I read with interest an article from the Globe & Mail entitled Big Pharma eyes IT alliances. The crux of the article, on the surface, is that the pharmaceutical industry is trying to demonstrate value of their medications.
One of the parts of the article that caught my eye was the following paragraph.
Novartis, for example, signed a $24 million deal last month with U.S.-based Proteus Biomedical to create “smart pills” that can transmit data from inside the body to monitor patients' vital signs and check they have taken medicines as prescribed.
What struck me, as so often does these days, is that the underpinning success to what they are trying to do is going to be found in the data. It's all about the data. Big data. What I mean by big data is that there will be vast amounts of data. As I started this post above, the pharmaceutical industry wants to demonstrate/prove the value of their medications. The fact of the matter, though, is that to demonstrate value, you have to first understand what that value is. You can't do that by just collecting data. You have to analyze that data. In this case, as I eluded to, there are going to be mass amounts of data. Imagine how much one person would generate in terms of data being transmitted from one of these smart pills. Now multiply that by a week, by a month, by a year. When you are done that, multiple it by 1000 people, 10,000 people, 100,000 people. You see where this is going right? There will be millions and millions of rows of data streaming into databases. That is big data.
For the pharmaceutical companies to get value from all that data, there needs to be a robust business intelligence layer that sits atop a very robust enterprise data warehouse (EDW) infrastructure. Without it, you don't see value. You only have data.
The challenge the article highlights is
The new era poses some notable challenges, not least the cultural gap between fast-moving technology companies, with rapid innovation cycles, and a more ponderous drugs industry, where bringing a new product to market typically takes 10 years or more.
but this is effectively overcome by leveraging an IT partner that engages in the rapid approach to business intelligence. It isn't about the "fast-moving technology companies" at all. It's about the shifting nature of data. As they collect this data from new devices and couple that data with other sources, surprise findings will emerge. That will challenge assumptions and upset well thought out long term plans. Large business intelligence initiatives will yield little value. Instead, a series of 100 day projects should be initiated, with each of these short burst initiatives doing two things:
- providing value to the end-users, allowing the pharmaceutical companies to start to understand the value of their medications and demonstrate that value, and,
- provide insight from lessons learned so that the next short 100 day initiative is better than the first.
These are things that I've seen inside industry verticals like telecommunication and financial services. These industries grapple with making sense of what lay within their mass stores of data too. I find it exciting that what the pharmaceutical industry is preparing to embark upon will allow them to transform their data into intelligence. With that business intelligence, they can then move on to insight.