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Capitalising on regulatory information management modernisation: the next steps

Capitalising on regulatory information management modernisation: the next steps


Life sciences companies are increasingly looking to the next step in regulatory information management modernisation. The focus is now on enabling smarter end to end process management while enhancing data flow with the wider enterprise. Drawing on his company’s 2022 World Class RIM Survey, Gens & Associates founder Steve Gens reveals the plans and ambitions for world-class RIM .
  • Author Company: Gens & Associates
  • Author Name: Steve Gens
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Editor: PharmiWeb Editor Last Updated: 10-Oct-2022

A decade since we started tracking their ambitions for improving regulatory information management (RIM), life science regulatory operations have achieved much in modernizing the immediate function globally and improving general efficiency. They have also deepened the strategic partnership with other functions such as clinical, quality, and manufacturing - to improve regulatory pathways/expedite new product approvals in all markets; to ensure compliance for existing products; and to harness RIM as an enterprise asset.

It’s now that we expect things to get really interesting, as ‘world-class RIM’ aspirations are geared to a higher purpose. This includes ambitions for connecting regulatory information more seamlessly and usefully with the enterprise as a whole; for improved patient access to the latest product information; and for ensuring all markets have real-time access to the latest regulatory information and intelligence.

So what specific plans are emerging? It is clear that the focus of RIM-related investment is shifting. A critical mass of biopharmaceutical companies are now at the tail-end of a process and system modernization program that started in earnest around 2013. Now, to capitalize on their achievements, they are shifting their focus toward organizational priorities, advanced technology, and cross-functional information sharing.

The survey revealed three layers to a comprehensive digitalization strategy: transactional (e.g. robotic process automation, natural language generation etc.); strategic (e.g. data lakes, AI etc.); and foundational digitization capabilities (e.g. master data management). When these three strands are combined, it should ideally result in a complete set of advanced capabilities to manage and achieve more with regulatory information.

To maximize the potential here, companies will need a coordinated strategy that includes regulatory, R&D and the enterprise organisation layers. The current tension is that industry and many of the technology providers focus on the transaction to achieve “quick wins”, sacrificing the long-term view and investment portfolio.

As working with real-time data becomes the default, the responsibility for the quality and integrity of that underlying data becomes everyone’s responsibility, and on an ongoing basis. On the one hand, there will need to be a rebalancing of roles to emphasize data custodianship/governance and data science. But, equally, a data quality/data-first mentality needs to be fostered across and between teams, with senior leaders advocating for a culture of quality. This is to ensure that there are no weak links, and that pivotal data can be continuously relied upon as a source of product truth.

Realising global RIM adoption

Although a strategic priority, most organizations have yet to fully realize global RIM adoption, with just 32% claiming this in 2022 and another 54% still working towards this goal. Even with an increase in end-to-end process work and affiliate access to most global systems, there is a gap in the ability to deliver full-scale process transformation.

For this to be possible, innovation will be needed at the affiliate level in the way that local regulatory intelligence is shared globally; in resource allocation via improved submission planning and forecasting; and in improved control of the deviation process for label management. Ultimately, the vast majority of local affiliates are “infrequent users” of RIM systems and processes, and innovation promises to simplify complex regulatory activities requiring global coordination.

In all aspects of associated transformation, innovation must begin with the organization supporting pragmatic experimentation; teams must also appreciate their responsibilities beyond their immediate function.

Intelligent tools

Technology alone cannot deliver the depth and scale of change and improvement now needed. Yet, without optimal application of transactional and advanced technology, transformation potential will be limited. Intelligent tools to manage, combine, interrogate, and share data cross-functionally will become ever more critical, for instance.

It follows that companies are making substantial investments across the full range of automation technologies, suggesting that both near- and long-term objectives are in their automation roadmaps now.

At the more advanced end of the scale, in our 2022 research we see 39% of companies working toward data hubs; 32% on collaborative submission platforms; 24% on AI/machine learning; 18% on knowledge management; 15% on natural language processing, and 8% on natural language generation. The vast majority are large multi-nationals and mid-tier companies who are actively investigating and conducting proof of concepts with these different types of technologies.

It is no coincidence that most companies (~75%) have settled on a single-platform strategy for their RIM transactional systems to underpin all of their diverse ambitions, rather than persisting with what could be 5-7 different best-of-breed applications. We see this in automated document quality checks and document creation giving way to intelligent search of past health authority responses.

Investments are shifting too toward intelligent label management; to automated extraction of product metadata into RIM systems (so companies can find it more easily and do more with it); and to smarter resource planning (through the analysis of pipelines, submissions planning, etc.)

For most companies there is still a way to go with all of this. While the study top performers have largely realized significant speed, quality, real-time information access, reduced complexity, and process integration benefits, most organizations are still at the beginning of that process of extrapolating the fuller benefits of their evolving RIM-based digital process transformations.

Improving information exchange with other functions, and reducing operational complexity, are among the most immediate still-to-be-fully-realized opportunities.

Critical organization success factors

When we homed in on where the top-performing companies are really striding ahead from an organizational and culture perspective, we found these common attributes:

  • a clear and well understood regulatory strategy and vision;
  • a right-first-time data quality mindset, linked to rewards systems;
  • a willingness to try new processes and technologies; and
  • a strong willingness and ability to work across functional boundaries.

Role-wise, leading companies are ahead with the planned appointment of strong data skills, as well as regulatory intelligence strategy and analyst roles.

As the leading transformers look to the next level for process optimization and more, a whole new chapter is unfolding. There are a number of clear trends emerging now as companies look to the next big phase of what we might call Regulatory+ transformation. We can expect a lot of refinement over the next five years to maximize regulatory value. Much of this will be around increased cross-functional insight and capability, as well as organizational agility. Plus of course the continued focus on and investment in data quality and related roles and responsibilities. Undoubtedly, RIM-related investment is becoming more strategic and outward looking as companies build on a solid foundation of RIM modernisation.