As we begin the New Year we’ve gone through our resolutions. Now the focus for us is to gain a fast start and the aim of this first blog post around the idea of the Life Sciences Industry Cloud. I’ll provide the background and challenges you will face, and what you could consider that will put IT in a position to help meet your business goals.
Background: The Enterprise in 2015
Cloud computing has been often discussed as the innovation option for Life Sciences companies. Back on September 7th, 2014 I wrote about an initial way of getting into cloud via Testing in Planning your Move to the Cloud? as an option to get the organization used to using cloud applications.
I read an interesting article from Alison Wagonfeld (@awagonfeld) The Enterprise in 2015. Which takes an investor’s perspective on technology trends for the Enterprise, and the focus on “industry cloud” applications. The article points our examples from Salesforce and Veeva of applications that can be rapidly deployed and consumed by business users. This puts Enterprise software vendors in a place to play catch-up with two distinct reactions/approaches. One is to buy up point solutions, and leave the integrations to the systems integrators (SIs) or the end-user. Cloud applications are easy to deploy the key here is to make sure you plan out the business process. The second being a hybrid approach where part of the solution is deployed as ‘on-demand’ (in the cloud) and integrated with the rest of the back office application (on-premise). This forces the end-user to rely on their SI to have the right resources and plan for every interface and data point.
There is a nice summary on the software challenges we will face as we seek to improve the business with technology. Lora Cercere’s (@lcecere) article “Undeniable Truths of Software” provides some very good perspectives on the challenges that Enterprise Software vendors face. She describes a variety of challenges with software companies.
Because the cloud vendors come at the problem from the user side it is easier to create a solution with no back-end integration. The challenge for the Enterprise Software vendors is do they re-write the application or develop only a portion of the business process. There are some Life Sciences clients that are waiting to see how the enterprise software vendors respond to the challenge from cloud applications. There are other considerations from a business user perspective that is driving these discussions*.
[*I will look at the issues with Big Data and Mobility in another blog post.]
Best practices that allows you to leverage cloud applications
Prior to cloud applications the focus was on ‘best practices’ for each industry. I contend that we have to resurrect these processes as a guide to reaching the Life Sciences Industry Cloud.
The focus should be on the business process and the integration points needed to offer the complete process for the end-user. This allows for an easier time to ‘validate’ the process. In 2015 we are at a point where business users are clamoring for IT to improve the business. The benefits are as follows:
- Enterprise software vendors can pick which part of the business process to move into the cloud or stay on-premise. Timing for all this is inevitable as the users of the solutions prioritize business process that give the highest benefits and can rank them so.
- System Integrators (SIs) will have to live with the fact that deploying cloud applications are more about the experienced resources used in faster and quicker projects than long program deployments. Done well repeat business will help drive net new opportunities.
- Clients need to become more aware of the users and how they work to give the right business process. Change should be the motive in all this – failure to recognize this will lead IT to fall out of favor with the business.
For many customers the move into cloud applications can be daunting given the investment in on-premise software applications. Today’s users want to work more efficiently and have already personal experience with cloud applications. The goal for 2015 is how well you can adopt the Life Sciences Industry Cloud into your organizations.
Let me know what you think?
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.
Last month I spoke about the ‘model’ for integrating clinical operations. In this blog post we’ll review the solution that was presented at the Oracle “OpenWorld” conference held earlier this month. There is also two links to collateral that you can use to help understand how the solution works at the end of this blog post. I welcome your reaction and comments.
I’ve written about ways to improve R&D from the idea of “ERP for R&D” through “Integration” of key business processes. In summary the background issues that I think drive this solution are:
- Access to relevant data
- Getting out of the IT business within R&D
- A solution that is scalable to meet tomorrow’s business needs
How does this solution solve these issues?
Starting with ‘Access to relevant data’ – there have been many attempts to create an IT landscape for R&D. This best-of-breed approach favors decisions that support the best solutions to meet a specific need. Yet if you take a step back and ask how I can get access to facts to make ‘key’ decisions this approach falters. The solution approach being offered starts with the premise that the user needs access to key data. Based on an individual’s role you get access to key data and permission to upload new data. This removes the user from having to make the required ‘conversions’ between solutions to create the information needed. The benefits include:
- Adaptive trials can now be easily facilitated
- Financial decisions tied to key outcomes of clinical trials can be reviewed and decided upon
- Users get to focus on the science of creating new medications and treatments and not the nuances of the technology
Getting out of the IT business – the biggest advantage to this solution is that Pharmaceutical companies can focus on their core business goals of producing new products to complex diseases.
You now have a scalable approach to R&D. This solution not only accommodates your scientists and statisticians you can also invite clinical research organization (CROs). Data security is also key to this solution since you may be adding other teams to help in the development of new clinical products. The solution also takes globalization into consideration as a result of today’s clinical trials.
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
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:
- 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
- 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.”
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