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Automation and data visualisation: Quick wins for a mid-market company

Embracing automation and data visualisation can bring tangible benefits for relatively little cost. CNX has recently been on this journey following its first acquisition and shared the experience at Inflexion’s inaugural Data Exchange, a forum for data leaders across Inflexion’s portfolio to share experiences and best practices.

The acquisition of Synchrony Pharma in summer 2022 by CNX Therapeutics, a niche injectable pharmaceuticals specialist, marked the first in CNX’s ambition to boost access to medicines across the UK. CNX had been carved out of former parent Sunovian a year prior by Inflexion, which has gone on to support CNX’s transformation to a standalone entity and is now helping it build its product portfolio to develop a scaled European based on the Latuda brand.  

The acquisition was just the first step of the journey; making the most of what the companies could achieve working together was the next. Synchrony specialises in the development and commercialisation of niche injectable pharmaceuticals, and its portfolio includes a hospital-driven range of high-quality injectable products that are used in the emergency room and to treat life-threatening conditions.

“We planned to maximise both the Latuda brand as well as Synchrony’s hospital-driven portfolio and each had a separate set of products,” explains Jeremy Devaney, Vice President of Commercial Operations at CNX.  “My background means I understand how important data is, and its criticality in making a positive impact to the business,'' recalls Jeremy. He speaks from rich experiences, having spent 23 years in the industry focused on niche injectables prior to joining CNX in July 2022.

One of CNX portfolios had wholesalers in different countries, each producing different reports to CNX. A lack of automation meant a reliance on one individual to collate the information and put into one single report. “The data we were getting wasn’t very meaningful for us. If that person was ill, we’d have to wait for the report,” Jeremy says, citing scalability, security and errors as considerations for thinking about a new way to tackle this.

Automate to investigate

Employees were wasting time on manual repetitive tasks, for example on activities that are not core job functions, and this had a cost impact. Reliance on a single user for these activities also meant being inefficient and predisposed to human error. “We needed a resolution to move forward and sort products,” Jeremy says.

Together with Inflexion, CNX management decided to build an automated pipeline which makes the data more user-ready. “The repetitive nature of CNX’s task and lack of need for human overlay made it the perfect candidate for RPA,” explains Rory Cooke from Inflexion’s Value Acceleration Team.

Data is received in a combination of machine-friendly CSV formats or in Excel , and RPA would extract this raw data and save it to a centralised repository. Once the data is ingested , it can then be extracted, transformed and turned into insights for people across the business to consume.

The low cost belies the usefulness of many of these tools: Microsoft’s Power Automate can record keystrokes and actions on desktop, or it allows the build of basic flowcharts in a simple drag and drop exercise. No coding experience is necessary and the basic level is free. CNX makes use of the full Microsoft stack, with SharePoint used for storage and PowerBI for visualisation.

“Overall the solution is cheap, fast to implement and requires little technical knowledge,” Rory says.

Data as a predictor

Another challenge was limited visibility over sales dynamics in the new hospital-products . CNX was eager to understand hospital purchasing patterns, for example frequency of purchase, regional variances, etc. “Not having these metrics made it hard to predict or know why someone might stop purchasing, and so it was hard to challenge them. We needed to appreciate the bigger picture from the data,” Jeremy says.

To understand the sales channel, CNX created Power BI dashboards to visualise the data they were able to collect. The business intelligence platform enables interaction with large amounts of data, and brings self-service analytics to business users. “It makes digesting large amounts of information possible in an intuitive way, helping you find insights and trends that would have otherwise likely remained hidden. We’ve been able to see what hospitals are buying and how many, with the software highlighting trends or irregularities from visibility and granularity you’d not had previously,” Jeremy explains enthusiastically.

The data helped with alerting CNX to purchasing irregularities. Synchrony won tenders in specific UK regions for the exclusive right to sell certain products.  It effectively means if a hospital from a certain region was not buying, it's not necessarily because they're not using the product but rather they're buying from somewhere else or changing purchasing patterns based on clinical advice. CNX obtained a list of other hospitals from the NHS and compared the data. “This alerting system is exactly what we needed from a tender system,” Jeremy stresses.

Ultimately this system revealed one particular hospital hadn’t bought a certain antibiotic in three months. Armed with the data, CNX spoke with them and learned they’d changed practice and moved to a different antibiotic. “It’s a big deal for our focus and revenues – can it cascade to other hospitals?

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