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In a previous blog, Going Digital in Life Sciences: What Does that Really Mean?, I wrote that going “digital” requires organizations to evaluate their business models, processes and work in ways that can leverage the digital technologies to reimagine new, disruptive and innovative processes for their respective organizations. We’ve all seen how companies like Uber and Airbnb have revolutionized their respective industries by leveraging digital technologies in ways that have never been done before and completely changed the competitive landscape in the services industry.

Although many organizations look to innovate, it’s becoming clear that “going digital” for many organizations is more about surviving than innovating as the global competitive landscape continues to evolve.   Global markets can no longer sustain the levels a healthcare spend that has been the case in the past.   In recent weeks and months, we have seen governments like Japan and the United States openly discuss and implement drastic reductions in levels of reimbursements for specific products and/or therapies.   President Trump described US drug prices as “Astronomical” while Japan went further by cutting BMS’s Opdivo prices by half and Gilead’s hepatitis C cure Solvaldi by 32% in what are becoming quarterly drug pricing reviews.   As the pace and magnitude of the changes continue to accelerate, enabling a digital strategy is quickly becoming a strategic necessity and not simply an opportunity for innovation.

With that in mind, how should Life Sciences companies approach their digital strategy?   Where should they start and what should they consider when thinking about going digital?   Every company will have unique business strategies and business drivers but I’ve included some thoughts below as you consider your options:

  • Drive Top Line Revenue:     revenue expansion has never been more important than in today’s market where global governments look to reduce current levels of healthcare spend as budgets continue to decrease.   Leading Life Sciences companies are leveraging digital business to business (B2B) capabilities to make it easier, faster and simpler to do business with their company.   Web self-service sites like GSKDirect.com make it easy and efficient to place an order for vaccines anywhere in the world.   This would include using providing a variety of payment options including credit cards.   Further, the site includes links to communities in and around vaccines as GSK looks to provide a single site for all vaccine related information for both patients and physicians.


  • Reduce Your Global Cost of Goods:   the cloud provides a cost effective IT strategy for a variety of enterprise transactions including Global Procurement.   Although there are significant complexities with a public cloud approach to regulated processes, there are still opportunities to leverage cloud technologies to reduce global procurement spend for organizations.   SAP Ariba is transforming "Source to Pay” processes, including Direct Materials and collaboration with Contract Manufacturers, in the cloud.   This would include traditional processes such as Approved Vendor Lists, Forecast and Demand Collaboration, Supplier Audits and Blanket Purchase Orders,   Further, this would extend into more innovative processes with the Ariba Network that enables touchless invoice processing as well as enabling operational communications like manufacturing work orders, process Standard Operating Procedures and Unit level Serialization information that creates a transformational approach to global procurement.  This will allow real time, global visibility into inventory, supply and demand that will significantly reduce procurement costs.

  • Simplify Learning Management in the Public Cloud:  although Learning Management (LMS) is a regulated area, moving LMS to the cloud is not only possible but its preferred.   SAP’s Success Factors Regulated User functionality provides a global public cloud instance that updates new functionality in a way that allows Life Sciences companies to test and document the new functions in accordance with global regulatory requirements.   Further, given the level of standardization provided by the public cloud configuration, SAP is able to provide regulatory content including test scripts, IQ Audit reports and OQ/PQ templates.   This ensures compliance to a Life Sciences’ organizational quality mandates while reducing the total cost of compliance.


  • Digitize Your Serialization Processes:   Pharmaceutical companies are required to provide unit level serialization to markets across the globe including the United States and the European Union.   This is a massive digital transformation of the manufacturing, distribution and outsourcing processes.   SAP’s Advanced Track and Trace for Pharmaceuticals solution allows organizations to digitally generate and manage unit level serial numbers for use across the globe including the coordination with Contract Manufacturing Organizations.   Further, SAP provides an industry specific network that can disseminate the serialized information across the value chain to business partners in a seamless manner that improves the response time and reduces inefficiencies.


These are just some of the opportunities that could be addressed to digitally transform operational processes.   The resulting transformation will generate additional value for the organization that can be reinvested into the company to further propel its transformation.   This cycle becomes self-sustaining and enables a differentiating and competitive barrier that allows Life Sciences organizations to thrive in this rapidly changing and highly competitive global marketplace.