There’s a wreck on the freeway, and lives are on the line. Would you rather be in the latest souped-up emergency vehicle, or driving a 50-year-old tractor to come to the rescue? It seems like a no-brainer that you’d choose the emergency vehicle, but speeding away in a high-tech car invites more risk than some people—and some companies—are comfortable with.
Not so for AMAG—a biopharmaceutical company focused on bringing therapeutics to market that can support patients’ health in the areas of maternal and women’s health, anemia management, and cancer supportive care. With this mission to guide them, AMAG solidified their core strategy, and they brought on Nate McBride as their first IT hire. As he reviewed AMAG’s strategy to inform his IT decisions, he recalls:
“Our strategy as a company was to make a massive impact in the area of anemia and kidney disease treatment and we had to be able to move faster and be more nimble than the already well-established competition. This strategy later evolved into expansion of our commercial presence with multiple drug launches over multiple years—all in a generally rapid fashion.
In order to do this, it was clear that we needed to build and maintain a new model—in essence, the most agile and extensible model possible. Not agile in the sense of development, but agile in the sense of speed and flexibility—and so that's what we did.”
With this vision in mind, Nate oversaw the company’s early transition to the cloud, which necessitated new cloud-based platforms to replace existing siloed systems. Taking advantage of the latest and greatest in technology, Google became AMAG’s new base of operations, and Lucidchart and Smartsheet became the other two essential platforms that rounded out the company’s cloud-first approach to business.
In Nate’s own words:
“Lucidchart was one of those essential platforms that from day one made us a ‘cloud’ company. Google obviously takes the biggest piece of the cake for conducting business in the cloud, but Lucidchart and Smartsheet essentially rounded out the rough edges.”
So what were the results of AMAG’s transformation to being a cloud-first company? Instead of producing products on a traditional commercial roadmap, which can often take between 12 and 18 months, AMAG was able to significantly speed up its time to market—by up to two-thirds—due to the flexibility and agility that working in the cloud provided.
Now Nate is the CIO and Senior VP at AMAG Pharmaceuticals and head of the Innovation Architects group. He and his team are focused on maintaining the desired velocity of the business so as to bring treatments to patients with unmet medical needs.
Imagine the impact of getting to the rescue scene three times faster than before—it’s much more than just a competitive advantage. It increases AMAG’s ability to put the needs of patients, families, and healthcare providers first.
Driving innovation—from tractors to supercars
In order to get to their two-thirds increase in speed, AMAG needed to develop a rapid collaboration environment and eliminate the traditional barriers which slow down progress when it comes to pressure testing ideas in order to arrive at the best solution. Whiteboards and a SaaS tool called MindMeister were some of the company’s primary modes of communicating ideas. “We used to get a whiteboard in a room to try to put ideas together, and next thing you know, we’d have a diagram drawn out. Someone would take a photo of it on their camera, and then they'd hold onto it, and it became an object.”
Creating static objects to communicate ideas just wasn’t fast or efficient enough to keep AMAG’s supercar moving. After a lot of experimentation, Nate discovered Lucidchart:
“We had been flexing around with some other, less useful programs that were similar. Once we discovered Lucidchart, we were able to dump Visio out of our company's library permanently and replace it with Lucidchart.”
With Lucidchart as a new way to communicate ideas in a collaborative way, use of MindMeister dropped and whiteboard ideas transformed from static objects to shared documents in the cloud. Finally, the whole team could work visually together.
Organizing workflows in the cloud
One of the first applications for Lucidchart was obvious—visualizing workflows. With multiple product launches and a company almost doubling in size each year, there were hundreds of processes that needed to be shared throughout the company. After moving from iPhone pictures of whiteboards to process diagrams in the cloud, Nate started to see the value of a Lucidchart diagram:
“I can take this thing, I can reuse it over and over and over again, I can have multiple iterations of it over and over again. That's the difference between creating a basic workflow and then taking that basic workflow and empowering it to be used elsewhere in the company.”
With Lucidchart, AMAG went from caveman-style scribbles on a whiteboard to crisp, living documents. Silos between workflows could suddenly be eliminated, as best practices went viral across departments. Suddenly process iteration could easily be centralized in one platform.
This powerful functionality propelled Lucidchart to become the company’s essential process engineering solution that empowered AMAG employees to visualize and iterate on processes throughout the company. As they built upon those processes, they began to uncover more about the power of working visually.
Creating strategic technology roadmaps
Most departments at the company had started creating and sharing workflows in Lucidchart. It just made sense. But Nate and his team knew there had to be more to working visually:
“We began to push the limits of the Lucidchart platform. What else can it do for us, what else could we do? And that's when we started finding out that there were uses for visualization especially along strategic technology roadmapping.”
When tackling huge business challenges, such as overseeing product launches or leading the integration of multiple acquisitions, Lucidchart became the essential platform to show how each piece of the strategy and the process for execution fit together. “So we started to be able to say 'OK, let's just start with a square, here's how we want to integrate this company,’ and then let's sort of map out all of the things that we're going to need to do to, from buying the company to finishing the integration.”
As company acquisitions and product launches began to take shape and live in Lucidchart, several new key initiatives, such as the Digital Marketing strategy, were able to utilize the platform to visualize their roadmaps.
In parallel with creating a visual map of the strategy and execution, Nate’s team used project management software to manage the specific planning logistics. Combining assigned tasks in the project management software with Lucidchart, it became clear to anyone how the pieces fit together.
Transforming objects into a single source of truth
As Nate and his team started pushing the limits and discovering the power of working visually, the rest of the company began to see it too.
Instead of creating and collaborating on simple process flows, employees started linking resources to each step of a Lucidchart workflow diagram, creating resource hubs rich with vital information for anyone who needed to understand a project. Nate describes it this way: “All of a sudden, people realized, ‘Okay, now I can create a Lucidchart, and I can make it so that every single object in that Lucidchart calls up a document. All of a sudden, this is powerful to me because I would normally have to send the Lucidchart out with instructions on how to access all of the project resources—budgets, timelines, instructions, etc., and I now have this ability to hotlink any resource I want to share in connection with this project.’”
As this new way of working and connecting people with resources took hold, the company realized it had found exactly the platform they needed to keep their supercar running. Today AMAG has a Lucidchart document that serves as a resource hub to the entire company.
“We have a Lucidchart document right now that's a dashboard for the management community—it shows the status of all the projects in the company. The entire thing is hot-linkable anywhere. The CFO doesn't have to go guess where he needs to look for information anymore. He finds the project, clicks the budget button, and up comes the budget, along with the project plans and resource maps, everything in this one document. You can see it right there, live and direct. It's the central source of truth. It's got a lot of wow factor to it.”
With a single source of truth, AMAG can keep its emergency vehicle in top racing condition. The company can be agile and flexible as it communicates across silos and innovates to improve the quality of life of patients everywhere.
Working visually to see potential outcomes
So, what is the total ROI of working visually? Some would say it’s the eight months that AMAG won back in its product development cycle. Nate sees it differently:
“Lucidchart costs nothing compared to the ability to take a three-year roadmap, build it out, and get alignment with that functional line on that specific project plan. Then you can go ahead and plan from a corporate perspective all the resource gathering that needs to happen to meet all the milestones on that plan, so that there's no error, no inaccuracies, and everything is known very, very far in advance.”
With Lucidchart, Nate has been able to make near-perfect project alignment and project organization a reality. But the real value of working visually is even greater. “We're able to make decisions that we couldn't make without Lucidchart because we can see all the potential outcomes. Each one of those decisions can have a multi-hundred thousand dollar or million plus dollar effect.”
It’s clear to Nate that when you work visually, you go from looking at the pieces and parts of a project to looking at the big picture. Once you see the big picture, you can start predicting multiple potential outcomes for the project. With this invaluable perspective, the potential for substantial innovation and lasting competitive advantage becomes a tangible reality.
Leading the transformation to business in the cloud
So much of AMAG’s success ties back to their innovative, cloud-first mindset. With cutting-edge technology like Google, Lucidchart, and Smartsheet that enabled collaboration on a whole new level, the company was re-primed to make decisions that made sense for both in-the-trenches workflows and overarching strategy.
Without Lucidchart, AMAG’s transformation to a cloud company would have been incomplete. Many innovative ideas and improvements would have remained siloed in a department instead of spreading across the company. There wouldn’t have been as much cohesion between strategy and implementation. It would have meant choosing the tractor over the supercar to get to the scene of a crisis.
For AMAG, becoming a cloud company meant finding the technology to drive faster, and improve the quality of life for thousands of patients and families. What could it mean for you?