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SaaS as a game-changer in the Pharmaceutical Sector

By Mark Burke, CIO, Accelerated Technology Laboratories

Mark Burke, CIO, Accelerated Technology Laboratories

Challenges in Technology.

One big challenge is the education of customers. They often are familiar with certain portions of technology, but do not have a complete or correct understanding of enterprise systems, cloud computing, and security. We are often placed in the role of educators, so that we can inform and teach clients so that they will be better informed and wiser consumers.

"The data sources need to be mined to create real time information (dashboards) that create value from the disparate data"

The Data Integration Conundrum

This is a challenge for small, mid and large organizations. Data integration is critical to understand the customer, their use cases, how that use case is evolving, and where their pain points are. I don’t think there is one way to do this, as with any technology there are a vast number of options. I can say that my approach is to standardize as much as possible, everywhere possible. This includes hypervisor and operating systems all the way to CRM, mail systems and phone systems. Integration is key to facilitate data integration and easy access. Ultimately the data sources need to be mined to create real time information (dashboards) that create value from the disparate data.

We are moving our entire customer management software into the Cloud leveraging Office 365 and Dynamics On-line to create this integration. By leveraging SharePoint, workflow automation and data mining we will create a more integrated n approach to overall customer management.

SaaS as a Game-Changer

Software as a Service is changing the way things are done in our industry. Laboratories are tired of fighting with their internal IT to gain access to software that they require for their role and are looking for offerings outside their organizations. We are starting to see internal IT recognizing that management of LIMS systems not within their core competencies are also looking for external options. When the two internal silos align, the desire for a cloud based solution becomes the best solution.The value proposition is there but it requires true understanding of total cost of ownership of brining LIMS technology internal. Once all costs factors are understood SaaS often becomes the best choice.

‘LIMS in a box'

We are in the age of virtualization and hyper-converged infrastructures. While we have made Mark Burke great strides in our cloud based offerings we will continue to offer our premise based solutions to our customers who desire it. We are now offering a fully integrated solution and are able to deliver a truly enterprise class ‘LIMS in a box’ to our customers. We accomplish this by leveraging our partners to create a hyper-converged high availability hardware solution upon which we setup our LIMS. At its core is Dell’s VRTX hardware solution running VMware in a clustered configuration to create a scalable, always available, hardware platform upon which our LIMS software run. As technology continues to evolve we continue to work with our partners to create the best offerings for any given customer.

Role of the CIO

The role of the CIO has historically been inward facing, more focused on the internal alignment of technology to aid in meeting business goals. With the growth of the internet and connected technologies, to coin a Gartner term ‘the internet of things’, the CIO role has added an externally focused role as well. This added focus has changed the CIO role into one that can have a positive impact on the overall organization. The CIO must continually focus on what the core competencies of the organization are and always reflect on the concept “just because we can doesn’t mean that we should”. Often, especially in smaller, growing companies, it’s easy to forget that there are other organizations that have already done something and offer that as a service. They have already worked out the bugs and created a successful technology. Why should your organization reinvent the wheel, so to speak, when it could just as easily partner and let the subject matter experts focus on what they do well while your organization does the same.

CIO of the Future

The best example of this change is the direct impact of this change on my role at ATL. My group has been responsible for taking our in-house, premise based products and creating the framework for Software as a Service offering. While my group is not directly involved in sales, SaaS is a technology play and we have made this a viable product offering for our organization. The broad implications to the organization, if successful, can be game changing as our revenue cycles will shift from point in time sales to a secured reoccurring revenue model. The combination of both will create an environment for positive growth of the entire organization.When we set up the framework for our SaaS offering we partnered with two other companies to create global partnerships which benefit each of the partners. Each partner brings to the table unique skills and talents that complement each other and allow each to focus on what they do best. This multifaceted relationship has created a successful foundation for our Software as a Service business which was launched in March of 2015 and has grown steadily. While not a typical CIO role, which other group within the organization could have led the design, external partner identification, and implementation initiatives? This is exactly what the CIO of the future will be focused upon, external relationships that bridge technology to create new business offerings within existing verticals ultimately driving growth and revenue in a  positive direction for the organization.

Security Policies

In our organization the CIO is the senior IT leader, as we do not have a CTO nor CSO. So ultimately I am directly responsible for setting security policy. As our business has moved into the cloud I have had to find the balance between risk and usability, as all security experts have to try to do. My background has been one in the Sciences where typical access  levels are often needed for research to be conducted successfully. Thus a balance of internal group level en capsulation and perimeter security has been necessary. The Ideal CIO The best advice I can give a new CIO is to listen to your organization, at all levels, and identify solutions, not just
technology solutions, that solve problems and enhance the business mission.

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