ERP

Can Technology solve the Big Data / Analytics skills gap?

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Recent articles and tweets emphasize that Big Data, or Analytics, would improve the bottom line for a company as long as they are prepared to take advantage of this benefit. Some Life Sciences (those that offer pharmaceuticals and medical devices products) and Healthcare companies have a need for new tools if they are going to take full advantage of Big Data. Today companies have enterprise systems that need IT people to give the requisite report or summary analysis. Newer analytics tools like Tableau Software compliment the installed base of enterprise software with the added benefit of an intuitive way of doing user analysis that focuses more on collaboration and portability.

Backdrop

The key benefits from Big Data for Healthcare (and I will include Life Sciences in this because of the connection to pricing/payments) includes*:

  • Improvements in Drug Trial Safety
  • Disease surveillance
  • Prescribed treatments
  • Patient Outcomes

*MeriTalk and EMC recently surveyed 150 Federal executives on healthcare and healthcare research to find out if Big Data is the cure.

Today we still have data stored like this:

HEALTHCARE/DOCTORS

Companies have enterprise systems with data cubes and traditional spreadsheets that need IT to extract the data:

acos-big-data-healthcare-300x225

So how can I prioritize?

I agree with the opinion of Dr. Rado Kotorov in his article “The CIOs Top 3 priorities for 2015”:

  • The CIO role will transform from a technology leader to a business leader
  • Manage data as the enterprise’s most valuable strategic asset
  • Make Business Intelligence (BI) pervasive and ubiquitous

Consider the following

Change is imminent so consider a tool that your users can easily leverage to do key analysis, and I don’t mean Excel spreadsheets or Access database. Yesterday I went through a demo of the Tableau software (rank high in terms of “Ability to Execute” and as a “Leader” in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for BI and Analytics). In summary they have solved the problem of connecting to multiple source systems. The product is also easy to set-up and more importantly provides a means to allow for collaboration with others.

In my opinion, reaping the benefit of Big Data means finding ways to turn IT systems to supporting the users to help the business. As leaders in the industry you need to find ways to allow users to unleash their creativity and help the organization analyze and solve business problems. This may mean an additional cost in the short-term. Alternatively you can wait for the right resources or invest in replacing key parts of your enterprise landscape – either choice may not be as appealing as selecting tools to make data analysis easier. I would recommend Tableau Software

Would you agree I am open to your opinion, so tell me what you think?

Thanks,

Jim

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Planning your Move to the Cloud?

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For most IT departments supporting the business with new functionality
means planning a move to the ‘cloud.’ With most ofmoving to the cloud the Enterprise software vendors are now offering their solutions via the cloud. In this blog post, I will present some the most commons myths against the use of ‘cloud computing’ and offer a common Testing application to help you and your organization get experience with ‘cloud computing.’

 

What is holding you back from moving to the cloud…?

Today as you read this blog post you most likely have your personal data in the cloud. Costs for storage have been dropping, and recently my Dropbox account went from 100GB to 1TB for the same monthly fee! So what is holding organizations back from moving to the ‘cloud?’

  • Compliance – Life Sciences companies have the need to perform computer system validation (CSV). Very often the push back is around how to define the systems and processes.
    • Drawing a line around the components and defining the connections between the applications helps to focus on what needs to be validated. Once you define this as part of your process – the validation and documentation that you used with your legacy systems remain the same. Just because you have a part or all of your process in the cloud should not hold you back from performing CSV on your process.
  • Data security – there is still a ‘fear’ that going to the cloud means a less secure IT environment.
    • Overcoming this fear is to look at how you currently access your data. I work closely with Amazon Web Services (AWS). Where the concept of a ‘private cloud’ is certainly an option in protecting access to your data. In short, this is a direct connection between your IT landscape and the cloud servers.
    • Another way of overcoming this fear is via industry examples, and thanks to Andy Waroma and the folks at Cloud Comrade here is a link to an article “Amazon Web Services becomes first cloud provider to handle sensitive US defense data” So if the US Defense industry can use cloud services it most certainly can be leveraged for your application data.
  • Cost – what are the savings from moving to the cloud?
    • We have been accustomed to a cycle of Capital requests for software and hardware on an annual basis, and support costs is an on-going expense.
    • In working with my clients comparing the overall costs – moving to the cloud can bring down the overall support costs by 2X!
    • The added benefit from a move to the cloud is the flexibility it can bring to your current IT landscape. This is where you need to get some experience with cloud computing to gain further insight in this area. We will discuss this next.

 cloud-computing

Typical IT Landscape

For purposes of this discussion we will focus on an SAP landscape. The situation is where you want to add additional users to an existing landscape of ERP, Business Warehouse (BW) and NetWeaver. What you would do is to test the performance of your applications with the increased user count.

For my client we provide Testing services and invariably we have to request additional hardware to ‘simulate’ this environment. The solution is to provide….

 

Performance Testing in the Cloud

Consider the use of cloud computing services for “Performance Testing” to achieve the following experience:

  1. Requires a discussion on connecting your IT landscape to Amazon Web Services or similar provider. This will ensure and test the security around your data. Direct Connection versus Virtual Private Network (VPN)
  2. Server sizing and set-up that is similar to your landscape. Please note: the hardware will not be exactly what you currently have in your landscape.
  3. Have your IT department provide Basis support for performing client copies and any software application changes you need to simulate in the cloud. If you don’t have the resources available you can ask your systems integrator to provide this service for you.
  4. Costs – include a one-time setup – an operating cost and cost for when you don’t run you’re ‘performance testing.’ Your costs will vary based on your needs.

data-server-cloud

In summary, moving to the cloud should be part of your annual IT project planning. You can work through your Compliance and Data Security needs. The goal should be a move to shift your overall support cost from maintaining your hardware to an operating cost that will allow for expansion of your IT landscape to meet the increasing needs of the business.

In discussing this with clients that have the ‘traditional’ server centers there is a hesitance to move to the cloud. I would recommend you look to do your ‘performance testing’ in the cloud to give you and your IT team the experience in working with cloud computing services. The benefits can be realized very quickly.

I am open to your feedback, so tell me what you think?

Thanks,

Jim

Now that you bought that new iPad…

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Like many folks I recently purchased my first tablet. So the purpose of this blog post is to understand where these devices can help, and how best to use them. I wrote a blog post back on February 14, 2011 entitled “Managing my data…” in which I described that we are far from being able to easily manage and support our personal health records. Enter the tablet and with the use of cloud computing we can easily manage our data across multiple devices, and yet this blog post is intended to focus on how the tablet will ‘improve’ the way we process and manage new data.

I would like to focus on three areas where the use of my new Apple iPad device is changing the way we process data. This includes:

  • Improved Productivity
  • Ability to apply new applications to fit our lifestyle
  • Mobility

Improved Productivity

The tablet is the logical next step in the evolution of the computer, and will soon replace my laptop. In the article “What does the Future Hold for Tablet Devices?” the author highlights the key areas of technological improvements around the devices. I’ve been around long enough to see how technology has rapidly evolved – from the early personal computers to the laptop to the tablet.

Smaller, faster and with a better display – so much for the ‘wow’ factor. What can I do with this device? The first areas I find appealing is around the replacement of paper notebooks. Most of us carry around a 5 by 7 lined notebook (or something similar) and with our favorite pen we ‘write’ down key thoughts and ideas for work – or for a new blog post. Since I am not a very fast typist I never got use to using my laptop to ‘write down’ for work or pleasure. Call my old fashion I still enjoy writing notes with a fountain pen (if you can believe that…). I’m now using my new device to replace my trusty notebook as the media for writing down these ideas.

Ability to apply new applications to fit our lifestyle

The tablet will only improve your productivity if you can find the right applications (apps) to help with specific tasks. I am using the following apps for ‘taking notes:’

  • Memo from MyScript – offers a notepad user interface to allow you to write notes. This program does a great job of character recognition and converting your handwriting into text. You can then email your text or image as well as post this to Evernote, Facebook or Twitter. The cost is $2.99 and highly recommended.
  • 7notesHD – is an app with other capabilities to organize your ‘notebook’ pages with ‘cabinets’ (I think of these as folders) and tags. You can mix typed text with handwritten notes and for $8.99 will convert your handwritten notes into text. You can also send your note in either text or pdf formats as an email or to Twitter, Facebook, Evernote or to an application, and if you have the right kind of ‘air’ printer – you can print our your work, and recommended.

Another great use of the iPad is around the ability to gather and read articles across the Internet. The tablet is a great vehicle for presenting news (including the WSJ, FoxNews, Mashable, Flipboard, Business Insider, Readability, Drudge Free, and iHealthBeat) which are apps that can be found for free in iTunes. I am also using the tablet to read books from Apple’s iBook and an app that connect me to my local library called OverDrive. Library’s are moving to digital and providing both eBooks and Audio books that can be downloaded (or checked out) using this app. Finally if magazines are to stay viable in this new digital market they have to become more interactive. One magazine that I do enjoy reading is Wired. The subscription includes both a print and iPad version. I prefer the iPad version since the articles are ‘interactive’ including movie clips of the topic, product or data.

Mobility

This translates into several areas for using the tablet device.

  1. I believe it will be a matter of time before we ditch the laptop for the tablet.
  2. Better ‘learning’ experience since you can ‘easily’ use this device anywhere. The battery on my new device goes for about ten to twelve hours before it needs recharging!
  3. More and more ‘sales’ activity is happening on the tablet. Since I’m involved in IT services the hottest area is around customer relationship management (CRM). Where sales reps are using tablets as an extension of the backend ERP systems. In Service management – field engineers are using tablets to log repair orders and gather pertinent product information.

In the article “It’s the Experience That Sells” the tablet provides a more ‘personal’ dialog around that area that you are presenting. In working with my clients there is a different approach using the iPad which give a more intimate way of presenting your product or service. I am still going through different ways of using my new iPad. I will plan to revisit how personal health record data fits in with this device, so in the meantime I am having fun with my new iPad. Feel free to offer a comment or update on any of the apps I’ve described.

Thanks,

Jim

Time to ‘Tune-up’ your Supply Chain

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This month my focus is on Supply Chain in Life Sciences. As we head towards the end of the year budgets are being planned and IT projects are being prioritized for next year. Many companies are reviewing their current IT investments in light of mergers and acquisitions and projects that will add to the company’s business ability. My discussions have been around how best to improve your operations at a minimal cost. No one seems to want to buy new IT systems and they want to extract ‘value’ from their current IT systems.

Time to ‘Tune-up’ your Supply Chain

Ask yourself if you are getting the most from your current Supply Chain? Do you feel you’re gotten significant return from your SAP or Oracle investment? It seems everyone had one of these IT solutions. I believe the reason most companies should be looking at their Supply Chain is as follows:

  1. Most firms have invested in IT solutions to help react quickly and expect demand. We now are moving to ‘collaborative’ business processes as a means for extracting added value from your partners.
  2. Companies need to give supply chain ‘visibility’ so that the organization can make faster and better decisions.
  3. Business process improvements need re-training for your people.

I get this now how do I get there?

The answer is to create a ‘road-map’ for your supply chain that includes opportunities (projects) specific to your business systems. The key is how to develop this road-map. You need to have the following:

  • Supply Chain experts that can analyze your data and processes.
  • IT ability to look at how your SAP or Oracle solutions have been installed.
  • Our company has developed a unique set of tools that can analyze your Demand, Supply and Inventory.

We’ve created a project approach to this kind of analysis. Over the next few months I plan to promote this approach for Life Sciences and yet this approach is not just for this industry. I know this can be applied for any industry that is looking to get more value out of their IT investment in supply chain. As we gain traction in the market I hope to offer some proof points to this approach.

I would be interested in your comments and suggestions on this topic.

Thanks,

Jim

Integration for RandD

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The purpose of this blog post is to summarize a model for ‘integrating’ clinical operations. I’ll summarize the goals for this model and describe the background and next steps around such an offering. Over the past few months I’ve been engaged with several clients in discussing how our IT Services Company could create such a platform. This new platform should meet the following:

  • Lower Operating Costs
  • Increase Productivity
  • While maintaining Quality and Compliance

There are several very good software solutions yet we know that there is a lack of an ‘integrated’ process that can ‘unify’ the R&D clinical data landscape of IT solutions. The key here is a focus on ‘transformation’ rather than ‘yet another technology implementation.’

In a earlier blog post titled “Improving the Business of RandD” (31Mar2011) the focus was on cloud computing and how this technology could lead to an ‘integrated’ business process. Since companies would be relying on IT Service providers to host these applications. In another blog post “Is It Time for “ERP for RandD?”” (30Apr2011) I spoke to the need for integrated business processes. Now I’ll look to pull these to thoughts together for a more complete view across clinical operations.

Let’s start with the Users

This integrated approach would address users that include Pharmaceutical companies, Clinical Research Organizations (CROs), and any Healthcare entity. We would leverage cloud computing solutions to offer the users with a portal that supports:

  • Single point of information capture
  • With access to data by role, study and function
  • Single sign-on

Content Layer

Here there is a dedicated source of content by pharmaceutical company. Various databases would be organized with content ranging from electronic data capture (EDC) to clinical and scientific data warehouse (CSDW).
Key to the content layer:

  • Standards
  • Dedicated source by pharmaceutical company
  • Providing flexibility to support variety of data sources

Business Shared Services

Supporting the users and the content is layer of business services ranging from:

  • Component user support
  • Compliance
  • Change management
  • Staging and data migrations services
  • Data reconciliation

Our team will be presenting this approach at the upcoming Oracle OpenWorld conference in October. In addition to this we will also be presenting on the topic I wrote about last month – Serialization. I am very appreciative of my colleagues – specialists in a variety of topics. What I find satisfying is in ‘stitching’ all this together. We now have several interested clients and the possible next steps are to deploy this solution and that will take some time. I would be interested in hearing from you – and your comments on “Integration for RandD.”

Thanks,

Jim

Gearing up for Serialization…

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I recently attended an Oracle product training session for ‘serialization.’ The Life Sciences industries, and especially pharmaceutical and medical device companies, are gearing up for the need to offer product traceability. This blog post will be the basis for a possible industry presentation later this year.

Oracle product/training

There are several solutions that address pedigree and serialization. A recent article by Carla Reed provides a great background to this topic. (Reed, Carla. “Beyond the mandates: Finding business value in mass serialization and supply chain visibility.” Pharmaceutical Manufacturing June 2011: 34-36.) I can recall as early as 2006 when radio frequency identification (RFID) tags were introduced as the solution for the industry. We know that for various reasons this never panned out due to price for the tags and adoption within the industry. Today a good example of this technology is the use of RFID with the devices that help automate toll collection on the various US highways.

Alternative technologies to RFID tags include 2D barcodes. Printers can create these unique tags at a fraction of the cost of RFID tags. The Oracle solution allows you the ability to attach these tags and their associated numbering at any level within your product hierarchy. This data can then be organized into a ‘pedigree’ document for your product. This would be analogous to ‘shipping’ papers that you would normally prepare once you prepare to send your product off to a distribution center or local warehouse.

Implications for supply chain

Now doubt that technology alternatives exist to help solve the problem of product traceability and authentication. Companies today are being forced by local and global regulations for the need to provide traceability solutions. The questions for many companies is just how to go about solving this problem. Let’s first decide what you want to ‘track’ within your product and your business process. I often describe the application of technology with the use of a ‘babushka’ doll (or Russian nesting doll). Where do you want to apply a tracking solution within your product? How do you want your supply chain to track your product?

Why IT services?

An interesting comment came out of the training session when one of the attendees asked “when would I use an IT services company?” Some manufacturers have looked to their packaging and labeling suppliers to provide the ability to ‘serialize’ and track their products. This would be a great idea were it not for the fact that these suppliers lack the resources and ability to discuss the need for traceability within a ‘business process.’ This became very clear when the discussion turned to when do you apply serialized information? You see no two products are manufactured in the same way.

Some manufacturers use production order with routing to make their products and some use process orders and recipes for their products. That was a tough conversation and when I raised the fact that production and process orders can often be mixed – well let’s say that the value of IT services providers that can navigate a client’s business process answered this question.

Some next steps

In my opinion IT service providers need to offer:

  • The ability to understand a client’s business process and offer cost-effective solutions to the application of serialization and product traceability.
  • Provide the ability to organize a series of steps within a project to deliver a solution. You need good project management – deliverables that includes documentation (yes it is a validated environment) – with skilled resources. Ask your IT service providers if they have any ‘accelerators’ for this type of work?
  • Have the technical ability to apply Oracle and SAP solutions. This is a mixed technology environment and there is no one solution to solve this problem.

I will let you know if this turns into an industry presentation later this year.

Thanks,

Jim

What is your Strategy for Mobility?

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The driver for this new blog post came as a result of my recent trip to the SAP Sapphire conference in Orlando. I have an interest in technology and focus on the #mHealth (mobile health) aspects of Healthcare. It was during several discussions with key executives that you realize that few companies are prepared to handle the shift in the industry around ‘mobility’ more specifically the use of smart phones. Many IT organizations drive a strict policy around the use of smartphones. When I joined my company there was no strict policy. It is left up to the user to decide what his or her needs are and make their choice.

I previously wrote about a solution back on June 15th, 2010 entitled: Aligning Life Sciences and Healthcare IT. Part 2 A Practical Mobility Solution for Doctors and Nurses. We delivered a system that met the needs of a client for one specific problem using one form of technology. Last year this was a great example of the use of smartphones to improve the productivity and communications between nursed and doctors in providing ‘improved’ healthcare. When I reflect back on this if the client decided to change smartphone technology what would this do to the current process in place? One statistic that highlights the acceleration of smartphones is that by 2013 that there will be 6 billion devices!

In many organizations IT can be a deterrent in today’s rapidly changing world of mobility. There are a few things IT cannot change or control:

  • You have a ‘fixed’ budget
  • No control over changes in ‘compliance’
  • No way to expect your user’s increasing expectations

Evolving Technology versus your Fixed Budget

Users are looking to manage their time by finding ways to be more productive. As the pace of smartphones increases I believe there needs to a strategy that is ‘agnostic’ to the end device (whether you use an iPhone or an Android device). I recently ‘tweeted’ the following message: “David Mosher talks about how tablets are changing #medicine http://bit.ly/jsgDF0 RT @ONHealthcare: #mobility #healthit “ New apps are being released that can greatly improve various facets of healthcare. I am convinced technology is accelerating faster than IT policies.

Another example of how technology is changing the way IT provides support to their users. Google recently announced their “Chromebook.” In short these are laptops with no applications installed on the end-user device. Everything is running off of cloud services. So how can I lower my costs and allow for security, and at the same time give the users flexibility of using technology their most comfortable with….

  • There are several companies looking to offer their own “apps” store. This allows users to easily download company specific and widely used applications.
  • Deploy a mobility strategy… at the Sapphire conference I’ve seen solutions that allow IT to give access to key business processes

The SAP mobility strategy may be one choice that allows IT the ability to ‘connect’ key processes and make them on any device. This also includes the relevant data that can be used to make key business decisions. As more and more workers look to collaborate the mechanism to manage all this is ‘how fast can IT push this data out’ and into the hands of their workers to make key decisions.

IT groups must now see how they can balance the enterprise with mobility to create the ‘mobile enterprise.’ Over the next few months there is a concerted effort to prove this in the market. By providing a roadmap and tool kit to help organizations set up this mobile enterprise. Some of these components are here today and others are still being developed, and to reach this potential your mobile strategy should have the following attributes:

  • Device independent
  • Deliver and Enterprise – ready security solution
  • Provide integration to ERP/CRM

This strategy will eventually evolve to include Business Intelligence as well as governance, risk and compliance later in the year. What I will be focusing on is the ability to help Life Sciences companies fulfill this ‘mobile strategy’ through a series of investments and proof-of-concepts. As this proceeds I will offer a future blog post to cover this story.

I’ll conclude this blog post with a reference to an interesting article found in Computerworld May 23rd, 2011, Opinion: Halamka: Facing down VUCA, and doing the right thing.

The author, John Halamka, describes how IT leaders deal with ‘unpredictable demands; ever-changing technologies; and all on a fixed budget.’ These leaders must embrace VUCA and ultimately move from the left to the right. With the world exploding with data and businesses looking to compete in the new world the article pretty much sums up how to prepare yourself to meet this challenge and turn it into an opportunity for your business.

Volatility                      ->                                        Vision

Uncertainty                       ->                              Understanding

Complexity                ->                                       Clarity

Ambiguity                ->                                     Agility

Thanks,

Jim