Collaboration is Key to Success

Last month, BusinessWeek published an article about how the Pharmaceutical Industry has been changing their strategy from a strictly competitive one to a more collaborative one.

Although the article, “Mega Mergers Can’t Cure the Pharmaceutical Industry” talks about how Pharmaceutical companies are keeping costs down by collaborating with each other and producing tangible for themselves and their customers.

In the Pharmaceutical Industry, R&D strategies have traditionally focused on “out-spending and out-innovating the competition”, often through the merger and acquisition of startup companies. Unfortuntately, the costs of discovering, developing, and commercializing a new drug through the innovation-through-merger now exceeds $2.2 billion because:

mergers [have] typically contributed to declines in R&D productivity. Rather than streamline and focus R&D, management tends to retain most of the drug pipelines, physical assets, and R&D talent of the combined companies—which makes decision-making and resource allocation even more difficult.

Mergers are all very public, but lately, according to BusinessWeek, there have been a “But a recent string of quieter agreements that signal collaboration on research and development”.  Big Pharma is looking at how drugs interact with each other and how the combination creates a more effective.

The benefits are three fold:

  1. Companies can avoiding the shotgun approach of funding many similar products by funding only those products that have a high likelihood of showing real difference in medical outcomes
  2. Companies can avoid spending resources on a variety of duplicative (“me too”) products
  3. Companies can distribute risk across all the partners adding a predictability to pipelines and long-term revenue

These were exactly the reasons that pushed AstraZeneca and Merck to work together to test a new, experimental cancer regimen based on a “cocktail” consisting of drugs made by each. If the approach doesn’t work, the partners can kill both compounds early and minimize the cost. If it works, they’ll have a more effective, proven cancer treatment they can get to market faster and cheaper. This approach does not reduce the competitiveness of the industry, but rather refocuses it on those areas where its true strengths lie—global footprint, access to emerging markets, and relationships with increasingly demanding regulators and reimbursement authorities

Innovation by collaboration has huge benefits for the partners and for their customers. As consumers of big pharma, we’ll know more about drug interactions — specifically those that produce positive health results rather than negative side effects — which should make it easier to get the “second” drug we need from our insurance carriers.

The article’s well worth the read, I’m glad to see Pharma coming to this model because This is something we do every day. It’s something that we’ve always done at Single-Sourcing Solutions with our partners.

We call it the “Meta-Partnership”

We have strong meta-partnerships with a number of other PTC partners. By coordinating with these partners at the top level, our customers get the strength and experience of both companies and our entire network.

Our customers come from industries that are heavily regulated: They have labeling and packaging requirements that are severe, and their need to generate and publish accurate and timely product information is great. The ‘Write it once, publish it in multiple formats” capabilities that Arbortext has is strongly aligned with this business need. Arbortext offers these industries a solution that is seamless from end to end, generating XML content that can be published in multiple formats for multiple end receivers from one centralized repository managing the content.

Single-Sourcing Solutions believes strongly in creating healthy alliances with other partners so that we can leverage with each other and create an even stronger solution for our customers. Each of our partners has a unique position of specializing in a PTC product.  We specialize in Arbortext. Others specialize in Windchill, or MathCad, or NetRegulus, or Relex, or Pro/E, or you name it. As our customer’s business requirements grow and change, the whole network continues to be available to them.

Single-Sourcing Solutions and our meta-partners bring each other strength in expertise as well as a solid philosophy and practice in stellar customer service. We feel that these meta-partnerships not only strengthen PTC partners, but lend those strengths to our customers as well.

Why move out of traditional publishing tools?

I answered a question recently

What IF you were CEO of a (i) big pharma., (ii) medical device and (iii) health service organization (hospital, HMO, etc.)? What changes would you have made and why?

There is no question lots of companies in the pharma., medical device and health service (hospital, HMO, etc.) industries are struggling to survive and/or prosper in today’s fast changing global business environment where laser-beam decision making accuracy and speed, flexibility, agility, business model rethinking are core requirements.

Given the above reality that all of us experience first hand, what changes YOU would implement IF you were CEO of a (i) big pharma., (ii) medical device and (iii) health service organization (hospital, HMO, etc.)? Why?

What do you think the above industry sectors need but no one has offered yet?

What does the future hold? Where are we going?

I would pursue a move to automated publishing.

There’s two ways to improve profit: sell more or spend less. Why not do both at once? If you’re looking to sell more, by going to European markets, then you’re looking at translation costs that can be sky high if you’re tired to traditional publishing tools (Word, FrameMaker).

For Med and Pharma companies, translation is a requirement. The products are health-related and the users must be able to make informed decisions, understand side-effects and usage requirements. This means the documentation surrounding the product (labeling, usage manuals, repair manuals, product inserts) are all tightly controlled and must be in the native language of the person taking the medication or using the product. The liability otherwise, if they do the wrong thing, is just far too high.

First, if you’re authoring using traditional tools, a change that cascades changes to the following pages looks to a translator like all the following pages have changed — as, indeed, They Have!

And you, as a company having documentation translated, are charged for every single page that the translator has to verify. Not just the changed bits you’d prefer to pay for.

With an automated authoring and publishing system, layout is automated (to all the formats listed previously). There’s no costly verification of pages that only changed because of cascaded layout differences.

Second, if you’re using monolithic, proprietary systems like FrameMaker or Word, what you have is an isolated silo of information. You can’t have plug and play modules that contain boilerplate information, or reuse information for common components across product lines. Each page is authored, copied and pasted, and stored in the silo document.

In an automated authoring and publishing environment, you can gather fragments together, reuse at will, mix and match your bits of documentation just like you mix and match parts in your products.

The first time you translate, you translate everything, but after that, because you’re reusing information components, you only have to translate new components or changed components. You can track, measure, and verify that other components are guaranteed not to have changed, and then automatically merge and create the product documentation after having only the new/changed information translated.

Again, costs are far, far less because you have the ability to mix and match at a smaller than document level in a nontraditional authoring and publishing environment that is built to leverage reusable components, to automate layout, and minimize impact of changes to every product in your portfolio.

Essentially: you can sell more, to more countries, and not have to spend a fortune to do it.

Let me say one more thing:

One of our customers was offered a discount by their translation vendor to get out of Frame and move to an automated publishing system. A discount in this economy is hard — and great — to find.