5 Tips for Picking the Most Cost-Effective Pharma Business Analytics Solution

The end of the year is around the corner and commercial operation departments are preparing budgets for next year. Pharma business analytics has always been a tough one. There are so many choices and decision points on how to approach it. Even the title isn’t clearly defined – is it business intelligence? Business analytics? Data visualization? Data mining? Or just enhanced CRM? Well, there are vendors offering any of those, but which one is right for your organization’s business needs? Are you looking for an ad hoc tool or a more powerful solution? Are you looking for a turn-key or a platform? Do you want to be hands off or be involved in the implementation and maintenance?

Commercial analytical solutions tend to be rather deceiving. While their breadth and analytical abilities differ tremendously, their user interfaces look quite alike. All of them end up showing dashboards with graphs and charts, with tables of data and colorful highlights. When shopping for a solution for you organization, you ought to scratch the surface and scrutinize the details to make a wise choice, both in terms of fit for your organization as well as for budget planning and anticipating how much you’ll have to spend to keep the solution relevant and effective.

Here are a few tips on how to evaluate the various choices in pharma business analytics:

1)  Narrow vs. Wide

Some solutions cover more than others – are you looking at implementing a number of narrowly dedicated solutions for different areas (Sales, marketing, managed markets) or different parts of the organization (by geography, therapeutic, P&L center), or at a comprehensive solution that covers them all? Of course, a narrowly dedicated solution is simpler – less data and far less complexity. If you need such a narrow view of affairs, even Excel spreadsheets might suffice.

If you’re attempting to provide decision support, you might want to consider providing a wider view of the organization and the marketplace. Show interdependencies between departments – how did a marketing campaign affect sales? Was it similar in a different geography? Did the launch of a new therapeutic affect the sales of another?

If these are the questions you need to answer, you might want to look into a more comprehensive pharma business analytics solution, that takes all this data into account. More expansive but definitely worth it.

2) On Premise vs. SaaS

The world is moving toward solutions on the cloud, which offer great advantages of continuous updates and seamless service. Some organizations still have reservations about moving to the cloud, either for security reasons or for integration with legacy systems that haven’t moved to the cloud yet. Whatever your choice, you have to budget accordingly. On premise solutions require not only hardware but also the personnel to support it, the room to store it, and the extra costs of software upgrades.

3) High-end vs. Simple Solution

As mentioned above, there’s a wide variety of solutions in the market. Some organizations feel that add-on analytical features on their CRM, answers enough of their questions. Organizations with more complexity and abundance of big data to deal with, understand that they need to go beyond that to find valuable insights that will actually make their day-to-day work in commercial operations more effective. Pinpointing drivers for a sales slump, early identification of a cannibalization problem, or close monitoring of pull through campaigns, save organizations millions of dollars as well as frustration. If you can afford it, find a solution that goes beyond colorful highlights and delivers valuable, actionable insights.

4) Off the Shelf vs. Custom

How unique are the needs of your organization? Will you be able to get adequate value from a generic BI tool with some basic configurations to address your business questions?

Modern visualization tools provide off-the-shelf self-service capabilities. Your analysts can generate a variety of reports, and drill in and out for all sorts of views. This independence is a great quality yet should be taken with a grain of salt. Most of these tools are not very robust and can’t digest the big picture in larger, more complex organizations.

Complex organizations need a vigorous platform that can deal with varied, big data, which are beyond the capacity of these tools.

5) Change Management – In House IT? Consultants? End-to-end solution?

Change management is often the single most expansive component of your pharma business analytics solution. Change is inevitable – the market changes on a daily basis with new prescribers, new competing products, new marketing campaigns, different payer contracts, and changing regulations. Your organization changes as well, launching new drugs, changing alignments, kicking off campaigns, etc. It is crucial to keep your solution constantly up to date with all changes. Otherwise, the insights derived by it will not be relevant and utilization rates will drop as users will deem it inapt.

Hence, change management is the most important portion of your commercial analytics budget. Make sure you understand the implications of keeping the solution relevant to ensure it will be used and bring value to your organization. Beware the pitfall of selecting an ‘orphan’ solution that leaves you shopping for professional services to implement every single change – a most expansive and time consuming process.

In summary, commercial analytics are comprised from a number of components. It is crucial to take them all into account when planning your business analytical solutions budget. Look at the medium to long term and not only the implementation phase. Assume scale and make sure to plan for it. In many cases, a first-rate higher priced solution, ends up in the long run, less expensive than a basic solution with numerous patches you have to take care of, not to mention the better business value a first-rate solution generates for you.