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By Rajeev Nair, and VP & CIO,
IT as a Strategic Tool
Life Sciences industry is one that is fraught with significant Merger and Acquisition (M&A) activity. Homogenizing and integrating the various key processes for each newly acquired entity, without compromising on the differentiation that each of them needs to strengthen their competitive advantage is a key element of the growth strategy. Using IT as a strategic tool on both fronts— to standardize and leverage economies of scale, and to implement technology to enhance competitive advantage—and to balance these two portfolios while reducing operational costs is a key challenge for an IT leader in the Pharmaceutical industry. There is no cookie-cutter mantra to achieve this, but, implementing a Shared Service support model for standardizing and operating key processes, and to channel the resultant resource and cost savings to explore emerging technologies has worked well for us.
"Deploying strategic IT investments to strengthen the compliance of key GxP processes is a pivotal focus area for all Pharmaceutical CIOs"
Technology Deployment Under Strict Compliance Watch
In this era of ever increasing regulations, deploying strategic IT investments to strengthen the compliance of key GxP processes is a pivotal focus area for all Pharmaceutical CIOs. Looking beyond the process automation opportunities that IT is traditionally very strong in, and building a strong compliance portfolio within IT that works hand in hand with Quality & Regulatory Groups is vital for building strong compliant GxP processes without blowing the budget on cost of compliance.
In an industry that is being revolutionized by sweeping regulations like Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the new evolving models from both service providers and the insurance industry in response to it, market intelligence on customers, new products, product efficacy, and reimbursement models are of utmost importance. “Big Data” might be a cliché, but there is enough intelligence out there to be tapped into for organizations that have the right technology toolkits to do that. Managing the cost of operations and increasing speed to market is another key consideration for the Pharma Technology leader. We operate in a Global economy. In addition to leveraging cloud technologies for sourcing basic operational elements like computing power, messaging, storage and such, securing even niche skills and services from the right geographies and providers is vital to achieving these two contrasting, yet very real challenges. Finally, talent retention is a key challenge that the CIO faces today. Technology is changing very fast, bringing about commercialization of IT. And yet, in this industry, deployment of technology has to be done under a strict compliance watch. Acquiring and retaining the skills that can balance the business savviness to identify the appropriate solutions, the technological brilliance to execute it, and doing so whilst managing the compliance risk is a challenging task.
Solid Analytics Platform with Combined Data
In this industry that is characterized by ever changing regulations, new products and evolving reimbursement models, developing a solid analytics platform that can combine internal, operational and sales data with external, open, unstructured and dynamic data can produce real-time actionable intelligence. Although our current focus on analytics is internally focused, we chose strategically to invest in technology that is architected for meeting our predictive and prospective analytics needs. Our strategy will be to move from internal data crunching to analyzing commercially available, clean datasets and to eventually move on to unstructured data that has the most potential.
Technology Brilliance Not a Must for a CIO
Despite all the changes in technology and regulations, the mantra for success to be a Technology leader hasn’t changed that much. First, realize that your chances of success as a CIO has very little to do with your technological brilliance, which is probably what got you thus far. Know your business, its customers, its unique selling proposition, and clearly understand how technology contributes to (or is impeding) its success. Equally important is to know your organization’s culture, develop strategic relationships with its stakeholders, and being able to communicate to them in terms that they can comprehend and are passionate about. And finally, ensure that you have the right people on the bus, clearly articulate your vision to them, and ensure that they share your sense of purpose.