It’s been a few decades since technology permeated the pharmaceutical industry. Pharma companies had already adopted IT systems for documentation, data storage, calculations, and research. However, IT has come a long way since the 1980s. Today, pharma companies are leveraging the power of the cloud and advanced data analytics to expedite research and development. Technologies like 3D printing have brought highly specialized drug manufacturing to the table. Inevitably, the IT infrastructures within the pharma industry have become more complex than ever.
As a result, on top of R&D, GMP, and Quality Control, pharmaceutical companies now have to invest in a dedicated IT department for managing the IT systems and solutions. Considering the strict regulatory environment surrounding pharma, these complicated IT infrastructures must operate within a compliant framework. This makes creating and managing an IT department in a pharma company very different, and more challenging, than other industries.
So, how do pharmaceutical companies, especially those that are just starting out, create an IT department that has the capability to minimize risks and maximize integrity and security while staying within the company’s resources?
Continue reading to find out how you can create and manage an IT department optimally.
Critical Responsibilities of the IT Department in Pharma Companies
Pharmaceutical companies need to structure their IT departments and hire staff keeping in mind these roles and responsibilities:
1. Helpdesk Support:
With complex IT infrastructures, multiple applications, and endpoint devices, user issues can constantly arise. Having a service desk team ensures that issues are swiftly resolved with minimal downtime and productivity loss.
2. Ongoing Maintenance:
IT admins and staff are responsible for keeping all computers and systems up-to-date. IT departments must have the capability to ensure that all software solutions and endpoint devices accessing the internal network are upgraded as soon as a software update or a security patch is released.
3. Continuous Monitoring:
IT is responsible for continually monitoring the entire IT and network infrastructure. Continuous monitoring is important for ensuring all essential systems are working as they should, detecting abnormal user behaviors, and addressing security incidents before they become threats.
4. Managing the Technology Stack:
IT team is also responsible for acquiring new hardware resources and software tools as and when needed. From choosing the best third-party and proprietary software to upgrading network infrastructure, the IT department must be adept at ensuring that the IT expenditure has justifiable outcomes.
The Challenges of Creating an IT Department in Pharmaceutical Companies
Strict regulatory compliance and the high cost of failure make it quite challenging to create and manage an in-house IT department in the pharmaceutical industry. Here are a few obstacles that pharma companies may struggle with when creating a competent IT team:
– Understanding regulatory compliance:
When hiring for their IT departments, one of the first points that pharma companies consider is that the potential employees should have a thorough understanding of the compliance requirements driving the pharma industry. The IT staff must be well-equipped to assess the qualification and validation requirements for IT infrastructures and systems set forth by the FDA.
– Skills Shortage:
The IT industry is already facing a global dearth of cybersecurity experts. Experts are already expecting 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions worldwide as 2021 approaches. Considering the strict security and compliance around pharma IT, the right combination of skills could be a hard find.
Even if a company finds the talent it needs, it can be too costly in a competitive environment with an increasing skills gap. Acquiring and retaining industry-leading talent is getting difficult even for pharma giants, let alone the SMBs working in the sector.
– IT vs. QA:
This is an issue that often arises when managing an IT department in the pharma sector. Ensuring compliance and quality in technology is time-consuming and costly. Moreover, maintaining proper documentation for all IT processes is crucial in the pharmaceutical industry. This is something that IT may overlook in their quest to embrace innovation and foster a tech-driven environment. Ensuring that the IT staff is in line with the Quality Control and Quality Assurance departments can become challenging if this factor isn’t considered well before creating the IT department.
Managed Services vs. an In-house IT Department
Having an in-house IT department means that all skills and support needed is available within the company at all times. But on the flip side, small and medium pharma companies may have to allocate a hefty budget for creating an IT department. Companies could otherwise invest these resources in departments that focus on core business strategies. And even after huge investments, they may still not be able to get their hands on top-notch talent.
Cloud and remote technologies have enabled pharmaceutical companies to outsource their IT management at a fraction of the cost of an in-house IT department. Even small pharma companies with limited resources can leverage the leading expertise of a managed service provider as needed. This does not mean that companies need not have any IT personnel in-house. A blended approach for issues such as hardware malfunction that require immediate, on-site support could be ideal for pharma companies. This way, companies can considerably downsize their IT department and save valuable resources without settling for less.
The key is to choose a reliable managed service provider with recent and relevant experience within the pharma industry. Over the past 15 years, ISectra has tailored its managed services particularly for the unique business requirements of pharmaceutical companies. We provide end-to-end integration, monitoring, and management of the entire IT infrastructure. From IT management to backups and disaster recovery to cybersecurity and IT compliance, there’s little left for you to worry about in the IT department. With our team of industry experts, gain complete visibility and control of your entire digital ecosystem and enjoy 24/7, ongoing support.
Our goal is to become more than an IT vendor; we become your strategic partner in harnessing the power of cutting-edge technologies and driving optimal value from your investments.