Right now, it seems like everyone is either talking about the cloud, investing in it, or both. However, most life sciences companies are not yet seeing true value for their investment1. Despite this slow adoption, there is little doubt that the cloud is a source of efficiencies, innovation and growth—and for life sciences companies moving deeper into its adoption, the only limitation will be the scale of their ambition.

Unlocking cloud value

Achieving the full benefits of the cloud is complicated and involves multiple dimensions including rethinking strategy, technology, skills development, business processes as well as organizational design. If done correctly, the cloud has the ability to become a true business enabler allowing life sciences companies an opportunity to collaborate across the ecosystem, improve customer and employee engagement and more.

Our recent survey shows that life sciences landed as the second-lowest industry when it comes to percent of workloads in the cloud. Why is this? There are many challenges to adoption, from legacy thinking to lack of cloud skills within the organization to true understanding of the value the cloud represents to both the company and patients. The good news is that those companies who embrace change by investing in cloud transformation are taking advantage of capabilities like advanced analytics, mobility, AI and machine learning that the cloud has to offer—much of which has been undertaken in other industries already, representing an advantage to life sciences companies who can learn from the experience of others.

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By taking a new perspective on cloud adoption—from a technology “cost of doing business” view to one of embracing the art of the possible—life sciences companies can truly align on business goals and outcomes.


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Meaningful cloud transformation

Currently, most cloud initiatives are standalone—single islands in an archipelago of cloud initiatives that, while sharing similar environments, are not linked in any meaningful way. This siloed structure is not only ineffective, it can also be a detriment to functional relationships.

Consider this scenario: during an interview, a physician reported being contacted on 11 separate occasions by the same pharma company in a short period of time. To that physician, the pharma company was one entity, where in fact it is actually a collection of smaller groups that had not been aware that the others were in contact as well. This level of disconnect caused the physician to become irritated—not an ideal outcome. Had this company taken a different approach, it would have yielded much different business results. For example, another similar client has centralized its customer records which allows every business to interact with data in the way that suits their needs. In addition, each business is contributing to the data with every interaction, making coordination easier. That same client is also creating ways for physicians to contribute data based on additional interactions they’ve created digitally. With the customer and each functional team contributing data, there is greater ability to tailor relevant solutions and communications, all while delivering a consistent, connected and pleasing customer experience. The company has less interactions but is perceived as more relevant than the first. As well, in the future, that second company can more readily roll out new services to its physicians, for example, practice management solutions, peer-to-peer communities, learning health systems, etc. This approach (and leveraging the cloud) creates growth options that aren’t available to the first company in this scenario.

The goal with the cloud is to use data to win customers, beat competitors and improve profits—but for data to be transformational, it needs to be business critical. Not just from top to bottom, but across functions as well. It isn’t simply about using cloud-based data storage. It’s about connecting information from different data sets in effective and efficient ways and is necessary to being data-driven.

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Connecting the data dots

As the world becomes more data-driven, companies need strategies to overcome data overload. This is especially relevant when you consider timelines for new products. Traditionally, life science company’s primary source of competitive advantage was in the form of patent exclusivity, but that source of advantage is diminishing as the average tenure for a market leading treatment has declined 51% since 2001 and is now a mere 5.1 years. And medical devices have an even shorter runway.

In order to continue a competitive advantage, pharma companies will need to own the experience, from discovery through commercial and patient care. A leading way to do this effectively is to create single databases that correspond across the ecosystem, so everyone is sharing the same information. In the current landscape, speed to market is critical. Human biology is complex and much of the “low hanging fruit’ has already been plucked. It is harder than ever to develop drugs—and as we learn more about mechanisms of disease, therapies are becoming more personalized and complex. This means new drugs have smaller patient populations, so companies need to process an ever-increasing amount of data in steadily diminishing timeframes.

Connecting data into a centralized database is core to a truly functional cloud-driven experience and digitally native companies are utilizing this kind of agility to showcase the power of proper adoption.

Four steps to success

Realizing the full potential of the cloud requires more than technology. Life sciences companies must incorporate new ways of working and develop new roles and skills. Accenture has identified four critical areas for companies to address including:

  1. Embrace the cloud as a CEO priority: Often, the cloud journey is left to the CIO alone. Other executives don’t recognize that cloud-enabled business transformation is critical to success, so they don’t get involved in the program. Move beyond a linear IT-led approach to a holistic strategy that starts with fundamental purpose and balances priorities across growth and innovation, operational efficiencies and cost optimization. The CEO should be the cloud architect, supported by every member of the C-suite.
  2. Align technology to strategy: Life sciences companies are approaching the cloud as a pure technology play rather than an opportunity to transform their businesses. Instead, elevate technology investment decisions to be central to corporate strategy development and ensured accountability across the C-suite.
  3. Business value focus: A cloud strategy needs to be anchored to economic business cases to identify top-line and bottom-line opportunities across functions while aligning goals. But value should build on itself and unlock new opportunities, emphasizing the need to look at enterprise value and creating network effects that drive growth. Focusing on cost optimization and operational efficiencies without factoring growth is a flawed approach that leaves the most value on the table.
  4. Workforce and culture change management: A cloud investment can enable some savings, but that path alone will leave your company behind as others leapfrog ahead. To transform your business, you need to embrace and guide the people and culture elements. Implement talent readiness programs and new operating models to evolve culture, transforming how people work and how they meet rapidly changing needs.

Competition in life sciences is harder today than ever before. Succeeding requires companies to discover new therapies and devices faster, develop them into products quicker, market them smarter and price them more competitively. This means innovating faster, creating new revenue streams, deriving more insights and interacting differently with customers, partners and employees. It is well understood that the cloud is the driver for this transformation—with the question being whether your company is leveraging it enough to deliver the growth required to remain competitive.

1 The cloud imperative in life sciences


Mark Freitas

Managing Director – Accenture Strategy, Life Sciences

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