The New Biopharmaceutical Blueprint: Service-Oriented Architecture in Manufacturing

More than ever, drug makers need to be fleet and flexible—and they need their software to be the same.
Nov 01, 2007
Volume 2007 Supplement, Issue 6

Bringing a pharmaceutical or biologic to market takes more than just good science. It takes an agile business that can respond to the changing market and environment by aligning business processes with flexible information technology (IT). Separate challenges confront research and development (R&D), manufacturing, sales, and marketing. R&D is compelled to accelerate time to market of novel treatments and extend its reach in global markets. Likewise, manufacturing is undergoing sweeping changes, incorporating more efficient, quality-centric methods, and streamlining processes that scale across regions and partners. Financial and regulatory demands on sales and marketing are forcing companies to evaluate ways to increase sales effectiveness, such as multi-channel business models, direct-to-consumer marketing, partnering, and new customer models. Technology integration challenges hamper all of these areas. Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) can help address these systems' integration challenges across the organization and serve as the new blueprint to help companies align business and IT. This article will feature how SOA can address challenges in manufacturing and is intended for business executives to explore how SOA can help them effectively respond to today's evolving and complex business models.


Biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies (BioPharma) are challenged today by more complex scientific information and the need to make faster business decisions—all in the context of a global marketplace. Many organizations are actively collaborating and partnering to augment their core competencies and extend business beyond organizational and geographic boundaries. Companies have invested in many forms of technology to enable business processes, integrate their organization, and support innovation.

Businesses seek flexibility within a compliant environment—their processes are not static—and they seek to constantly improve the way they implement their strategy. IT solutions need to support that flexibility. Today's integration approaches do not support the level of responsiveness for continuous improvement. SOA has the potential to dramatically address this challenge and benefit an organization when:
  • Business users exchange information across multiple systems
  • Business processes span several applications across partners
  • Businesses are transitioning to newly merged or acquired business owners
  • Business users need information in near real-time
  • Point-to-point solutions prevail with fixed interfaces that are costly to maintain.

But what is SOA, and how can this architectural approach provide an organization with the levels of efficiency and responsiveness it needs to effectively compete in today's changing market?

What is Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)?

SOA is a style of developing and integrating software. It involves breaking an application down into common, repeatable "services" that can be used by other applications, both internal and external, in an organization—independent of the applications and computing platforms on which the business and its partners rely. Using this approach, enterprises can assemble and reassemble these open, standards-based services to extend and improve integration among existing applications. SOA can also be used to support collaboration, build new capabilities, and drive innovation at every point in the value chain.

The power behind SOA is the ability to share services through system-to-system interactions that could improve efforts to adapt end-to-end processes. SOA helps automate process steps; remove redundancy; use messaging and alerts to trigger essential people-powered workflow; and enable new capabilities. When a company adds new applications and retires old ones, SOA can help facilitate the transition and migration. Over time, services may be modified, shared, and recombined to streamline activities across yet more applications. This approach allows companies to more efficiently automate regulated and compliance-driven activities—freeing people to perform higher-level activities and providing an integrated business view to authorized staff across departments and organizations. In time, SOA can support continuous improvement through monitoring and redesigning processes linked to technology services.

SOA offers an integrated, collaborative approach to aligning business and IT services and supports evolving business needs. The business must be actively involved, however, to identify the processes that must be managed on an ongoing basis. Current IT integration methods can continue to exist because SOA preserves legacy systems through the use of services. SOA can be applied using a small, step-wise approach that can grow as companies add more processes and applications. As a skipping stone creates ripples in a lake, SOA can help create benefits that quickly ripple through many other areas of the organization and partners.

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