I’m intrigued by the velocity of web based companies. I just read an account of Instagram. They were founded in late 2010 and sold themselves to Facebook a mere 551 days later for $1B. Companies that compete on the web have to move quickly, adapt to customer preference, and execute pivots in a matter of weeks.
In my industry, Life Sciences, technology and techniques are developed more slowly. This is understandable. We’re developing drugs and products that directly affect patient health. And Life Sciences companies must abide by FDA regulations that ensure product (and personnel) safety.
But our industry is under pressure. The fat profit margins of old are being squeezed by expiring patents and increased buying clout from government run health agencies and HMOs. A few recently approved drugs, such as Dendreon’s Provenge and HGS’s Benlysta, have seen slower clinical uptake than expected, due in part to their high cost. It appears the markets are signaling the industry that costs must be reeled in.
Can the Life Sciences industry adopt Silicon Valley techniques and still maintain high safety and regulatory standards? This question has a couple of answers. As you get closer to the patient, the answer is “No”. Drugs and medical devices are manufactured following Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). The GMPs are quite strict and for good reason. We need to be able to reliably and reproducibly make drugs and devices. And we must be able to trace the materials in the supply chain with certainty.
But as we move further away from the patient into Research and Development and Corporate Operations, the answer should be “Yes”. We should be willing to try new approaches and adapt quickly. The Life Sciences companies that succeed in the future will be able to strike a balance between agility, market relevance, and compliance. This will require more sophisticated information management, increased transparency, and real-time monitoring and decision making. The current status-quo of maintaining mountains of data in spreadsheets, emails, and PowerPoint decks is an efficiency drag that will have to go.
So if such a company is going to lessen its reliance on office oriented tools, what will replace it ? What does the Life Sciences cockpit of the future look like? My vision includes a real-time dashboard that ties operational, commercial, and competitive information together. It should be able to alert the “pilot” to events needing attention. It should highlight opportunities that arise as market conditions shift. It should be navigable so that the pilot can fly at 30,000 feet, but drill down to ground level to survey the details. And it should be widely available so everyone in the company is consuming the same information.
Sound far-fetched? Not really. My colleagues and I have been building systems like these for decades. Previously called Executive Information Systems (EIS) or Decision Support Systems (DSS), these tools have been widely adopted in discrete and continuous manufacturing companies. But the Life Sciences industry seems behind in this regard; perhaps because of those fat profit margins of yore.
So if you want your Life Sciences company to get the jump on competitors, one vital component is your company’s Information Dashboard.
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