Upgrade Hell…in Life Sciences IT

Life Sciences industry is very conservative. That is really an understatement, considering the experiences I have had over the past several years. One cannot really blame them, given the nature of  business they are in, with all the regulatory constraints (in a good way) they have to work with, plus patient safety being utmost priority they are probably better off being conservative.

While this is the case, in general, with the Life Sciences organizations overall, the IT departments are forced to fall in line as well. There is no hard and fast rule but you can clearly notice, once you start working in their environment that they are at least 2 years behind the curve in terms of adopting newer tools and technologies.

This will create challenges like:

  1. Not being able to leverage the enhancements to user experience and productivity from newer tools
  2. Users being stuck with legacy technologies, while the same users are using better, improved tools on their home PCs (or for that matter, Macs)
  3. When they eventually decide to upgrade, they would be at least 2 or three major versions behind , given the speed at which vendors are coming out with new versions

The reason I brought this up is to discuss the challenges that item no. 3, in the list above, poses. This would be at multiple levels.

  1. Upgrades to the schema as well as the business process (more often than not) , not to mention the user interface
  2. Migration of data, since in most cases the generation gap would force this step
  3. Organizational change management, associated with this upgrade

While professionals like me and many others like me thrive on these opportunities, customers on the other  hand will have a tough time coping up with this. So, what do I recommend?

  1. Tool vendors should plan, along with their product management team, for complimentary tools that would provide automated upgrades (with room for customizations)
  2. If not, they should have not one, but multiple partners working with them to release an upgrade tool not for just the preceding version but for more than one prior versions

Even though this would not solve all the problems, it would at least minimize the impact on the LS IT teams and help a more conservative industry to catch up with technology and have a more positive impact on well being of human beings.

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About Venu Mallarapu

I am currently working as Associate Director at Cognizant Technology Services in their Life Sciences division. I have over 15 years of experience in developing IT Solutions and Services, specifically for Life Sciences industry for about 9 years. I have worked with small to large pharma customers to address various business requirements in R&D, Sales and Marketing areas. IT Service Management is one of my other passions. I blog and write about technology frequently and have also presented at various conferences and workshops on wide variety of topics in technology.

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