The coronavirus pandemic has nearly impacted every business in some way or another, and biotech organizations are no exception. We recently sat with a panel of life sciences executives to discuss how the pandemic has impacted their businesses, and while each had different experiences, all of them noted how much technology helped them persevere, especially when it came to automating business processes. Last time, we discussed how NetSuite makes it easier for life sciences organizations to go public. Now we’re getting into what business processes the life sciences organizations were able to streamline the most with NetSuite.
Streamlining the financial business processes
Kevin Nee, Controller at Collegium Pharmaceutical
, immediately said that for his company, “it was definitely the procure to pay process just from purchase order to invoice processing, to accounting approval, to budget owner approval, to payment, that whole process before.” In the days before NetSuite, Collegium was using paper invoices that they would have to manually take to people’s desks to sign off on. Not that the whole process is electronic, all purchase orders are done in the system that the budget owner can approve immediately. Once an invoice comes in, the budget owner can compare it to the purchase order quickly and easily to ensure it matches. Kuram Choudhry, the accounting manager at Imara, Inc.
, chimed in with another financial process—balancing bank statements. “One thing that I’ve liked is just that the cashless reconciliation process in NetSuite automatically mashes your bank statements and bank transactions,” he said. “Other systems we previewed used something similar, but it could take a full day to complete. This takes only a few hours, even for monthly close. It just makes things much more automated. Paul Gacy, founder of In The Black Consulting
, added that NetSuite helped automate clinical accruals. Since NetSuite allows users to create a saved search to pull all of these invoices, it’s easy to tie them into the accrual process or to build a direct research and development spend table. “I think there’s a lot of small things like that, that over time they accumulate into a big amount of savings for the accounting team,” he finished.
Advice to other companies looking at a new ERP system
The panel wrapped up with asking the panelists what advice they would give to other life sciences companies that are looking at implementing a new ERP system.
I would definitely start with asking in your network of who, you know, what are the tools, what are the partners, who are the people that you worked with that, um, did the process well, who are maybe a year or two ahead of where your company is in their development? You know, I think what feels said about, um, you know, asking stakeholders, you know, you don’t know what you don’t know. Right. And so I think asking other people who are maybe further along can help answer those questions. And I think that helps get the buy-in when you’re selling to, you know, the CEO or the CFO as to like, why should we use NetSuite? If you can say, “Hey company, A, B, and C have all done it, and they’re just like us. And, you know, they use this partner.” I think that just helps give people a lot of comfort knowing like, “Hey, we’re working with legitimate people and other companies have used, uh, this partner or used this ERP tool.” I think the other component is making sure when you’re selecting a partner, make sure that they have industry specific experience and not only ERP implementation experience. Ask questions like, “Hey, what do other people in our industry do?” And if the implementation team kind of looks at you with a blank face, that’s not a comfortable place to be in when you’re leading the implementation. You really want to make sure that your partner is familiar and they know exactly where you’re going as a company, and that they’re familiar with the industry, whether it’s biotech or telecommunications or whatever. Those two pieces of information are just so critical to having a successful implementation.
What was best for us was actually just choosing the right partner. When we were thinking about implementing NetSuite, we were very open, very honest about exactly what we need. We weren’t afraid to look at a work order and be like, no, we don’t need that or we need you to do that. The most important part is that you like your partner, and you have one that will be flexible with you. I can’t stress enough where if you don’t have a team that’s responsive to initially what you need, but then responds to it during your data transfer or when you’re training, it will make the process just excruciatingly painful.
Have these conversations ahead of time, knowing what you need of your ERP, whether it’s for a compliance purpose or for the greater organization, what their other department’s reporting needs are, and then that way it can build into your decision-making. You don’t have to know what ERP you want before you build out what you want the process to be, who needs what, and who should see what that stuff you can talk about now. The more you do that ahead of time, I think the better ERP you’ll pick, because you’ll have a better understanding of what you want out of it.
I would get your finance team in a room with a whiteboard for a few hours and maybe some beverages and really map out what everyone spends their time on every day. Map out each role, ask how those hours are spent, and from that point, identify three to five areas in each role that can be operationally improved. Then you’re asking the question, can that switch or something else, save time and two out of these five or four out of these five. From there you make a list for a new ERP system. What are your must haves? What are your nice to haves? What are your, Oh my God, this would be amazing to have lists. Grab each of the lab techs for 15 or 30 minutes and really sit down and say, “Hey, what are your pain points?” Ask your lab manager directly what is the worst part of their jobs. Ask how you can make their job easier. You would be really surprised at the answers you’re going to get, whether it’s ordering, whether it’s supply management, whether you need 15 scientists ordering in a system or do you just want one or two? Be sure to talk to finance first, obviously, but go to your lab techs too. You’ll be surprised with what you learn. This post is part 7 of a 7-part blog series from our Life Sciences Industry Panel regarding adapting to new technology. You can watch the full webinar here
. Follow the entire series here