ECM in the Life Sciences Market – Bringing the Cloud Discussion to Earth

by Nigel Whitehead |
Sep 19, 2018 |

It’s been very interesting to watch how the Cloud has had an impact on Enterprise Content Management in the Life Sciences market over the past year or two. I doubt that there are too many observers with knowledge of the market that believe that its impact has been anything other than positive. But as with most “no brainer“ disruptive technologies, it’s still finding that the path to adoption is not quite as simple and straight forward as it might at first appear.

Clearly, the opportunity for Life Sciences companies to outsource their IT infrastructure and some related services is a derivative benefit of utilizing Cloud. In addition, subscription pricing, synonymous with Cloud solutions, has the benefit of moving CapEx to OpEx and realizing the financial benefits of doing so, appeals to many companies.

There is also the potential benefit (yes, we’ll get back to that word “potential“ later) of native-cloud applications providing what I’ll call a comprehensive set of functional capabilities that serve the end user well and are supported by a non-intrusive (“you‘ll not even notice the upgrades“) platform architecture. If that wasn’t enough, who wouldn’t be open to and seduced by the thought of fewer application-to-application integrations, instant-on new feature capabilities and all for just a few dollars per user per month. I’m in! Sign me up!

I’m in! Sign me up! – OK, back to reality everyone

Ok, back to reality everyone. Don’t get me wrong, the move to native cloud solutions and the benefits of doing so for ECM solutions are going to be significant. But it’s likely going to take much longer than promised. Why? Because this is not just a change to our ECM solutions, it’s much broader than that. The exciting part for me of ECM moving to a Cloud based model is that software vendors are taking a much broader view of the end to end business needs of their clients. The process of developing native cloud applications allows these vendors to reassess what business problem needs solving and design accordingly.

A good example of this is the interdependency of document management and regulatory submissions/RIM. In the past the submission and tracking business process was supported through, at minimum, three to four disparate standalone applications all with significant integration requirements. On a global scale this was often repeated on a country by country basis. The native Cloud application approach allows much of this complexity to be significantly reduced. The outcome? Faster, better, cheaper!

My concern is that we’re still in the “hype-cycle“-phase

So why am I so cautious? My concern is that we are still in the “hype-cycle“-phase and some of the key desirable outcomes presented in the rationale of why you should adopt a Cloud/SaaS solution are not realizable for many companies. Sure, there is great potential, but the business processes being supported in current so-called legacy solutions are complex and still require integration and a substantive and robust data model. That requires a degree of maturity in a solution that takes time to develop. I certainly recommend assessing the value for a company to adopt a Cloud/SaaS ECM solution, but make sure you undertake the necessary due diligence before you make the move. We’re talking about materially important business processes that are supported by ECM and failure in these areas by switching too early can have far reaching consequences.

At fme we engage regularly with clients, large and small, who are considering the move to a Cloud solution. We also work closely with vendors of these solutions and those third-party vendors who have business applications that form part of the eco-system required to support the broader business processes. The good news for clients is that there are now credible options for native-Cloud, SaaS solutions. These solutions take the maturity and reliability of the so-called legacy platforms and offer it in an integrated, Cloud leveraged configuration, in a subscription pricing model. Arguably the best of both worlds.

The next 18 months will be fascinating as we move beyond the hype-cycle phase and into a period where practical experience of the solution options plays a greater role in determining the path forward. I’m looking forward to walking that path along with you, our clients! If you’re interested, please contact me to discuss this further.

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