(German version below)
In my last blog post, ‘Digital Transformation Is About More than Just IT,’ I wrote about a fortunate trend, whereby more and more companies are taking a more holistic approach to the digital transformation. We know that IT alone is not the solution to the challenges posed by the digital transformation. More and more companies are slowly realizing that the digital transformation affects not only the IT department but also all other areas of the company.
But training courses and consulting services that are currently being offered give a different impression. Discussions revolving around the digital transformation primarily address the challenges in today’s business world, and terms such as ‘agility’ and ‘new business models’ crop up as the important key terms. Well-known companies that were once successful are mentioned as examples of organizations that did not manage to get on the right path towards digitalization. The training courses and consulting services then frequently put forward new IT procedures and technologies – such as cloud computing, microservices, DevOps, and big data – as solutions to the challenges of our time. However, IT departments are often not trusted to successfully introduce such modern solutions.
Mobile apps and Big Data are important topics, which are more and more relevant in the Life Science Industry. New media is available on a global base. That’s the reason why people and companies have to adapt their processes to this new digital age. People search for information on the internet and often trust blogs or forums more than the old fashioned ways. For medical problems they do not only trust doctors, but inform themselves on the web. The new social media has big influence on the ways on how information is provided and received. Also the way of interactive information exchange has changed. Formulas are used in a digital way, either on websites or also on mobile apps. Therefore data has to be accessed in a global way. Mobile apps are used outside of secure networks; therefore, also the related data has to be stored secure in a global way, which allows access from the internet.
Although both industries – Discrete Manufacturing and Process Manufacturing – are completely different, I see some similarities.
10 years ago, the only competitive threat for a traditional OEM came from another traditional OEM. All R&D Managers had an arrogant smile on the face when they heard about a small US company, which was entering the market with electric cars. Today this company – Tesla – is also an established player. But new competitors do appear on the horizon: Apple, Google, Uber and others. Companies with no knowledge about how to build, sell and maintain a car. Why is this possible?
Word has gotten around that big data is a new and promising IT discipline. There are many examples of successful big data applications. They include connected cars, mobile adversing and security analytics just to name a few. Not much is heard from the life science industry. Clearly the lines between medical devices and lifestyle products such as fitness trackers are gradually blurring.
Bitkom surveyed 102 companies from the pharmaceuticals sector about the digital transformation in 2015. According to this survey, 97 per cent of pharmaceutical companies believe that lifestyle products are going to make a significant contribution to operating results in the future. These companies would therefore hold an important component of the new value chain: the sensor that records a variety of vital functions.
Lately I have been talking to different clients about their journey into the digital transformation, cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT). We are looking into how we can help them to fully exploit the possibilities of existing technologies and business models and furthermore challenge existing business models through existing and new technologies. In the course of this I finally got my hands on a bunch of Amazon dash buttons. Despite that I’m not able to use them as intended (only US, only Amazon prime), buying detergents or diapers just by pushing the button, I am quite happy! The dash buttons are remarkable IoT devices and representing a milestone in technical evolution affecting the lives of most of us.
Remarkable, milestone, evolution, revolution… isn’t it just a button able to order some goods or products? I think it’s far more, Amazon paved the way for IoT business for retail and consumer markets. They standardized a powerful hardware setup for low cost, running infrastructures capable and scalable to handle any amount of purchase requests, provide easy setups for the users and alongside ease customer loyalty and are attractive to vendors, selling their goods.
Virtually every industry is currently facing the challenge of digital transformation, including the life sciences sector.
But what exactly does the digital transformation entail and what consequences does it have?
When it comes to digital transformation, we talk about the ‘third wave’ of IT. The first wave was the introduction of the server-client architecture which followed the mainframe principle. The second wave was Internet technology, and we are now talking about a third wave, that being smart, networked devices.
As I see it, digital transformation is based on two main pillars:
- On the one hand, we are finding that the pace of sensor development is gaining speed. They are becoming more accurate, more specialized, and more compact. But most of all, they are growing more affordable, meaning they can even be used as disposable products. Sensors are used everywhere, whether in industry, in cars, at home, or in the field of medicine. They measure sounds, vibrations, movements, temperature, pressure, humidity, and much more.
- The second factor is that IT is now readily available and easy to consume in any quality and quantity and at any time. The vast amount of data produced by sensors, mobile end devices, traffic management systems, and much more can nowadays easily be stored centrally and can be analyzed in a matter of seconds, in some cases even in real time. Correlations obtained from these data produce unprecedented findings about such matters as production processes, causes of illnesses, and the usage of wearables.
The digital transformation is driving industry change
These new findings are putting many companies in a position to rethink their business processes and models: read more