Skip to main content

Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Trinity Menu Trinity Search



You are here About > Tangent Blog > Digital Transformation in Life Sciences Manufacturing

Blog #2: Digital Transformation in Life Sciences Manufacturing Professional Development

Tangent, Trinity’s Idea Workspace, has launched a new executive program on Digital Transformation in Life Sciences Manufacturing.In this interview, we talk to program facilitators Barry Curry and Derval Kennedy to find out who the course is designed for and how it will benefit life science manufacturing organisations in today’s climate of constant change. We discuss what is really driving the need for increased agility within the sector, what this means in actual terms, as well as a glimpse into what participants will take away from the course itself.

This course is about people skills rather than technologies for digital transformation. Can you explain why this has been identified as a gap for development in organisations?

Barry: One of the founding principles of the course creation is that many failures in digital transformation over the years, and across sectors, have stemmed from an inability of organisations to clearly define their own requirements early on. It sounds simple on the face of it but it’s where many transformation projects fall short.

There is a real need for a focus on the role of people & stakeholders in this part of the journey to address this and to pay more attention to the business change aspects. Currently with many digital transformation programs there is too much focus on the technology and that needs to change. This is true now more so than ever before as time becomes a scarce resource and the need to move at speed is essential.

Having the right culture and skills is imperative in order to take a digital transformation project through from start to finish. There is a continuing drive for organisations to move from a paper-based process to an electronic-based process for a number of reasons - regulatory compliance, efficiencies, improved quality and so on. I've seen over the years where many of these projects have failed to deliver on expectations or on expected benefits and have forced the clients to compromise.

We want to empower organisations with the right skills, methodologies, and tools to avoid these problems.

How does the new executive program empower Life Sciences manufacturing organisations to avoid these problems?

Derval: The course offers a combination of industry-specific and practical project and program management approaches combined with design thinking in its broad sense. In other words, how people can get involved from the earliest of stages in designing the solutions to the challenges that they themselves face and taking a holistic view rather than looking to a piece of technology to solve the problem.

We’ll be combining creative thinking, problem solving and practical design thinking approaches along with industry-specific program management methods & tools that individuals can take back to their organisations. They’ll be equipped with the right skills to question, identify needs, design solutions, test & experiment in the most productive and collaborative way for their own particular organisations challenges. This is critical for successful digital transformation.

Bringing cross-functional teams together and understanding the impact of change on the business is often overlooked when it comes to implementing new technologies or digital processes. Putting the users at the centre of the journey of exploration and development is key. It is talked about and typically done by virtue in the start-up world. It’s critical that the same thinking is applied everywhere that innovation is to be a success.

Within each organisation, who is it that should be equipped with these skills in order to help their digital transformation journey succeed? Who exactly is this course for?

Barry: The course has been specifically designed for senior management and leaders within Life Sciences manufacturing from pharmaceutical to medical devices to biologics and biopharma. The tools, methods and skills participants will come away with are applicable across all disciplines of the business - whether that be production, operations, logistics, IT, product development, innovation. Anyone who is involved in managing a department, leading a project or leading a team through a stage of the digital transformation process will benefit from the creative thinking and leadership skills acquired.

Is now the right time for these organisational leaders to level up these skills?

Derval: There is a significant demand, even a pent-up demand, for a course such as this long before the current pandemic. Particularly within Life Sciences, there is a strong business driver to digitally transform the organisation. Now within the current set of circumstances you can see organisations not just in Life Sciences but in all industry sectors having to make changes really fast. Being very agile, innovating and becoming resilient is a growing imperative. In the area of Life Sciences manufacturing it's an opportunity for those organisations to double down and keep the speed going.

What is the Life Sciences manufacturing sector experiencing that is different to other industries?

Barry: Over the past few years I've spent a lot of time with clients rescuing projects that have gotten into trouble and we've had to go right back to the beginning and spend a lot of time on requirements gathering. Every organisation will have their own way of doing this but ultimately it’s about enabling them to take control of their own transformation. Rather than trying to make a technology solution fit, it’s about starting with the problem identification from a user-centric point of view. I’ve seen instances where organisations were breaking the corners off their own business processes to make it fit a system that was never really designed for their unique situation. This causes a multitude of problems, often insurmountable problems.

In Life Sciences in particular, there are a number of critical business drivers - compliance being the main one, the quality of the product and patient safety. Digital transformation done correctly can deliver huge benefits, huge transparency, provide better quality product and increase the supply of product into the market to avoid any stock out situations. Digital transformation done well also supports data analytics and allows people to analyze what's happening in a much easier way. Initiatives like pharmaceutical serialization for instance, that many of our students will be familiar with, is purely driven by doing digital transformation correctly. I’ve worked with organisations in the past correcting those projects and getting those systems to a place where they are not only usable but are delivering the benefit that they have anticipated.

Of course now we have scenarios where established working environments in manufacturing are being challenged with lock down restrictions and organisations are trying to figure out how to manage that change and introduce new solutions that may become more permanent than were previously imagined. Digital transformation has risen to the top of the priority list for many and the acceleration required is unprecedented.

The idea of future-proofing has taken on a whole new meaning and imperative. This course provides the skills to embrace that.

Register your interest Application process is now open!

What will participants come away with?

Barry: Essentially, they get a playbook looking at digital transformation from the outset to allow them to question and delve into the challenges to be solved: why are we doing this digital transformation, what do we need to do and how will it impact our business?

The toolkit will bring together the requirements gathering concepts, the prototyping, testing and verification methods that are best applied in advance of making a decision. These kind of skills and methods allow you to make better decisions. We work through the scoping exercise to enable them to create their own design, their own solutions, estimate their own value and what benefits to expect.

Lastly we look at detailed planning and how they can strategically choose their own roadmap for digital transformation. So for example, rather than doing one Big Bang and trying to implement everything together at once, what makes most sense for their specific application, their specific needs and how to tailor that to the needs of the business and the needs of the industry. We equip them with the skills and methodologies for doing that in a forward-looking way, to allow them to future-proof as best they can even in uncertain times such as those we are in.

Why is Design Thinking a key component?

Derval: The two principal components of the course - Life Sciences program management and design thinking - really run closely together and are knitted throughout the course. They are key components to successful digital transformation when the critical role of people and culture are recognised. When people hear about design thinking they tend to think about it being used for the development of products or services but I personally have been using it quite a lot in recent years in Life Sciences organisations for designing strategy and also designing the processes or the programs of change in transformation. Design Thinking is also about context analysis. It’s analytical in a very focused way when it comes to framing problems. For example a Life Sciences organisation or manufacturing site might have a particular challenge relating to their digital transformation that has to be addressed in order to move on. Design thinking is about framing that problem and then exploring ideas using design thinking techniques to come up with a number of solutions very creatively. In design thinking terms it’s what we call divergent thinking - taking a bunch of people together coming with their different ideas and offering different solutions to the same problem.

In a professional development scenario, we take students through a process of identifying enablers and barriers, identifying best options and guiding them through prototyping some of their solutions and testing them.

Design Thinking encourages a great deal of innovation and ideation which very much comes to the fore when designing the best solutions and ones that are people-centred. It’s the combination of analysis and creativity that help teams to take action on digital transformation, applying a process to creatively solve problems. Too often digital transformation projects and efforts fail when organisations take an ‘out-of-the-box’ technology solution and try to make their business fit the technology without really starting with a user-led business centric journey for identifying the best solution for the job. Not only is the solution not necessarily the right fit but the approach doesn’t take into account organisational buy-in which is critical to success.

When the course is complete, what resources will participants have access to?

Derval:We feel that this course is going to make a real impact in Life Sciences. We've both seen programs that haven't worked so well and we really get behind the idea that having people design their own solution to their own problems gives them the buy-in and the enthusiasm for success that you don't always see in digital transformation projects.

The industry focus combining a Life Sciences program management approach with Design Thinking is unique and will benefit greatly.

Barry: As we all know, there are many digital programs and projects that don't have a good reputation for being delivered on time and on budget and in realising the potential benefits. This course will give participants the chance to change people's perceptions on that and will allow them to take control by engaging with all stakeholders and employing the tools and techniques that we will demonstrate practically on this course.

Barry Curry is a Project Management and Manufacturing Systems consultant operating primarily in the Life Sciences industry. Derval Kennedy is the Founder and Managing Director of StratAdept, a boutique consulting firm specialising in strategy and transformation. They will be leading Tangent’s Executive Programme in Digital Transformation in Life Sciences Manufacturing commencing 1st October 2020. This programme runs over 12 evenings into December 2020, and is designed to enable Life Sciences leaders to address digital challenges. Find out more here.

Register your interest Application process is now open!

Published 6th August 2020