Pfizer modernises drug development project management with Pega

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez May 5, 2021 Audio mode
Snapshot was suffering from archaic processes and poor data integrations. Working with Pega, Pfizer has now taken advantage of a modern UI and increased automation for drug development project management.

Image of someone getting a vaccination jab
(Image by Angelo Esslinger from Pixabay )

If you hadn't heard of Pfizer a year ago, you almost certainly have now. The pharmaceutical giant is one of the companies that quickly brought a COVID-19 vaccination to market, in under 12 months. A process that normally takes over a decade. 

However, whilst the COVID-19 vaccine has been an incredible feat for the organization, which along with its partner BioNTech plans to manufacture 2.5 billion doses this year alone, Pfizer has been in the business of drug development for over 170 years, across a number of therapeutic areas. 

And understandably, this process of drug development requires careful project management, across a number of stakeholders, making use of access to critical data and multiple systems. The project management system that Pfizer uses for this process is called Snapshot - which recently has undergone an overhaul, with the roll-out Pega's case management platform. 

We at diginomica reported on Pfizer's use of Pega back in 2016, when the company was beginning to think about how the technology could be used to improve its processes and management for clinical trials and drug development. Speaking at Pega's iNspire event this week, Erin K. Petty, Senior Portfolio Director at Pfizer, provided an update that also revealed some impressive results - but more on that later. 

Speaking on the importance of Snapshot in Pfizer's drug development process, Petty said: 

At Pfizer we innovate every day to make the world a healthier place. We're committed to quality health care for everyone because every individual matters. [Things that challenged us included] - slow legacy systems, siloed applications, the need for an intuitive user experience and to be able to scale for the future. 

Snapshot is a vital step in the R&D process. It's an end-to-end portfolio management product. It's where compound and candidate projects are registered and enterprise project master data is managed at all stages of the drug development process. 

Booster needed

However, as implied above, Petty noted that whilst Pfizer has made "tremendous progress" in its digital transformation efforts elsewhere, Snapshot was not keeping up with the company's ecosystem of technologies. She said: 

After almost two decades of running on the same code, it was at the end of its lifecycle, Without data technologies that required custom code to maintain and improve, it put operations and systems at risk. 

With this in mind, Pfizer set out to simplify and digitize its drug development project management process with Pega, in order to help those involved get work done more effectively and efficiently. Petty said: 

As part of our innovation for growth we needed to replace Snapshot with a new system that had guided workflows and an intuitive user experience. It was critical for the reimagined application to improve registration, tracking and performance management of the R&D project pipeline, and be scalable for the future. 

Key to the project was data integrity and integration with Pfizer's other systems. Petty explained: 

So first we focused on data accuracy and credibility, which informs decision making and enables us to perform predictive analytics with confidence. Data quality and maturity is the foundation for automation. An intuitive user interface and data validation at the source, ensures accurate data capture. To further improve accuracy we leverage seamless integration with source systems, ensuring data is entered once and used many times, reducing the amount of time spent cross checking data. 

Peg allows users to easily define the data required to build apps and access that data in their running application, all without worrying about how and where the data is stored. And it's all manageable through an intuitive guided user interface. 

Improving processes

In order to improve operational efficiency, Pfizer also had the ambition of simplifying the processes supporting Snapshot in order to make it easier to get things done. Petty said: 

We had to be sure we were enabling real time communication, through notification and alerts to business partners, ensuring prompt initiation of downstream activities, like budgetary forecasting. Pega case management combines the decision making capabilities of business rules and AI, with the power of automation, to get that work done smarter and more efficiently. 

Pfizer is also making use of Pega's low code platform, which uses built in design best practices, in order to adapt processes as in when demands change in the future. The UX and flexibility of the Pega platform has been a key driver for Pfizer, Petty said: 

Through a modern UX, utilising modern technology for Snapshot, has improved performance and provided an intuitive guided experience, reducing user frustration and resulting in time savings. 

But it was more than just application responsiveness, Pega is easy to use and understand, driving better business outcomes, every step of the way. Secondly, we needed to be able to scale. The drug development process is dynamic and organisational change is a constant. Snapshot flexibly accommodates evolving business needs and efficiently incorporates incoming portfolios. 

Petty said that the best result that Pfizer has seen since undertaking the project is that "no one talks about Snapshot anymore" - meaning that the system is working well. But the company has seen measurable benefits too, which include: 

  • A 28% improvement in process efficiency

  • A 65% improvement in user reported experience. 

  • A whopping 650% increase in overall system performance. 

Petty concluded by saying: 

It's been amazing. We've outperformed every goal and we couldn't be happier. 

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