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Knowledge management: a multifaceted remedy

Pharmaceutical companies are employing knowledge management (KM) to enhance strategic performance across the enterprise, to help with long-term development of new products and to build more comprehensive knowledgebases, among other uses.

Wyeth Pharmaceuticals was looking for a way to make improvements throughout its worldwide clinical organization, targeting such areas as customers, finances, internal processes (including personnel) and technology. One of the world’s largest pharmaceutical and healthcare products companies, Wyeth offers products for women’s healthcare, infectious disease, gastrointestinal health, inflammation, transplantation, hemophilia, oncology and more.

One approach that interested the company was the balanced scorecard. "It is a well-known methodology ensuring you’re on track for achieving your strategic objectives," says Jennifer Peck, senior director of clinical strategy management at Wyeth.

Key tool

Tracking can be accomplished via spreadsheets, but that approach is labor-intensive and often means spending more time collecting data than analyzing it. "If people know that we are measuring something, people behave differently," Peck adds. "What is measured is what gets done."

When the company looked for a way to automate the process, it didn’t have to look far. One division of Wyeth was already using the personal scorecard module from ActiveStrategy in the research and development side of the business. To get a more holistic view of the company’s strategic progress, Wyeth chose Active Strategy Enterprise, a Web-based balanced scorecard that enables authorized users to input data from any location via a Web browser.

The application is a key tool used in monthly performance discussions. It includes dashboards, charts and visual representations of the organization’s strategic plan to help present and discuss important trends.

The application enables Wyeth to measure adherence to strategy development across its worldwide offices by enabling authorized executives, managers and frontline employees to input information, freeing Peck and her team to interpret the data and make recommendations for improvements. The software provides data integration options to incorporate information from existing legacy systems and works with standard Web technologies such as HTML, XML and XSL.

Another advantage is that the software enables simple integration of different terms used to mean the same thing, such as the terms measurement and metric. Peck says, "We can customize the terminology just by clicking a button. The system is very easy to use. That’s one of the reasons that we selected it."

"This allows for greater communication and alignment of practices with Wyeth’s global vision," Peck adds. "For us, this is very critical. It’s a very effective tool."

Intellectual property

AstraZeneca, a large pharmaceutical firm, works many years from conception of a pharmaceutical cure for a disease to actual delivery of it to the market, says Jason Swift, AstraZeneca’s director of scientific information services. But that process would take even longer if the company didn’t have an efficient way to gather and sort through the mountains of data available on targeted diseases, including existing remedies, trials and other knowledge.

"There’s a lot of very different information available, including a lot of content and other unstructured data," Swift says. "What we recognized is that we needed a solution to integrate our internal data—whether it be from something like a biological screening or another source—with external content available from publications and literature."

A key challenge was that the internal data is generated from specific experimentation using the company’s own measurements and terminology, but it must be married to the unstructured content that might use different terminology for identical information.

AstraZeneca is currently in a strategic review of its outside KM vendors, so the company won’t identify them by name, but has worked with a number of different providers as well as developed some of the solutions in house, Swift says.

The combination of homegrown and outside technology enables the company to combine data automatically captured during company experimentation with text mined from external sources to build the company’s intellectual property data warehouse. AstraZeneca can understand target diseases in more detail, which helps optimize screening for different molecules from which to attempt to develop new drugs.

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