Life Sciences Industry Panel Series: Part 1 – Adapting to New Technology Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

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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.

NetSuite and Electronic Payments

Paul Giese, In the Black Consulting founder, said that the pandemic created an “uncertainty in the IPO market that kind of delayed or pushed out a lot of NetSuite implementations.” However, he was quick to point out that the IPO market for biotech companies, on the other hand, “had a pretty strong summer.”

Giese explained that this year, he’s had more client organizations beginning the process of preparing for an IPO than in years past. He emphasized that his clients are using NetSuite to help them prepare for the IPO, which has been a huge help with the new remote workforce normal.

“One of the big things I’ve seen is a big interest in electronic payments,” Giese said. “So whether that’s Mineral Tree or bill.com, there are a lot of questions around ‘How do we implement this now that teams are working from home and signing checks. The traditional way with paper is a little more challenging when everybody’s working from home.”

Phil Brandt, the director of accounting systems and operations at Inari Medical, also echoed Giese’s sentiments on electronic payments. Inari was using Mineral Tree and Prendio for POS and invoice approval. All payments were processed by NetSuite. When Inari switched banks back in April 2020, the company asked Sikich to build a connector between NetSuite and the new bank to automate ACH, wire, and check payments.

As of October 1st, Inari was fully automated for payment processing, so there was no longer a need to sign physical checks or physically approve everything.

“All of the approvals are done in NetSuite for the initial round of approvals,” Brandt explained. “And then the second round in SVB [bank] to release the ACH and wires, given that we are processing 500 payments a month at a minimum, this was pretty huge for us from a time savings perspective, and also again with COVID and everyone being remote.”

In addition, Inari used NetSuite to handle inventory, its supply chain, and the quality department. “It’s really helped maximize efficiency of people in three or four or five or six different locations from a reporting and location and inventory structure,” Brandt said.

Adapting to new tech

Kevin Nee, the controller at Collegium Pharmaceutical, said that while Collegium already had NetSuite implemented, the company’s biggest roadblock was adapting to other unfamiliar technologies on the fly.

“You think back to February of this year, and none of us knew how to use Zoom and Microsoft Teams and all these platforms, and now they’re part of our everyday life,” he said. “So what we’ve kind of built into our culture, with things like implementing NetSuite and other platforms we’re now using, is to be prepared to adapt to change, because it can happen at any moment, and we need to be able to do our jobs using different tools.”

Nee also noted that some organizations seem to think that when you invest in a new technology, you’re supposed to use that one technology for everything. His organization has found that it’s often best if different systems are used for doing certain things. Perhaps they will be able to integrate everything in a few years, but it’s best to “incrementally improve” how the company uses the tools when everything suddenly changes.

R&D Departments

Kuram Choudhry, the accounting manager at Imara, Inc., commented that finance departments aren’t the only ones who felt the impact of the pandemic. He explained that a big concern for Imara, Inc. was how the Research and Development (R&D) department was handling it.

“As with any clinical stage drug development company, a lot of the work that we do is at sites and hospitals across the world,” he pointed out. “So, a lot of that was just dependent on, well, depending on where you are, where that site is… like how much more work can we continue to do [during the pandemic]?”

He admits that his biotech company was lucky, because the drug they were developing was a tablet. With that, they were able to find ways to administer it remotely and check in over the phone.

The biggest change was from replicating their offices into a home office. Adding Microsoft Teams into their technology platforms was a huge help.

“We also started using Microsoft Teams, especially the chat function, you know, just to simulate [conversation] rather than just emailing back and forth for whatever,” Choudhry said. “I think our leadership team was quick to jump on this and make sure that we didn’t have as many hiccups as a lot of other people may have had.”

This post is part 1 of a 7-part blog series from our Life Sciences Industry Panel regarding adapting to new technology. You can watch the full webinar here. The next post in the series will discuss what made these Life Sciences companies switch from their old systems to NetSuite. Follow the entire series here.

This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.

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