Q: Firstly, I was hoping you could tell me a bit about what your company does. What solutions does it provide, what platforms do you offer?
A: What we do is – we help communities and other companies to collaborate with their business partners to make sure that they can exchange structured data in an easy, controlled and safe way. To do this, you need to exchange information. Information, I would say, is the single truth, not a different version of the truth that might be residing in the back end systems of the different actors in that value chain. What we do as a company, through a data sharing platform, is to facilitate this data exchange between these companies and then we enable the companies to publish their internal systems into a digital representation of their internal position. As soon as that has happened, they can very easily provide access routes to their business partners to access this data in the cloud. That is something that can be done very easily within 10 minutes and by operational business users. It doesn’t require the complex integration you would have needed previously.
On top of this data, customers and third parties can use Apps, which use these single truths of the data to develop new applications. One of these that is important in the context of pharma is monitoring of the cold chain, whereby we collect all information from all parties concerning the conformity and non-conformity of the shipment, plus the temperature and position, as part of the supply chain. And all of this is presented in an application, and all parties can have access to these data based on the sharing rules provided by the source of the information.
Q: Do you think, in the pharmaceutical context, companies have placed enough emphasis on data and data sharing in the past? Is that somewhere they may fall down?
A: There’s absolutely a huge need. What you see is that huge companies have their internal processes orchestrated now, which has increased efficiency. If they want to further optimise, and gain more efficiency, they would need to look at the value chain as a total. That’s the case not just for pharmaceutical companies, but also for Procter and Gamble and other businesses. There’s huge potential for collaboration between the parties – particularly if you look into the B2C part of the supply chain; a lot of pharma companies would like to know who is the end consumer of their product, in order to better plan their own production and identify needs in the market. A lot of the distribution parties in between don’t provide them with the insights on how many goods are used by whom in which geographical area. There’s a huge need to have a single digital representation of all internal information of all parties involved in order to streamline the operations between these actors.
Q: It seems like a no-brainer to make the fullest use of data. Are you surprised that companies aren’t doing this already?
A: The point is indeed that it’s more and more of a no-brainer, because what you see today is that due to more business agility, companies are outsourcing a lot of activities – what that means is that these activities that were previously well under control in an internal system, have now been externalised and are not under control anymore.
What we have done as a company is translated a process we are all familiar with as a consumer – the concept of data sharing, where you don’t send a letter with a stamp on it anymore, but you publish information on Facebook and you invite friends to look at it. It is something we have translated towards the structural data. The concept is very easy – it is something we use daily as consumers. In the past, it wasn’t possible in a B2B context. Companies have simply feared to exchange information for commercial reasons, for IP reasons, for security reasons. We have provided them the tools to choose, on a data element level, to whom they provide which data rights. They remain 100% in control of who accesses the data.
Q: Tell me a bit about what you’ll be speaking on at the upcoming FlyPharma Conference.
A: I will look at the challenges in the future, in terms of business agility, in terms of visibility in supply chain, and then talk about a few concepts we all know from consumer context that we could all use to make business easier. At the FlyPharma Conference, I will certainly refer to a few business cases that we are part of, for example Brussels Airport in the pharma cargo context, but also in other sectors for P&G, which might be very inspirational for people in the audience. It’s not only a question of technology. It’s about creating a community whereby companies start to think about collaborating within the supply chain. We typically position our technology as a community in a box. In the case of Brussels Airport, in order to make sure that they orchestrate the verticals within the supply chain, they are also other supply chains working in parallel to each other. What you see is that if one company starts off by itself, it’s harder for the rest to follow suit. If you have a few that start together, then you get a critical mass which is more easily adopted by others in the sector – and that’s something that Brussels Airport did so well to integrate itself into the pharmaceutical sector.
Q: Has the message of data really sunk in for the pharma industry? Does more work need to be done to convince the industry that this is beneficial?
A: Well, what I think is that the industry is aware of the necessity of exchanging information, but not always aware about the possibilities to do so. The challenges are known, but the solutions? Not yet. There is still too much emphasis on one-to-one integration and older processes. We can certainly provide eye openers, and the change is happening. Slowly.