While the statement "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" serves as a great warning whenever we contemplate something new, it should not mean that we ignore the options. A good case in point is the way we currently analyze and visualize discovery and development data.
If the pundits are right, IT budgets will be smaller next year. Or, to put it more correctly, the percent increase for 2008 over 2007 will be less than the percent increase for 2007 over 2006. Are you still with me?
As an example, take the recent article by John Soat of Information Week, who cites two separate surveys involving CIOs. Both predict smaller budget increases for 2008. Mind you, this is across all industries and it's not clear what will happen in the Biopharma sector.
We can guess, however, that based on the somewhat dismal performance of most pharma and some biotech companies, CEOs will be looking for savings wherever they can be found. And that includes IT.
From my perspective, this is quite unfortunate since I am convinced that our industry has squandered countless opportunities to leverage information technologies to improve both day-to-day operations and improve the R&D pipeline. If you want examples, I'll give you several:
document management and electronic publishing
data management and exploration
electronic data collection (EDC)
clinical trial management
master data management
Now, you may be saying: "Is this guy nuts? These are the areas where we have made the most progress!"
And no, I'm not nuts. These are great examples where lots of time and money have been wasted or investments underperformed. Despite glowing reports at DIA meetings and other venues, the reality is that we still don't know how to properly leverage IT.
I'll offer just a few reasons why our IT dollars/euros don't get us the returns we need:
Lack of resolve and leadership to change course;
Continued disconnect between the business community and the IT organization;
Missing or half-baked strategy for improving productivity;
Cowardly management disguised as management by consensus;
Focus on regulatory compliance rather than operating efficiency;
Failure to create a learning and innovative organization;
Over-reliance on selecting technology rather than setting strategy that drives technology.
So, it's possible that we don't actually need to increase the IT budget. Maybe it would be enough to just stop wasting it.
It is more likely that over time we will see electronic publishing becoming the norm with "on demand" printing of entire books moving from the print shop to the book store or your personal computer.
We actually have a pretty good analogy to this in our own industry. That is, the move to electronic submission publishing including electronic delivery and the potential to go to print on an "as needed" basis.
Technology will need to come to the rescue once again and allow these "one off" books to be printed and bound quickly and at a quality equal to what is currently expected by consumers. Some "on demand" printers are already available and can print a single page in a split second in full color. So, you can expect to see them show up at your favorite large book chain fairly soon. I'd say in the next two years. Remember though that I tend to be an optimist and may be off by a year or two.
This leads to an interesting question. Just how many books are we talking about?
According to R.R. Bowker, there were close to 300,000 books published in 2006 in the United States alone. For the entire English-speaking world, the number increases to over 450,000.
The top publishing categories for 2006 in the USA were as follows:
And I have no idea how many times Paris Hilton is mentioned in any of these books. However, it would be interesting to see the breakout by category.
Note: I have rounded the figures up or down to the nearest 1,000. For example, the actual count for computers is 5,498.