4 ways IT controls can speed decision making in biotechs (Yes, really!)

Jackie Fernandes

Jackie Fernandes is a Guest Contributor.  She has extensive experience in creating IT strategy and implementing operational frameworks that drive compliance, improve security, and support pre and post-IPO research and commercial companies so they can operate efficiently and quickly scale.

Having spent many years in IT, cybersecurity and compliance roles, I have learned a lot when it comes to people and data. People love data and information. They love accessing it, analyzing it, owning it and protecting it.

During my time working in biotech, I have experienced exponential company growth. And with the growth of a company comes growth of its data. In this post, I will share how IT controls and data governance can effectively support a biotech’s business needs during times of rapid growth.  

Through a lens of security and compliance, here are four ways IT can add speed and efficiency to how business groups access and use data to make decisions quickly.

1. Create cross-functional committees

Communication and transparency seem like obvious goals but are not always easy to do, especially when things are moving very quickly. As a biotech’s portfolio grows, so do the number of product teams. With each team laser focused on their own products, it’s not uncommon for teams to start working in silos. One scenario where lack of communication can hit the bottom line quickly is when multiple teams are purchasing the same information.

To foster transparency, IT can create cross-functional committees designed to improve communication and sharing among teams. When a group is looking for information or specific data, they have an opportunity to present their needs to the committee. Members can ask simple but important questions, like:

  • “What do we need this information for?”
  • “Do we already have this data? Where can I find it?”
  • “Has anyone reached out to this group yet?”

Cross-functional committees open lines of communication, encourage transparency and can help reduce unnecessary costs. 

2. Consolidate: Create a single source of truth 

Business stakeholders often need information to do their jobs but cannot get to it. Consolidating data from different places into one clean, categorized, structured place has tremendous benefits. Here are a couple of examples I’ve experienced recently where having a single source of truth provided valuable business impact:

While leading IT for a biotech, we worked with the R&D team to consolidate test data. Before the project, the R&D team ran tests on information stored in SharePoint and several other lab instruments. IT brought all the data into one controlled environment. In this case, it was an AWS data hub. The new data hub enabled the R&D team to access all the data faster, run better tests and produce better analytics for decision making.  

Another example—Imagine your CEO asking questions and it takes you three weeks to get back to them. The data and information you need is scattered, not easily accessible or missing. This was a real scenario for one our teams. But after we consolidated everything into a data hub, the CEO received answers within 3 hours instead of 3 weeks!  

In both cases, the data hub not only served as a transparent, up-to-date inventory of information, but a better internal pipeline of communication even if teams were not communicating verbally. Everyone knew what data existed, where it came from and who could access it. Clean data enabled teams to get their jobs done safely, accurately and timely.  

3. Automate policy compliance 

As a biotech moves to advanced stages, increased regulations and compliance require more rigor from business and IT teams. IT can help find opportunities to automate processes to increase efficiency and follow policy automatically. An example: patient consent is an area where non-compliance can have huge consequences. When field teams are talking with patients, they must ask for consent regarding specific topics. IT can help ensure compliance by implementing automatic on-screen prompts. Field teams capture consent digitally without it feeling like an extra step or hindrance.  

4. Purge data to avoid potential trouble

In biotechs especially, having a regular review of IT controls and purging unnecessary information can be extremely beneficial when regulatory requirements and privacy compliance come into play. Thoroughly understanding what data is necessary and what data is no longer needed can save your company from unnecessary legal trouble and potential delay or even failure.  

Have IT controls in place to support faster business decisions

No doubt there is excitement and opportunities within a rapidly growing biotech. As the company moves through stages—from discovery through commercialization—the type of data collected and created changes and grows. This new data and information are extremely beneficial and often critical to how decisions are made. Functional teams rely on it for product development. Sales and brand teams rely on it to help hit revenue targets. Senior executives rely on it to make high-level business decisions.

Keeping up with change as a company grows requires better communication and transparency among teams as well as IT control structures that evolve to support business needs. By working alongside business stakeholders throughout a company’s growth journey, IT can gain a clear understanding of what data exists, where it resides and who needs it. After layering in regulatory, privacy and compliance obligations, IT can implement data access and security controls that streamline both people and data technology processes. With faster business decisions in the forefront, IT can design controls for speed, efficiency and accuracy of data for the business as opposed to being seen as barriers or red tape.