Q: Who is the Best Technology Vendor? A: NONE!

An open Letter to the Life-Sciences Industry on Analyst Forced Vendor Rankings

By: Daniel R. Matlis

As a Life-Science Industry Analyst, I am often asked by executives to recommend the best technology vendor.

My standard answer:  None, there is no such thing as a “best vendor.”   

Just like an automotive industry analyst could not recommend the “best car” for you until they know your budget, unique requirements, and primary use; a Life Science industry analyst must understand your company’s intended use, business, regulatory and technology requirements, as well as organizational culture before recommending a system.

Yet for decades, Life-Science industry executives have relied on forced rankings from analyst firms to identify the top five vendors to invite for an RFP.  This is especially true when evaluating the alphabet soup of system acronyms (AI/ML, APS, CTMS, CM&S, EAM, EDC, ERP, LIMS, MES, PLM, RIM, SCM, etc., etc., etc.)

Unfortunately, these forced rankings are based on opaque statistics.  In the words of serial entrepreneur and author Seth Godin, “statistics without understanding is merely correlation, not causation.”

An additional challenge for Life-Science organizations is that these forced vendor rankings do not take into consideration the unique needs of our industry, a sector, or a specific company. In addition, the lack of transparency in these forced rankings can make it difficult for decision makers to evaluate the capabilities of each vendor fairly.

For example, a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) that is well suited for an Oil & Gas company, would be unlikely to meet the requirements of an orthopedics manufacturer.  Yet, this MES could end up in an orthopedic company’s shortlist based on an analyst firm’s forced ranking report. 

Force ranking vendors in a vacuum is not the way we help Life-Science organizations identify technology providers.

When opting to partner with an analyst firm to identify the best technology solution for their company, decision makers should consider the following characteristics.

The analyst firm must:

  • Demonstrate deep understanding of the industry they serve to provide clients with a holistic recommendation that takes into consideration business, technology and regulatory trends affecting the industry, sector, and the specific company needs.
  • Have the integrity to tell their client when NOT to start a project.
  • Provide recommendations based on their clients’ culture, values, requirements and intended use of the system.
  • Help the client identify their real needs and wants vs. the perceived needs or wants.
  • Challenge the status quo when asked to recommend a system simply because “everyone else is doing it.”
  • Foster organizational culture change to enable genuine buy-in supporting digital transformation.
  • Provide tailored insights needed to make the best decision possible! Not sell the packaged report they already have.

Digital transformation is a long journey, not an IT project.  As a result, identifying a technology provider is a long-term commitment and not a one-time transaction.  Therefore, you should search for a partner that best meets your company’s specific intended use, as well as your business, regulatory and technology requirements.  And more importantly, a partner whose vision and strategy aligns with your culture and values.

In my 30 years of working in Life-Sciences, I have had plenty of discussions with executives trying to solve the wrong problem.   Simply implementing technology to digitize existing processes or address a 483 does not solve problems, improve efficiencies, or accelerate innovations in the long term. 

Solving tomorrow’s problems requires organizational culture changes that enable digital transformation to support a future-ready business!

Life-Science companies must take a holistic approach when selecting technology solutions to replace legacy systems or paper-processes.  It’s not about selecting the leading vendor based on a forced ranking, but rather identifying a partner who is best suited for your organization. 

So, the next time you are looking to select a technology solution, don’t ask me to recommend the “best” technology vendor based on a forced ranking, instead, let me help you find a partner that is best for you!

So, is a Ferrari Enzo or a Honda Odyssey the best car?  There is no such thing as a best car, only the best car for you. 

If you like this rant, please share it with 3 colleagues.