After Many Small Steps, is Biopharma Ready for one Giant Leap Toward Digital Transformation? | Deloitte US has been saved
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By Greg Reh, vice chairman, US and Global Life Sciences leader, Deloitte LLP
Fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong descended the steps of his lunar lander and pressed the first footprints into the dusty surface of the moon. He declared the achievement "one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." Over the past few years, the biopharmaceutical industry has taken a number of small steps toward digitization. We have now reached a point where a growing number of company leaders are trying to decide how to take that giant leap toward digital transformation.
Last October, I wrote that many biopharmaceutical companies were experimenting with digital technologies—but I noted that few of them had made bold or consistent moves toward a digital transformation. My comments were in response to a survey that evaluated the digital maturity of biopharma companies. In the nine months since we published that report, I’ve seen meaningful changes to the digital landscape in this sector. In my conversations with biopharma executives, there is a clear acknowledgement that digital transformation is essential for the future. The challenge in the months and years ahead will be to maintain momentum so companies that are currently doing digital can transition into being digital.
Testing phase appears to be ending
Some of the digital experiments and pilots that biopharma companies launched during the past two or three years are maturing into sustainable programs. We are even beginning to see a few large-scale implementations. As my colleague Dave Rosner noted in his blog, a growing number of life sciences companies have brought on chief digital officers—often from outside industries—to lead their digital transformations. This is another signal that the industry has changed its thinking when it comes to digital.
Digital transformation is a foundational change that occurs when technologies are used to accelerate innovation, streamline processes, and eliminate barriers. This can help improve efficiencies, power new products or services, enable new business models, and even blur some of the boundaries between industries. Companies that lack a transformational vision could open the door to startups and new entrants that are looking to disrupt the industry from outside. Companies that choose not build or partner for digital capabilities are likely to be disrupted by those that do.
Can digital transformation help biopharma reach the stratosphere?
The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions led a four-day online crowdsourcing simulation with leaders from the biopharma sector to find out where they were in their digital journey. We found that biopharma companies are getting closer to incorporating digital technologies more broadly in everything from research and development (R&D), to supply chain, to patient engagement. Here’s an overview of what we learned:
The three pillars of a digital strategy
Along the journey toward the future of health, I see digital transformation as a critical step for biopharma companies. Our recently published paper (based on the crowdsourcing) details the three categories of a digital strategy. As company leaders push their organizations forward, they should consider an enterprise-wide approach that utilizes this framework to categorize their digital transformation use cases:
Our research and client experience suggest that digital transformation can be a complex and resource-intensive undertaking. Moreover, it promises to fundamentally change the way business is done. But I think the time has come for biopharma leaders to consider all of the steps they’ve taken toward digitization. Companies that are able to make the giant leap to digital transformation could rocket ahead of their competitors, as well as fend off companies from outside the industry that are trying to enter biopharma’s orbit.
1. BenchSci blog, 141 Startups Using Artificial Intelligence in Drug Discovery, July 3, 2019
2. FDA, Breaking Down Barriers Between Clinical Trials and Clinical Care: Incorporating Real World Evidence into Regulatory Decision Making, January 28, 2018
Greg leads the DTTL Global and US Life Sciences practices for Deloitte. In his role with Deloitte’s US member firm, he leads the life sciences sector practices for consulting, audit, tax, and financial advisory services. Greg has more than 25 years of experience helping clients in the life sciences, process manufacturing, consumer, and government sectors. In his role consulting to clients, his career has spanned such topics as technology strategy, integration solution development, and implementation of emerging and disruptive technology. His clients have included multinational pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and chemical manufacturing organizations where he has successfully led consulting services in support of regulatory, clinical, commercialization, and manufacturing operations. Prior to his consulting career Greg held positions at a government research lab, where he led teams in the design and development of life support devices; and was a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania.