Digitization in Life Sciences: Moving Beyond the Buzzwords

Digitization may sound good as a battle cry or an initiative, but we must dig deeper to find the practical and people implications of an increasingly digital LS landscape.

By Sam Smith, Vice President, Global Practice Lead, Life Sciences & Healthcare, KellyOCG

Digitization. Cloud. AI. The IOT. These are words that sound great in a presentation, and the technology that they represent can be truly groundbreaking for organizations around the world. However, when it comes to Life Sciences, much of the innovation seems to be taking place inside the lab rather than outside of it. We are talking about the digital advances we need to make in Life Sciences talent, but are we living it? It’s time to think bigger to embrace the potential of a digitally-optimised workforce. 

Research from Deloitte and MIT Sloan found that 58 percent of LS leaders say that digital is a top management priority, while 79 percent expect to realize the value of digital initiatives within the next five years. But too often we think about digitization in the abstract. We understand that digital is ‘good’ but we need to apply digital tools and initiatives in ways that make sense from an organizational and people perspective. A recent report from KPMG said , “Life sciences companies are a natural fit for digital labor” and it’s absolutely true – in a highly competitive market, where small margins can make a huge difference, the efficiencies delivered by automation and digitization can’t be ignored. 

Digital Labor Has Already Changed the World 

What does it mean to go to work today? Work is no longer tethered to a place or time. Digital work can be done anywhere, and this is providing Life Sciences companies with the potential to tap into creativity and innovation from around the world. Some are embracing this rapidly changing work landscape, while others have legitimate concerns around the security of sensitive intellectual data and productivity. However, digital labor is a genie that won’t go back in the bottle. Life Sciences must find ways to overcome challenges rather than stick rigidly to tried and tested ways of getting work done. Of course, some roles require a physical presence, but many have the potential to be transformed by digital solutions. From back office functions like IT and HR to data analysis, there is great potential for change which, with careful management, can drive future success. 

Digitization and Clinical Trials 

Complex approval processes mean that the road to bringing drugs to market is difficult, expensive, and labor-intensive. While increased competition is escalating the financial risk to Life Sciences organizations around the globe. The use of digital labor, AI, and machine learning is already transforming the clinical trial process and those who fail to tap into these new tools may find their current way of working to be unsustainable. Digital tools have the potential to automate key processes and reduce the burden of administration, while access to skilled digital labor for analysis and monitoring can reduce costs and improve efficiency. 

Reducing Anxiety around Digital Change 

Life Sciences is a historic industry that has not always moved as fast with respect to people management as it has to scientific innovation. Automation of talent processes and the embracing of digital labor comes with a fear factor and, like any change process, we have to challenge traditional thinking in a productive way to drive progress. It’s important to start with the work that needs to get done and look at the most efficient and people-focused way to achieve those goals. Life Sciences organizations must also choose talent partners who recognise their goals and who are able to balance the race for progress with solutions that are aligned to these objectives.  

Digitization is not only impacting work within Life Sciences; it’s transforming every industry around the globe. It’s changed how we live and how we expect the world to work. But digital solutions remain tools that must be applied with insight and care. Leaders must create a strategic roadmap that considers digital innovation not just for today but for the future of their organization and the sector as a whole.  

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