As a leader in a pharmaceutical or life sciences organisation, getting the most out of your team and resources is always a top priority. After making the decision to proceed with a critical investment in consulting services, there may even be more pressure to find the optimal use of these time-limited external resources. So, how can you make sure you are using these resources to their full potential? In this blog, our industry expert Micah Rimer will show you how.
During Micah’s 20 years’ working at big pharma & vaccines corporations, including Bayer, Chiron, Novartis and GSK, he has successfully deployed consultancy groups within lab informatics and clinical projects. Micah has worked with Scimcon to support his teams on high profile critical projects
As with any business situation, it is important that there is a common goal that everyone is aligned around.
It is essential that you do not waste valuable time revisiting the same conversations. Ask yourself: “Is it obvious what problem we are trying to solve?” Often, issues can arise when people are arguing about implementing a solution, whilst losing sight of the challenge at hand.
Take the example of Remote Clinical Monitoring: You might decide that it would be beneficial to have your Clinical Research Associates (CRAs) track and monitor the progress of a clinical study without traveling to clinical sites. That sounds like it could be very promising, but what is the problem that needs to be solved?
Without clear goals on what you want to accomplish with Remote Clinical Monitoring, it will be difficult to declare an implementation a success. In addition, if you and your organisation do not know what you are trying to achieve with a particular technical solution, it will be impossible to give your informatics consultants a clear set of deliverables.
So, first things first, agree on the problem statement!
One of the first times I hired Scimcon to support me with an informatics project, I had recently joined a pharma company and found myself in the middle of conflicting department objectives, with what seemed to be no clear path out of the mess I had inherited. The organisation had purchased an expensive new software system that had already become a failed implementation. After spending a year continuously configuring and programming it, it was no closer to meeting the business needs than when the project had started. There were two loud criticisms to address on that point:
This also highlighted a far wider range of issues, such as some people who felt their skills were not being properly utilised while problems went unsolved, and that the bioinformatics department might not have the right goals to begin with.
To solve this challenge, we sat down with Scimcon to identify all the different problems associated with the inherited project, and to clarify what we needed to do to turn it into a success. In taking time to review the situation and without too much effort, we were able to come up with four key areas to address:
With the help of Scimcon, we were able to define these problems and then focus on finding answers to each of the questions. In the end it turned out to be one of our most successful engagements together, award winning even. By just asking senior management what their biggest challenge was, we found their overriding priority was to have an overview of all the R&D projects going on. And while the new software was not particularly well suited for solving the bioinformatics problem that it had been acquired for, it could easily be used to map out the R&D process for portfolio tracking. Then, we turned our attention to the bioinformatics problem, which was easily solved by a bit of custom code from one of the bioinformatics programmers who felt that previously his skills were not being properly utilised.
Once we knew where we were, and where we wanted to get to, all we had to do was get there one challenge at a time.
Once you have identified and agreed on the problem that you want to solve, the next step is making sure the organisation is ready to work with your consultants. As with all relationships, business or otherwise, a crucial step is to make sure that everyone has the same expectations, and that all the relevant stakeholders are on the same page.
People have many different perspectives on why consultants are brought in.
As there can be so many different roles and perspectives on the use of consultants, you need to make sure that you address all the different stakeholder perspectives. It is important to establish a positive situation, as you want the consultants to be able to work with your teams without unnecessary tension.
When I was just starting out with my first LIMS implementation (Laboratory Information Management System), I remember being impressed that you could hire someone who had the specific experience and expertise to guide you on something they had done before but that was new to you. I wondered, “why was that not done all the time? Why do so many implementation projects fail when you can bring people in who had solved that particular problem before?” When I asked Russell Hall, a consultant at Scimcon for us on that first project, he said that not everyone is comfortable admitting they need help. As my career has progressed, I have come to value that feedback more and more. There are many people who are highly competent and effective in their jobs, but are not comfortable with the appearance that they are not sufficient on their own. It is always important to manage for those situations, rather than assuming that everyone will welcome external help.
Lastly, it is also critical to manage expectations, regarding the use of consultants. Your boss may need to defend the budget, or be prepared to stand behind recommendations or conclusions that are delivered from people outside of the organisation. It should also be considered that management might not readily accept something that might seem obvious to employees working at a different level. By liaising with senior leaders from the outset, you can make sure both parties are aligned how the consultants will interact with people in the company, and what their role will be. This is important both to achieve what you want internally and also to make sure the consultants have a proper expectation of how their efforts will be utilised.
While it can be very tempting to feel that you can leave the majority of the project to the experts, the reality is things rarely go as smoothly as planned. As the life science business and information management have advanced over the last few decades, the amount of complexity and details has grown tremendously. It is more and more difficult for a single person to maintain an overview of all the relevant facts. The only way to be successful is to communicate and make sure that the right people have the right information at the right time. Your consultants are no different.
Many organisations have challenges in terms of taking decisions and communicating them effectively. For your consultants who do not typically have all the same access and networks in the organisation that internal staff do, it is imperative that you make sure they are kept up to date. You want to avoid them spending valuable time on focusing on areas and deliverables that have shifted to being less important. Finding ways to keep consultants informed on all the latest developments is absolutely necessary for them to be able to deliver successfully. Figure out what makes sense by considering the organisation culture and the consulting engagement setup. Whether it is by use of frequent check-ins or online collaboration, be prepared to put in additional efforts to make sure that the information gets to where it needs to go.
As well as good communication, organisations have to be able to adjust as needed. Occasionally everything does work out according to plan, but that is more the exception than the rule when it comes to complex life science informatics projects. While timelines and commitments are critical, it is important to view any project as a collaboration. There will be unexpected software issues. There will be unplanned organisational changes and problems. People get sick, life happens. By having open and continuous dialogue, you can be best prepared to make the adjustments needed to find solutions together to unexpected problems.
Consultants can be hugely valuable to you and your organisation.
But you have to setup the right conditions for everything to work out well.
Working together, you can get to where you need to go.
If you’re interested in working with Scimcon on your upcoming informatics project, contact us today for a no-commitment chat about how we can help you succeed.Digital transformation: Revolutionising the labs of the future?
Scimcon has worked with many lab-based clients throughout our 20 years in the industry, across a vast range of projects. Here we discuss the current challenges that labs are facing in 2020, and the work that needs to be done through digital transformation to ensure that labs in the future can streamline and manage their data.
The limitations of the current laboratory information systems landscape
Today’s labs are facing similar challenges as camera companies. Camera manufacturers such as Nikon and Canon are now faced with the challenge of selling to a new generation of budding photographers, most of whom by now have grown up with increasingly higher-quality smartphone cameras. As a result of having access to technology that is designed for ease of use, this generation of users find themselves progressively more frustrated with traditional technology and methods required to operate today’s ‘real’ cameras. Where smartphones can offer instant uploads to online services; amazing results that leverage computational photography; and synchronicity between multiple devices, traditional cameras appear complicated, difficult to control and impractical. Camera companies therefore face the challenge of building usability, such as that found in smartphone cameras into their existing products, otherwise they risk losing a whole demographic of potential customers.
The analogy is that modern labs are facing a similar problem. As new generations of scientists join laboratory settings, many are finding the lack of synchronicity and usability of information management systems increasingly frustrating. Why can’t we check instruments remotely whenever we want? Why can’t data be easily transferred between devices or colleagues? Why isn’t all this information seamless? Limitations such as these can be hugely time-consuming, as well as resulting in reduced productivity and security risks for data with minimal protection. Similar to the camera makers, we are risking losing the best new talent to other areas of science. Digital transformation addresses these challenges head on, with the proficiency to make your lab more intuitive and efficient.
What is digital transformation and how can it enhance your current lab setup?
Digital transformation involves the integration of new technology and methods into existing lab technology. Although this advancement in technology is a relatively new development within the laboratory setting, lab managers are quick to realise that digital transformation is essential in optimising workflows and productivity. In 2018, 70% of labs were reported to have a digital lab strategy in place or were working towards one1– a number that we can only expect to have significantly increased since then.
Significant effort has taken place in laboratories over the past two decades or more, which has delivered substantial benefits. This effort has been focused on the key lab workflows and the matching informatics systems such as CDS, LIMS, ELN, LES and SDMS, to mention a few. The next decade needs to build on this success to create a true digital laboratory.
Digital labs of the future: what can we expect?
Digital lab transformation is more than just implementing informatics systems, it involves taking these systems and pushing them a step further. For example, a lab could connect instruments bi-directionally to LIMS or ELN, but digital lab transformation would also facilitate online monitoring of instrument status, automatic ordering of consumables, reserving instrument time, auto-tracking utilisation and the use of telemetry data to predict faults before they happen.
A digital lab may also utilise a feature rich LIMS, ELN or LES that enables collation and review of all results for an experiment, but a digitally transformed lab would also be able to collate results across potentially several LIMS and ELNs throughout an organisation. This would allow the promotion of internal and external collaborations, enabling the ‘science later’ paradigm of cross team, cross technique and cross experiment data mining. This, in turn, will progress artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Overall, a digital transformation is more than just providing scientists with the means to spend more time on actual science. It provides the complete toolset of a lab wherever a scientist may be, whether that is in the lab itself, in an off-site office, in a café or even at the kitchen table.
At present, even top laboratories face problems with a lack of modernisation, and this is a problem that is slowly trickling down to smaller labs that are starting to face similar challenges. If we continue to drive forward with the help of innovative technology, we could expect to see many labs becoming more efficient, more supportive of science and more reliable than ever before.
However, to do this, it is up to laboratory leaders to have a clear vision of where they see their lab going. It is hard to transform any business by only doing little bits, so it is up to the higher levels of lab personnel to decide what steps to take to ensure that their labs are working at optimal capacity and potential. This is where Scimcon can help.
How can Scimcon help to revolutionise your lab?
Scimcon is proud to offer a range of digital lab services to assist in digitising a lab, many of which are outlined in our introductory blog. We are also able to help labs go that step further, with our collective wealth of experience in the lab, both as scientists and project leaders. Whether it is the development of the strategy, the running of the programme, or providing resources and leadership for your projects, Scimcon can help you understand what you want to achieve, and how to reach it.
To find out more about types of projects we support, and how we can help you to transform your lab, get in touch.
1 ‘Despite steady growth in digital transformation initiatives, companies face budget and buy-in challenges’, https://www.zdnet.com/article/survey-despite-steady-growth-in-digital-transformation-initiatives-companies-face-budget-and-buy-in/
With 91 million results in google search for the term ‘digital laboratory transformation’, this area seems to be the buzzword of the 20s. Scimcon has long been a stalwart in this area, having provided global partnership in information management to big pharma, bio and clinical organizations for over two decades.
The combined experience of our team spans more than 200 years of hands-on project roles in life sciences! What Information Management projects need, Scimcon has delivered: we have seen every type of project from every type of angle and have a unique perspective on how to ensure success.
And digital laboratory transformation is our lifeblood.
So with the establishment of our new website, we are launching a blog to address the subject of the digital lab and eClinical systems, and try to tackle some of the challenges, whilst also dispelling some of the myths.
Analytical projects including Information System Strategies, LIMS, ELN & LES, SDMS, CDS, DMS, Stability Management and Instrument Integration to mention a few.
Scimcon’s original pedigree lies in the field of Information Management projects in the analytical laboratory. The company and its project consultants have extensive experience in:
With such an extensive knowledge of Information Management in laboratories and life sciences, Scimcon has more recently been invited to supply similar services for the clinical trials industry and especially in the move from paper to digital records. The development and adoption of new Drug Development Tools (DDTs) lies at the intersection between regulatory, science, academia and pharma drug innovation. It is generally thought that paper is a poor format for patient compliance in diaries, and data/ electronic adoption improves both compliance and record-keeping in clinical trials. With our relatable experience, Scimcon has been involved in applying its successful project leadership to the areas of:
Our blogs will help you to navigate the world of outsourcing project leadership for either your analytical or clinical Information Management project.
The first step is to recognize why partnering is helpful:
Successful projects happen when you can trust the partner who is helping you. You do not need to relinquish control of your Information Management projects, but to successfully take them forward a trusted supplier who is not afraid to challenge, and who is vendor-neutral, can bring so much to the table.
In both the largest and the smallest organization alike, the knowledge of the organization rests with its employees. This leads to a natural gap of knowledge between best practice, external and competitor knowledge, and learning from others.
Scimcon fills that gap, its combination of deep hands-on experience, combined with information systems skills, extensive scientific systems and organizational experience, and a commitment to project success, means that we are always committed to bringing successful projects over the line.
We know the shortcuts, we understand the limitations with vendor capabilities, we recognize the scope of your existing systems and we know how to get the best from your teams. And our 100% year-in, year-out experience as a project partner means that we are always working, always able to move projects forward, even when faced with organizational challenges.
Talk to us now, or contact us to discuss your projects, past and future alike.