Operational costs are in the crosshairs of life sciences companies. The challenges they face in an increasingly tough commercial environment not only means a shift in required longer-term strategic thinking, but also a focus on operational costs. Many are now looking at their overhead and the costs of their legacy systems to assess how to make these solutions more cost effective while ensuring they are robust and flexible enough to meet regulatory and business requirements – present and future.
By Nick Ginn, Client Partner Life Sciences
While cost is a huge driver for reviewing the way content is managed today, future agility is equally important. The impact of new regulations, for example the much-anticipated Identification of Medicinal Products (IDMP), needs to be considered while existing regulations are also adhered to. And while IDMP, specifically, is more related to data, it has a relationship with the way unstructured data is also managed. Companies want to continue to leverage industry best-practices to meet those requirements and support business process needs.
Most solutions implemented by companies to date have required on-premises technology and were architected in a way that can make it seem difficult to realize lower total cost of ownership. Generally, they have been designed, built and implemented to solve the company’s current needs given the best proven technology available. Historically this has required that the solution is upgraded and configured repeatedly over time to respond to improved best practices, regulatory developments and the continuous need to run a validated supported system.
The challenge has been to address the balance of a robust and configurable solution for the long term – 5 or even 10 years – with the flexibility to respond to regulatory developments, as well as reduced cost of ownership. Companies want those best practices configured to their needs, but the problem in the past has been that it takes a long time to transfer those configurations and upgrade to new versions.
Another challenge has been the dependence on enterprise content management platforms and the need to stay up to date with new versions of those platforms and specific certifications.
Weighing the Options
There are a variety of approaches that companies are considering to provide them with flexibility and reduced cost of ownership.
Some are weighing the option to undertake a major solution change and establish completely new platforms. The problem is that even if they believe there may be long-term benefits to such a change, it’s not attractive from a near-term cost perspective. If the goal is lower cost of ownership, it will take a number of years to realize those outcomes once the expense of a whole new platform is taken into consideration. There is also the significant disruption that a complete change brings to the organization and its users and the inevitable lock-in that comes with it. When much of the life sciences industry is considering transformation of its discovery and development processes, these risks can become considerable and restrictive to the very growth it is supposed to support.
Change is needed – life sciences companies and their partners know this and the technology landscape is ever evolving to meet that change. But the life sciences industry is a conservative one and a large number of companies are seeing the benefits of making incremental changes to the technology they currently have deployed. The methods and magnitude of that incremental change varies, depending on a number of factors: cost, time, size of the organization, comfort level with change amongst users, the level of organizational change taking place, etc.
Incremental change could simply be making a shift to new user interfaces to offer increased usability, user acceptance, user experience and significant performance benefits. The benefits of a modern web-based user interface are operational efficiency and productivity, because the look and feel is familiar to users in the manner of Amazon or eBay and therefore requires minimal training.
Those incremental changes could go further to moving technology implementations off-premises and run as a fully managed service. Moving applications into the cloud and managed as-a-service reduces operational costs and streamlines management.
As pressures on companies continue to mount with the need to cut costs, use resources most efficiently and remain in compliance with changing regulations, companies need to ensure their enterprise content management solutions are robust yet flexible and achieve best practices while removing heavy operating costs from the business.