How to Overcome Technology Hurdles with Enterprise Resource Planning

As demand for new biopharma, pharmaceutical, biotech, and other life sciences innovations continues to increase, the companies that invent and deliver life-altering therapies and drugs will need robust technology systems. These systems will need to scale as organizations advance from pre-revenue to commercialized to public entities.

This road often takes years or even decades to traverse. It can be needlessly longer or arduous for companies saddled with basic, on-premises software and manual approaches.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and other external forces making business digitalization an imperative for life sciences companies, there’s no better time to make the move to a unified, cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. The changing business landscape makes it clear that businesses must be nimble and equipped with systems that can be easily accessed by remote employees from anywhere.

With this trend comes a need for stronger financial controls, streamlined processes, and better management reporting to ensure real-time management decision making and regulatory compliance.

Life Sciences Industry Growth

The global life sciences industry has grown rapidly over the past decade, with its trajectory only strengthening since 2020. The global COVID-19 pandemic further cemented the strength of the industry.

For example, mRNA technology and other innovations opened the door to new possibilities for this growing sector, which received a record $70 billion in private and public capital in 2020, according to Life Sciences on the Rise – North American Report by Cushman & Wakefield.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and other external forces making business digitalization an imperative for life sciences companies, there’s no better time to make the move to a unified, cloud ERP solution.

A Move to Cloud Migration

As the life sciences sector expanded, it transitioned from a technologically averse, inwards-looking model to working in an agile and a collaborative manner, according to an International Data Corporation (IDC) article titled The Top Ten Trends Shaping the Life Sciences Industry in 2021. “Digital resiliency was what mattered,” the global market intelligence firm stated. “Innovation, driven by technology adoption, took center stage.”

To support remote engagement and improve collaboration among team members, for example, life sciences companies adopted more cloud-based applications. In fact, two-thirds of life sciences’ business-critical applications are already deployed in the cloud, with that proportion expected to near 90% by 2022, according to IDC.

The ease of collaboration, coordination with other systems, automatic revision management, and reduced IT support are significant benefits to cloud migration.

Common Growth Challenges for Life Sciences Companies

Many IT executives are contending with legacy systems that are old, inefficient, or simply too basic for their current needs. Following are common growth challenges for life sciences companies and the many benefits of an integrated ERP solution.

Original Systems

  • Basic financial software
  • Entry-level ERPs
  • Spreadsheet-based business functions
  • Existing systems that aren’t configurable with limited functionality
  • Inability to provide good financial controls or consolidated financial and operating reporting

These might include QuickBooks or Xero, on-premises ERP solutions such as Sage or Microsoft Dynamics, or a lot of Excel spreadsheets. Many companies began using these solutions at the start-up stage but neglected to upgrade to more robust, unified solutions as their enterprises grew.

Changing Business Requirements

As life sciences companies move from the R&D stage to commercialization and then to potentially becoming public companies, their internal business management requirements change significantly.

Companies operating in the life sciences space, for example, typically require the following:

  • Project accounting from R&D through commercialization
  • Procurement automation
  • Consolidated reporting, dashboards, and key performance indicators (KPIs) to support a future global business presence
  • Ease of integration and data exchange with their business partners such as contract manufacturers and third-party logistics providers, for example
  • Lot traceability to support product tracking and potential recalls
  • Product quality management
  • Regulatory compliance that includes, but isn’t limited to Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), 21 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 11, the Sunshine Act and Current Good Manufacturing Practice, known as cGMP
  • Security and financial controls

As life sciences companies assemble the above requirements and other building blocks necessary to becoming commercial companies, they’re often held back by their manual systems, inefficient processes, and cumbersome reporting.

How Life Sciences Can Utilize a Customized NetSuite Solution to Address Growth Challenges

Life sciences companies need user-friendly, integrated ERPs that simplify their current processes and eliminate the need for manual entries and spreadsheets.

Under development since 2017, our customized NetSuite solution for life sciences includes pre-built, life sciences-specific workflows and reporting capabilities that could help companies deploy the cloud ERP in a way that meets their unique needs. This applies to pre-revenue life sciences start-ups and to commercialized companies with up to $200 million or more in annual revenue.

The implementation timeline for our custom NetSuite solution for life sciences companies is about four to six months; however, most are completed within four months.


By automating processes previously managed on disparate systems and spreadsheets, you could reduce the costs of doing business, improve compliance, and gain visibility across end-to-end enterprises.

Customized Solution for Life Sciences
  • Pre-built segregated roles and permissions for life sciences companies
  • Approval workflow bundles
  • Pre-built accrual reports and sample consolidated operating expenses, known as OPEX, and fluctuation analysis, or Flux, reports
  • Change log and audit trail reports for SOX and 21 CFR compliance
  • Support for NetSuite validation working with third parties that provide NetSuite validation
  • Integration services to support data interchange with third-party logistics firms and contract manufacturers
  • Comprehensive SOX readiness assessment
  • Ongoing support for public companies
Integrated System
  • Business process automation that decreases transaction costs and reduces error rates
  • Access to real-time financial reporting that provides a single view of the business
  • Increased visibility across the organization
  • Improved decision-making
  • User-friendly dashboards and data analytics that enable easy access to reporting and real-time visibility into KPIs
  • A more streamlined, agile system for regulatory compliance
Surprise Benefits

Having the right system can sometimes showcase undiscovered needs—benefits you weren’t expecting a new cloud ERP solution to solve. For example, the degree to which business controls are suddenly tightened tends to catch companies by surprise once NetSuite is in place.

Our prebuilt modified roles and permissions, the automated workflows for approvals for various transaction types, or custom reports and searches can often enable change control for both SOX and 21 CFR compliance.

There are also built-in NetSuite solutions, such as SuiteFlow and SuiteBuilder, that provide automation, reduce costs, improve compliance, and instill the kind of financial controls that growing life sciences firms need, all while simultaneously allowing management to gain visibility over business performance.

We’re Here to Help

Using a highly consultative approach, Moss Adams helps companies implement NetSuite for the first time or enhance their current instance of the software in a way that better meets their growing enterprises’ needs.

To learn more about ERP solutions, contact your Moss Adams professional for more information or explore our implementation service page.

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