Pharma Captive Centres - Moving up the Value Chain

Furhan Ahmed, Director - IT, Science & Enabling Units, AstraZenecaIn his career spanning 15 years, Furhan has worked with an array of corporate companies that include Quark, Cognizant, Oracle, and Unilever, prior to joining AstraZeneca.

Global Capability Centres(GCCs) is now an established phenomenon for most of the major Global Pharma players. These centres have resulted in considerable cost savings and an improved customer service to business and end users. With IT budget flattening, companies are increasingly looking at the GCCs to move up the value chain and go beyond the traditional Application Maintenance and Development services.

Breaking the myth and thought barriers on the kind of services which can and cannot be delivered from offshore centres is now becoming the next big focus area for GCC leaders. And the opportunities are enormous
1.Technology COEs- Pharma, which was historically perceived as a tech conservative sector, is fast coming to the forefront of adopting cutting-edge technologies including AI, Analytics, Robotics, IoT. GCCs can play a critical role to incubate the technologies and build a talent pool who will engineer future transformation programs on these technologies.

2.New Roles- Roles like Solution Architects and Business Analysts, which were earlier perceived to be done only by sitting in customer proximity have started trickling down to the GCCs. This is aided by the fact that since most of the technical teams and expertise are present in the GCCs, work like Solution Blueprinting, Process Reengineering can be worked upon by architects and analysts co-located with the technical engineers. With technologies like RPA being incubated new roles like Process Mentor, Automation Orchestrator are also getting added to the GCCs.

3.Data Science- With the number of Biotech graduates on the rise from both Tier-1 colleges like the IITs as well as Tier-2 colleges, candidates with a mix of Biology and Computer Science backgrounds are easier to recruit. These candidates can prove useful in offshoring of Data Science work especially in areas like Genomics and Chem informatics.
4.Commercial Innovation- India has historically not been an attractive market for pharma companies due to various reasons including weak IP laws as well as non-affordability of the latest drugs. This is fast changing with stronger patent regulations as well as a booming economy with patients willing to invest in the latest treatment options. This has opened the possibility of GCCs working very closely with the local India business and developing innovative solutions with the business.

With IT budget flattening, companies are increasingly looking at the GCCs to move up the value chain

However, the road to the transformation has challenges which need to be overcome by the GCC leadership. Some of them include
1.Availability of Quality Resource- High quality resources in the niche technology areas are less and GCCs will need to compete with Global Tech Giants (Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft)as well as new age startups for attracting talent in a highly competitive market. Having a strong graduates program and ensuring cross location opportunities are few weapons which the companies will need to leverage to be attractive.

2.Changing Mindsets– The mindset that requires changing is two folds. The first is the potential for the GCC resources to do this high value adding work. The second is the feasibility of doing such work from offshore. Starting small with POCs to win over mindset is a great example of how to change and win minds.

So what is in it for the business?How will GICs moving up the value chain benefit the parent organization?

1.Solving the Supply Gap– While the willingness to adopt the newer technologies is high amongst Pharma Businesses, there are massive budget pressures. GCCs can solve this problem by being the engine room for providing high-quality resources to pilot and implement these new technologies.

2.Perception of IT– With the move towards SAAS solutions,the role of IT in driving innovations is increasingly being challenged. Business is more comfortable in engaging with start-ups providing faster implementation cycles than being dependent on IT, who are sometimes perceived as acting as blockers. GCCs can become the innovation hub for organizations, working closely with onsite IT resources to churn out pilots and faster MVPs.

3.Resource Retention– The new roles and opportunities will solve one of the biggest issues that GCCs face today on career and growth paths for the inhouse resources. Retaining the high performing resources will not only result in improvement of the quality of services and deliverables coming out of the GICs, but will also result in GCCs becoming the hub for global talent in the overall org.

All the above trends are resulting in a huge transformation of Pharma GCCs in India. One of the measures for the same is the percentage of GCC staff in major transformation programs like Digital, Data & Analytics and the numbers are on the rise.

The journey from being a technology support centre to the next innovation hub is a long and complex one but the Pharma GCCs in India are truly on this exciting and enriching journey, ultimately benefiting both our patients and stakeholders.