Yulia Aspinall Business Intelligence Provision in the Biopharma Industry
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By Yulia Aspinall


Yulia Aspinall explores the changing options for collecting and channelling business intelligence, insight and analytics, with particular reference to developments in the biopharma industry.


"Business intelligence", "business insight" and "business analytics" are commonly-heard terms which are often used interchangeably (but wrongly) to describe an organisation's needs in terms of critical information.

These needs are especially important for biopharmaceutical companies these days as blockbuster patents expire, pipelines become leaner, consolidation continues and we see a shift to specialist, niche products. This all points to increasing difficulty in sustaining the current "status quo" whilst still aspiring to market leadership.

Defining Business Intelligence

But what do these terms really mean and who provides such information for organisations?

There are multiple definitions of the terms business insight, analytics and intelligence. For the latter, a personal favourite is the "intelligence pyramid" as shown in Figure 1 and which I mentioned in my article for BIR in 2011.

As Norman Manley puts it, "Intelligence is the continual process in which organizations collect, integrate and analyse data in a structured way in order to apply the resulting information and knowledge to decision making processes with the intention of improving the performance of the organization."

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Figure 1: The intelligence pyramid devised by Yulia Aspinall

Defining Business Insight and Analytics

"Insight" is another matter; Business Dictionary Online describes this as "...knowledge in the form of perspective, understanding, or deduction...",  whilst "Analytics" is defined as "...the field of data analysis..." (my italics).

Collecting and Channelling Vital Intelligence

Looking at these and other definitions, it is possible to say that any staff who are with - or related to - the organisation can potentially generate insight and intelligence which can be used to develop and shape company strategy. However, a key consideration for organisations must also be who should collect, who should analyse and finally who should channel this vital intelligence to the right people and the right time.

Historically, large companies in the biopharmaceutical industry have business intelligence departments (not part of the IT department!) or groups which can include market research, competitive intelligence and forecasting professionals.

Recently, companies started to employ or develop professionals with skills in all three disciplines and more and more job adverts for competitive intelligence or market research analyst/manager are being replaced by insight or business intelligence analyst/manager. 

This makes sense, as it's only possible to develop actionable strategic recommendations when competitive intelligence assumptions are supported by robust insights from market research and analytics/forecasting. In smaller companies, scientists or librarians can provide elements of competitive intelligence, but the market research underpinning or robust analysis is often missing. This is why business intelligence ideally needs to be an integrated discipline, with each speciality feeding and supporting the other. 

Gaining Insight - Recent Reviews

FreePint articles, reviews and comments can help to identify the gaps in business intelligence provision and also equip business intelligence professionals with the relevant insight.

As an example, competitive intelligence and market research professionals will find the recent review on AdisInsight useful. It describes how users can find trusted information on clinical trials, R&D, drug safety studies and regulatory news via a single search.

Tableau Desktop (see mini review) is a cutting-edge visualisation tool which could be equally useful for all business intelligence professionals, but especially for forecasting specialists.

Gaining Insight - Recent Subscription Articles and Blogs

The blog item "Narrowing the Skills Gap"  and the Topic Series "Best Practices in Information Skills Development" (register for free updates and PDF report) will be useful for personal professional development and team development.

Phil Bradley in his Subscription article "Create Engaging and Memorable Presentations by Going Beyond PowerPoint" discusses some new and upcoming tools which can help to add impact to presentations.

And finally, the quarterly blog item "Subscription Update for Pharmaceutical Companies" provides an extremely good source for quick browsing and finding reviews and articles relevant to the biopharmaceutical industry.

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