A unified Business Development and Partnering system, lessons learned from a Biopharma Leader

Published on May 16, 2011

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We recently finalized the deployment of our Business Development & Licensing product suite at one of the largest global pharmaceutical companies. This deployment represents a significant shift from a company that was plagued with the challenges and inefficiencies of a widely decentralized, geographically and culturally diverse community of business development teams to a highly agile, well-coordinated global team that has earned its place as Partner-of-Choice in the eyes of its alliance partners.
As the nature of business development and strategic alliances has evolved into a world of complex global relationships with alliances spanning multiple regions and multiple therapeutic programs, this client recognized that a fully decentralized organization, with its many separate information systems, was unsustainable.  With the help of our system, our client has consistently ranked among the top five most desired companies to partner with [1].

Our client now has one single software framework to manage the full lifecycle of partnering activities, including search & evaluation in alignment with company strategy;  sustainable and reproducible processes for in/out licensing, R&D collaborations and M&A; and alliance management. The same system is used across divisions from consumer health to therapeutic areas in pharma to animal health. More than 300 professionals now share a single database with stored information on all external interactions (academia, biotech…), licensing opportunities, post deal obligations like milestones payments, etc.  Until recently the Business Development IT infrastructure that supported these diverse communities consisted of 21 different systems with very little if any coordination between them.
This situation is far from unique. Many of the large pharmaceutical companies still employ several different databases across their Business Development activities. Business Development comprises three main disciplines:

Over the years, each group has built its own homegrown system to manage its data. Their needs were different and in some cases, legal departments mandated the separation of those databases to avoid IP contamination.
With the growing volume of data, many BD executives are seeking new IT solutions to increase departmental efficiency. As they do so, they realize that it is also time to merge the different systems into one.  Over time, they have seen that duplication of data caused various difficulties. For instance, a search & evaluation team might be screening a new technology; while a transactional team from another division might be closing a deal with the same company. If a scout meets a biotech in a conference, he/she needs to know who in his company is already interacting with them. Duplication of data creates unnecessary time spent by the teams to retrieve information. BD executives have also realized that successful partnerships take years to develop. With the high turnover of BD professionals in most organizations, the knowledge of interactions with these developing partnerships is hard to maintain and a common system provides an essential “corporate memory.”  Contrary to the separate system approach mentioned above, strong authentication and access control capabilities in one single database provide the security and protections mandated by legal departments, and is far easier to manage, since access control is managed with one consistent policy.
For the reasons stated above, many biopharma companies are making the decision to migrate to one single BD database. Once the decision is taken there are several important considerations on the way to successful implementations.

  • The first consideration is the choice of a system. Often pharmaceutical companies start by evaluating the existing disparate systems in use, hoping that one could cover the needs of all of the teams.  This hope is seldom fulfilled by one existing system, and choosing one over others often creates conflicts. Project leadership is often vested in one group, resulting in resistance from other groups, ultimately leading to termination of the failed project. Our experience with several of our clients indicates that a fresh look at the needs of all teams without bias toward one system or another, incorporating best practices gained from experience with many pharma companies, leads to a stronger set of requirements and a more successful implementation with a sense of ownership from key stakeholders from all departments.
  • The second  is to configure the system based on the different requirements mentioned above. Traditionally, projects start with writing detailed requirements.  Unfortunately, gaining consensus among many participants with sometimes conflicting interests can be difficult and leads to some requirements being impossible to fulfill.  By taking a core group of stakeholders from the key departments, and allowing them to “model” their requirements in a dynamically configurable framework, this group of stakeholders will begin to achieve consensus, and develop a sense of collective ownership in the system.  This is best done in an in-person, workshop format. Without such a concentrated activity, achieving consensus on requirements can easily take more than a year.
  • The third consideration is the definition of an access control policy. Putting everyone on one system should not mean that everyone sees everything.  Finding the right balance between security and collaboration is not an easy task. Experience from other companies and strong access control configurability are key success factors.
  • The last consideration is the integration with other systems. Indeed, having one single system gives the opportunity to integrate the system with other business tools. For example, we highly recommend interfacing the BD&L platform with Project Portfolio tools to automatically track project milestone achievement and initiate related alliance payments. The BD&L system chosen should have an open architecture with strong web services capability to allow such connections.

As partnerships and collaborations continue to provide a greater share of BioPharma’s pipeline of new products, I strongly believe that most BioPharma companies will require one integrated system for all their BD&L and partnering activities. The system will help extend BD activities across the organization, facilitate a closer working relationship with R&D and foster better external interactions. Since the goal of these partnerships and collaborations is to advance the state of health and well-being in our society, there is very good news ahead.
Guy Henninger, SVP l Business Development, Inova Inc

[1] Collaborative Innovation: Partnering for Success in Life Sciences, S. Henderson et al,  IBM Institute for Business Value, October 2010

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