Technology in the Cloud: A Pangaea for Pharma Adrift

Scientists say that all of the Earth’s continents were once united into one land mass called Pangaea. Natural forces then pulled this giant island apart, forming continents separated by expanses of ocean. Similarly, the life sciences industry functioned as isolated entities for many years but this seclusion model is no longer sustainable in a global market. The industry must recreate Pangaea with companies united across borders, across business areas, across regions.

Indeed, globalization is one of the top priorities of today’s life sciences companies. During a recent roundtable discussion with chief information officers (CIOs) at 10 top pharmaceutical companies, globalization was cited as their top focus. While this informal survey is by no means irrefutable proof of a widespread trend, it does speak to what’s increasingly top-of-mind for industry leaders.

So, how do we enable a global organization? How do we effectively and efficiently harmonize across divides? How do we collaborate strategically between clinical and sales; Europe and China; agency and brand? Many are turning to technology for answers, and some are finding the best solution in the cloud.

The cloud is serving as a conduit for life sciences companies that traditionally operated regionally to now harmonize globally. Organizations of all sizes are recognizing the tremendous advantage that comes from implementing a single, global solution that’s flexible enough to support local requirements, yet securely accessible by all worldwide—that also truly enables the fast sharing of best practices across the enterprise.

The Cloud As Enabler of Globalization

More than a software solution, multitenant cloud platforms enable global interaction—key word being multitenant. If the technology just had a hosted environment for a given location, there would still be many of the same problems inherent in the client/server-based legacy systems that can no longer keep up with today’s demands. With multitenant cloud technology, an organization can take applications that are characteristically scalable and flexible, and quickly expand globally.

Multitenant cloud platforms eliminate the need to build a new system specific to each country and/or region. Configuration to account for regional requirements is fast and easy. And across the enterprise, there are no more servers to buy and upgrades to manage—all freeing up the company’s IT team to concentrate on strategies to improve the business.

“Cloud technology isn’t about cost-cutting but rather the strategic opportunity to free up organizations from the consuming commodity business,” says Behrooz Najafi, Vice President of Information Technology at Questcor, now part of Ireland-based Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals. “There’s no way to replicate the economies of scale and time-savings that the cloud delivers. It also levels the playing field: Small and mid-sized life sciences companies have access to the same world-class technology solutions in the cloud as their larger counterparts.”

Speed and increased efficiency are also two of the much touted advantages of multitenant cloud solutions over traditional hosted and client/server systems. Companies can quickly share best practices throughout their enterprise, achieving rapid uptake of the most efficient, most effective processes, content and intellectual capital across commercial and R&D operations. They can also solve some of the more vexing challenges such as managing a global view of key opinion leaders (KOLs) who speak or publish in different countries—or an external expert who influences scientific research in a specific therapeutic area (i.e., oncology or rare diseases) that extends beyond state boundaries.

Country-specific and regional systems are known for their inability to provide a reliable single view of a global customer, whereas today’s multitenant cloud systems allow far greater flexibility. This ability to so easily share across the enterprise leads to greater collaboration and efficiencies throughout the organization.

Additionally, multitenant cloud technology enables providers to deliver regular software updates “behind the scenes” with zero disruption to users, ensuring everyone is always working from the latest innovations and eliminating the nightmare of disparate system upgrades. Of course, this also greatly reduces the infrastructure required to manage the business as a whole.

All of this can amount to considerable savings when one considers 70% of the money currently being spent on IT goes directly to system maintenance, according to Gartner Research.1 Of course, the financial savings are just part of the picture. “New technologies—such as the cloud, mobile, analytics, social, sensors and in-memory computing—offer the promise of innovation and creation of competitive advantages,” Susan Tan, Research Director at Gartner said in a statement.2 Yet, she asserts, many companies are still stuck on the previous generation of technology, grappling with cumbersome client/server software.

“Organizations still struggle with tight budgets and inflexible legacy systems,” Tan continued. “Traditional implementations that take months and years to build cannot be agile enough to keep up with changing technologies or respond quickly to fleeting market opportunities.”

Companies Race Toward Global Harmonization

Many life sciences companies are turning to multitenant commercial cloud technologies to move their businesses forward in a global economy. Lundbeck, a Danish pharmaceutical company that will mark its 100th anniversary next year, is leveraging cloud technologies as part of its organizational shift from a European-centric organization with a limited product portfolio, to a global enterprise with several new drug therapies. The company is using cloud technology to bring together data, interactions and content across the enterprise for global multi-channel outreach. Multi-channel communication paired with cloud technology allows the company to maintain customer interaction details in their customer relationship management (CRM) system, store and revise content, and email the approved, compliant content tailored to the individual customer needs from the same system.

“Cloud technology has removed the technological hurdles to achieving our vision,” says Tim White, Lundbeck’s head of Global Customer Interaction Management. “In the past, roles like mine used to need to focus quite a bit on building complex platforms to ideally create harmonized customer experiences. Now we can focus on using the best available technologies, which are constantly developing, to reach these important business goals quickly and help us set a global strategy in motion.”

Questcor has also embraced cloud technology in a strategic move to harmonize globally. One of the first systems it chose to move into the cloud is the CRM. “The industry is moving away from legacy toward new cloud solutions to better meet current business challenges: Global expansion, complex customer and partner networks, and many more,” remarks Najafi. “The cloud is doing more than just allowing companies to remain competitive, however. It’s changing the face of life sciences IT.”

Eli Lilly dramatically transformed itself into a centralized, global organization by adopting a cloud-based CRM with an iPad tool—along with a customer master data solution for its more than 16,000 worldwide sales reps. Until this shift to the cloud, Lilly’s reps were stuck using outdated technology. The problem was compounded because reps and business units in different countries used different CRM systems, making it hard for Lilly to produce an accurate, holistic view of its business.

“This led to a mountain of work each month to manually harmonize the metrics and produce standard business-level information,” says Lilly CTO Michael Meadows in an interview with InformationWeek.3

According the Meadows, this global standardization to a cloud technology platform also provides Lilly with the potential for integration with public data, which could lead to significant insights into prescribing trends and healthcare spending across different demographics and geographies not easily found lodged in the silos that comprise today’s data environment.

The Future is Here: A Pharmaceutical Pangaea

Cloud-based technologies have the inherent power to enable organizations to mine and share information more efficiently, work together across channels and geographies more effectively, and bring drugs to all markets faster. The cloud is (finally) breaking down the notorious business silos in life sciences and connecting regions harmoniously.

Done right, multitenant cloud technology has the transformative power to move the industry towards a more open, global environment where best practices are shared across the enterprise and business can leverage the vast knowledge tucked into every corner of the world to bring more life-saving therapies to patients safely, faster and for less money than ever before.

Sources:

1. http://techpageone.dell.com/technology/taming-maintenance-spend-doesnt-hurt/#.U77Q7pSwLF8.

2. http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2631825.

3. “Eli Lilly’s Reps: Armed With Data,” Michael Endler, InformationWeek, http://www.informationweek.com/strategic-cio/executive-insights-and-innovation/eli-lillys-field-reps-armed-with-data-/d/d-id/1141542

  • Paul Shawah

    Paul Shawah is Vice President Product Marketing at Veeva Systems where he is shaping products to enable modern multichannel communications between life sciences companies and physicians. He has been driving digital innovation in the pharmaceutical industry for decades.

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