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Does Enterprise Software Integration Really Matter in the Life Sciences Industry?

Implementation - 14 September 2012

At the moment, I would say “No, it does not”.

Recently, we have seen a tremendous focus on the introduction of enterprise software integration within the life sciences industry. By definition, enterprise integration for software systems implies that the selected systems should be capable of interacting and, for example, minimize the need to duplicate data entry . In other words, the software integration should facilitate the exchange of information from one system to the other.

Many people have observed that the life sciences industry began investing in IT systems later than other regulated industries such as the banking and the telecommunication industries. Although IT spending is expected to grow 6.5% annually from 2008 to 2015 (per Frost & Sullivan) (–sullivan-64912767.html), the global market investment in IT within the life sciences industry (measured in dollars) is still proportionally lower than many other industries. A recent article published on Ovum.Com suggests that IT spending will be only 3.4% of total revenues within the life science industry in 2016 (link to source– “Ovum Publishes Its Life Sciences IT Spending Forecast Through 2016”– is no longer available).

The life sciences industry has many areas that are still manually-driven; that fact coupled with the industry’s modest annual IT spending has fostered strong competition between various departments for sponsorship of IT-related projects. My position is that Life Sciences companies should spend more of their efforts in software implementation rather than software integration. This means that companies must first establish a clear roadmap of IT systems that need to be deployed and supported, a focus on implementing these systems ‘one by one’ is critical. Although integration requirements among systems must be considered, that should not be a ‘show-stopper’ in implementing a LIMS for instance when your organization manages its current laboratory operations manually.

As a rule of thumb, today’s typical medium-sized company within the life science industry has not implemented all of the following:

  • LIMS, ERPs, MES, CTMS, EDMS, EQMS, e-CTD package, Safety databases, etc.

Again, I would say that it is highly probable that a company will obtain more benefit from proper implementation of a new system, such as a LIMS, verses applying the significant funding and effort involved in linking an existing ERP with another enterprise software system.

One of the reasons that integration is so important for many IT professionals in the life sciences industry is often because the total road map for deploying IT systems within their enterprises has not yet been completed for their organization. There is a feeling that there will be an infinite number of systems that they will need to integrate, so they must consider integration every time they install a new product. But the fact is that if you look at other industries or if you really consider the needs of a typical life sciences company, there are not an infinite number of IT systems required. In fact, the number of IT systems required by the typical life sciences company is actually quite finite. Once this finite number of needed systems is taken into consideration, enterprise integration becomes less scary for someone who decides to design a roadmap of systems that will be required in the coming years. Chances are 10 to 20 systems will be required to span across all units in the life sciences organization.

In conclusion, the important starting point is to design the IT Systems roadmap and only then identify the issues associated with integration. As important as these issues may be, they become easier to tackle once the IT Systems roadmap is established. Integration should not be a hurdle in implementing systems that can generate highly positive ROIs as stand-alone solutions. Furthermore, the only case where IT systems integration should be a priority is when there is a clear ROI or if there are compliance matters attached to the project. Integration should not be allowed to be a hurdle in implementing systems that can generate highly positive ROIs as stand-alone solutions.

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