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14-Aug-2020

Getting up to speed on agile business transformation

Getting up to speed on agile business transformation

Summary

Two-year long project cycles are no longer an option as the pace of change accelerates to meet the demands of fast-changing market conditions. Life sciences companies know that technology can help them drive greater responsiveness from IT teams and suppliers to the changing needs of the business.
  • Author Company: Amplexor
  • Author Name: Romuald Braun
  • Author Email: romuald.braun@amplexor.com
Editor: PharmiWeb Editor Last Updated: 14-Aug-2020

Two-year long project cycles are no longer an option as the pace of change accelerates to meet the demands of fast-changing market conditions. Life sciences companies know that technology can help them drive greater responsiveness from IT teams and suppliers to the changing needs of the business. But agile development needs to extend beyond the IT department, if companies are to see the benefits of faster business transformation, argues Romuald Braun, VP of Strategy for Life Sciences at Amplexor.

In the life sciences sector, two-year transformation projects have been all too common. The recent imperative for companies to pivot their operations and products in a matter of weeks to respond to changing market conditions looks set to change all that.

Technology and regulatory processes have been both barriers and enablers of change. Global compliance requirements are being updated and supplemented continuously. This makes it impractical to try to define all probable needs up front, then lock down an IT project and go through all the rigorous sequential stages of designing, approving, developing, validating/testing, piloting and rolling out. By the time that end point comes, there is a strong possibility that needs will have changed and new regulatory requirements will be coming through. This then necessitates a new round of modifications and additions – incurring more delay, cost and frustration.

There has also been a growing realisation that major IT investments can and should deliver more than the immediate specific requirement. Where possible new systems should feed into and contribute towards bigger transformation ambitions – those geared to improving operational transparency globally, for instance; and/or cost-efficiency and speed to market. They should take into account a broader view: for instance, how the new system will connect with, draw from, and add value to other core business systems.

First steps to agile

Improved agility – whether through adoption of accelerated, technology-aided processes, or the ability to roll out and exploit new IT capabilities more swiftly – is not something companies can achieve overnight. Business and IT teams need to adopt a more iterative and collaborative mindset and culture as they approach new system requirements, because there are ways to accelerate even fairly bespoke projects if all of the stakeholders involved are prepared to plan and manage developments in new ways.

Agile software development typically involves a much closer and more continuous engagement with the IT supplier – including monthly meetings to discuss progress and feedback; suggestions of tweaks to keep the evolving system tightly aligned with the latest needs of the business.

In a regulatory information management (RIM) scenario, this regular dialogue would provide an opportunity to feed in the latest authority guidelines and data standards as these are announced and firmed up. Since agile development happens as a series of short ‘sprints’, a continuous collaboration ensures that no part of the project can go too far along one path without reconfirmation that this remains the right course.

Another feature of agile development projects is that different aspects of the work can be progressed in parallel. This concurrent activity is important because software release models are more fluid and continuous in an agile development environment. Startup application companies will often talk about putting a ‘minimum viable product’ (MVP) into users’ hands, so that people can start to interact with the product and check that it works well for them.

Shorter, iterative release cycles – a prominent characteristic of collaborative, agile development processes – will ideally be supported by convincing, meaningful data so that users have a realistic picture of what they’ll be able to do once the new system is more fully formed. The more they can visualise what the finished product will look like and what it will do for them, the greater the chance that users will accept and embrace the system and use it to its full potential.

Buy-in is key

While much of the direction and synchronisation of the agile process will be down to the technology vendor, it is also true that internal IT teams, business sponsors and user groups will need to be primed to support the agile development process. This needn’t take up huge amounts of their time – key representatives are more likely to be involved at just the stages that are relevant to them.

Successful adoption of agile development methods in speeding project delivery and time to market needs broad buy-in. It is crucial to ensure everyone’s proactive involvement and commitment to the agile transformation journey. The business benefits are tangible.  Adopting an agile development practice could result in at least a 50 per cent reduction in time to deployment, while consuming less of people’s time, ensuring higher user acceptance and enabling patients to benefit from new treatments as quickly as possible.

About the author

Romuald Braun is VP of Strategy for Life Sciences at Amplexor. He holds a Master’s degree in Drug Regulatory Affairs, an Engineers’ diploma in Data Technology, and has spent the last 26 years working in compliance, document management and content management related roles in this industry - in client-based as well as consulting and project management roles.