Article: Emergence of a digital ecosystem for the pharma industry

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Emergence of a digital ecosystem for the pharma industry

As several industries evaluate how to emerge stronger from the pandemic, here is a look at how SMEs in the pharma industry are embracing smart digital tools at an exponential pace to scale capabilities, performance and growth.
Emergence of a digital ecosystem for the pharma industry

At a time when the world came to a standstill and scrambled for ways to keep the business doors open, technology proved to be the backbone that empowered leaders and enabled the workforce through unpredictable times. A Mckinsey study found that between December 2019 and July 2020, the average share of products and services that were partially or fully digitized across APAC stood at 54% - in terms of years, such a shift was equivalent to an adoption acceleration of over ten years

“The reported increases are much more significant in healthcare and pharma, financial services, and professional services, where executives report a jump nearly twice as large as those reported in consumer packaged goods companies,” said the study. 

In a sector such as healthcare, that has specifically borne tremendous pressure ever since the COVID outbreak, equipping the workforce with smart digital tools to deliver work has become the need of the hour. Beyond the workforce, leaders have been focused on informed decision making like never before, making data a non-negotiable element in the process. This makes adopting digital tools vital to not just enhance individual and team performance, but also generate actionable insights regarding workforce dynamics, and human capital. 

Given the mounting need for pharma and healthcare to rise to the occasion, how has COVID shaped digitization across the industry? What are some pertinent challenges for SMEs in the pharma industry that automation can help overcome? Let’s find out.

Hitting the accelerator on a digital ecosystem

When it comes to the pharmaceutical industry, 35% respondents of a poll stated that COVID-19 fast-forwarded digital transformation of the pharma industry by more than five years.

Digital acceleration at such scale has become critical to maintain and enhance the efficiencies of the workforce and business.

Indian pharmaceutical sector is expected to reach US$65 Bn by 2024. The country currently holds the second-largest shares of the pharmaceutical and biotech workforce in the world, with 3000+ pharmaceutical companies, including 10,500 manufacturing units. A significant chunk of this sector comprises small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

“The Indian pharmaceuticals industry is very fragmented, with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) accounting for 35-40 per cent of production in value terms. However, going ahead, SMEs in this sector will overcome the short-term disruptions, as demand in both export and domestic markets remains robust,” noted an article

While demand remains strong, an emerging concern for SMEs in the sector is a lack of capabilities that result in obstructing optimal production as well as extending seamless services, on account of operational challenges. And the most efficient solution to several such challenges is digitization, even more so now that COVID has imposed heavy expectations on the sector.

“We are seeing a huge shift in the mindset. The product marketing teams, the sales force, and even customers want to move to digital platforms,” said O P Singh, President - Sales & Marketing, Cadila Pharmaceuticals, in an interview, sharing how the digital revolution has been a game changer for the organization.

“Digital platforms have no boundaries and no physical barriers. Scaling up of knowledge exchange becomes easy. New ideas come up every day and people are equally enthusiastic to execute them. It is heartening to see this success and we want to accelerate the digital revolution within the organization,” added Singh.

With the year of opportunity unfolding before the global economy, SMEs in the pharma industry ought to provide an ecosystem that enables the workforce, employees and managers alike, to succeed with efficient data tracking and smarter decision making. 

Addressing pertinent challenges faced by the pharma industry with technology

Evolving the worktech and equipping leaders, managers and employees with smart tools in the present day are core to boosting the pace of recovery, enabling sustainability and growth - of people as well as businesses - and outpacing the ongoing challenges and the uncertainties that lie ahead.

Digital adoption isn’t a matter of luxury anymore, but is more on the lines of a smart tool in the hands of leadership and managers to drive innovation, enable collaboration and make impactful data-backed people decisions. 

From a human capital perspective, it is critical to acknowledge that digital tools don’t just help enhance performance, but also make the manager-employee relationship stronger through meaningful people insights that enable smarter people decisions, instead of investing time in creating one excel sheet after another to track goals, performance and other employee data.

For decades now, despite the business case for automation, SMEs struggle to adopt digital practices and continue to face pertinent HR challenges including but not limited to:

  • Attendance and leave tracking
  • Tracking consultation hours and overtime across locations
  • Complex roaster management for doctors and staff
  • Centralization of employee data
  • Policy compliance and Tax calculations
  • Errors in payroll processing
  • Data around site/ unit/ plant performance
  • Unit-wise expense tracking
  • HRMS platform adoption by employees

The above challenges are some of the most common challenges faced by mid sized firms, which technology aims to address. Several HR tech firms have emerged in the work tech marketplace that help resolve such concerns, improving productivity, transparency, employee experience, and consequently performance. 

Automating HR processes is no longer an option, rather a strong weapon in the hands of employers that can enable and simultaneously empower HR professionals to invest their time in strategizing how to curate better employee experiences. Automation doesn’t just benefit the HR function, but contributes to the overall employee experience by eliminating manual errors in payroll, attendance tracking as well as bias in performance management, among other areas of impact.

Empowering HR professionals with smart tools for smarter processes

Global employers have contested and procrastinated the adoption of digital tools for reasons justified until now. However, the impact of the pandemic has left them with little option if they want to remain relevant, boost organizational performance and ensure that the workforce invests time in sharing ideas and uncovering innovative solutions, instead of engaging in routine tasks and simply capturing data for record purpose, with no analytical insights or real use. 

Where leadership support plays a critical role is in enabling adoption and encouraging employees to embrace the newly introduced digital platforms.

Given such a shift is a significant change for a workforce heavily dependent on manual recording of data, it sure helps to break down the implementation in phases - an approach many HR software vendors advocate and follow. 

“We have observed in our interactions with several healthcare companies that adoption of HR tech platforms remains a concern despite the many challenges faced by their HR professionals,” shared Dheeraj Kumar Pandey, Chief Advisor - HR Systems & Processes, Keka, in an interaction with People Matters. “While COVID fueled an urgency to adapt digital tools to keep businesses running, leaders have a huge responsibility to enable that mindset shift and put the spotlight on the many avenues where HR technology contributes to enhanced productivity, eliminates chances of error in data tracking for multiple HR functions, provides insightful analytics for informed decision making and empowers professionals to leverage technology to craft better processes and experiences,” he added. 

The emerging construct of a distributed workforce and evolving workforce structures has created the need for organizations to step up and revamp workflows with technology, thereby enabling productivity, efficiency and experience to meet the dynamic market demand of today. Digitally equipped HR teams can help their companies be a market leader in the industry by leveraging data to design better people strategies and enabling enhanced performance.

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Topics: HR Technology, #HRTech

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