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5 Takeaways from the 2019 Office 365 Life Sciences Symposium

5 Takeaways from the 2019 Office 365 Life Sciences Symposium

5 Takeaways from the Office 365 Life Sciences Symposium

We recently brought together leaders in the Boston life sciences community for an Office 365 Life Sciences Symposium to share how they are solving real-world challenges – like document management, collaboration, security, compliance, and the need to operate more efficiently – using Office 365. It was an exciting and informative afternoon at bluebird bio’s office in Kendall Square, and we wanted to share the five top takeaways from the incredible presentations and conversations.

1. IT is becoming a key stakeholder to life sciences organizations

When Raj Padmanabhan joined Paratek Pharmaceuticals as VP of IT, they only had one person on the IT team, and the organization was growing fast. Technology had dramatically changed, and the team wasn’t able to stay on top of all the updates and innovations. They had limited resources for competing responsibilities. As a result, the company couldn’t collaborate efficiently or securely to get their jobs done.

Raj stepped in and identified Office 365 as the platform for all file sharing, process automation, and collaboration internally and externally. But identifying a technology wasn’t enough. In order to improve user adoption and productivity, Raj and his team also:

  • Established a sense of urgency
  • Created a guiding coalition
  • Developed a change vision

Raj explained that the results they’ve seen to date wouldn’t have been possible if the organization had continued to treat IT like a project. Instead, IT became an integral part of the process and key stakeholder within the company. He explained that communication buy-in, training, and governance by the right teams were essential to turning IT from an after-thought to an integral part of the business.

2. Adopting OneNote for information storage in a fast-moving industry

Rapidly growing companies must balance focusing on multiple strategic objectives against completing a seemingly endless list of action items. Roles and responsibilities can shift quickly, resulting in undocumented processes and lost historical information.

Emily Mancini, Manager of Enterprise Solutions & Collaboration at bluebird bio, began using OneNote to track and organize her own meetings. As she realized the power of OneNote, she identified the potential for greatly improving the efficiencies for internal meetings. The next step was to gain broader internal adoption. Her perspective was that high user adoption rates are rooted in passion and authenticity.

She has trained hundreds of employees at bluebird bio and explained in her session at the Symposium that high user adoption rates are rooted in passion and authenticity. Emily drove the build of bluebird bio’s usage of OneNote and SharePoint with the end users in mind. When it came to training, she explained how important it was to creatively engage employees. For example, she would host training and provide exotic cuisine and drinks. She made the sessions personal, fun and relatable. Emily and her team realized that the best training didn’t focus on business processes — it focused on the efficiency benefits of Office 365 tools, especially OneNote, so their scientists and employees could focus on their tasks and projects.

Some of her keys to introducing OneNote internally were marketing the tool and driving adoption:

  • Identify “why OneNote” for your organization
  • Internal marketing campaign
    • Evangelized by someone who has something in it for them too
    • Focus message to current company challenges
    • Prioritize getting them in the room
  • Customize the training to what your end users care about
  • Provide training materials & additional long-term support

These effective training practices have resulted in 90% Office 365 user adoption rates at bluebird bio.

3. Office 365 Tools and Best Practices Support M&A

Mergers and acquisitions are an inevitable part of the life sciences industry. In his session, Mike Gilronan discussed his lessons learned, best practices, and some tools of the trade that were used to help with the merger process now and also enable them to be prepared for any future M&A.

Shire is a large pharmaceutical that acquired Baxalta in 2016 and was then subsequently acquired by Takeda in 2019. In order to help facilitate a smooth transition, it was important the all employees could get the information they needed and effective collaboration could continue. This required a tremendous amount of migration and development to ensure intranets and team sites were fully functional, global navigation was available, and search could be utilized across the platform. With the scope of the migration, some key issues had to be addressed, including:

  • Identifying who owns the content
  • Analyzing and determining what content needs to migrate
  • Ensuring they maintain security to sensitive information
  • Minimize disruption

In our experience, while the scope of the issues at Shire was magnified due to the size of the organizations and their corresponding SharePoint infrastructure, the same issues need to be addressed for any migration. Shire developed a unique and robust set of tools, including their Hub Catalog to assist with the identification, notification, communication and analysis of the site data to address these critical issues.

Bottom line? Improve your content management to improve efficiency today and be better prepared for M&A tomorrow. 

4. Consider Compliance from The Beginning

In 2017, Jounce went from being privately held to being publicly traded on the NASDAQ. Shortly after this transition, the IT team was tasked with implementing the company’s first set of controls to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). The team saw this as a unique opportunity to not only address the task at hand, but also look beyond it to also improve operational processes and implement automation while considering security and scalability.

Nathan Doyle, Senior IT Manager at Jounce Therapeutics, explained in his session how important compliance and security are in order to meet the requirements of a publicly traded life sciences company.

As part of that, he outlined in detail how they completely automated the onboarding and offboarding of employees. The previous onboarding solution was owned by Human Resources and was initiated by a SharePoint Form. Once submitted, the request was sent to the Jounce ticketing system run and controlled by the help desk. Changes required shoulder taps, e-mail, even text messages. Ultimately, time to implement at this stage was approximately 5-7 business days. This was highly inefficient and not secure. The help desk staff would then create AD accounts manually.

The new solution needed a way to manage the authorization and approvals process for access to the various systems deemed SOX applicable. A new SharePoint-based solution integrated with Active Directory (AD) automatically created the required user record and automatically enabled the AD account on the start date of employment.  The solution supported multiple request types, including HR, Finance, Data Access, and Administrative. Jounce took their solution to the next level by handling and automating tasks such as determining if employees were still working at the company and handling staff change requests.

Specific takeaways from Nathan’s presentations included:

  • Fail safes are critical!
  • Hiring the right resources goes a long way
  • Culture, Experience, and Personality
  • Be fluid!
  • Take time to automate and evolve the process and make sure to include other groups
  • You are never done
  • Documentation – often overlooked but always critical

5. Office 365 is Enabling The Life Sciences Industry to Run Full Speed Ahead

One common theme that permeated the entire afternoon was speed. Getting things done fast is paramount in an industry growing as fast as life sciences. It’s why so many organizations turn to the Office 365 platform to improve efficiency.

However, growth without the proper management and controls can cause inefficiencies and security headaches later. These forward-thinking organizations are leveraging the management and security aspects of the very platform they chose to improve effectiveness as well to avoid those headaches.

If you’re in the life sciences space, and you haven’t already, is it time to see how Office 365 can help you work more efficiently and effectively?


If you have any questions on the takeaways or specific use cases cited, Contact Us, as Timlin has had the opportunity to partner with each of speakers and their organizations.