ZURICH, March 16th, 2018 – It is with great caution that one can describe this year’s impressive ProcureCon Pharma as “futuristic”; not because it hasn’t been this way, but because this would give a wrong impression to those who haven’t attended. Procurement is meant to be as pragmatic as you can get – and the three-day setting provided exactly the most practical visions of how to act. Providing a further perspective on pharma procurement digital transformation, Viseven team have also been part of the event.

The opening visionary remarks by Trevor Jones of Wellcome Group focused on the seemingly trivial question: What’s next for global pharma? In the streams of breaking news we all have been subjected to for the recent months, we typically recognize separate issues: tech breakthroughs, mergers and controversial customer engagement reports, GDPR and market access, AI and VR/AR. Now that everyone has gasped, what will the next step be for pharma industry? What will it mean for pharma procurement’s endless chase after top efficiency? Exactly these questions are the kind that made this year’s ProcureCon so inspiring.

Futurology: forget those movies, it’s all about the next several months

One of the most anticipated presentations was that given by futurologist David Smith, serving as a standard-bearer speech for many of the subsequent ones. Not long ago, hearing something along the lines of, “ageing disease will be cured” would trigger disbelief; but then again, so would anything about VR content in marketing. We see that, in fact, futurology is not a fantasy film director’s scratchpad – it’s the analysis of what will possibly happen later in the year.

So what’s the takeaway? Being open to change. For pharma, going digital has been good enough; now it’s about running alongside digital.

ProcureCon Pharma

The 3 down-to-earth questions

 Now, of course, this would not be ProcureCon if the whole discussion had been in general terms. Supposing you are willing to be proactive (and of course you are). This willingness by itself does not free you of the core tasks of procurement. As one of the most active participants, Paul Vincent of KellyOCG (further to be gratefully mentioned here), pointed out in his short LinkedIn post,

At Procurecon this week I hope all our talking is about the ‘how’, the ‘where’ and the ‘when’. It really is time to confine the ‘why’ to the history books – don’t you think?

This attitude has been, it seems, shared by all the participants, although having talked to quite a few only confirmed our belief that for each, the how, the where and the when are very different things.

A major common ground is content. Another one is working processes. Finding working solutions to the 3 questions in each of these paradigms is the decent reply to the challenge that in 2018.

Automation, innovative thinking, and human resources

The heading above nearly gives away the solutions to the “how”, “where” and “why”. At least the general directions of thought. Take the most general question of how to boost efficiency in digital content procurement. Automating processes is a viable option – and it was discussed at length during the “Fireside chat” (moderated by Norgine’s Chief Procurement Officer Paresh Jani). Automation these days is, citing McKinsey,

‘happening 10 times faster and at 300 times the scale, or roughly 3,000 times the impact’, of the Industrial Revolution.

Possibilities and tech are not lacking if you know where to look for them. This, however, swiftly expands into two further questions: what to automate and when to automate?

The first one is answered depending on your organization – and the overall strategy. Managing digital content is notorious for its myriads of minor aspects (assets IDs, file storage, keys, data transfer, communications between vendors) – most of which can be automated. In content creation and reuse (think converting static PDFs into interactive apps, for example) it’s more the matter of talent. When to automate again? As soon as it comes to either in-house teams or external suppliers communicating.

Which brings us to human resources and talent. As Paul Vincent (who has a whole theory on HR+procurement interaction) remarked,

There is no magic equation underpinning the buy, build or borrow decision. The right blend of talent is individual to each organisation and has to be rooted in how they believe their work best gets done.

The name of the game is not just to foster in-house at all costs, or, vice versa, juggle with multiple vendor contacts whenever needed. The trick is to get the right balance, so procurement can function while having firm understanding of the organizational picture, however flexible it is.

Lastly, there is the question of how innovative thinking can be introduced to liven up what procurement gets to work with.

This was the key point at the opening of Day 3, in the speech by Matteo Stefani (UCB), and also the interactive working group with John Everett and Bill Young of CIPS Switzerland, who focused on the unique opportunities that procurement gets when the fear of dealing with startup enterprises is thrown away. Influx of new ideas is helpful to keep open to change – provided the communications are sufficient.

These challenges – and the pathways to corresponding solutions – are something we at Viseven have been able to relate to. In fact, that is why our specialists were present at the event, not as listeners, though, but also contributing from the tech/organizational side of the paradigm.

ProcureCon Pharma

The comprehensive set of solutions for pharma digital content production and management, the Digital Content Factory, is an already working way to boost procurement efficiency. This is achieved by:

  • Automating exactly the processes needed, and when needed (localization, repurpose and conversion);
  • Establishing a smoothly functioning ecosystem that covers both in-house teams and any amount of content vendors worldwide;
  • Creating content based on globally stored corporate templates, encouraging branding consistency, giving the various agencies a common ground and reducing content time-to-market.

For more information on the Digital Content Factory, and its underlying platform, eWizard, you can look here. The thing to remember is, being open to change is today the same as focusing on efficiency – and procurement is the first to benefit from these changes.