The Benefits of IT Outsourcing in Life Sciences

April 29, 2020

From lightweight ERP work, to break fix services, to infrastructure- how start-up life sciences organizations, or those new to the outsourcing model, are benefiting from the use of IT partners.

From lightweight ERP work, to break fix services, to infrastructure – this is how start-up life sciences organizations, or those new to the outsourcing model, are benefiting from the use of IT partners. 

The life sciences business model is unique for a multitude of reasons. For one, unlike other products and services, the results of a successful life sciences venture can take years of research and development – and there is never a guarantee that a product will ever end up making it to market. In this business environment, to operate lean is not a nicety, it’s a business imperative. 

In the spirit of operating with minimal overhead, most life sciences organizations rely on outsourced technology providers to meet their IT needs. Everything – from lightweight ERP work, to break fix services, to infrastructure – gets outsourced. For IT life sciences leadership there are plenty of upsides to the outsourced model, but there are also some areas of opportunity to improve the experience – for everyone.

For organizations just starting to consider IT outsourcing as part of their business model, I have this advice to share.

Benefits

Before and during the clinical lifecycle, life sciences organizations are operating with lean budgets and limited people resources. Rightfully so, they are focused first and foremost on the patients their products are designed for and the science and development behind their products, which means operational demands go largely unanswered, or they are fulfilled by internal resources wearing multiple hats. But, as these organizations grow and products move into different phases of clinical development, the need for better back-office functionality grows too.

This is where outsourcing comes in.

How outsourcing helps manage changing needs

Flexibility

When preparing for the commercialization of a product (or products), life sciences organizations need scalability. The process to bring a product to market is a long one, full of peaks and valleys. The less that is internalized, the more agile the organization can continue operating. And, because talent needs change based on stages of development, an outsourcing model means the right resources at the right time. 

Expertise

From help desk services to infrastructure support, IT outsourcing means the right technology professional solving the right business problem at the right time. Disparate systems coupled with changing product needs can make something simple like the management of core IT systems a challenge. An IT outsourcing partner delivers on-demand experts suited for the needs of the business without ballooning the organization with costly internal headcount. 

Compliance

Today’s life sciences organizations face mounting regulatory and other compliance challenges. In an increasingly global market, not only do these organizations need to meet FDA and other U.S.-based standards, they also have to consider regulations in the other markets where their product(s) will be offered. 

By forming strategic relationships with outsourcing partners, life sciences organizations can buck the trend of increasing regulatory demands by outsourcing these needs, which often require stronger technology systems and sources of record as well as subject matter experts. 

Challenges

Most technical professionals like to stay technical, which means people management is not always one of their top career priorities. For some senior-level IT professionals, however, the desire to move from the less technical and tactical into leadership is important and they want the opportunity to develop a team. This can present both a challenge and an opportunity for a life sciences organization, especially one just getting started. Having IT leadership manage outsourcing partners can mean managing strategy while also co-managing onsite consultants – a win-win for the individual manager and the life sciences organization. 

Additionally, a common fear among life sciences organizations is becoming too dependent on any one outsourcing provider. But, niche providers with a stronghold in a particular skill set or geography can be offset by regularly soliciting bids from other non-regional or less specialized providers. A healthy outsourcing partnership has checkpoints built into it, including delivery metrics and competition that keep the life sciences organization in the driver’s seat. For those in the early stages of considering IT outsourcing, it’s a good idea to benchmark rates from other providers so that as an organization you are aware of market rates – but it’s equally as important to do this throughout the engagement.

3 outsourcing questions to ask yourself

To be competitive, life sciences companies must maintain their ability to remain nimble while they continue to develop and bring their products to market. 

A good place to start when it comes to outsourcing is to know the answer to these three questions:

• Is IT outsourcing strategically the best option for my company?

• (If you have one): Is our current outsourcing strategy cost-effective and is it yielding maximum results – ROI but also is the relationship delivering what the business needs?

• How are we currently measuring our outsourcing provider(s)? Do we have the right tools and technologies in place to measure providers accurately? 

Like any good relationship, the right outsourcing partner will provide full transparency, trust and value. It’s important that the yardstick by which the partnership is measured by includes both the tangible and intangible parts of the relationship. Meaning, delivery metrics are important but is your outsourcing partner also aligned with your mission? Are they along for the long and trying life sciences journey? If not, consider inviting other providers into your circle. Get to know them and vice versa. 

The right IT outsourcing partner can make all the difference – because when it comes to bringing a life-changing product to market, people make it possible. And the right people – at the right time – make all the difference.

Darrin Lang is CEO, LABUR. Larry Egan is Vice President of Strategic Technologies, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc.