Inside pharma

Moving commercial operations to the next level

In a world of growing data demands, what do life sciences companies need to consider before updating their legacy systems?

Updating commercial infrastructure

The amount of data large organizations need to process as part of their operations—from government program data to commercial contract data—has been growing exponentially. This is a result of acquisitions, product launches, and extended third-party agreements. These companies are discovering that current enterprise systems simply can't keep up with growing data demands.

As a result, leaders often spend too much time chasing down information and not enough time leveraging it for better decision making. And when the necessary data isn't available or easily tapped, decision making can come perilously close to guess making.

To remain competitive, many life sciences companies are updating their legacy systems—moving to more powerful platforms, migrating their data to the cloud, and even outsourcing to third-party managed service providers. The decision to build, buy, or outsource also calls for careful consideration. As decision makers plan for improvements to their current commercial infrastructure, there are a number of important factors that will affect the transition.

A hybrid cloud approach

As companies step up their spending on technology, there's an expectation that certain technologies will yield significant payback in terms of increased productivity. According to Deloitte's fourth annual survey of mid-market technology, nearly 40 percent of executives expect the greatest productivity gains will come from investments in cloud infrastructure.

One of the main reasons companies are racing to the cloud is the exponential growth of transactional data. Companies are generating data at an unprecedented rate, and they want—or are often required—to retain that data. But doing so calls for massive storage facilities, even with today's radical breakthroughs in storage technology.

A further set of advantages come into play with a next-generation enterprise system that is built to take advantage of a hybrid or multi-cloud approach, which leverages both private and public clouds. Companies that use private clouds need to build them for peak capacity. A hybrid cloud approach, on the other hand, is elastic. It can expand and contract depending on processing requirements. This creates tremendous efficiencies for applications that need to adjust for changes in usage, whether they are anticipated or not.

Mobile access

Sales of mobile devices are exploding, while PC sales have been flattening of late. By 2020, it's predicted that nearly 21 billion Internet-of-Things devices will be connected—including mobile devices, smart phones, tablets, wearables, and sensors. The importance of mobile is clear, as is the need for a strong mobile framework and strategy. Today, business leaders need to be able to access data from anywhere, anytime, and on many devices.

The advent of 4G has changed everything when it comes to data processing. As we move into 5G, speeds will become even faster. And we may soon see wireless speeds of 1 GB per second. Companies need their information on multiple systems so they can make decisions promptly and reduce the "kill cycle"—the amount of time that elapses between when a problem is identified and when it's resolved. Any updated system should allow decision makers access to data from any device, anywhere, anytime.

Portals and dashboards

For many life sciences organizations, information is still confined to rows and columns. This makes reporting fast and easy—but not necessarily more insightful. Today, it's possible to add the context of timing and location to traditional data and create maps that show changes over time—as well as where those changes are taking place. These maps make it easier for the eye to recognize patterns that were previously buried in spreadsheets.

Today, we can analyze data faster, interpret it, convert it into information, and then plot it against geospatial coordinates that allow us to get new types of business insights. For example, consider a gross-to-net situation: New technologies can actually calculate the profitability of a drug at a certain place in the world. In the past, this was hugely time consuming. But now we can pull in massive amounts of data across the manufacturing process and can query the system to get an answer almost instantaneously.

Data security, controls, and safeguards

Cybersecurity is a huge area of concern for companies that are migrating to the public cloud. There's a misconception that if they aren't managing the situation in house, they'll experience a loss of control that makes them less secure. Yet at many life sciences companies, cybersecurity teams are relatively small. What's more, their systems are often architected with security as a bolted-on afterthought.

It's essential for cybersecurity to be built into a system's architecture from day one. Otherwise, a breach is inevitable. Many people assume that setting up a firewall is sufficient protection and they don't need to do anything further. But if the firewall is breached, then the data is vulnerable. Ultimately, a system should be designed with the assumption that there will be a breach.

The insights needed to stay competitive

Life sciences companies’ ability to pivot when circumstances change is critical. They can’t afford to be held back by legacy enterprise systems. Not only have these systems become slow and unwieldy as the volume of data increases, but the costs and resources required to maintain them are no longer viable.

Today, life sciences companies are seeking better commercial options that can streamline their pricing, claims, contract, rebate, and chargeback data—and provide the kinds of insights they need to stay competitive. These cloud-based, device-agnostic systems can marshal data in real time to help them anticipate and manage risk and identify transformative business opportunities.

To learn how your organization can take its commercial operations to the next level, download the full report.

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