By Matt Wallach
We’re living in a software world. As consumers, we expect it to just work. Songs download. A video call is seamless. Food and transportation arrive with a click. In the early days, we tolerated bugs and a less-than-perfect software experience. Not anymore.
So why lower expectations in the office?
The words enterprise software often conjure thoughts of complex systems that are clunky, slow, and difficult to use. Instead of the software working for the business, users often work around the software. Multiply that experience across many software applications and the headache can get substantially bigger.
The Wall Street Journal article, Enterprise Customers Have Issues, says a majority of business users have significant issues with enterprise software, from insufficient capabilities to applications that don’t meet business requirements. In the life sciences industry companies historically tack-on disparate software applications as they seek to leverage new capabilities. But, these applications don’t talk to one another, creating siloes that hinder collaboration between related areas of the business.
Already invested, these businesses often work around the software rather than the software working for the business. As such, software becomes a barrier, making routine tasks and processes more difficult because the technology doesn’t work well together. Software as a Barrier (SaaB) complicates, rather than simplifies. And, when software doesn’t work as intended, the business rejects it and people don’t use it. It’s why so many life sciences companies still resort to spreadsheets to manually track content, quality changes, regulatory information, and clinical trial data.
Re-Focus on the Business
When SaaB applications are eliminated, people become empowered. Take the dreaded expense report. Typically, hunting down receipts to create and submit an expense report is burdensome. Cloud software, Expensify, changes the entire process with a solution that automatically tracks expenses in real time. Every time a credit card or debit transaction is made, it shows up in Expensify. No more attaching paper receipts to a hardcopy expense report or struggling to remember which credit card was used. The routine task of creating expense reports is now fully automated and simple.
A similar phenomenon is taking shape across many mission-critical processes in life sciences. For example, the simple task of email is one of the most effective ways for pharmaceutical sales representatives to reach physicians—especially as access to doctors remains, at best, limited. Yet, sending personalized emails compliantly was nearly impossible, preventing representatives from taking advantage of this otherwise standard way of communicating. By connecting multiple technology systems together seamlessly in the cloud, such as content management and customer relationship management software, sending an approved, compliant email is now as simple as, well, sending an email.
In these examples, software is no longer a barrier, but simplifies core tasks and, consequently, gives people time back to focus on strategic priorities. Arguably, removing SaaB is much more critical in life sciences than other industries, considering the importance of getting the right information to doctors and speeding the right treatments to the right patients, and many life sciences organizations are starting to remove SaaB to take advantage of new digital opportunities. For example, commercial operations are using digital to gain better intelligence of market dynamics, holistically manage commercial content globally to stay compliant, and create closer connections with physician customers.
In the life sciences industry, breaking down SaaB presents a significant opportunity, for example, to transform engagement and collaboration with healthcare professionals, and unify the clinical technology landscape to streamline trials. These benefits and more, ultimately, accomplish what all disruptive innovation should—make processes easier and more efficient.
Digital Transformation is Possible if SaaB Disappears
Digital is disrupting every industry. Fujitsu surveyed 1,200 C-level executives, finding 90 percent agree that their business needs to evolve to thrive in a digital world, while 98 percent say their business or organization has already been disrupted. However, in life sciences, the commercial business model is still pre-internet and has yet to be disrupted, severely impacting doctors’ experiences with pharmaceutical companies. Instead of being easier today, it’s more difficult than ever for busy healthcare providers to get the new drug or product information they need, when, and where they want it.
One impediment to digital is access. A single physician often needs a dozen or more different registration IDs to get information from a single drug manufacturer; one doctor interviewed claimed he had to use a spreadsheet to manage more than 60 different user IDs. In a world where the expectation is for information to be at our fingertips, healthcare professionals (HCPs) don’t have the time to wade through a sea of roadblocks to access critical information to help their patients. Fortunately, a new industry standards group called Align Biopharma is defining an identification and authentication standard to enable single sign-on for HCPs to access online content—including websites, portals, virtual events, or webinars—across all companies.
SaaB, however, remains a roadblock, preventing life sciences companies from transitioning to digital.
Fortunately, the changing expectations of HPCs and their patients are driving digital transformation. With more drug innovations, life sciences organizations will need to create more targeted and flexible content that better informs physicians and patients. Additionally, healthcare providers will want to connect and engage with life sciences companies through digital channels for the information they want, when and how they want it. These dynamics and more are prompting many companies to change quickly and replace SaaB globally with the cloud.
Say Good Riddance to SaaB and Unify Clinical Trials
In the clinical world of life sciences, SaaB is preventing crucial information sharing that has underpinned the success of collaborations like the Yale University Open Data Access (YODA) Project that advocates for the sharing of clinical research data to promote its use in science and generate new knowledge. TransCelerate Biopharma, launched in 2012, is another collaboration designed to simplify and accelerate the research and development of innovative new therapies. These programs are good for the industry because the beneficiaries—the investigators, clinical patients, and healthcare professionals—are shared customers of the whole life sciences industry, not individual company customers.
Yet, SaaB remains a roadblock for industrywide cooperation because the systems that clinical teams have invested in over the years are interoperable.
There are simply too many different systems used in clinical and none of them work together. In fact, nearly half of all respondents surveyed by Veeva Systems cited integration between their systems [specifically their electronic trial master file (eTMF) and clinical trial master system (CTMS) applications] as a key need. But today, clinical data resides in multiple disparate systems, so clinical operations managers rely on manually compiled spreadsheets to get a view of issues across a single clinical study or a portfolio of studies. According to another recent study, more than 90 percent of managers derive data directly from their CTMS and EDC systems, only to manually aggregate them in a central spreadsheet along with data from other systems.
The challenge is an overall lack of unified business processes. Gaps in key processes and lack of system interoperability prevents clinical teams from knowing if studies are performing to plan, or if there are any issues. Ultimately, it hinders the ability to investigate issues in real time.
Break Down SaaB with the Power of the Cloud
By 2020, 67 percent of all enterprise IT infrastructure and software spending will be for cloud-based offerings, according to IDC Futurescape 2017, Predictions—Dawn of the Digital DX Economy.
The cloud provides the foundational technology platform that enables a single platform where all other systems can work together across the global enterprise. In the cloud, every user, internal and externally, work on the same version of always up-to-date software, which allows solutions to be coupled together. Information and data can be shared easily and in real time because barriers are removed. With that, pharmaceutical clinical and commercial teams regain full visibility and control to make better decisions sooner. And true digital transformation can finally begin.
Industry cloud will be the next wave of cloud adoption and innovation, and the use of industry-specific cloud applications will increase. Half of the respondents to a recent Future of Cloud Computer Survey indicated they are or will use an industry cloud offering within the next 24 months. For the life sciences industry, in particular, that means smart applications that are fine-tuned to their specific business needs will become more commonplace.
Where to Start?
Many CIOs now have a “cloud first” mandate in the life sciences industry and their role is shifting to leading their organization’s transformation. The opportunity is to align on priorities with IT and identify technology limitations where SaaB is holding the business back.
As life sciences companies move to the cloud, the natural place to start will be aging, standalone, on-premise systems that require point-to-point integrations and too many user workarounds. Focus on areas that are most strategic to the business like clinical trial systems, and that have the most opportunity to provide a competitive advantage, such as customer-facing applications. If these systems create complications today, they are ripe to be replaced with cloud software.
We’re living in a software world and the consumerization of technology has set high expectations for it to work. The opportunity to reinvent operations and break down SaaB will pave the way for digital transformation and the unification of clinical operations in life sciences—ultimately, enabling companies to get more treatments to market faster globally. Companies will eventually be shown an easier, more efficient path, and they’ll take it. And the cloud will be at the epicenter in driving new efficiencies and levels of engagement. SW
Matt Wallach is co-founder and president of Veeva. With almost 20 years of life sciences expertise, Wallach plays a pivotal role in helping meet customers’ most pressing global requirements in developing and bringing products to market. He received an MBA from Harvard Business School and a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from Yale University. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Apr2017, Software Magazine