To learn a little bit more about the software landscape for the pharmaceutical industry, I sat down with Roger Bottum, vice-president of marketing at Axentis, Ran Flam, president and chief executive officer of Sparta Systems, and Jim Sabogal, vice-president for industry solutions for the Life Sciences Product Technology Unit at SAP. Our conversations focused on the present and future of software for enterprise and risk management, regulatory compliance, and incidence tracking. Arvindh Balakrishnan, senior director of the Life Sciences Industries Business Unit at Oracle, was unable to attend the live event, but responded to my questions later—virtually, of course. (For the flow of this article, I have inserted his comments where they seem appropriate.) What follows is an excerpted transcript of our discussion.
Organizational managementThe organization is the palette on which the entire operation is drawn. So it makes sense to look at the software that manages the entire enterprise. As we started talking about enterprise software, I found myself remembering a theory I'd studied in a linguistics class—the Sapir-Whorf theory, which says:
"We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native languages. The categories and types that we isolate from the world of phenomena we do not find there because they stare every observer in the face; on the contrary, the world is presented in a kaleidoscopic flux of impressions which has to be organized by our minds—and this means largely by the linguistic systems in our minds. We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significances as we do, largely because we are parties to an agreement to organize it this way—an agreement that holds throughout our speech community and is codified in the patterns of our language."
Applied to organizational management, I wondered whether the underlying structure dictated the software and its configuration, or whether it really was the other way around: The structure of the software determines the organization's structure.
Sabogal: There are different pieces.... When you look at a life science form, there's a whole world called research and development, there's a whole world called manufacturing, and there's a whole sales and marketing world. They've not been tied together. And our goal at SAP, at least, is to try and provide common business processes across all three areas, knowing that this is a regulated industry. Because at the same time what we're trying to do is look for ways to shorten that new product development time.... So the challenge really becomes: What's the formula for doing that? How do I grow the business?