The Changing Role of Technology in Today’s Biopharmaceutical Marketplace

Date: 16 Jan. 2012  |  Topic: Business Process Management
Michael O Wilkinson

Mike Wilkinson

Executive Vice President and CIO

Given current pressures on the pharmaceutical industry, the percentage of pharmaceutical research and development spend being outsourced to CROs is increasing. This increase will continue as long as CROs can demonstrate a strong value proposition based on global full-service capability, high-quality deliverables, cost-efficiency, experienced and productive teams, timeline acceleration and scalability of resources.

While IT services traditionally have not been included as core CRO service offerings for pharmaceutical companies, technology is becoming increasingly important in addressing multiple challenges faced by the pharmaceutical industry today.

As PPD’s first CIO, I lead the company’s global technology, innovation and performance (TIP) group, focused on offering continuous improvement solutions to address clients’ development needs. The TIP group is composed of four previously separate departments that have been integrated: process improvement, information technology, global training and business analytics.

This integrated structure is unique in the industry in that it provides a holistic and integrated approach to continuous improvement that measures performance against standards, optimizes process, innovates technology, trains and develops staff, measures post-improvement performance, and then initiates additional cycles of continuous improvement.

For CROs, our clients’ pressures become our own – to produce productivity and efficiency gains, to reduce costs, to assure drugs are safe and to provide more patient transparency, involvement and even oversight. While there are many traditional approaches to addressing these challenges, technology has emerged as an interesting alternative and can even be a critical differentiator. If applied appropriately with performance-based data, process optimization and staff training, then technology solutions can transform IT from liability to asset.

Experience has shown us there are several best practices for creating value through technology: 1) prioritize your efforts based on business need; 2) deliver a holistic solution; 3) leverage key partnerships; 4) implement a tight governance model; and 5) work to a pre-specified ROI.

The key is to ensure you are closely aligned with your business and working on its greatest needs and highest priorities. How do you know what those needs and priorities are? You won’t unless you’re closely aligned, your senior staff is closely aligned, you have business and operations people embedded in your group, and you ask the right questions and listen carefully to the answers and requests for help.
What does it take to be considered a strategic asset? I believe IT needs to be providing solutions that enable the business to sell, execute, and deliver more efficiently and to a higher quality and performance level.

It all starts with close alignment to the business, understanding what the business priorities are, and recommending and delivering value-add solutions. Our customers, internal and external, expect that we will invest in their challenges and provide technology solutions for them, and that’s where our focus should be.

The preceding article, published with permission, is based on a chapter in the book, Inside the Minds: The Role of Technology in Today’s Marketplace, published by Aspatore Books, a Thomson Reuters business.

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