Mapping Data in the Pharmaceutical Sector

Big Data represents a major opportunity for companies, provided they learn how to gather, organize and handle the right data.

March 2015

Mapping Data in the Pharmaceutical Sector. Big Data represents a major opportunity for companies, provided they learn how to gather, organize and handle the right data. IMA Lab

Data, data, data: the very tool so ardently desired by Chief Marketing Officers is turning into their biggest nightmare.

The huge quantities of data gathered through Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, plus that deriving from e-commerce channels, the availability of new sources of unstructured data and the growth of social network conversations between patient communities and patient advocate groups, have combined to lead to a data explosion scenario.
And to these sources we must also add the increased use of electronic medical records and technological advances in genomic sequencing and monitoring devices.

In recent research interviews carried out by IBM, CMOs from major pharmaceutical companies declared that they considered themselves drastically unprepared to deal with the impact of this tidal wave of data.

Knowing precisely where data is stored, and being able to easily access it, is critical, not least to meet ever more stringent compliance regulations. Regulatory deadlines for document production can be as short as 14 days, so if data is not continually assessed, the ability to respond to requests quickly, accurately and defensibly is severely tested.

But most companies have simply NOT prepared themselves for this situation: the IBM survey went on to reveal that only about half of the companies interviewed continually monitor and update their data map. The ever-developing challenge of gathering, storing and retrieving data has to be tackled using a decisively pro-active attitude based on firstly establishing a sound comprehension of legal aspects of the data situation, the rules on retention of records and companies’ regulatory obligations and rights.

If companies are slow or inefficient in establishing this foundation understanding, they could end up for example retaining data which might in the future cause them major problems, even though it could actually have been deleted under current applicable legislation… or vice versa they could delete data which they are in fact obliged to retain.

The key to a winning strategy for data governance lies in sound planning and effective communication. Every company has an articulated structure whose different components all too often fail to liaise and interact fluidly and consistently, and this failure can cripple the ability to invest the necessary time and effort in constructing an efficient data map, which is the crucial tool for success. It is also vital to assess the concrete steps to be taken to preserve and manage different kinds of data and to quickly grasp the dimensions and timescale of the challenges to be faced.

The mapping process creates a descriptive image of a company’s data types, technical infrastructure and storage systems. Among other advantages, this enables organizations to quickly highlight data types which can be removed from a disclosure requirement, such as for example back-up duplicate emails.

Efficiently mapping and arranging data and information within precise information architectures can be extremely useful in reacting to a regulatory investigation, to an internal investigation or to litigation contexts, for example, and it can improve CMOs’ ability to find, cross-reference and process the data they require.

The “big data" phenomenon represents a challenging new and complex reality that demands urgent action, but it also opens up whole prairies of opportunity for innovation and growth in many different business sectors, and especially in the pharmaceutical industry.


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