For most IT departments supporting the business with new functionality
means planning a move to the ‘cloud.’ With most of 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.
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:
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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?
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:
- 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.
- Companies need to give supply chain ‘visibility’ so that the organization can make faster and better decisions.
- 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.
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
Admittedly this is not a new concept. When enterprise resource planning (ERP) was first introduced the focus was on integrating finance/accounting, manufacturing, sales and service. ERP provided the means for ‘integrating; the business processes within an organization. So why raise the topic of “ERP for R&D?” Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices develop new products in an environment that is driven more by science than a ‘business process.’ Scientists will suggest that forcing a business process into R&D limits their creativity. Today we are well aware of the problems facing R&D: lack of new products, reduced productivity, significant capital cost with diminishing results in terms of new products.
In my last blog post “Improving the Business of RandD” the focus was on the impact that cloud computing could have on R&D. Platform as a service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) are alternatives that can help IT supplement their existing business process. Today contract / clinical research organizations (CRO) are being used to supplement R&D in the area of clinical development. Basic research and clinical manufacturing (in some organizations) are also being ‘outsourced.’ Given this quilt of organizations and separate business processes I’ve concluded the need for “ERP for R&D.”
Ultimately change will occur. I read an interesting article “Pharmaceutical Innovation Hits the Wall: How Open Innovation Can Help” by Henry Chesbrough. He writes about the need for changes to the industry’s innovation process. You may already know about the industry’s focus on ‘blockbuster’ drugs where the business is using science to find that next billion dollar product. Which comes at the price of research in seeking medications for smaller patient populations, so I contend that the business processes with R&D need to be ‘integrated’ with visibility to the data across the organization. I do agree with the point that Henry makes in his blog post that ‘there needs to a change in the innovation process.’
I have begun this journey to offer ERP for R&D as several of my customers have asked our company to give end-to-end services. I would like to see the industry focus more on new treatment and medication innovation and leave the IT to systems integrators (SI). Unlike software development companies SIs is pretty much agnostic to the software solution and more about how to drive out cost and improve IT performance.
This is the last installment on Aligning Life Sciences and Healthcare IT. I had written two earlier blog posts on Innovation back on 23Nov2009 The time for ‘Process Innovation’ is now and on 8Dec2009 Pharma 2.0 and the need for Process Innovation. I had been inspired to write about this topic due to a recent set of tweets on Innovation, and the lack of Innovation. As well as a recent speech from our company’s CEO and our overall direction for the year. With so many mergers and acquisitions and since the focus of this series is about Life Sciences and Healthcare IT what steps can be taken to ‘improve’ Innovation?
My current focus is on IT services. A few months back our CEO came to do a ‘town hall’ meeting and to give a state of the industry and give us the ‘direction’ for the year. IT services are becoming more commoditized and to truly grow our company we have to focus on the business process within our industry segments. We are a company that can offer expertise across a range of applications. What I got out this presentation was the need for improving the business process. Questioning how we do certain processes. In my experience in software development we always had the concept of ‘best practices.’ These were business processes that were developed for ERP and are used across multiple clients. Best practices examples include order-to-cash; hire-to-retire; etc. and are easy to apply within a company.
Within Life Sciences there is no one software solution that can fully support pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Biotech firms can leverage one set of software solutions as they move from one product to a few products. Generics are not burden with having to develop new products and so R&D is limited and can use one set of software applications. The history within pharmaceuticals and medical devices was that R&D and the business were on separate IT systems. Now with the pressure of healthcare costs rising, the lack of new products, and increasing regulatory requirements these industry segments are looking to leverage technology to ‘innovate’ improvements in these areas.
Healthcare IT systems are also unique from a software application perspective. There are several key vendors with a different set of data standards. How then does IT provide innovation within Life Sciences segments and leverage ways to ‘collaborate’ with Healthcare IT systems? My perspective is to leverage a client’s IT investments and to find ways to ‘innovate’ the business process. With no common applications as an IT service provider we have worked on building up ability in applying different software solutions to improve the business process for our clients. In later blog posts I hope to do a deeper dive into these business processes with more details.
Today I’ve been working in the Life Sciences R&D area. How to improve the business process? I will caution you that I do not claim to be a scientist or medical degree person. Yet what I can do is to find ways to accelerate the use of IT within certain segments of the R&D process. A little on the Research side where we can use IT in basic research, while focusing on the Development side where there are multiple software applications that are not ‘integrated’ together (SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and others).
In Can IT bridge the gap? Part1, it explains that there is no one technology within Life Sciences and no common Healthcare IT system. In Part 2 A Practical Mobility Solution for Doctors and Nurses. We showed how mobility can play a key role in providing healthcare workers with technology that improves productivity. Today the move is to improve Innovation and it is not about the advances in technology. I believe we have achieved this in most cases. Yet there is still room to ‘improve’ the business process – enhance productivity: so that new products are developed faster and decisions can be made to accelerate the right products to market.
What lessons can Healthcare Information Technology (IT) take from the Life Sciences IT? My background has been in Life Sciences and looking into Healthcare I can’t help but notice the similarities and differences in the use of technology. Over the past few weeks I’ve been engaged with rolling out a new business unit to cover the full value chain for Healthcare. Like most of us we are well aware of the cost for healthcare and the promise of “personalized medicine.” So how do we ‘evolve’ from our current position to fulfill this new ‘model’ of healthcare? In this posting I will focus on the Life Sciences portion of the value chain.
Last week I was in Orlando, Florida to attend the SAP conference @SapphireNOW. I came away with the following key points:
- Acquisition of Sybase brings mobile computing into a ‘strategic’ offering for SAP.
- In-memory resident database will help solve customer issues with legacy systems.
- SAP is making an effort to enter into cloud computing for key applications.
My perspective includes both being a user of technology – providing technology to solve business problems – and now adding value via IT services. IT executives within Life Sciences are under pressure to add value by leveraging IT to support the business. Unlike other industries that are more ‘customer centric,’ Life Sciences suffers as a result of being ‘disconnected’ from the end-user, the patient. The change in moving to a ‘patient centric’ model is part of the challenge. Yet their hands are tied because a large portion of their budget is spent on maintenance and internal IT operations. So when recent articles highlighting messages about Oracle by Bob Evans, Global CIO: Oracle’s Phillips Says Standardizing On Oracle Is The IT Cure, Information Week, April 23, 2010, and most recently on SAP by Bob Evans, Global CIO: Oracle Hammered By SAP For Stifling Customer Choice, Information Week, May 20, 2010 where does this leave you? How to solve this dilemma of minimal funding and yet provide unique “value-added” solutions that can bring the organization closer to the end consumer?
Providing IT Services for Life Sciences IT
Service providers offer “integration” and an increase use of IT. Since the challenge for Pharmaceuticals and Medical Device companies has been to leverage their existing technology. Here is the graphic that I use to convey what we mean by this, and I have several a very real customers who are looking for support across this ‘value chain.’ In a perfect world we would look across each department and leverage one common IT solution, yet within Life Sciences this is not the case. There a few companies that can standardize on one IT solution for the whole organization. (Some Generic companies have opted for one vendor solution since there is a limited R&D requirement for clinical trials.) IT must be the enabler for an organization’s ability to change in today’s market. To me this means looking into advances in technology that can improve agility.
Let’s see how the available solutions have an impact on Life Sciences IT and where IT services companies can add value:
- R&D to Operations – Oracle’s Agile solution is widely used for product development and with their recent acquisition of Phase Forward and Relsys they now have solutions for clinical trials and drug safety. SAP ERP and Supply Chain are de-facto solutions within Operations. Effectively connecting these solutions can accelerate products to market.
- Operations, Services to Sales & Marketing – Within Life Sciences the ability to gather pertinent customer information (more than just sales orders) is relevant to supply chain, and to new product development. Oracle and Salesforce.com are key solutions for Sales and Marketing. There is value in understanding how ‘patients’ are using your products.
- Analytics – Underlying all of these solutions is a workforce that utilizes IT applications and Microsoft Office products for their daily work. Databases that gather application data across the value chain must be made available to the workforce and ‘served up’ so that data can be transformed into information for business decisions. There are Business Intelligence (data ‘cubes’) applications installed across the organization. Documentum is widely used for storing ‘compliance’ documents while Microsoft SharePoint is used to process data across a variety of sources. Users do not want complicated systems and most of all they want their data fast.
Next Steps in achieving alignment
The economy has impacted Life Sciences in terms of:
- The high cost of healthcare which is driving need for ‘efficiency’ (from new product development to supply chain). Life Sciences now see the relevance of ‘patient’ feedback.
- Lack of new products (either from R&D or enhancements to existing products) have forced the industry into M&A, realignment of existing resources, and IT investments to fuel new business.
IT services can connect the ‘dots’ within Life Sciences. Customers need to ask their service providers:
- What can they offer to resolve the problem between applications within the value chain? Look for vendors with multiple technology expertise and a delivery model that is a mix of off-shore and near-shore resources. Low cost does not guarantee success if you’re not able to diagnose the problem area.
- Are we leveraging our IT to the ‘maximum’ within our organization? I speak to customers who tell me they have multiple IT vendors for application support. Again while this may curb costs you may miss out on a ‘strategy’ that improves your business processes.
- Are you within ‘compliance’ to the regional regulations? Can you improve operations and still be in compliance? When was the last time you had your regulatory group and IT processes reviewed?
Healthcare IT can learn from Life Sciences IT since there is no ‘one’ solution for the industry. SAP and Oracle are the dominant players in the market for Life Sciences. There are ‘excellent’ smaller niche players are likely to pose a problem for IT from an ‘integration’ perspective. Within Life Sciences IT we hear about the 80/20 budget crisis (80% is spent on maintenance and IT operations, and 20% for new projects) and with the advent of ‘cloud computing’ IT will need to see how they can leverage this technology. What I heard at the SAP conference that was quite interesting is that ‘in-memory’ databases could be applied to legacy systems. Given the current need for fast access to data this is very encouraging. I’m sure when I head to the Oracle conference we’ll hear of even more technology improvements.
In the next blog post I will share my perspective (that of an IT service provider) for Healthcare. There are some new business processes that can add value as Life Sciences and Healthcare IT move closer to each other.
While at the same time continuing to learn and strategize more about Healthcare IT solutions.
I’m not very good at keeping New Year’s resolutions. Yet what I intend to do this year is to align my interests with what I am currently doing. At present I am contracting with an IT service provide to ‘start-up’ a new Life Sciences practice. So in keeping with the title of my blog, how to ‘leverage IT for Life Sciences and Healthcare’ I hope to share what I’ve learned. I started blogging using Blogger and I hope you can see the change now that I have moved up to WordPress. This site has much more tools and allows for greater flexibility in terms of the ‘appearance’ of my blog. I would be interested in your comments on this……
In starting up a new business unit I’ve got to figure out how to be successful in a short period of time. I look forward to describing what I’ve learned through this blog. So the topics that I want to focus on are as follows:
- “Design Thinking” – this is a new way to approach problem solving that combine both analytical and intuitive thinking. OK Jim, so how does this apply to IT and Life Sciences? Well if you consider that everyone seems to use some ERP package is there a way to make money in ‘improving’ IT processes? I think so and there are ways to promote ‘process innovation.’ What has been bothering me is how to go about this, in such a way as to develop a business around this……
- How can IT improve areas such as Clinical Development? Unlike ERP where the business processes have been ‘integrated’ can the same be done in the area of R&D in Life Sciences? Is there a need to link Sales&Marketing applications back into R&D to help Life Sciences and clinical trials? I will talk about this under “Process Innovation.”
- “Closing the loop” between the patient and Life Sciences companies. In the US, if we expect to achieve “Personalized Medicine” Life Sciences companies will need information from patients. The current ‘eco system’ in the industry prevents this from happening. So topics that I want to look into include: eHealth, Health 2.0, and ePatients.
- We will also look into leveraging ‘cloud computing’ within Life Sciences.
- The launch of this new business unit will let me try out new Social Media tools. This should be fun as there are new ways to ‘market’ new services and products. Yet choosing which tools to use is a challenge – especially given budget and scheduling constraints. Let’s face it – if I’m to be successful at launching this new business I’d better get the word out and create the attention needed in the market.
Word Press and the iPhone application – I like my Apple iPhone and so in the course of writing this I have had the chance to use the WordPress 2.0 application. Works great and saves me time when a new idea hits me. The application allows you to write-up a new idea and save it as a ‘draft.’ Make some tweaks and edits – chekc for grammar and spelling then hit the ‘publish’ button.