It is no secret that the pharmaceutical industry has faced some challenges when it comes to modernising its platforms, processes and practices, but recent trends suggest the industry is tackling this head on. In this piece Christian Hebenstreit, general manager & senior vice president EMEA, Medidata Solutions explores the steps life sciences and healthcare companies are taking to embrace digital transformation.
A host of new technologies are transforming the pharmaceutical sector today, helping life sciences, healthcare, biotech, and medical device organisations make data-driven business decisions so that new drugs can be brought to market faster and more efficiently.
This explains why, in just a short space of time, an increasing number of innovative organisations in the life sciences and healthcare sector are embracing digital transformation and IOT (Internet of Things) strategies. These companies have prioritized the shift – despite the challenges it represents – and are seeing the benefit in terms of reducing risk and delivering positive business outcomes.
That said, a transformation like this is never easy. Furthermore, it can’t happen overnight, nor is it necessarily a program that ‘ends’ – it will be an ongoing ‘work in progress’ for every organisation that embraces it. There is also no single template for success – every engagement we’ve had with leaders in the life sciences industry tells us that to get digital transformation moving in the right direction, organisations will need to embrace three key considerations: operations, infrastructure and culture.
Re-imagining the operational model
An effective digital strategy defines where a business sits today, where it is going in the future and how it will get there. But more important that the “where” and the “how” is the “why” i.e. the reason a company exists today despite all the disruption that is occurring around us. Each business leader embarking on digital transformation must start with a simple question: how can I utilize digital to reimagine the business model of the future?
Digital transformation demands a radical rethink of business operational models and where an organization exists within its industry. For example, where can an organization play to win in the near-to-medium term? How will a digital transformation program add new value for customers, streamline the supply chain or support business outcomes?
New models of care are emerging in the health and life sciences sector as digital enables activities, such as remote monitoring, and data exchanges between clinicians and patients. Together with these new models of care, new economic models are being created as insurers, governments and health care providers innovate and build new revenue model. Similar to every other industry, life sciences is being impacted globally with digitization, specifically from smart devices. Subsequently, real-world data streams from patients’ smart devices is generating massive amounts of data, providing more accurate insights into patients’ conditions.
To embrace these new technologies, the organization operational model from the supply chains, the manufacturing process, the delivery model as well as the interaction with the physicians and the patients will have to change. These radical changes and digital technologies are what will really enable digital transformation. The devices will inevitable give greater visibility and transparency at the patient level but the supportive models that are coming out of this are also equally as transformational.
In today’s digital age, every life science and healthcare organization will need to approach business like a strategy house, innovate like a start-up, design like a tech giant and scale like a venture capitalist. Only then can they really shift to a digital model.
Refreshing existing infrastructure
Due to the growing data volumes involved in life sciences research and the need for speedy analysis, traditional IT infrastructures can no longer deliver what is required. The reason being that such infrastructures are hard to scale or struggle to deliver the needed performance, and as a result can be an obstacle to research progress and investigative success.
What is needed is an infrastructure that can accommodate large volumes of data in such a way so that high-throughput computational workflows can be sustained to quicken the pace of research. This must be accomplished in an economical manner that does not require IT staff to invest large amounts of time managing and operating systems.
Life science companies also will often be working with multiple technology vendors, on an array of different platforms, resulting in a complex IT environment. When this is combined with the necessary and painful management of ageing physical IT infrastructure, it is not difficult to see how workflows could be interrupted and processes slowed. This is where the migration to consolidated platforms – and in particular the cloud – can have a dramatic impact.
Rethinking the organisational culture
Many companies already have a strategy of continuous improvement in their businesses and operations globally. Digital transformation will demand changes to strategy, technology, processes, and organizational structure but culture change is the glue that will bring it all together.
Changing the internal culture is often one of the biggest barriers to digital transformation. Culture is everyone’s responsibility, and digital leaders must constantly educate about culture changes that will help shift their organization towards a digital culture that is customer-focused, innovative, agile and collaborative. That said culture change is a slow process and must be handled patiently, with understanding and persistence. Some changes are gradual and evolve toward an end goal, which becomes clear over time and some such as acquisitions, investments, partnerships, or other external activity or statements can be more immediate.
The role of the board in a digital business is key yet very different from the role of the board in a legacy business. To make a digital transformation happen successfully, there need to be a complete alignment – from the board and executive team through the whole organization. To this end, there is a new generation of board director emerging that is much more hands-on, with a more entrepreneurial background actively striving to digital transformation a reality.