In life sciences, organizations are faced with pressures to support continually faster product development cycles and improved patient experiences. Cloud technologies provide that required flexibility and business agility — yet unique and significant challenges remain that companies must overcome before they can be considered truly “cloud first”.

The adoption and deployment of cloud technology isn’t some future aspiration. It is an urgent mandate at the heart of current and future business. Its true virtue is the ability to help life sciences companies connect vast pockets of data, while collaborating better across the ecosystem and creating more meaningful patient and healthcare provider (HCP) experiences. Becoming truly cloud-enabled also allows for dynamic, cross-industry partnerships, improving workplace culture and fostering an agile mindset.

Across all industries, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the immediate opportunity of cloud technology, through rapid development of vaccines, operational transformation of business services and new ways of communicating, working and thinking. And while the pandemic has been an indisputable health crisis with real impact on individuals and healthcare systems around the world, its arrival also served to expose the hesitancy of our industry to transform—but at the same time, given the right incentive, that true innovation is possible.

If not now, when?

Unmet patient and HCP needs—as well as affordability and return on investments—are always at the forefront of industry leaders’ minds, many of whom understand that cloud transformation is not only worthwhile but required to achieve business goals. Accenture research also showed that companies that were 2.5 times more likely to adopt new technologies like cloud grew revenue at more than twice the rate of the bottom 25%1. So why the reluctance to go all-in on cloud?

Part of the challenge is mindset. For many leaders, using some cloud capabilities is enough for them to believe that they are agile and cloud-driven—but simply moving parts of the business to the cloud does not ensure business value. It must be part of an overall digital strategy that runs throughout the entire enterprise. The reality today is that it currently costs too much to identify and develop treatments—a cost that is passed onto consumers and health systems. The result is that many people struggle to access or afford vital treatments. If used effectively, cloud can help reduce that cost for biopharma companies and, ultimately, help make healthcare more affordable.

Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft are collectively investing more than $200m a day in cloud related R&D². This investment is set to fundamentally transform how businesses around the world operate. For life sciences, this translates to an increase in the speed of product and service development, requiring organizations to keep pace or risk getting left behind.

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When COVID-19 emerged and forced businesses around the world to rethink operations, it was the companies that had already invested in cloud capabilities that were best positioned to survive the disturbance. Biotech companies born in the cloud (digital biotech natives) quickly transitioned into remote models for work and clinical trial functions in a fraction of the time of non-native companies—and for a fraction of the cost.

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Six strategies for success

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to true cloud adoption, each company should start with defining the value, mapping out the journey and determining how cloud will enable the overall business strategy and ambition. An intelligent cloud journey also needs to balance speed and value. A rushed adoption without clear strategy can end up costing the business more, leaving legacy applications racking up consumption—and costs—at an alarming rate. For life sciences companies, that means adopting and adhering to the following key strategies:

  1. Innovate at speed and scale: product development continues at an exponential rate, particularly within digital products. Companies must leverage cloud technologies to improve agility and support faster development of products and services.
  2. Create new ecosystems: non-traditional partnerships help companies navigate disruption while creating more secure ways to integrate, innovate and share data.
  3. Transform your supply chain: with access to the massive computing power of the cloud, companies can increase connectivity across their supply chain, while generating critical business insights that can drive decision-making.
  4. Unify responsibility and success metrics: all parties and functions with a vested interest in moving to the cloud should be doing so in tandem – agreeing to what they want to achieve, how they will achieve it and how to measure success.
  5. Invest in developing talent with digital skills: focus on your organizational technology quotient and go beyond building pockets of excellence, in order to implement a strategy for achieving enterprise-wide transformation.
  6. Reshape the regulatory environment: faster approval processes and policies around risk, security and data, for new IT methods, will bring treatments to market in less time.

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In September of 2020, Accenture announced Cloud First with a $3 billion investment over three years to help clients across all industries rapidly become cloud-based businesses and accelerate their digital transformation. This, along with investments from tech giants like AWS, Google and Microsoft, is evidence that cloud is and will be the driving force of current and future business.

In life sciences, COVID-19 created an exceptional case for what is possible if companies truly embrace cloud technologies and capabilities. The pandemic is also showing new and innovative ways of working supported by cloud, along with unforeseen collaborations between different industries, novel approaches for clinical trials, and the delivery of treatments and overall connectivity across geographies.

The next three years in life sciences will be critical to the evolution of our industry. Companies that adopt cloud across the enterprise will be best positioned to better capitalize on the immediate and long-term future.

In my next post in this series, I’ll explore in more depth the impact and opportunity presented by cloud technologies—and how it will help bring clarity to vast caches of data in order to accelerate development and create meaningful applications for the information.


1. Full Value. Full Stop. How to scale innovation and achieve full value with Future Systems, Accenture 2019. 

2. Why a cloud-first strategy is needed now, Accenture 2020. 


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The opinions, statements, and assessments in this report are solely those of the individual author(s) and do not constitute legal advice, nor do they necessarily reflect the views of Accenture, its subsidiaries, or affiliates.

This document is intended for general informational purposes only and does not take into account the reader’s specific circumstances, and may not reflect the most current developments. Accenture disclaims, to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, any and all liability for the accuracy and completeness of the information in this presentation and for any acts or omissions made based on such information. Accenture does not provide legal, regulatory, audit, or tax advice. Readers are responsible for obtaining such advice from their own legal counsel or other licensed professionals.

Copyright © 2020 Accenture.

All rights reserved. Accenture and its logo are registered trademarks.

Geoff Schmidt

Managing Director – Cloud First, Life Sciences

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