The life-science industries’ reliance on health data has exploded in recent years. Thanks to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, that reliance likely will continue to climb.
To handle collection and analysis this data, clinical trial and pharma development firms are relying on a new breed of tech-savvy employees, bringing on chief digital officers (CDOs) and bolstering their supporting analytic and data-science staff. How can companies better manage their structure, and hire the right people, to handle the digital transformation of the industry?
Updesh Dosanjh, practice leader of technology solutions at IQVIA, talked to Outsourcing-Pharma at length on the challenges faced by life-sciences leaders in dealing with an increasingly data-driven and automation focused workforce. In many ways, he said, companies often are not prepared for the dramatic changes.
“Digital transformation is both external and internal; it’s a transformation of systems and processes, but also a transformation of your culture and people,” he said. "Companies are not geared up for that.”
Much like the outside world, Dosanjh remarked, technical personnel in the life sciences are faced with demands to have everything digitized, and available instantly. He advised leaders pinpoint which staff within an organization are handling ways data and its use are being transformed, who is tasked with collecting the information and other key personnel with their hands on the data—it is important to have a handle on who is doing what, considering data touches all corners of an organization.
“It’s really impacting everyone at every level,” he said.
Traditionally, he said, companies tended to associate anything computer-related with IT staff. Now, though, the complexity, volume and urgency of information collection and analysis requires bringing on staff with a different skill set—someone like a CDO, and personnel that can support the mission.
“Tech departments aren’t the right place to handle it; their concerns are high-tech software, hardware, company connectivity,” he said. "The goal of a CDO is to gather information, to make it available widely and rapidly.”
A CDO should have a broad perspective of what information is needed, how it is gathered, and how it is shared, he advised.
“You really need to have someone thinking about how the pieces fit together,” he said. “How can you find ways to get information and medication and everything where it needs to be?”
To that end, Dosanjh shared a checklist of qualifications and qualities he recommends prioritizing when looking to bring a CDO on board.
- Varied background across multiple industries (experience in life sciences is useful, but not a core competency
- Experience as a :”change agent” either in digitization or some other major activity, i.e. someone not burdened by “that’s how we always did it”
- History of driving digitization either for a unit or a company, with experience of the tools of digitization, cloud, SaaS, etc.
- KPI and metrics driven, and able to establish, measure and deliver on KPIs; able to change current metrics and KPIs to capture the value of transformation
- Demonstrated setting a vision and seeing through the change; does not have to be in DT, but at least has a proven track record of changing business approaches
- Team development. “Many if not everyone in the CDO’s team may be new to their roles and if they are internal people may need significant education and training before they can make an impact--this may be the most important skill,” Dosanjh said.
- Explaining and continually selling change and its benefits, you would need someone with superior communication skills
While many companies might explore outsourcing CDO roles or assigning them part-time status, Dosanjh advised, digital transformation means a fundamental shift, so the role of a CDO would be best envisioned as a full-time, senior-level position.
“Digital transformation for any business is a major change and has impact in every aspect of their business model so would need the focus and vision of a dedicated team member,” he said. “I can see companies turning the chief information officer role into a part-time role, as more of their tools move to the cloud/SaaS, but CDO has a number of important and transformative activities.”
IQVIA is an executive sponsor of CRAACO 2020, a virtual online event (scheduled November 4-6) focused on sharing trends discussing solutions around clinical trial as a care option. Visit bit.ly/3kBUce5 for more information.