NFORMED DECISIONS BOLSTER OUR CORPORATE SUCCESS
at every stage of drug discovery, development, manufacturing and dis-
tribution. That’s crucial for Pfizer, because we work on an average of
a hundred potential commercial drug projects annually, with five typically
culminating in delivery to market each year. BY DR. MICHAEL LINHARES
As the world’s largest drug manufacturer, Pfizer devotes
15 percent ($7.5 billion) of its corporate budget to R&D
and employs more than 13,000 R&D employees worldwide. This investment has resulted in such household-name drugs as Lipitor and Viagra.
To discover and develop tomorrow’s pharmaceutical
breakthroughs, we continually strive to find and maintain
the ideal balance between the rigid processes required to
meet high manufacturing standards and the flexibility that’s
vital for nourishing creative risk-taking and innovation.
Drug manufacturing is highly complex and stringently
regulated, and it requires volumes of data to fuel decision
making during the eight to 10 years it typically takes to
transform an experimental compound into a viable drug.
Having timely, accurate information is particularly critical for our Pharmaceutical Sciences (PharmSci) group,
whose analytical executives determine the drugs we will
bring to market. Missteps and delays are costly, averaging
$10 million per day.
The information used by PharmSci executives comes
from numerous disparate, geographically dispersed sources,
such as our global information factory, enterprise project
management, inventory and supply chain, portfolio and
project management systems. The data in these sources
changes constantly as new research is conducted and new
conclusions are reached. This complexity is further compounded because drug development is not a linear march
from point A to point G, but a constantly moving target.
Here’s a typical scenario that we might discuss: We’ve
found a promising new API (active pharmaceutical ingredient), or compound, which we believe could be developed
into a new drug or, possibly, multiple drugs. We need key
planning and resource information.
What is the forecast of potential success or failure?
If we predict potential success, how many new resources
should be assigned? What are these resources currently
working on? We need data to answer these and many other
questions. Of course, we need this data by next Tuesday for
our business and strategy planning meeting.
In the Business Information Systems group within
PharmSci, we deliver data for decision making regarding
project and portfolio investments, including resources,
expenses and planning. The information’s scope ranges
from mapping out, forecasting and budgeting data used for
future planning and modeling to working out the details
for the project’s execution.
We’ve traditionally relied on formal, repeatable reports
containing analytical information from physical data
marts and data warehouses. But when our executives need
information that’s not readily available from the existing
reports—and this happens regularly—the process to
extract and deliver the data is time-consuming, costly and
To supplement the formal reports, we produced
informal, spreadsheet-based solutions we call spreadmarts.
At face value, spreadmarts are a convenient alternative
for providing short-term answers because they are one-off spreadsheets generated from hand-entered data from
multiple sources and embedded calculations.
However, spreadmarts contain information that has
been separated from its source and, therefore, they become
outdated quickly. Also, spreadmarts don’t conform to controls such as security, and they don’t offer scalability or
reuse across various user domains.
Although short-term by definition, spreadmarts actually take weeks to build. And, at the end of the four to six
weeks it typically takes to build a spreadmart, there is only a
50 percent chance that we would have successfully arrived
at all the facts required. Often, we would have to abandon
the process or restart it.
We were determined to find an alternative solution that
offered rapid access to up-to-date data, conformed to security controls, offered scalability as our information needs
grew and enabled reuse.
FINDING THE SOLUTION
To help PharmSci executives arrive at the answers they
need for both short-term scheduling and long-term planning of assets and resources, we eliminated spreadmarts
from the process and now build small, subject-specific
virtual data marts, or “views,” with easy Web access using
Composite Software’s Composite Information Server and
These virtual data marts are sustainable at minimal cost,
allow for adjustments in the field and expose production
data from enterprise systems that might not otherwise
be accessible. They also minimize our risks and costs by
offering options to the business at all stages: initial prototyping, fulfillment of initial requests, shaping future
requests and formalizing the successful results into long-term solutions.
As an example, at the beginning of 2008, a PharmSci
team leader identified the need for current drug inventory
data to be available in meetings with Clinical and Toxicology
teams. Because this data was stored in our PeopleSoft supply
chain solution and was available via an Oracle database,