Be ADEPT at Digital for Supply Chain Acceleration in Life Sciences

By Stuart Williams | March 21, 2023 | 0 Comments

Supply ChainPower of the Profession

Digital transformation in life sciences is difficult. It is technically more challenging to connect systems and processes. And, there are barriers to radically changing ways of working. Life science companies lack the burning platform that drives them to transform. Other industries MUST transform to survive.

However, this doesn’t mean that digital investments should be put on hold. On the contrary. There isn’t the threat associated with digital immaturity. There are huge opportunities in deploying foundational digital tools and processes that will enable more sophisticated digital data, analytics and future-proofing the supply chain when the patients’ expectations evolve in the same way customers’ expectations have changed.

Be ADEPT at Digital

It is a critical enabler to digitization and data science that will utilize the latest technological platforms and processes. Incomplete, inaccurate or obsolete data often slows or forces abandonment of digital transformation for being too difficult for life science companies. This leads CSCOs to chase sporadic use cases that demonstrate digital progress. However, this can obscure transformational change, impact and progress.

ADEPT is a simple approach that provides life science companies structural thinking to the digital journey. It starts with the removal of manual, labor-intensive tasks and employs automatic solutions. As expertise builds in automation, digital strategy can be considered. This should focus on how to replace core processes and tasks with new digital processes, enhancing and simplifying the user experience. Once processes have been digitalized, elimination and decommissioning become possible.

This is where most stop. There are two critical steps that will make or break the digital journey. To drive adoption of new digital processes and systems, there should be a sharp focus on people and trust. As people start to trust digital innovation, they adopt it. It becomes integral, and they can’t do without it. On the flip side, when trust is not built, people will revert to their previous methods no matter how manual or cumbersome they are.

The digital journey is a long one — infinite, you might say. To stay on this journey, people need to evolve and build their capability and expertise through exposure to new technologies and strategies.

Don’t Do Digital for the Sake of Digital

Digital transformation and maturity need to be carefully considered in life science. In other industries that have faced worldwide disruption, global events and changes to consumer behaviors, digital agility can impact their survival in the infinite game. Life science companies can learn from other industries in how they are simplifying, reducing waste and cost and optimizing their operating model. However, it may not determine their survival or even profitability. But it could impact the patient through short-term teething problems or poor design and adoption. So where and how the supply chain is digitized should be done with care.

In life science, digital is an enabler for future innovation, supply chain agility and resilience. A significant investment is required to automate, digitize and eliminate, unlocking improvements in efficiency and cost reduction opportunities. ROI may take time, but …

Use Case by Use Case or Enterprise-Wide Struggle. Think Process!

Supply chain digitization usually takes on one of two strategies. The first is problem- or failure-based. This is where use cases are identified in any area of the supply chain and a digital fix is developed in the hope that this will scale to multiple locations around the business. It is a fail-fast mentality and can take a long time before the results are evident. The second is an enterprise mindset. Usually coming from the C-suite, this top-down approach is a silver bullet to accelerate digital maturity and will involve enterprise-wide architecture and systems, impacting the whole business. This large-scale approach ticks the digital box, but functionally the user may not see significant advances.

Supply chain digital strategies must focus on two key aspects: the process and the users of that process — in other words, user interface and user experience.

Digital transformation is not easy and it’s sometimes not obvious why it is needed in the life science supply chain. Although many companies have started on their digital journey, there is often no clear burning platform that drives the need for change. But change is required, and digitalization will unlock a whole host of opportunities for optimization, cost reduction, improved service and efficiency. The key to success is developing a good digital strategy and sticking to it. Define the building blocks and targeted outcomes and manage the stakeholders to support the transformation.

Stuart Williams
Sr Director Analyst
Gartner Supply Chain


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