more lasting impression than words or data alone, says Jaron Lanier, a futurist and scholar-at-large with Microsoft (MSFT). “Human brains are better optimized for that than looking at a bunch of cells with numbers.”

Delivering Results for Customers

When BBK signs a contract with a pharmaceutical company, its recruiters work with physicians and hospitals to find patients that fit specific profiles to test new drugs or devices. And because the medications and devices are new, BBK provides doctors with written and graphical material that helps them participate in the trials. Graphics can illustrate procedures and reinforce key points given in detailed written directions.

For example, BBK sends physicians cards to help them assess whether a new patient qualifies for a clinical study that the company is filling. A card might show a table, flow chart or illustration reflecting important aspects of the study.

A flow chart could lead the doctor through several yes-or-no questions to decide whether to offer the patient a spot in the trial. Other graphics might show how to enter data into a website or display a chart depicting the steps remaining in a lengthy drug or device test. Such reminders help doctors do their end of the work that BBK has promised to its pharmaceutical-company customers.

Bradley recently deployed graphics software from SmartDraw that comes with templates for different types of graphics to plug into e-mail messages, Word files, PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets.

BBK used to use Microsoft’s Visio, which also had templates, but Bradley found it took too long for employees to learn. As a result, fewer employees were trained and requests for graphics backed up. SmartDraw also cost less than upgrading Visio and buying licenses for additional users, Bradley says.

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