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Project Management solution for Pharmaceutical Companies – SMARTSHEET

Success in the pharma industry depends on the safety of the drug produced and the speed of production. But the paradox is that making drugs is a risky job, and the journey of that vial of medicine from labs to counters is quite a long one.

Throughout the whole process, the most notable are design, trials, and supply. And the pharma company has to make sure that all these take place efficiently to produce a safe, side-effect-free drug.

Similarly, the healthcare industry is also moving ahead by leaps and bounds. New procedures, new guidelines. 

However, there is one marked difference between the erstwhile healthcare industry and the one existing now- a public eye on their working. Earlier, it was the norm to accept the decisions of the doctor-in-charge and the hospital administration. Now, they do not get as much leeway. Hence, all rules and regulations in hospitals are getting more strict and quality parameters more rigid.

In both the industries mentioned above, uncertainty is a common occurrence. Risks, side-effects, and schedule changes happen almost always, which is why the coordination and project management are of paramount importance.

Project management has very recently been included as an important part of the administration in these industries. The coordination between project managers and stakeholders, strategies, and plans for a certain project- all these fall under project management purview.

This article aims to pinpoint the various challenges faced by the healthcare and pharma industries in project management and the solutions to these so that they can keep providing quality healthcare and drugs for all.


Global healthcare spending is shooting through the roof! In Singapore itself, the annual spending on healthcare was over $10 billion.

The average lifespan has risen across the globe. Coupled with this, the power given to healthcare providers and chronic illnesses have aided the exponential rise of healthcare costs.

Apart from that, another pressing issue that healthcare providers are facing, is the well informed patient. The days of just treating and handing medical jargon to the patient are gone. There is a plethora of literature on the Internet for patients to read and make an informed choice.


Affordable, high-quality medicines and increased efficiency in healthcare institutions.

Affordable, high-quality medicine.

For this, we need a strong research team in pharmaceutical companies. A team that can come up with innovative medicines without spiking the charge. 

Investing more in creating innovative drugs may lead to a reduction in the invasive procedures carried out on a routine basis.

A study done in 2008 shows that with every $ 24 spent on pharma research, the healthcare cost drops by $89. 

An antibiotic released in 1998 has caused the cost of treating peptic ulcers to drop by a whopping 94%!

Isn’t that a figure to reckon with?

But, the issue is the inordinate amount of time required to produce a safe drug.

Profitability is, of course, a major concern for all pharmaceutical companies. They have to keep in mind the cost for R&D, FDA regulations, and the rush to be “first in the market” while formulating their strategies.

To cut their costs, they generally go slow. It takes a good 15 years in most cases for a medicine to go from conception to counter. And over these 15 years, there are innumerable checks and procedures. Production, trials, supply chain, finances, and legal hurdles need to be settled before expecting any ROI. 

And this is the story of a single drug. At any given time, pharma companies could be gunning to complete tens of drugs.

And this is the stage where project management for pharma steps in.

To ensure coordination for efficiency.

Increased efficiency of healthcare institutions

It’s a competitive industry.

You’ll earn more if you maintain your standard and keep upgrading yourself.

Hire the best physicians and surgeons. Lap up the new technologies available. Keep updating hospital policies according to the regulations.

Hospitals and other organizations working on health have to ensure that their efficiency and productivity are always through the roof if they want to remain favorites.

At the moment, the data says the day is far from productive for many physicians- who spend around 27% of the day interacting with patients and 50% in paperwork and data entry.

For this to change, they have to keep good tools and information technology at their disposal, which will help eliminate risk and introduce transparency in their processes.

Ashley Mattison, a healthcare expert at Smartsheet, says, “As the pressure increases to find new efficiencies maintaining HIPAA compliance, Healthcare Information Technology (HIT) gives organizations a leg up to be better prepared to serve their patients, employees, vendors and diverse business needs in a secure environment.”

Challenges faced by healthcare organizations concerning project management

The healthcare industry has been moving forward at lightning speed throughout the world and especially in South Asia. New reforms, new tie-ups, and new solutions by different vendors are coming one on top of the other.

However, all of this stands to be ruined by one chink in the armor- ineffective project management.

Let’s look at some of the issues faced by healthcare organizations when it comes to project management :

  1. In-effective project management

A major problem faced by the healthcare industry is the division of resources and budget between projects. As a result, organizations often end up with reduced budgets and resources for important care delivery projects.

Ideally, they need to keep in mind their vision and the constraints they have as an organization. Then they need to make informed and objective decisions while comparing projects.

This will help them pinpoint the more impactful projects and lead to equitable distribution of funds.

2. Lack of relevant resources

Just having a Project Management Office (PMO) framework won’t cut it for healthcare institutions anymore.

What is needed is a dedicated project management team which can:

  • Keep track of different rules and regulations rolled out by concerned authorities.
  • Team up with physicians for relevant changes to the care delivery process

3. Poor management of vendors

With hospitals using various software for operations, it has become increasingly critical for them to select the right vendor for the job- whether it is the software provider or the service provider.

The vendors chosen must be the perfect fit for the organization- it makes the collaboration far easier, and the project has better chances of success.

4. Limited data collation

Let’s face it, with new reforms, drugs, and procedures cropping up now and then, the healthcare industry is turning out to be quite the data-driven industry.

Decisions regarding software used, hospital norms and procedures used, depend heavily on data accumulated from credible sources.

Further, this data needs to be indisputable so that risk and success chances can be calculated accurately.

5. Inefficient change methodology

With rapid changes in healthcare and technology, hospitals and other institutions dedicated to the provision of care must adopt changes quickly and seamlessly. But this has a sleek chance of happening if a project management team is not entirely dedicated to preparing the organization for the changes coming its way.

Challenges faced by pharmaceutical companies with respect to project management

The pharma industry, again, is one that needs a higher level of collaboration and cooperation within team members and also with external collaborators across the globe. The three steps of production, trial, and sale happen in different geographical locations. Still, they are all equally essential to the ROI and reputation of the company.

Hence the project management team should make sure there is a flawless collaboration among all teams.

Below are a few common challenges faced by pharma companies regarding the all-important issue of project management.

  1. Handling modifications

Uncertainty plays a big part in the development of drugs.

Firstly, all production is started on the basis of previous literature and statistics existing on it. So what happens if a new finding comes up?

You start from scratch.

Or, if a particular unforeseen side-effect emerges in the latter part of clinical trials?

You pull the drug back and start research again.

In most pharma companies, any change is not specifically categorized as a “change” or a “request for change”. Tweaks are generally made to the main problem or project statement. 

As such, it becomes the project management team’s duty to identify and incorporate the change in the tasks set for team members.

2. A shift in project priorities

Handling the quick changes in project priorities is a big task. External factors may often cause a total shift in the priority of projects. It then becomes difficult for the project manager to allocate resources accordingly.

  1. Coordination among all teams working on a project

Different stakeholders in a project hold the separate information and resources required for the completion of a project, much like the pieces of a puzzle. In case the collaboration isn’t smooth, the completion of the project could be hampered. 

Piecing together the puzzle by acquiring and amalgamating information from all parties for the final project is a task that many project managers fail to achieve, simply because the different teams do not lend the kind of cooperation needed.

4. Sharing of information with the entire team involved

Task managers often do not share the progress of the project with all the members involved in it. The progress, the timelines, the resources needed- all these need to be discussed beforehand so that no disruption is caused in the project because of minor hindrances like these.

Thus the proper evaluation of these should be done beforehand. All timelines should be continuously updated with the whole team.

5. Addition of new stakeholders in the middle of the project (Attrition)

What happens when an older stakeholder cuts ties with the project, and a new one is roped in? Who updates the team about the changes? Who updates the new member about the timelines and status?

Tracking stakeholder changes, providing access to the new participants, and making the new stakeholders get up to speed with the project is a rather big challenge.

6. Keeping an eye on regulatory and compliance strategies

Change in rules and regulations regarding drugs and pharma is routine and necessary. And all companies manufacturing drugs should have a clear tab of all changes in rules and regulations. Because if the drugs are not produced in accordance, they may be pulled off the market or even banned- leading to colossal waste in resources.

7. Timeline and Budget Planning

The long process of drug development follows a basic timeline and budget. These change continuously with the setbacks in the process and have to be set by the project manager. 

One of his tough jobs would be to constantly realign all timeline and budget ideas and update all team members working on it.

8. Environmental Safety

In the last couple of decades, people have been coming around to the need for severe regulations to protect our environment. Global warming and ozone hole formation have been on the rise, chunks of ice are melting, and cities are running out of water.

Hence, regulatory bodies have been enforcing stringent rules to protect the environment. Eco-friendly practices are all the rage. 

All the rules and regulations on the environmental front also have to be kept track of.


Cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) technologies.

Project management is directly proportional to the success of an enterprise now. So much so that in a survey conducted by Smartsheet in 2019, 80% of enterprise owners stated project management was integral to their business.

But why tools and not a project management team?

Most enterprises have not yet been able to grasp the importance of project management yet. Since Project Management is not still considered as a key role for Healthcare and Pharmaceutical companies, they often tend to not focus on getting the right sort of people for this task.

However, the use of SaaS tools like Smartsheet can help to accomplish both these goals with aplomb. They are user-friendly solutions to your collaboration and project management woes and cost far less than recruiting even an inexperienced project management team.

These softwares for project management have a unique name in the industry- Collaborative Work Management (CWM) tools.

How can CWM tools workflow and automation?

Manage your inventory

Helps you keep track of your inventories and offices. Forms and dashboards are created for you to follow your capital purchases, link them to budgets, and make better decisions regarding their use.

Streamline IT operations

For patient care in healthcare and clinical trials in pharma, you need a high visibility level into the actual process. This improves accountability and opens up the areas where you may need to allocate more budget.

Tracking insurance processes

If posted on the dashboard, everyone, including the provider and claims agent, can see the claim’s status. Processing of approval, tracking of claims, and managing records can all be done seamlessly by a CWM.

Compliance and Collaboration

Different teams can collaborate efficiently and keep track of compliance-related projects to eliminate risks effectively. You can create the cause-and-action plans and audit the whole process on the very same dashboard, giving you an all-round view of the project. As for collaboration, users have claimed to have achieved a 30-50% spike in their teams’ productivity.

Features that you should look out for in a CWM


Every drug is different, and so are patients. Thus the top two features you should be looking for in your collaborative work management tools are flexibility and versatility.

Clinical trials, post-op checkups, or even marketing campaigns for organizations- your software should be able to work out a timeline, budget, and workflow for all. You should be able to encompass all your collaboration requirements in this one software.

Do not go for multiple softwares- not only are they more expensive, but it will take double the money to train your workforce to operate multiple softwares or even integrate them to get a consolidated view of all the data.

Smartsheet is miles ahead in this case. It has been dabbling in this field for a while. It has a wide portfolio having hundreds of previous solutions on record. It is scalable, flexible, and adaptable. With the help of Smartsheet Control Center, you can make use of this portfolio for finding solutions in real-time.

Wide range of integrations

Siloed work structures are slowly losing importance. Adaptive and collaborative tools are rising through the rank. But if you decide to focus on only one tool for automation, you are right where you left from- work silos.

To achieve the highest potential of efficiency and productivity, you need to make sure that you have a tool that allows a wide range of integrations. Smartsheets’ pre-built connectors can help you.

HIPAA Compliance

HIPAA is quite stringent with its regulations when it comes to Protected Health Information (PHI).

Smartsheet has thus created the exclusive shared responsibility model for its clients in healthcare to store and access PHI easily, and this data stays safe and secure without breaking a single HIPAA rule.

Take A Bold Step Towards The Future

The healthcare and pharma fields have been a little late in fully embracing technology. But now that they have, there is no turning back. These two fields are moving ahead at lightning speed. A collaborative work management tool is a must if the organizations have to keep pace with the scientific developments and stay in the good books of the public.

Because ultimately, it all boils down to if your patient is satisfied with your care or your customers are benefitting from your drug. If this is achieved, the tool in question has helped. Making use of these adaptable and flexible frameworks as early as possible will prepare you for the future, where technology will have an even greater role to play in these industries.

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