Category: Blog

If IT Is from Mars, Procurement Is from Venus: 5 Steps to Break the Chasm between IT and Procurement for IT Sourcing

It may seem at times that the IT and procurement departments can be on different planets when it comes to IT sourcing services spend. But it doesn’t have to be “us” versus “them.” Read on to learn how to counteract differences in communication styles and behavior patterns, so your entire organization wins.

For a complimentary analysis of your IT sourcing practices, take our IT Sourcing Pinnacle Model® survey to see how you compare against best-in-class or IT sourcing Pinnacle Enterprises™ across leading global organizations.

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How their stars align

Anyone who has set up a new procurement department at a firm with large volumes of untracked indirect spend knows they first need to target the IT department and get involved in their sourcing projects. The reasons are simple – IT has large volumes of spend, generally adopts procurement practices the earliest, and can become the greatest support system in the long-term. The CIO’s office consists of the visionaries who are willing to take high risks of trying something new and are the least process-sensitive of all business units. Often, IT category managers end up closely collaborating with their functional leads, and certain organizations centralize procurement departments in IT. Further, as early adopters, IT prefers to rely on their own intuition and vision and also are willing to serve as highly visible references to other adopter groups in the population (i.e., other business units). Thus, IT is the stepping stone for procurement if they want to establish their foothold in the organization and increase spend under their influence, which is still abysmally low. The typical procurement team is not involved in nearly half of their company’s services spend, as can be seen in the exhibit below.

Procurement influence across indirect spend in Pinnacle Enterprises™ (best-in-class organizations that lead the services sourcing journey) and other enterprises
Source: Services Sourcing Organizational Maturity | Pinnacle Model® Analysis (Everest Group 2020)

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Colliding orbits 

However, at the same time, the IT function can be highly demanding.  IT is always in upheaval, beset on one side by users and the other by budgets. As in any relationship, IT and procurement tackle multiple such chasms, but their problems range across the same old partnership concerns that exist in modern-day relationships – stonewalling, unsolicited criticism, and the atypical “you never listen to me!” argument. Multiple examples can help prove this analogy: IT and procurement do not have regular meetings (in most organizations, they do not even meet monthly), do not involve each other across stages in sourcing engagements (IT is known to invite procurement late in the sourcing journey, whereas procurement is known to keep IT out of negotiations), and still treat each other as separate entities, instead of working towards a shared goal.

If the two could solve a couple of key issues in this troubled relationship, the IT-procurement partnership can create great profitability for the firm in the long haul. Here are five ways to help strengthen the bonds between these crucial areas:

  1. Support each other’s growth and development: The basic rule of a relationship is that when one is growing at a rapid pace, the other needs to ramp up to provide support. Organizations are being driven to rapidly undertake digital transformation by recent market trends such as migration to cloud services, servitization, and cybersecurity measures becoming the new norm. IT spend is spearheading the growth of an organization, with IT spending worldwide expected to reach about US$4.2 trillion in 2021, an 8.6% increase in growth compared to 2020. Specifically, the IT services market (that encompasses a range of offerings that assist enterprises in implementing, managing, and operating a wide variety of systems, software, and equipment that are used in modern IT environments) accounted for over US$152 billion spend in 2020 and is one of the fastest-growing segments in the overarching IT industry, trailing only enterprise software in terms of year-over-year growth. This increase in IT services spend requires procurement to rewire their own agendas from being cost-focused towards becoming more value-focused, and also reshaping outsourcing contracts to ensure long-term success in today’s changed outsourcing environment

 

Growth in IT spend from 2016-2022, including hardware, software, and services spend (2021 and 2022 spend values are estimates)
Source: Statista (2021)

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At this point of rapid growth, it is imperative for procurement to up its IT sourcing game by becoming more agile and reducing sourcing turnaround time, gaining more category intelligence in emerging technology areas such as blockchain and cybersecurity, getting used to negotiating complex licensing agreements, and adjusting contracts to incorporate recent rate increases requested by suppliers due to the current scramble for IT talent.

  1. Stay involved throughout the journey: At the onset of any relationship lies trust, and both parties must build trust and loop each other in all aspects related to the sourcing journey. IT can implement this by undertaking steps such as including procurement at the requirements gathering phase in a sourcing engagement, keeping them abreast about business requirements that can drive supplier capabilities, giving a transparent picture about supplier performance in oral presentations, and ensuring procurement is involved in all conversations about sourcing selection. This deal goes both ways. It is essential for procurement to keep IT onboard for actual negotiation talks and decisions, help price and right-size contracts for deals, and bring category and sourcing intelligence from past successful deals and supplier partnerships
  2. Back each other in times of crisis: While risk management has become key in today’s day and age, occasionally, there are crises that no one can predict. Smart strategies help in such scenarios, for instance, during the coronavirus crisis, many IT and procurement leaders worked together to keep their small- and medium-sized suppliers afloat with early payments and by identifying new areas of cost optimization (e.g., creating negotiation opportunities through internal demand management without harming suppliers)
  3. Listen to each other: Regular communication is key as each party brings in specific skillsets and typically, IT and procurement should have a monthly cadence at the minimum. The results of proper communication can be seen through an example in sourcing risk mitigation – IT brings a better understanding of the contractual risks, such as the possibility of software license audits, while procurement has the experience within contract risk management to ensure suppliers establish appropriate controls and provide contingency plans. In this scenario, IT and procurement can leverage each other’s skillsets to ensure end-to-end risk coverage
  4. Finally, act as partners, and not as boss-subordinates: Traditionally, procurement treats category departments as their end customer and becomes driven towards serving all their needs. However, it is crucial to treat this relationship as a partnership over a boss-subordinate model (where IT is the client and procurement is the department serving them). Procurement should confidently bring in their expertise from strategic sourcing and spend analysis to contracting, benchmarking, and spend management to deliver value within IT. Procurement also should provide constructive criticism towards IT decisions, even if it involves redesigning their buying process

 

This point is key – but it involves a fundamental shift in the way these two departments view themselves. In my last role in procurement consulting driving value in the IT category at a US-based consumer packaged goods firm, I observed that while procurement worked closely with the IT team (with the procurement team even sitting within the IT office), they were often at loggerheads. Being the subordinate department in this case, procurement frequently had to go the extra mile to ensure the IT department did not make destructive moves, such as revealing the baseline to the supplier at an early stage, or unconsciously leaking to selected suppliers that they would definitely be awarded the contract (and thereby sabotaging procurement’s negotiation strategy in the engagement). Being on the procurement side, I did not understand how IT was suffering due to procurement’s clear invasion into their territory. I can imagine that the IT audience reading this blog can talk in detail about procurement’s insufferable demeanor and uninvited settlement on their home ground. By better understanding their differences, IT and procurement can find common ground and realize they can effectively operate in the same universe after all.

Take our survey to get a complimentary analysis of your IT sourcing practices and learn how you compare against best-in-class or IT sourcing Pinnacle Enterprises™ across leading global organizations.

For further details on how we can support sourcing and vendor management leaders, contact Bhanushee Malhotra, Practice Director, at [email protected]

 

The Contact Center Upgraded: Everything You Need to Know About Contact Center as a Service (CCaas) | Blog

While organizations are certainly familiar with on-premise technologies in contact centers, today’s enhancement on the premise-based technology model is delivering an exceptional digital customer experience, innovation, flexibility, and lower cost. Meet the Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) operated on the cloud. To learn more about this fast-growing omnichannel cloud contact center solution being adopted across all industries and geographies, read on. 

Contact centers are becoming an area of strategic focus for organizations as they strive to deliver business impact through superior Customer Experience (CX). Traditionally, contact centers have run on technologies hosted on-premise with physical hardware such as servers, storage systems, security systems, dialers, and Private Branch Exchange (PBX) hosted in premises or in-house data centers. But that is changing.

Most organizations are now opting for cloud-based contact center solutions by migrating their existing premise-based applications to cloud and/or deploying cloud-native applications as they look to digitally transform their CX operations. In the past few years, the growing need to quickly deploy contact center technology and the increasing use of digital solutions such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation, and analytics has paved the way for a flexible cloud contact center offering called Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS).

With COVID-19 pushing the boundaries of innovation and demand for digitally-infused customer experience increasing, CCaaS is poised to be at the forefront of the digital transformation of contact centers. In this blog, we will explore CCaaS, its impact on customer experience, and the financial benefits from leveraging these solutions.

Understanding CCaaS and what it brings to the table

CCaaS (also known as hosted contact center) is a contact center solution that allows organizations to utilize third-party contact center software hosted on cloud. It provides all the essential components that comprise a conventional contact center such as PBX, Interactive Voice Response (IVR), Automatic Call Distribution (ACD), Computer Telephony Integration (CTI), voice and non-voice channels, along with other digital solutions such as omnichannel platform, workforce management, automation, and quality management. It is usually offered as a subscription-based (per seat, per user, per month, per transaction) model, and the CCaaS vendor is responsible for regular maintenance and upgrades.

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How CCaaS impacts customer experience?

With increasing customer expectations of service and support, improved contact center technology has been a key enabler of seamless service delivery. CCaaS brings together all the essential tools and technologies required by contact centers to deliver a superior customer experience. Here are three possible ways CCaaS can positively impact customer experience:

  • Less customer effort: Customers expect to connect with brands through multiple communication channels round the clock. Omnichannel solutions provided by CCaaS enable customers to easily connect across any channel at any point in time. Additionally, self-service solutions offered by CCaaS ensure customers’ queries can be solved without human intervention with low customer effort
  • Consistent quality of services: Enterprises and service providers are under greater pressure to deliver consistent customer experiences in each interaction. Intelligent routing and agent assist solutions in CCaaS ensure customers are connected to the appropriate agents equipped to handle customers’ issues. It enables organizations to resolve queries as quickly as possible, thus, keeping high customer satisfaction levels
  • Personalized experience: Customers these days expect brands to anticipate their needs and make personalized suggestions. CCaaS solutions enable organizations to collect historical data from multiple touchpoints, generate insights, and offer real-time tailor-made solutions to customers. Access to historical data also enables agents to understand the context of customer queries and solve them more easily

Does CCaaS adoption make financial sense?

A key benefit of CCaaS adoption is long-term cost savings. The business case depends on the size of the contact center, existing investments, the propensity to drive value through next-generational technologies, and the nature of the partnership with the CCaaS vendor to drive a successful transformation effort. Let us explore the potential cost savings that contact centers of different sizes can achieve practically:

  • Small contact centers with fewer than 300 FTEs can potentially realize 10-25% cost savings after CCaaS adoption. These smaller centers start driving cost benefits by leveraging digital solutions such as omnichannel platform, intelligent routing, workforce management solution, automation, AI/Machine Learning (ML)-based solutions, and advanced analytics along with CCaaS
  • Mid-sized contact centers with 300 to 1,500 FTEs can potentially realize 25-40% cost saving after CCaaS adoption. They can achieve economies of scale and drive value through the benefits provided by digital solutions. These contact centers can achieve additional costs savings by sharing IT assets across multiple locations, setting up analytics and automation hubs, and adopting unified operations
  • Large contact centers with more than 1500 FTEs can achieve 15-30% cost savings through levers available for small and mid-sized contact centers. However, significant existing investments in software and hardware, disjointed legacy solutions, and rigid operating models often hinder them from making greater savings

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Our recent research shows that as companies accelerate their cloud adoption journeys and scale their contact center operations, leveraging an agile and holistic CCaaS solution will increase many-fold. With many companies moving towards flexible business models, the future of CCaaS looks promising.

Do you foresee adopting CCaaS as part of your cloud adoption journey? Read our report Demystifying Contact Center-as-a-Service (CCaaS): Customer Experience Management (CXM) Market Report 2021 and share your thoughts by emailing [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

Metaverse: Opportunities and Key Success Factors for Technology Services Providers | Blog

While the metaverse may seem way out there, the opportunities for technology service providers in this next evolution are very real. While sci-fi movies such as Ready Player One introduced this concept of an interactive virtual reality (VR) world, leading technology giants including Facebook, Nvidia, and Microsoft are investing in this future. What will it take for tech service companies to seize a stake in this alternative universe that could be coming very soon? To learn more about the five factors providers will need to succeed in the metaverse, read on.

With digital technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the cloud, buildings and other physical locations have become “smart spaces,” as we recently wrote about in this Viewpoint. The metaverse – a confluence where people live a seamless life across the real and virtual universe – can be thought of as the “mega smart space.” Google trends analysis of the word “metaverse” below suggests a growing interest in it.

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As the underlying powerhouse running the metaverse, the internet is expected to evolve to this next-generation model. Driven by the growing acceptance of virtual models as a standard way of living during the pandemic, many evangelists believe the metaverse may become a reality sooner than expected.

News such as a Gucci virtual bag selling for more than its physical value is grabbing attention. Virtual avatars are already attending corporate meetings and large audience forums with real people. The physical motion of body parts is being replicated in the digital world and vice versa, as witnessed at the recent SIGGRAPH 2021 conference. Even if we discount the hyperbole of vendors, there is merit in evaluating what this means for the technology services industry.

Opportunities to build a new world

Interestingly, the metaverse has no standard building blocks. Since it’s a parallel universe, things that exist in the real world are imitated. Therefore, blockchain-driven non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and payments, computing power to run the universe, connectivity through 5G and edge, cyber security, interactive applications, Augmented Reality (AR) and VR, digital twins, and 3D/4D models of the real world all become important. Of course, integrating these seamlessly with enterprise technology will be a demand to cater to.

The entire metaverse is based on technology. And with more technology spend comes more technology services spend. Although some of these enabling technologies, such as AR/VR, are still in their infancy, but technology vendors are accelerating their development, which will only help technology service providers.

Five factors needed for tech service providers to succeed in the metaverse

  1. Innovative client engagement: Gaming companies may end up taking a lead in this area given their inherent capabilities to build engaging life-like content. Unfortunately, few technology services work meaningfully with gaming companies. Vendors who can build product development competence for this set of clients will benefit from the metaverse. Service providers also will need to scale their existing engagements with BigTech and other technology vendors. The current work focused on maintaining their products or providing end-of-life support must change. Service providers will need to engage technology vendors upstream in ideating and designing products and not only developing and supporting them. The traditional client base in segments such as Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance (BFSI), retail, manufacturing, and travel will continue to be important. These industries will build their version of the metaverse for consumers for specific business use cases or participate in/rent out others. Technology service providers will need access to business owner spend in these organizations. Other industries such as education, which do not currently provide large technology service opportunities, may also take the lead in the metaverse adoption. The takeaway is service providers will need to expand their client coverage and rely less on their traditional client base
  2. Capabilities to work with “unknown” partners: Most service providers have a very long list of 200-300 technology partners they work with. However, they usually prioritize five or six as strategic partners who influence 70-80% of their channel revenue. This will need to change for the metaverse. With its complexity, the metaverse will require service providers to not only work with other peers but also innumerable smaller companies. Niche partners could be manufacturing smart glasses, tracking technologies, or virtual interfaces, etc. Building viable Go-to-Market (GTM) and technical capabilities will be critical
  3. Product envisioning and user experience capabilities: While many service providers now have interactive businesses, their predominant revenue comes from building mobile apps, next-gen websites, or commerce platforms. Most have very limited true interactive or product envisioning capabilities. The metaverse will reduce the inherent need for “screens,” and the experience will be seamless. Most enterprises rely on specialist providers to brainstorm with and push their thinking to envision newer products. Other service providers are still catching up and are bucketed as “technical partners.”  Envisioning capabilities will become critical. Therefore, service providers who are yet to get to even product design opportunities have a big road to traverse. Although these technology service providers can continue to focus on the downstream work of core technology, they will soon be sidelined and become irrelevant
  4. Infinite platform competence: The metaverse will need service providers to closely work with cloud, edge, 5G, carriers, and other vendors. However, the boundless infrastructure and platform capabilities needed will change. Service providers have already tasted success in cloud. However, the metaverse infrastructure will stress their capabilities to envision, design, and operate limitless infrastructure platforms. Their tools, operating processes, partners, and talent model will completely transform
  5. Monetization model: Service providers will need to bring and build innovative commercial models for their clients to monetize the metaverse. Much like the internet, no one will own the metaverse. However, every company will try to be its guardian to maximize their business. Service providers will need to understand the deep working of the metaverse and advise clients on potential monetization. To do this, they will not only need traditional capabilities such as consulting and industry knowledge but also breakthrough thinking around potential revenue streams. For example, a bank or telecom company will want its metaverse to influence growth and not just become one more channel of customer experience

Who will take the lead?

Without adding to the ongoing debate on the metaverse and its social impact, it is safe to assume that it can create significant opportunities for technology service providers that will continue to grow as this nascent concept evolves further. These service providers already have many technical building blocks that will be needed to succeed.

However, given the metaverse conversations are not even at infancy in their client landscape, service providers are not proactively thinking along this dimension. Since the metaverse will initially be dominated by technology vendors, who outsource a lot less than their enterprise counterparts, service providers will struggle unless they proactively strategize, and their traditional client base will need a significant push to think along these lines to create opportunities.

Currently, this all may appear too farfetched or futuristic. Indeed, there are too many “unknown unknowns.” Unlike technology vendors, technology service providers do not proactively invest until they size up the market opportunity. However, as enterprise-class technology vendors such as Microsoft launch offerings like Mesh, it is quite apparent that the metaverse, in some shape or form, will become enterprise-ready sooner than we expect.

What has your experience been with metaverse-related opportunities? Please share your thoughts with me at [email protected].

Should CIOs Run Engineering Teams as a Parallel Organization to IT? | Blog

The engineering services market is now disrupting the IT services marketplace. The move to technology platforms and the requisite number of engineers causes a dilemma for CIOs. The need for engineering skills is growing faster than IT skills, and companies are investing more in the engineering function, somewhat at the expense of IT. CIOs cannot ignore this phenomenon. Should a CIO create an engineering organization that runs parallel to the IT organization, or should engineers be part of the IT organization and perform some IT functions?

Read more in my blog on Forbes

Why Companies Are Considering Small Tech Firms for Cloud Services | Blog

Cloud as a concept and then as a reality swept through businesses over the past ten years, and most companies moved a lot of their applications to public cloud platforms. AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft’s Azure (the hyperscale service providers) are now powerful influencers in business today. They turned IT into a commodity and then put an as-a-service layer on it, thus influencing business thinking as well as IT. But companies are now competing in a different way.

Read more in my blog on Forbes

How Much Will Your Next Outsourcing Deal Cost? Understand These Seven Factors That Impact Pricing for Services | Blog

With outsourcing activity again picking up after slowing when the pandemic hit, now is a good time to gain a better understanding of how providers price IT services. To help ensure your enterprise gets the right value out of your next outsourcing deal, read on for expert pricing tips based on Everest Group’s experiences.

Below are seven common trends we see that can impact the pricing of outsourcing services:

  1. Of course, it’s the economy: Without a doubt, the economy plays a major role in the movement of deal pricing, especially when Black Swan events such as COVID-19 can throw away all previous estimates on the futures of pricing rate cards. The pandemic forced many enterprises to ask for short- to mid-term invoice discounts while others used it as an opportunity to renegotiate their existing contracts. As markets rebound, talent scarcity and travel bans are resulting in upwards movement in pricing at high-cost locations while pricing for digital talent at low-cost locations has reached an inflection point and is expected to turn around
  2. RFP versus sole-sourced deals: First, there is nothing wrong with a sole-sourced deal. It can be more efficient, shorter in duration, and deliver greater value compared to an RFP-led scenario, given you have a trusted relationship with a vendor of choice. By introducing competitive tension into the overall bidding process, an RFP can often be more effective in getting the best pricing. However, due to excessive price undercutting, the quality during delivery may not be what was promised during the talks or negotiations
  3. Cross subsidization of accounts: Often, vendors subsidize their loss-making accounts through their profit-making ones. This is why it’s so important for enterprises to benchmark regularly to see how prices compare against market peers and the overall industry
  4. Enterprise and sector financial performance: The performance of the industry or the sector as a whole can widely influence deal pricing. Sectors such as insurance or oil and gas that typically do not have very high margins usually have visibly low time and materials (T&M) costs or managed services pricing compared to enterprises in well-performing verticals such as life sciences, retail, investment management, or capital markets. While paying less in low or underperforming sectors is not guaranteed, clear trends point to this practice
  5. Buyer persona: The sourcing team can impact the negotiations in ways enterprises often can’t fathom. For example, a senior purchasing manager who has worked across a range of sectors and seen at least the last two recessions will bring a different experience into negotiations than purchasing resources who are newer in their careers and have worked in the cash-rich internet, high-tech, or e-commerce sectors, which can impact the price and length of the deal-making
  6. Transformation versus technical upgrade: If embarking on a complex transformation engagement that involves multiple elements such as change management, business consulting, architecture design, and a longer advisory/blueprinting cycle, it is highly likely you will engage a Tier 1 systems integrator or consulting heritage vendor (including the Big 4 firms) for the entire scope of work. Expect such engagements to cost as much as two and a half times more than a technical upgrade of a similar effort
  7. Contract terms and conditions: Service levels, service credits, and penalties can have a major impact on pricing without enterprise procurement realizing it. In our experience, most all the holdback or fees at risk the enterprise asks the vendor to commit to are baked into the deal as contingencies. So, if you are planning to have the most stringent service levels and fees at risk for your next deal, think twice about whether you need it

 

After advising on countless engagements, we’ve seen many other checkpoints that impact deal pricing. By starting with understanding the factors above, you’ll begin thinking about pricing from a more holistic viewpoint and be more educated at the negotiation table.

If you would like to talk more about pricing, please reach out to Achint Arora at [email protected].

The Future of Decentralized Clinical Trials Starts with a Patient-first Design Approach | Blog

The biggest benefit of Decentralized Clinical Trials (DCT) is the opportunity to enhance the patient experience, but the process is rife with challenges that create disengagement. The problem is not that patients are unengaged, but rather the vendor products are not always very engaging. The solution lies in undertaking a patient-first approach. Discover the tenets of a patient-first design approach in this second blog in our continuing coverage of this timely topic.

The pandemic has propelled decentralized clinical trials (DCT) into the mainstream, and multiple enterprises have transitioned into the virtual model for conducting clinical trials. Both enterprises and DCT vendors have stated that improved patient experience is the biggest benefit of the decentralized model. What do enterprises mean when they talk about patient experience? Read our blog, How Decentralized Clinical Trials Put the Patient Experience at the Forefront, to find out.

To deliver a superior patient experience and derive maximum benefit from this model of conducting trials, enterprises and vendors must be aware of the patient-facing challenges that might pose major hindrances. A closer look at the top challenges will help businesses develop effective measures to improve patient engagement and retention.

Major patient-facing challenges

The entire remote model has reduced in-person interactions. Insufficient communication from sites and sponsors often leads to disengagement among patients. The human touch, an important psychological aspect in healthcare, goes missing in this model. Added to this is the burden of learning about new products and technologies.

Patients have very limited digital literacy and may find it extremely difficult to operate a new sensor, a smartphone, or an application. Vendors are struggling to develop  robust training and support programs while enterprise buyers are more concerned about patient education capabilities and post-implementation support in their sourcing criteria.

All these factors create a general sense of discomfort and disengagement among patients, thereby defeating the principal benefit that vendors and enterprises expect from a DCT solution.

How can vendors overcome patient-facing challenges?

Designing a patient-centric solution is the best way to address these challenges. Having a deeper understanding of patients’ journeys and their pain points, while involving them in solution design will lead to greater compliance and engagement. The following exhibit highlights the various tenets of a patient-first solution.

Exhibit 1: Tenets of a patient-first design approach

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Six aspects of a patient-first design approach

  • Empathetic: DCT solutions should portray a deep understanding of the needs, well-being, and interests of patients, fostering trust and emotional connection. Vendors need to map the entire trial journey and look at it more holistically rather than logistically. Incorporating patient feedback into designing solutions will reduce a lot of stress and burden on patients
  • Secured: Concerns with data security, compliance, and privacy have increased with the rise in DCT adoption. Patients fear the consequences of device and network hacking, data leaks, and unauthorized access to data. DCT vendors must incorporate stringent security and compliance measures, secure the networks, and prevent all types of unauthorized access. With precise security measures in place, patients will feel safer with their data and will be more willing to share data for clinical research
  • Adaptable: DCT solutions must be able to incorporate the changing patient context, needs, and preferences to build fluid experiences. The same solutions should be adaptable and scalable as per the study requirement, ensuring a consistent patient experience and providing long-term sustainability
  • Engaging: Delivering engaging content is the best way to keep patients motivated in this digital world. Interactive educational materials, timely communication of trial progress (lay summaries), and patient reports go a long way in increasing patient engagement and retention. Patients can be motivated by increasing their trial literacy, setting up patient advocacy boards, and rewarding them for their contributions to the trial
  • Personalized: A one-size-fits-all solution will not work as patient experience varies at each stage and with each individual. Individualized care and personalized solutions help in building trust, loyalty, and retention rates among patients. Giving patients the liberty to choose their treatment plans (wherever possible), creating patient-specific digital ads, and supporting patients via artificial intelligence (AI) assistants are some of the ways to incorporate personalization into clinical trials
  • Reciprocity: Patients, vendors, and enterprises should be encouraged to communicate and share relevant experiences. Beyond trial periods, vendors and enterprises can engage patients with information on lifestyle, new developments on drugs or medical devices, upcoming trials, diet plans, etc. This type of communication will increase the willingness among patients to share personal data with AI systems as well as the scope with vendors, leading to more customized solutions that promote relevant and progressive experiences

Patients do not want to be treated as mere statistics. They want the touch of empathy and personalization, pushing DCT vendors to think more ‘humanly’ and add ‘emotional’ content while designing DCT solutions.

When all the above elements are incorporated in building DCT solutions, it will not only increase participation and adherence but also improve the brand value and bottom line for DCT vendors.

Over and above the empathy-backed approach toward creating a patient-centric solution, DCT vendors and enterprise buyers can look further at certain initiatives aimed at improving patient experience.

A sheer lack of awareness among patients regarding ongoing or planned trials exists. Enterprise buyers and vendors should spread information about upcoming clinical trials and steps to participate in them while promoting the ease of using digital technologies (via social media, newsroom, public releases, etc.). Home-care nurses or physicians still must make monthly calls or visits to motivate patients and add some scope for face-to-face interactions between patients and healthcare professionals.

Though the pivot or the integral enabler for DCT solutions is technology and connected systems, the focus should be on improving the patient experience and building the future towards a patient-intuitive smart DCT solution suite.

What are your views on how businesses can improve the patient experience? Reach out to [email protected] and [email protected] to discuss further.

The Race to Vaccinate against COVID-19: Five Ways Outsourcing Providers Can Supercharge the Pharma Industry | Blog

As the pharma industry chases the development of new COVID-19 vaccines with the peril of virus mutations looming and cases across the globe surging, outsourcing service providers can play vital roles in helping fast-track this essential mission. Read on to learn how critical partnerships with IT and BPO providers can help vaccine manufacturers in product development and more by providing technology tools, artificial intelligence, automation and analytics, talent and other needed expertise.

More than 100 years after the Spanish flu, the world is again fighting a pandemic.  Since it began in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic is still impacting the global population in multiple ways with new waves, casualties, lockdowns, border restrictions, and pandemic appropriate behavior requirements.

Despite the availability of vaccines, the majority of countries are unable to fully vaccinate their population. While population size (especially in India and China) and vaccine hesitancy are well-known factors, a range of production and supply-related challenges have also contributed to these delays. Let’s explore what can be done to accelerate these efforts.

The global supply chain is as strong as its weakest link

In the wake of a global standstill in early to mid-2020, vaccine development was obstructed by the lack of appropriate raw materials, coordination gaps among multiple teams, lab-proofing and maintenance, and a manpower crunch among many other factors. Adding to the woes of biopharmaceutical manufacturers were challenges in carrying out clinical trials processes such as patient enrollment, site management and monitoring, and data management.

This led to study sites being either paused or slowed down. Although collaborations with Contract Research Organizations (CROs) and third-party vendors and rapid adoption of innovative practices (such as decentralized trials, telehealth, remote monitoring, etc.) ensured emergency approval of several vaccine candidates, the mammoth task of mass-production remains a critical challenge, hence, eclipsing the current success achieved so far.

The gigantic target of mass production of approved vaccines

The scarcity of highly specialized raw materials due to export restrictions has proved to be the biggest impediment to mass production. Moderna, one of the earliest producers of the COVID-19 vaccine, had to cut its shipments to Canada and the U.K. citing the volatile availability of human and material resources. Other pharma majors such as AstraZeneca and Pfizer observed similar restrictions. Pfizer, which sources 280 different materials from 19 countries for its mRNA vaccine, expressed its apprehensions in fulfilling supply commitments amidst future threats from increasing market competition as the voices for waiving IP protections grew stronger. Moreover, the availability of consumables and fill-finish elements such as vials, syringes, seals, single-use bags, sterile filters, etc. further stretched lead times.

While a few suppliers were able to ramp up their capacity, travel restrictions hampered vendors’ plans to install new equipment and commission new manufacturing lines. Additionally, the lack of adequate cold storage facilities, related equipment, insulated vans, trained personnel, and the absence of efficient network management systems caused further delays.

Vaccine delivery was further slowed by regulatory diversity across countries with each having its own guidelines and unavoidable compliances pertaining to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and quality standards. Let’s explore what can be done to accelerate these efforts.

Third-party support proves vital

Enterprises required third-party support in filing regulatory documents, ensuring data compliance, and capturing and reporting adverse events without comprising data quality or security. Responding to this need, IT and BPO players extended critical technology expertise to vaccine manufacturers and regulatory agencies.

Today, with the danger of virus mutations threatening and rising COVID-19 cases around the globe, pharma companies have embarked upon the onerous task of inventing new vaccines and scaling up production and distribution capacities. Service providers can (and have) fast-tracked the vaccine quest in more ways than one.

Here are five ways service providers can emerge as vital partners in the success of these undertakings:

  • Location strategy: The initial optimism around vaccines suffered a blow when India faced its devastating second wave of COVID-19 and had to prioritize vaccines for its citizens. Similar vaccine protection controls were also deployed by the U.S. and the EU. This led some countries such as the UK to consider setting up facilities within their boundaries to reduce dependencies and avoid repercussions due to potential COVID-19 surges in their regions.

Service providers have the opportunity to deploy their expertise and help different stakeholders like governments and vaccine producers determine the ideal locations for setting up production facilities by evaluating strategic metrics such as availability of cold chains, assessing licensing requirements, talent accessibility, and procurement easiness.

  • Vaccine development: Since no playbook exists for churning out a vaccine instantly every time a novel health crisis faces us, researchers run multiple iterations of experiments with different compounds to arrive at the combination triggering an immune response.

Artificial intelligence providers have a transformational role to play in enabling researchers to run simulations faster. DeepMind, a London-based AI company has leveraged its neural network, AlphaFold to simulate the structure of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

  • Vaccine distribution: Ensuring vaccine distribution across a nation is a mammoth task. Service providers can leverage their technical expertise and develop vaccine distribution and administration dashboards to help governments keep track of their stocks, prevent stock-outs, and ensure the timely delivery of vaccines to achieve their vaccinations goals.

Infosys-owned Simplus has built a Salesforce-based vaccine management solution for the U.S. federal government and offers a wide spectrum of vaccine management services such as campaign management, citizen registration, prioritization, provider enrollment, supply chain visibility, forecasting, vaccine administration, and wellness surveys, and adverse event monitoring.

  • Pharmacovigilance: With several COVID-19 vaccines receiving emergency-use authorization by different regions and countries, the entire spectrum of adverse effects of vaccines is still in the discovery phase. As time progresses, the number of data points collected will also increase, leading to the development of more robust AI systems that can predict Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI). This, in turn, will help manufactures improve the immunization outcomes.

Service providers have a critical role to play as technology enablers. For instance,  Genpact’s PVAI solution has been deployed by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) –  the UK’s counterpart to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – to intelligently track AEFIs.

 Service providers have an opportunity to extend their talent sourcing services for hiring and training skilled professionals who can hit the ground running as early as possible.

The opportunities for service provider-enterprises collaboration are ever-increasing

Analytics and automation, one of the few technology areas where enterprises generally lack expertise, is expected to gain tremendous traction as pharmas become more aware of the advantages of leveraging outsourcing providers’ capabilities. We predict two major developments to play crucial roles:

  • The ‘novel’ vaccine development methodologies: While Pfizer-BioNtech’s vaccine is a novel mRNA-based vaccine, Cuban scientists have developed a promising vaccine candidate – Soberana 2, the only ‘conjugate COVID-19 vaccine’ that combines the virus’s receptor-binding domain with a deactivated form of tetanus to boost the immune response. Every novel technique and vaccine constituent paves the way for more methods of vaccine development against current and future diseases. This has the potential to open a plethora of opportunities for service providers to utilize their automation and analytics capabilities for a more robust design system.

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Number of coronavirus (COVID-19) drugs and vaccines in development worldwide as of September 2021, by phase (Source: https://pharmaintelligence.informa.com/)

  • Vaccine alliances: With new virus mutations and some countries insisting on a third booster shot for their citizens, vaccine alliances like COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) and GAVI will likely continue playing larger roles in the future. A major responsibility of such alliances includes equitable distribution of vaccines throughout the world. Hence, they can leverage tools provided by service providers to process vital data and act on decisions that promise the quickest success rate.

Beyond the current COVID crisis, pharmaceutical enterprises and outsourcing service providers are partnering to transform the landscape in many ways from clinical trials to pharmacovigilance and Quality Risk Assessments (QRA). For more details, check out the latest research reports published by Everest Group here and reach out to [email protected] or [email protected] [email protected].

Engineering Challenges for Technology Platforms | Blog

Nearly every company is increasing its investment in technology and attempting to create new competitive advantage by assembling technology into platforms that transform how they serve their customers, service their employees, and coordinate their supply chains. Platforms automate existing activities and functions, fundamentally changing how leaders run an organization. Platforms cut across traditional organizational boundaries, incorporating many departmental functions, thus forcing a restructuring of process, organization, and technology. That creates a real challenge for organizations.

Read more in my blog on Forbes

Making It Count: Why the Latest IPCC Report Should Compel Enterprises to Rethink the ‘E’ in Their ESG Strategies | Blog

The repercussions of climate change and global warming have been exposed in more ways than one over the past 12 months. The heart-breaking pictures of forest fires and increased natural disasters would cause even the fiercest of climate-change skeptics to look up and take notice. The latest reckoning has come from one of the top authorities on climate change – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Its recent warning of a ‘code red for humanity’ signals the urgent need for enterprises to strengthen their commitment to the “E” in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategies. Read on for more on our continued analysis of this important issue and what steps your organization can take toward achieving a more sustainable future.

IPCC and its latest findings

As the United Nations body responsible for conducting scientific assessments on one of the gravest issues facing our world — climate change, IPCC conducts studies to determine its repercussions, the future risks that it presents, and avenues to mitigate the ravages of this phenomenon.

In its latest Climate Change 2021 report, the IPCC presents a realistic picture of the impact of climate change and details measures the world can take while there is still time to act.

Among the report findings are the following:

  • Human influence is unequivocally responsible for the warming of the atmosphere, ocean, and land, which has resulted in widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and biosphere
  • The scale of recent changes across the climate system as a whole and the present state of many aspects of the climate system are unprecedented. Case in point – in 2019, the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere were higher than at any time in at least the last 2 million years; also, global mean sea levels have risen faster since 1900 than over any preceding century in at least the last 3000 years
  • Global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered. Global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius and 2 degrees Celsius will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades

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What important role do corporations play?

Corporations globally bear a huge onus to prevent global warming and reverse its effects. Their activities also directly contribute to the likelihood of the world achieving the COP 21 commitment to limiting global increase in temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius and preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to the pre-industrial period. But the IPCC report warns that, unless impactful measures are taken, these figures are most likely to be breached during the 21st century itself.

And while corporations worldwide have started putting more emphasis on their commitment to do their part to mitigate their environmental impact through ESG initiatives, there is an essential need for them to pivot their ‘E’ in ESG plans towards concrete steps to more meaningfully contribute towards a sustainable future.

An analysis of the recent wildfires around the world demonstrates the urgency of ‘E.’ While wildfires are a phenomenon that take place during the hot and dry season, the recently exacerbated instances of these fires are immensely worrying. Here’s how the world has been increasingly grappling with forest fires:

Image 2 The Siberian wildfires

The eastern regions of Russia (constituting some of the coldest parts of the world, including parts of Siberia) have been experiencing unprecedented forest fires in 2021. From July to mid-August, this region had more than 300 active forest fires, and at one point, Siberian wildfires were bigger than all wildfires raging in the rest of the world. NASA reported that the smoke from the Siberian wildfires reached the North Pole for the first time in recorded history. Long story short – the Arctic is burning at scales never seen before, and global warming is a major culprit behind it.

  • The Greece wildfires

The devastating fires raging during mid-August in Greece have been described by the Greek Prime Minister as “a natural disaster of unprecedented proportions.”

The rising global temperatures could lead to increased heatwaves which would spell drier weather conditions, leading to more extreme wildfires and, in turn, contribute to global warming – a vicious circle indeed.

  • The U.S. wildfires

Wildfires in the U.S. are causing huge devastation. Recently, the fires in Tahoe Basin, California, have forced thousands to evacuate. As these fires continue raging in the backyards of some of the most prominent organizations of the world, scientists have said that climate change has made this region much warmer and drier thus rendering it susceptible to more frequent and destructive wildfires.

Where does the ‘E’ of ESG come into the picture here?

Corporations often engage in what is known as carbon offsetting to meet emissions targets. Carbon offsets are essentially meant to account for a company’s carbon production and balancing the scales on it. An example of carbon offsetting could be a steel company engaging in afforestation or reforestation to ‘offset’ a certain percentage of the carbon produced by their operations.

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But the recent wildfires raise pressing questions for corporations such as: What if the forest under their afforestation project itself becomes a victim of wildfires? Does such a corporation account for the carbon produced due to this fire rather than offset and report the same in its ESG filings? What lies beyond afforestation as a means of carbon offsetting?

The way forward for corporations

Here are some ways enterprises can take action:

  • Realize that carbon offsets, while helpful, do not present the comprehensive solution: Essentially, the risk of relying heavily on carbon offsets would convert efforts into a ‘balancing game’ rather than a ‘mitigating game.’ So, while any future emissions are being balanced by a reforestation project, what happens to the existing carbon already contributing to rising temperatures? Hence, enterprises must also take active measures to seek carbon footprint mitigation
  • Diversify carbon offsets: Instead of having high exposure to a certain carbon offset activity, corporations should diversify their offset activities – following the golden rule of diversification and risk optimization. Considering the marginal cost of abatement as a metric to calculate their carbon footprint reduction against costs could be a viable way forward
  • Report with transparency: Corporations run the risk of ‘greenwashing’ if they fail to communicate the actual impact of their ESG initiatives. Now more than ever, with increasing interests and scrutiny, corporations who are truthful with their ESG filings could reap more benefits than their counterparts who are not as transparent. Sharing information and experiences with other companies on the initiatives that create the most impact and the ones that do not will help achieve results at scale because when it comes to the environment, it’s always a ‘team-game’
  • Adopt ESG technology: With their massive and expanding footprints, enterprises must think about the different layers within the sustainability technology stack – from advisory and applications to data, cloud, and infrastructure. Learn more about the scope of services provided by the technology market around sustainability here: ESG tech stack- Everest Group

While voices on the other side may question the real impact and efficacy of ESG efforts by enterprises, we believe it is a little too soon to declare ESG as passe. As ESG gains more maturity, reliable data and studies will help corporations, governments, civil society bodies, NGOs, and other stakeholders course correct.

At this juncture, one is reminded of one of the classic dialogues from the movie Shawshank Redemption: “Remember, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” But only with collective and impactful actions can we have the luxury of bearing the much-needed hope for a future without code-reds.

To discuss your ESG efforts, please feel free to contact Aakash Jaiswal, Senior Analyst, at [email protected], or Rita Soni, Principal Analyst, Impact Sourcing and Sustainability Research at [email protected].

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