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How Accenture and Novartis use process optimization to support pharma progress

Successful companies are leveraging their processes to not only keep up, but also get ahead. Process optimization has become paramount to success, with 99% of industry leaders saying process optimization is essential to meeting organizational objectives. Sectors like finance, government, and healthcare are now all grappling with how to go about it the right way.

Among them is global pharmaceutical giant Novartis, which was eager to harness technological breakthroughs in areas other than their research labs and trial sites. To help with cross-departmental process transformation, Novartis brought on Celonis and its titanium partner, Accenture. Since 2018, they’ve successfully rolled out Celonis’ process intelligence capabilities across four business areas, six source systems, and more than fifteen use cases, with adoption (and usefulness) at Novartis still growing.

Shubham Mishra, Technical Service Owner and Process Mining Lead at Novartis, and Artur Siurdyban, European Process Capability Lead at Accenture, shared their advice for long-term, process-driven progress at Celosphere 2023.

Want to hear it straight from them? Watch the full session.

Start small, support your successes, explore from there

Novartis started its Celonis journey with proofs of concept in a handful of common use cases like Procure-to-Pay and Order-to-Cash. Quick wins allowed them to get value from Celonis while gaining a better understanding of what rolling out Celonis more widely within Novartis might require. After early successes, the Novartis team continued to support the initial implementations while exploring new process mining opportunities, eventually moving forward with implementations in product lifecycle management, Source-to-Contract, and Record-to-Report, among others.

Speak a common language, literally and figuratively

To get everyone on the same page, people need to be reading the same book. For Novartis, that literally meant establishing a lexicon of shared terminology for process work, including agreed-upon words and phrases the team could use to discuss training, implementation, and results. Laying this linguistic foundation also helped build stronger relationships with business and process owners across Novartis, for whom the same phrase might mean different things.

On a more figurative level, having a shared understanding was also helpful when creating some of Novartis’ more complex Celonis integrations, like in compliance and audit. Doing the heavy initial lift of determining how to structure code, how to report KPIs, and how to maintain governance helped Accenture and Novartis ensure tools working with sensitive and highly-regulated information were useful and trustworthy.

Get your tech, your data, and your people ready

While Novartis started with Celonis’ on-premise solution, it later switched to the cloud. This system migration, while daunting, was supported by its initial work with Celonis, the expertise it had already built, and a cautious, data-driven approach. According to Mishra, pharma companies are wary of digital change due to tight regulations. With this in mind, the Novartis team only made decisions when they had a clear idea of what the technical, privacy, and regulatory consequences would be – weighing effort and risk against potential advantages. In the case of Celonis on-premise vs. Celonis in the cloud, the cloud’s new capabilities (like Action Flows) and ease of use won out. Celonis in the cloud, Mishra said, ultimately represented better value.

To make effective use of Celonis, Novartis carefully selects what data Celonis will ingest to ensure output — like dashboards and analyses — is high-quality.  “Garbage in generates garbage out,” Mishra neatly summed up. The company also incorporates regular governance of data, both for compliance and quality assurance, and because doing so builds trust with business and process owners.

Guiding all this are Novartis’ process experts, whose appointment and training is itself a careful process. It looks and trains for comfort with process tools that goes beyond the basic level, hoping that talents will evolve over time alongside the tools they’re using. One of the best predictors for success is often the ability of process workers in business units to successfully work together with IT teams.

A single source of truth for audit

On the back of a successful system migration and well-running early implementations, Novartis and Accenture are now developing new ways to use Celonis for tasks specific to Novartis’ needs in its tightly-controlled financial and clinical settings.

In finance, Celonis is helping make audits less painful. Audits are regular and often intense at Novartis so Mishra and Siurdyban’s teams are building a custom Celonis app to gather relevant audit information and act as a single source of truth. The app tracks all key audit KPIs and works from a sandbox environment with strict controls from the start, incorporating journal entries, inter-company transfers, and other sensitive data in a well-regulated manner for auditors.

Simplifying sample management

On the clinical side, Novartis and Accenture are using Celonis in novel ways to drive innovation in clinical trials, such as by simplifying sample management. Tissue samples from trials are often distributed across 15-20 researchers, all of whom study the effects of different substances on their specific part of the sample. Using Celonis, Novartis can track samples and results much more quickly and easily. Moving forward, Novartis hopes to use Celonis to help with site selection, patient onboarding, and protocol writing, among other tasks.

Make the uses worth the effort

Though Novartis and Accenture are excited about how much Celonis has already accomplished, they emphasized their success is largely due to how strategic their deployment of Celonis was, and continues to be. By being selective about which cases they devote time and resources to, they can keep momentum up while maintaining existing gains.

Novartis is excited to keep growing Celonis within the business. "From my experience, we started slow, we started very consciously, but now we have built a capability and platform that can really bridge across the company," said Mishra.

More from Celonis + Accenture: 

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Kelly Fritz
Senior Content Creator

Kelly Fritz is a Senior Content Creator at Celonis. When not writing, she spends way too much time searching for vintage dresses, underpriced houseplants on Facebook Marketplace, and ever-faster bike routes between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

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