ISPE iSpeak: Building Solid Foundations in the Pharma Industry

Digital initiatives are becoming increasingly abundant and important, but many large organizations, particularly in the life science sector, struggle to implement and roll out these initiatives successfully. A common reason for this is that digital transformation efforts often fail to successfully move from the boardroom to the plant room, resulting in a disjointed user experience with limited success.
Ger Caron
4 min read
ISPE Publication

1. Digital Transformation: Challenges and Comparisons

The life science industry faces similar challenges as other large legacy industries, such as banking when undergoing digital transformation. Both sectors are heavily regulated and struggle to introduce significant changes due to existing digital tools and complex requirements. Additionally, these industries often deal with the intricacies of global physical real estate, which adds further complexity to digital transformation efforts. A strong foundation is key to overcoming these challenges and ensuring the success of digital initiatives.

One notable example is Bank of Ireland (BOI), which encountered numerous obstacles in its quest to digitally transform its mobile application. Hindered by legacy systems, BOI's online banking app delivered a slow and frustrating user experience. In contrast, newer "Neo banks" like Revolut and Venmo, which started with a blank slate and embraced technology from the outset, have managed to surpass traditional banks in terms of digital experience.

2. The Disconnect in Pharma

Digital transformation efforts in the pharma industry often result in disconnected pockets of digitization that do not integrate well with the rest of the organization or its processes. This fragmentation can hinder the overall efficiency and effectiveness of digital initiatives. To overcome this disconnect, companies must prioritize building a solid foundation of data and technology.

3. Foundations First, then Features – Digitization Done Right

A successful digital transformation strategy should prioritize building a solid foundation, starting with gathering and consolidating data, creating data lakes, and implementing new technology layers over existing legacy systems. The real work begins once the data lake is built, as organizations must curate and expose the data to the broader company, vendors, and suppliers.

A prime example of a successful digital transformation effort is Google Maps. Google invested heavily in architecture and data collection to create a data set that could be exposed to the world, prioritizing a strong foundation over flashy features. This approach has paid off, as Google Maps is now widely used and constantly updated by its users.

4. Committing to Digital Transformation

Successful digital transformation requires a focus on building a solid foundation before introducing advanced features. This approach should be an ongoing operational activity, rather than a one-time capital expenditure project, to lay the groundwork for the successful deployment of advanced technologies in the future.

5. Developing a Digital Transformation Strategy

To ensure a successful digital transformation, pharma facilities should follow these key steps:

  1. Assess the current state: Identify areas requiring attention and improvement by examining existing processes, technologies, and data management practices. This comprehensive assessment will provide a clear understanding of the organization's current situation and help pinpoint areas where digital transformation can have the most significant impact.
  2. Establish clear objectives: Align digital transformation objectives with the organization's overall business goals. This may include improving operational efficiency, enhancing the user experience, or increasing the speed of product development. Establishing clear objectives will help guide the transformation process and provide a clear roadmap for success.
  3. Prioritize foundational elements: Address data management, infrastructure, and integration needs by focusing on building a strong foundation. This may involve creating data lakes, consolidating data sources, and implementing new technology layers over existing legacy systems. Prioritizing foundational elements will ensure a smooth and seamless transition to advanced digital technologies.
  4. Develop a phased approach: Digital transformation is not an overnight process. Develop a phased approach that allows for gradual implementation, with clear milestones and measurable outcomes. This ensures that the organization can adapt and adjust as needed while maintaining ongoing operations and minimizing disruptions.
  5. Collaborate with stakeholders: Engage stakeholders from across the organization, including those in the boardroom and the plant room, to ensure alignment and buy-in. This helps create a shared vision for the digital transformation initiative and ensures that everyone is working towards the same goals. Regular communication and collaboration among stakeholders will foster a sense of ownership and commitment to the transformation process.
  6. Continuously monitor progress: Regularly review the progress of the digital transformation initiative, measuring outcomes against predefined objectives. This enables organizations to identify any potential issues or roadblocks and make adjustments as necessary to stay on track. Establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) will help track progress and determine the effectiveness of the digital transformation initiatives.
  7. Embrace a culture of innovation: Encourage a culture that embraces innovation and continuous improvement. This helps ensure that the organization remains agile and adaptive, making it better equipped to take advantage of new technologies and approaches as they emerge. Fostering a culture of innovation will empower employees to seek out new ideas and solutions, driving long-term success in digital transformation.
  8. Invest in employee training and development: As digital transformation initiatives are implemented, it is crucial to provide employees with the necessary training and development opportunities to adapt to new technologies and processes. This will ensure that employees are well-equipped to handle the changes brought about by digital transformation and contribute to the organization's overall success.
  9. Evaluate and iterate: As the digital transformation process unfolds, it is essential to evaluate the results of each phase and make adjustments as needed. This iterative approach allows organizations to learn from their experiences and continuously improve their digital transformation efforts, ultimately leading to greater success.

By following these steps, pharma organisations and facilities can build a solid foundation for digital transformation, paving the way for the successful implementation of advanced technologies and solutions. By focusing on creating a cohesive, user-friendly experience that delivers meaningful value, pharmaceutical organizations can ensure their digital transformation efforts result in lasting, positive change.

6. Final Remarks

In conclusion, digital transformation is a complex and challenging process that requires a strong foundation, clear objectives, and a phased approach. By prioritizing the foundational elements and engaging stakeholders throughout the organization, pharmaceutical organizations can effectively implement digital transformation initiatives that deliver meaningful value and drive long-term success. As the industry continues to evolve, organizations that embrace digital transformation and cultivate a culture of innovation will be well-positioned to thrive in an increasingly competitive landscape.

You can view the original piece here.

Related Articles & Webinars