Businesses within this industry have had to respond rapidly to the wildfire-like pace with which the virus has spread to create products, treatments and vaccines at an unprecedented scale.
This is providing critical innovation right at the front line in the fight with the virus – innovation that could help to light the way out of the darkest days of this pandemic. Just as the industry is helping to fight the good fight, it is also adapting to the many challenges remote workforces and reduced lab capacity are having on clinical and product development.
This disruption to the Research and Development (R&D) function of businesses within life sciences could be one of the most damaging. Social distancing means fewer key personnel are able to be on the ground in labs, with an estimated productivity loss for the industry of between 25-75% due to remote working alone.
Enrolling patients in trials in the midst of a pandemic is also proving difficult. One recent study reported that nearly 70% of clinical trials have been affected due to suspension of enrolment since April 2020. Add to this site closures, lockdowns and restricted travel and the challenges for R&D just keep on multiplying.
All of this is really putting R&D under the microscope when it comes to proving return on investment. With R&D representing one of the biggest costs in many organisations, it is often one of the first functions to be scrutinized. Developing life-changing drugs comes at a big price, requiring intense regulatory approval while targeting increasingly smaller populations for similarly smaller returns. Even before Covid-19 arrived, average costs for R&D were going up, whereas average forecast sales were heading down.
These new challenges require new strategies for finding efficiencies. Productivity, speed, quality and portfolio selection are all approaches worth considering. However, our view is that productivity, while often overlooked in favour of working on exciting new drugs, can unlock a huge amount of growth in life sciences.
Productivity for unlocking growth
Productivity can provide the transformational change needed to reverse these diminishing returns for life sciences businesses. Technology can be one catalyst; either replacing or augmenting work previously done by humans. However, to realise the full value of projects and succeed in the new normal, new processes are needed.
The old-fashioned method for boosting productivity was simple – work faster and produce more. We now know that this blunt tool is a formula for frustrated and overworked staff. The answer to increasing productivity in today's world, is about thinking smarter, not simply working faster. It's about more intelligent processes, not more resources. Many businesses have dabbled with short-term fixes such as Kaizen events or quality circles, but to drive long-term significant gains in efficiency, life sciences businesses need to look at redesigning the whole process.
What proven methods can life sciences leaders use to deliver this long-term process improvement?
At Genioo, we see three key stages to achieving this:
1. Align on the destination and engage key stakeholders
An important first step is to align departments and key stakeholders in order to overcome the cross-functional silos that often exist in Life Sciences businesses. This is even more critical with the increasingly remote nature of the workforce during Covid-19. The aim of this stage is to jointly set clear goals, plans, drivers and targets and to agree the methodology for the process.
2. Set up tracking and assign accountability
Aligning goals is vital but setting up the right tools to track progress is just as key to success. Workstream leads and initiatives owners need to be trained to use the tools and regular progress reporting will need to be set up at the right cadence. This will also ensure that accountability is assigned to each person in the project and build a sense of ownership.
3. Run and review the project
Once the process has been agreed and the tools are in place, it’s time to run the project. Having organizational alignment and tracking set up helps to remove barriers to delivery and increases transparency on progress, risks and value capture. Live updates on results will help to quantify the process which is particularly useful when ROI in life sciences is such a big focus. Quick wins are important to identify and achieve through high impact initiatives that demonstrate the effectiveness of the project.
There is no magic formula for driving up productivity in these challenging times, but we believe that by applying a robust methodology and by thinking smarter about the process, it can shift the balance and make all the difference.Read more about how we help R&D leaders to improve performance