Every year we set New Year’s resolutions but sticking to them isn’t a simple matter. Even though we’re only halfway through January, many people have already given up on their resolutions. It seems that breaking resolutions is every bit the time-honored tradition that making them is. And it’s easy to understand why. The most popular resolutions tend to revolve around losing weight, exercising more and eating healthier. Unless smaller, more specific goals are made to help you do that, you can expect to reuse these resolutions next year. And the year after that. When it comes to change, life sciences companies face a similar challenge.
While individuals are worried about physical transformation, companies are focused on digital transformation. In fact, a recent Deloitte survey found that 55% of biopharma companies are developing capabilities for digital transformation, but only 20% feel like they are digitally maturing. Why the discrepancy? A digital transformation is much more complex than getting your CEO to say, “Let’s digitize!” although management buy-in is essential. If your company set this goal for 2020, here are three sub-goals to help you achieve it.
As a well-beloved Disney character says, “Let it go!” Now that you’ve got that song stuck in your head, freeing yourself from paper is the first step in a digital transformation. The most up-to-date software systems will only take you so far if you insist on printing out documents to store in binders. This doesn’t just apply to physical paper. The same inefficiencies of paper are experienced by anyone using a disparate system. Word documents and Excel spreadsheets are no match for a cloud-based quality management system at your side. Resolving to reduce and eventually eliminate your paper use puts you in the position to focus on data-centric quality.
When you use paper, you can’t use your data. Unstructured data prevents you from understanding what’s going on in the company and how it can improve. If you made a resolution to exercise more this year, you’d probably invest in a wearable device and download an app to track what you’re doing and how much progress you’ve made. Similarly, using connected solutions lets you analyze all your data, which paves the way for you to use predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI).
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Having someone support the idea of digitization is different from having someone support you through the whole process. The leadership team might be very excited about modernizing your company until they realize how much time, effort and money it’ll cost. Then their excitement might wane a bit. The downside here is that unless you have a part in hiring senior management, you might not be able to find that advocate. If you can identify a likely candidate, there’s plenty of evidence to convince someone that digitizing pays off in the long run.
A recent survey from Harvey Nash/KPMG provides some enlightening information. The biggest priority for companies worldwide in multiple industries is increasing efficiency through automation. That can’t be done when you’re still using paper or systems that don’t talk to each other. Since these companies recognize this, 77% of them have switched to the cloud and 20% use on-demand platforms, the internet of things (IoT), robotic process automation (RPA), AI or machine learning. With these kinds of statistics, it’s almost certain your competitors are moving to digitize. As Deloitte put it, “Investment in digital technologies … is critical not only for success but for survival.”
The terms “big data,” “the internet of things,” “AI,” “blockchain,” etc. are all thrown around as ways for companies to embrace technology and move into the future. They certainly are that, but fully taking advantage of these technologies requires a baseline that many life sciences companies lack. Big data needs structured data to give you anything useful — and it needs all the data. But to do that you need digitized, interconnected systems that save you from spending time and money chasing down quality issues and let you focus on proactive quality measures.
Quality isn’t the only area of your life that should involve data-based decision-making. One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight, but most health professionals would tell you that extreme diets are a bad idea. Even though they bring quick results, those results aren’t healthy or sustainable. Similarly, a quick fix to a quality process might seem like a good idea in the short run. It may be enough to pass an inspection or get a batch of product out the door, but only data collected over time will tell you if it actually improves quality. If your company wants to get ahead of its competitors, you can’t depend on a trial-and-error approach — you need data provided by digitization to ensure changes are improvements.
Change is possible any time of the year, but the new year is traditionally the time for resolutions. Life sciences need to resolve to digitize their systems to keep up with competitors and improve quality. This lofty goal is possible, but only if specific, smaller goals are used to start the process. Digitizing gives you access to data that’ll put your company ahead in your industry and make you better prepared for the future.
Sarah Beale is a content marketing specialist at MasterControl in Salt Lake City, where she writes white papers, website landing pages, and is a frequent contributor to the company’s blog, GxP Lifeline. Her areas of expertise include the nutraceuticals, cannabis, and food industries. Beale has been writing about the life sciences and health care for over five years. Prior to joining MasterControl she worked for a nutraceutical company in Salt Lake City and before that she worked for a third-party health care administrator in Chicago. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in business administration from DeVry University.