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Web Enabling the Pharmaceutical Industry web enabling the pharmaceutical industry

As enterprises embrace an ever-expanding market, flexibility and responsiveness become key issues. To address these issues successfully, enterprises need access to real-time information about all aspects of their operations as well as the ability to allow their customers to get a personalized self-service interface to their products and services.

The Internet is a powerful tool that Enterprises can use to leverage their existing investment in information technology and reach out to a wider audience. This is done by web enabling existing applications and creating new ones that serve new needs.

The pharmaceutical industry has a whole range of critical operations. Some of these operations include Supply Chain Management, Customer Relationship Management and Sales Force Automation. By web enabling these operations pharmaceutical companies can cut cost and increase profitability as well as increase their market presence.

Let us look at each of these areas

Supply Chain Management

Supply Chain refers to the entire network of companies that work together to design, produce, deliver, and service products. Since its inception about 10 years ago, the field of supply chain management has become increasingly important to companies in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. In the past, companies have focused primarily on manufacturing and quality improvements within their four walls; now their efforts extend beyond those walls to encompass the entire supply chain. Pharmaceutical companies have to mainly deal with distribution networks, bulk purchasers and hospitals.

The following are five basic components for supply chain management.

  1. Planning -This is the strategic part of supply chain management. You need a strategy for managing all the resources that go into meeting customer demand for your products or services.
  2. Sourcing - This involves choosing the suppliers that will deliver the goods and services you need to create your products or services. It also involves developing a set of pricing, delivery and payment processes with suppliers and create measurement criteria for monitoring and improving the relationships. Enterprises also need to put together processes for managing the inventory of goods and services that they receive from suppliers, including receiving shipments, verifying them, transferring them to their manufacturing facilities and authorizing supplier payments.
  3. Making - This is the manufacturing step. Enterprises need to schedule activities necessary for production, testing, packaging and preparation for delivery. This is also the most metric-intensive portion of the supply chain so quality levels, production output and worker productivity have to be measured.
  4. Delivering - This is the "logistics" portion of the supply chain. Enterprises need to coordinate the receipt of orders from customers, develop a network of warehouses, pick carriers to get products to customers and set up an invoicing system to receive payments.
  5. Returning - This is the "problem" part of the supply chain. Enterprises must create a network for receiving defective and excess products back from customers and supporting customers who have problems with delivered products.

While there are different vendors offering different SCM software solutions, no single vendor has covered every aspect of Supply Chain Management, simply because the functionality involved is too diverse. A pragmatic approach would be to put into place only those aspects from which a material benefit can be derived. An example of this is what we have done for a pharmaceutical major (See Case Study)

Customer Relationship Management & Sales Force Automation

Customer satisfaction in the pharmaceutical industry is highly related to the speed, accuracy and efficiency of a company's research response times. This calls for pharmaceutical companies to have a comprehensive Medical Information system. This would allow them to fulfill their legal, contractual, and ethical obligations while supporting their sales and business partner relationships. The system must service a variety of communication methods in order to connect with a broad spectrum of customers with varied needs throughout their product life cycle, while enabling staff to deliver consistent, accurate and current information in a timely manner.

The system also needs to simplify the method of information sharing, assist with the identification of market trends and issues, and finally, run on a secure and scalable platform to continuously accommodate growth.

A good CRM system allows pharmaceutical companies to collect, track, organize, prioritize and respond to caller events. Using the comprehensive knowledge repository, automated responses via letter, fax or email can be generated and edited within minutes. Urgency levels can be employed to define specific target response timeframes. Once a call sheet is closed, it can be archived for statistical reporting purposes.

This allows a company to identify and report on immediate and long-term calling trends related to its pharmaceutical products. It can also track drug-related adverse events and capture critical patient data on-line.

The company is also able to handle a major increase in the number of medical queries more efficiently. It can maintain frequent caller and demographic information on health care professionals that can be reviewed by the sales team while maintaining a detailed audit trail of customer correspondence and exchanges. The centralization of up-to-date medical information makes it easy to retrieve and disseminate while the provision of statistical reports allow users to constantly reassess product profiles and performance improvement.

A CRM system provides a company with an effective mechanism to support continuous improvement to its internal business practices. Utilizing the system's reporting facilities, it can provide strategic information regarding the health care professional's interests and concerns to their sales team.

Sales Force Automation (SFA) is a subset of Customer Relationship Management. A SFA system allows for easy management of a pharmaceutical company's vast sales force. It provides sales reps with relevant updated information when they are on the field and also allows managers to track their activities to make sure that things are going fine.

In an SFA system, information is constantly updated with data that is replicated quickly and securely on the sales reps, managers and Corporate HQ systems. Field forces communicate with the Corporate HQ when and where they choose. A web based SFA system reduces communication cost and time.

Some of the features of a good SFA system are

  • Customer Profiling - The system maintains detailed and up-to-date profiles, in structured and easy to use form. Information included in the profile base can be tailored to specific Corporate-needs, providing accurate, up-to-date comprehensive view on important customers and business opportunities.
  • Hospital Profiling - The system also maintains detailed hospital profiles which helps target specific areas and create effective sales strategies.· Calendar - The system provides everyone with the sales calendar so that activities are better coordinated and managed.
  • Activity Planning - The system allows individual team members to plan their activities and managers to assign and track specific tasks.
  • Call and promotion reporting - The system provides detailed information about each call and promotion so that future activities can be planned and tailored to meet specific needs.
  • Analysis and reports - The system provides detailed statistical data about the activities of the sales force to enable better planning and strategy.

Since sales forces form a major portion of a pharmaceutical company's marketing efforts, a good sales force automation system can go a long way in reducing marketing costs and increasing effectiveness.


Pharmaceutical companies can derive major and tangible benefits by leveraging their traditional expertise and applications by web-enabling them. This helps them cut costs, manage existing markets more effectively, and make forays into new markets. While this article focused mainly on three key areas where web enabling could help, there are many more aspects of a pharmaceutical company, which could also benefit from new technologies. We at Stylus can go a long way in helping pharmaceutical companies in achieving this goal.

In addition to Web Enabling the Pharmaceutical Industry, we also offer other services like Business Process Engineering, Porting Legacy applications to the web and Enterprise Application Integration. Please contact us here for more details.

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