Life Sciences Technology Market Consolidation: Analytics in an Advancing Environment
Surviving (and thriving) as the industry shifts
By Sheila Rocchio, Chief Marketing Officer
“Change is the only constant in life” was as true 2,500 years ago for the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus as it is in today’s life sciences industry, where frequent consolidation is the norm rather than the exception. Biopharmaceutical companies, contract research organizations (CRO), and technology providers are finding competitive advantages and economies of scale with the expanded size and reach that combining organizations brings. And the one certainty that consolidation always brings is change.
When providers of clinical development technologies that offer competing products merge, consolidation often brings uncertainty for customers and end users as product lines are evaluated. Leadership of the merged company is usually eager to rapidly determine which product line will be end-of-life and which one will receive investment and resources. This is especially challenging in clinical research, where trials take many years and may use systems that are (reluctantly) supported by a merged company that no longer has the same depth of product knowledge or employees that it did when the trial or program started.
A former chief information officer of a top-20 pharmaceutical company once told me that, “being a CIO in a large pharma company is a lot like having a very long tail – it takes a long time to turn, and when you do you drag a great deal of outdated systems and technology along with you.” This is true for organizations of all sizes that deal with legacy systems and need to find easy ways to access data that has been collected in different systems and in varying phases of research. It’s like herding cats.
Although change can be stressful, it is also an inevitable part of progress, and the advent of cloud computing has made the process of using, supporting, and switching to different technology platforms much easier. As a provider of both software and tech-enabled services, eClinical Solutions understands that different is not always better, and that it takes the right combination of people, processes, and technologies to make everyone successful. Our software and technical teams are always looking for ways to automate existing manual processes, improve end user experiences, and enable talented data managers and data scientists to spend more time solving problems and less time stitching disparate systems together integrating and mapping data. Change, when it improves the customer experience and increases the quality of work, is vital to stay ahead of the curve.
When competitors merge, it’s very rarely done to improve the value of a product offering or the overall customer experience. It’s usually pretty messy, and customers experience great uncertainty because they don’t know what will happen to the product. Mergers also often reduce the choices available to buyers, which can lead to small and medium-sized companies being priced out of the market.
On the other hand, one benefit of mergers is that they create opportunities for organizations that have innovative (and unique) capabilities that may not have been visible in a more fragmented market space. This has happened in the EDC and eCOA market segments, and is likely to continue to be a factor that plays out as markets continue to consolidate.
As a long-time innovator in the clinical data hub and analytics software space, we have seen analytics move from being a nice-to-have to a must-have capability for Life Sciences companies of all sizes. When evaluating different offerings, it’s easy to get excited about visualizations that show data in a variety of formats and are visually appealing. The big challenge, however, is building a data pipeline, how it flows into a data hub, how data can be combined easily for governed access – all within an auditable, secure, and self-service environment. Additionally, it is critical for stakeholders to know what actions to take once the data is available to make data review and exploration easier and compatible with their existing SOPs and workflows.
This goes for all products, not just those used for clinical data hub and analytics. Creating excitement around new features and the latest buzzwords isn’t a challenge because new technology is inherently exciting for the people who use it. The hard part is building proven software that works well, solves critical problems, and is secure and flexible enough to meet global regulations, actually helps people do their jobs better. The technologies segment is filled with products that work well on paper but fail to capture the passion of the intended users.
People who work with clinical and operational data should be able to uncover new insights easily with context and self-service capabilities. Providing skilled users in functional areas – including data management, medical monitoring, clinical operations, and biostatistics – with this capability, increases automation reducing costs and cycle times for clinical development. When clinical data from numerous sources is readily available for stakeholders in a unified platform, less time is spent integrating manually, building numerous excel trackers and more time is spent proactively managing risk and analyzing data. One clinical operations leader estimated that each of his team members developed at least two of their own excel trackers that pulled data from different systems manually which is error prone. While eliminating excel trackers entirely is the goal, just automating the data flow improves efficiency and delivers ROI.
As more industries are achieving success with digital transformation, it is important for the life sciences industry to follow suit and begin the same with confidence. This is an exciting time to be a clinical data hub and analytics software provider because the entire industry is poised to make tremendous strides both in the scientific therapies that treat disease and the way those therapies are developed using technology that ensures the quality and evidence of all the data in the submission pathway.
It all comes back to the ability to survive change and thrive in a constantly shifting environment. In today’s accelerated technology and business landscape tried-and-true solutions may be completely irrelevant in a matter of months, not decades. The key to success is recognizing that change is inevitable, and building data-driven strategies that create long-term value even in the face of massive shifts is what will separate the winners from the also-rans.
Sheila Rocchio is the Chief Marketing Officer at eClinical Solutions leading the marketing and product management functions. Prior to eCS, she spent 15 years at PHT (now ERT) running marketing and helping to grow the eDiary/ePRO/eCOA market segment. She be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org