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The Connected Enterprise

Part I of a series on tool integration in life sciences

This is the first piece in the Lionbridge Connected Enterprise Series, a discussion on life science companies’ efforts to standardize metrics and governance for language services across the entire enterprise. We’ll talk about approaches to connecting previously siloed departments and optimizing use of language service providers (LSPs) as well as common pitfalls during the process.

Historically, life sciences enterprises muddled by managing their translation efforts piecemeal. The vendor network, the spend, the governance, the ordering process — all these elements meant separate decision makers in separate departments.

First, project managers would formalize the vendor bid process, then go out to market to validate capabilities and price, and finally select vendors. This process repeated ad nauseam with each new request. The scale of content generated by a global enterprise was simply too much for the enterprise to organize, centralize and standardize itself. The individual content owner – digital marketing manager, product launch team, clinical operations manager, technical publishing manager – was largely on their own to select a provider, transfer content, get a quote, and manage the project.

Nowadays, that’s all rapidly changing. Globalization has meant the world’s leading enterprises are in touch frequently enough to collaborate across functions and geographies. Unifying content management means zooming out for the so-called thousand-foot view and syncing a few key areas:

  • Financial data
  • Marketing
  • Technology solutions

Financial Data Collection to Determine Scale

One of the first steps on a global enterprise’s connected journey is collecting financial data across working groups and areas. Start with a few basic questions like “How many providers do you work with? How much do you spend in Latin America? How much of your language need is driven by your marketing team vs. your legal or clinical teams?”

If your answer to these is still “we don’t know,” it’s time to bring together disparate financial systems and build a baseline of data. That will enable a better handle on the true scale of your language spend. This is where many companies realize that they’re spending tens of millions of dollars every year, often with an informal network of ‘below the radar screen’ vendors in many locations. Russia, Latin America, and the Asia-Pacific are especially common regions to have multiple small LSPs, potentially classed as consulting, that contribute to language spend as a whole.

Language spend is often hidden under the umbrella of agencies that companies contract out to, like marketing agencies or eLearning. In the life sciences world particularly, these partners with “hidden” language spend often include clinical research organizations and clinical outcome assessment providers. Recruiting patient participants from across geographies—as is more and more common because of the viability of decentralized trials—means more translations and more regulatory requirements for each language.

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Uniting Marketing Efforts

Once you have a handle on the financial picture, the next step in getting the entire enterprise connected is often in the hands of the marketing organization. Because marketing is tasked with organizing the digital assets of the organization and building a brand voice, it can drive the enterprise’s strategic goals across markets and products. The international scale of marketing (as compared to a specific project, which may be contained in a country or region) lends itself to centralizing language management .

Pharmaceutical and medical device companies often do this centralizing with the addition of a content management system (eg Sitecore, Drupal, AEM) to help the marketing team manage the sheer scale of global content. These tools, in turn, lead to the first actual connector – driving content reuse, optimizing the ordering process, and utilizing a central set of linguistic assets.

Integration with Connectors

As enterprises streamline their technology tool set, connected solutions support business processes that are very different from those marketing manages. Pharmacovigilance for pharma and post-market surveillance for medical devices. Vast amounts of content, integration with inhouse CMS, fast TATs, in house and expert review – keeping up with the sheer volume of content to be translated to support this is virtually impossible without tools to connect the CMS, the translation process, and the review process seamlessly.

Particularly in pharma, we’re seeing broad adoption of Veeva, as they seek to link content creation, review, approval, and storage in a compliant fashion. Veeva offers specific modules suited to the needs of the Clinical, Regulatory, Quality, or Marketing users, and gives the enterprise an ability to utilize connectors to link the very complex workflows that Veeva supports with highly secure translations workflows.

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Connections Create a Faster Workflow

Building these connections to content where it resides gives an obvious benefit: end-users can keep working in the applications they’ve already been trained in and understand, rather than learning a new tool and interacting directly with a translation management system. But the benefits to the enterprise as a whole are even more massive.

Thanks to integrations for business intelligence (BI), content, and translation workflows to build the connected enterprise, today we see pharma companies steadily gaining more control of regulatory labeling workflows across all their regions. They use a combination of Veeva, machine translation (MT), and expert human translations to minimize spend while maintaining quality. In medical device companies, we see leaders expanding their post market surveillance processes across the enterprise’s entire product suite – speeding the submission, translation, and review of thousands of individual documents a day. All of this is only feasible because of connected workflows.

Where Can It Work?

Turning your business into a fully connected enterprise can start with small steps in any project or product area. In future parts of this series, we will talk about the benefits to this transformation and how to proceed by partnering with an experienced LSP.

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Mark Aiello with April M. Crehan
Mark Aiello with April M. Crehan