Transforming Life Sciences Through Knowledge Work Automation

The transformation power of technology is intertwined with efficiency and progress. Despite emerging challenges, automation offers practical efficiencies and benefits the life sciences sector are starting to consider in future growth planning and mapping workflow requirements

Knowledge work automation is at the heart of this digital transformation. It redefines how tasks are executed across various sectors. Work automation is essential for modern businesses, from streamlining routine processes to driving higher productivity.

The life sciences sector stands to benefit most from process automation. Life sciences encompasses biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare. The sector has been significantly transformed by workflow and lab automation. More than 70% of life sciences organizations use automation for research and development processes.

This statistic illustrates how much life sciences organizations have embraced advanced data analytics and automation software development. For example, they are allocating significant resources to support each step of drug development.

The intersection of automation and life sciences is more than merely a technological meeting watermark. It represents a pivotal moment in pursuing innovations that can reshape the industry. This includes both drug discovery and medical research.

The Evolution of Knowledge Work Automation

The concept of automating business tasks has evolved. Changes started with the automation of labor during the Industrial Revolution. It continued with the advent of early computing systems.

Knowledge work automation has come a long way thanks to emerging technology. Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and computing power have propelled automation beyond routine tasks and manual work.

Advanced technologies have empowered systems to manage high-level decision-making, data analysis, and complex problem-solving. Large to small businesses use workflow automation, from manufacturing to financial services and healthcare, to work smarter. It’s not just about reducing mistakes. It’s about gaining a competitive edge.

Applications of Work Automation in Life Sciences

Applications that improve the efficiency of scientific processes in the real world include

  • High-throughput screening involves automated techniques that rapidly analyze large samples, allowing researchers to efficiently identify potential drug candidates and conduct robust experiments.
  • Data analysis and interpretation: AI automation can process vast datasets quickly and precisely. This helps scientists uncover meaningful insights and patterns.
  • Robotic process automation (RPA):RPA is increasingly crucial in life sciences R&D. Laboratory process automation leverages robotics to process and manage samples. It also streamlines repetitive tasks, increasing productivity and enhancing flexibility and agility. Benefits include reduced manual processes, heightened accuracy, standardized workflows, and cost savings.
  • Robotics in sample handling reduces the risk of human error and increases the throughput and accuracy of laboratory workflows.
  • Automated liquid handling systems perform precise and repetitive liquid transfers. This ensures accuracy in experiments requiring careful measurement and mixing. By automating these tasks, labs can achieve higher levels of consistency.

Benefits of Knowledge Work Automation

Information automation increases efficiency and will improve productivity. How? By relieving professionals of routine and time-consuming tasks. This allows researchers to spend more time on high-value activities. The quest to increase the speed of innovation and discovery is facilitated by knowledge work automation. It contributes not only to streamlined processes, but also to knowledge workers’ professional growth and effectiveness.

Knowledge work automation also drives enhanced data accuracy. Automated systems minimize the risk of human error, ensuring precision in analyzing data and interpretation. This improves the reliability of results and elevates the overall quality of R&D.

Advancements in information technology for life sciences include handling clinical trial data and improved document management for contract research organizations. These include streamlined workflows, enhanced collaboration, and reduced risks. This drives excellence in business operations and strengthens relationships with sponsors.

Integrating technology-driven solutions ensures advantages extend beyond efficiency gains. They positively impact the life sciences industry, from project management to regulatory compliance and enhance overall customer experiences.

Addressing Challenges with AI and Automation

What are some obstacles with the automation in life sciences laboratories?

  • Financial challenges hinder the adoption of process automation systems.
  • Long-standing obstacles in practices of academic research create resistance to future automation.
  • Despite expected progress in future design of affordable, lower-level automation equipment, the market still needs further development.
  • Meeting growing demand for environmentally conscious automation poses a challenge for developers.
  • Ensuring systems remain compatible with the innovative nature of researchers, preserving the freedom to create new protocols.
  • Life sciences researchers now need working knowledge in both traditional biology “wet lab” skills and emerging “dry” automation skills.
  • Spatial constraints within laboratories and cultural challenges contribute to knowledge gaps, leading to a lag in automation software

As automation continues to evolve, a higher elevation of tools and systems will emerge. They will be used to further enhance R&D efficiency and productivity. AI-powered drug design represents a significant trend in the future of work automation.

The long term shift towards AI promises to transform the identification of potential candidates. It will accelerate research timelines and enhance the precision of therapeutic interventions.

Another emerging trend is the seamless addition of decision automation in personalized medicine. Automation technologies are expected to be crucial in customizing medical treatments to individual patient traits. This trend encompasses the automation of processes related to patient data evaluation, treatment customization, and the efficient delivery of personalized healthcare solutions. The combination of automation and personalized medicine will optimize patient outcomes.



How does knowledge work automation in life sciences differ from traditional office automation systems?

Unlike traditional office automation, knowledge work automation in life sciences is customized for complex tasks in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare. It involves advanced processes such as data analysis, decision-making, and problem-solving.

Why should life sciences embrace the automation of knowledge work?

Automating knowledge work management in life sciences streamlines processes and save time. This allows professionals to focus on high-value activities and contributes to maximized effectiveness. It also accelerates drug development, healthcare, and medical research innovations.

What makes the automation of knowledge work disruptive for life sciences?

The automation of knowledge work in life sciences disrupts traditional workflows by introducing advanced technologies such as AI. AI improves speed, accuracy, and overall effectiveness. This disruption transforms how tasks are executed, fostering breakthroughs in healthcare, drug discovery, and research.


Giving Clients Access to Automation: It’s a good thing

When it comes to no-code document automation, the question invariably arises: How much access should be given to clients when it comes to template questionnaires, especially as it applies to legal clients? This could include external clients for law firms, those who are paying the law firm for legal services, or internal clients for in-house, those who are requesting services from the legal department.
You may be wondering why they need access to the template questionnaire at all! Let’s examine two scenarios: law firm-focused and in-house focused.

Law firms

The starting point for this use case is that the law firm’s employment team has a client who regularly onboards new people into their business, but only ever instructs the law firm to draft the most complex employment or consultancy agreements.

The day-to-day, less complex agreements are dealt with in-house and deemed not to be worth instructing the firm to complete because it’d be too expensive. However, the in-house team prepares their agreements manually (i.e., without automation).

There is a commercial opportunity here for the law firm to gain a stickier relationship with the client. The law firm knows they aren’t going to be instructed for this less complex work. However, it would be possible for the firm to provide the client an automated version of their less complex agreements. They would then be able to create those less complex agreements quicker and easier internally and the firm can provide this as a subscription service to the client.

This is one of the unique advantages of M-Files Ment over other document automation tools out there. In this scenario, it allows the law firm to automate an employment agreement and provide access to their clients. The law firm even has the ability to time limit it or cut off access if the subscription ends. If a more generic template is used it can also be scaled easily across multiple clients too.

Benefits for the law firm

• Additional regular revenue stream
• Stickier relationship with client
• Ability to provide better service to client
• Ease of use if using a more generic template to cover all subscribers

Benefits for law firm’s client

• Internal drafting can be completed more quickly
• Satisfaction law firm because they understand their needs and can help them
• In-house legal team has more capacity

In-house use case

For the in-house use case, the starting point is when a legal department is inundated with requests for NDAs or DPAs from internal clients, such as sales or procurement. Legal doesn’t want to provide these internal clients with the templates of the agreement because they don’t fully trust them to contract with external parties. Providing the template would give them too much flexibility to draft, possibly adding unnecessary obligations to the company or omitting clauses to “get things through.”

The ideal scenario is for the internal client to be able to draft the agreements with legal constraints built in—for example, restrictions on confidentiality period. The internal client is then able to create an agreement through a questionnaire which always incorporates these constraints—the result is a draft agreement that always contains approved wording.

M-Files Ment can provide such functionality in three ways, depending on the level of control required:

More control for internal client

With M-Files Ment, it’s possible for legal departments to provide the internal user with a link to the template questionnaire. The internal client can then get to the link, possibly through the company’s intranet, and fill the questionnaire. Upon submitting the questionnaire, they have access to the generated document and can then send it to the counterparty.

Less control for internal client

It’s also possible to provide the link to the business user, but when the internal client generates the agreement, it can either return back to a lawyer for review or only produce a PDF at the end to avoid freehand drafting post-generation.

No control for internal client

M-Files Ment also offers off-the-shelf the oneNDA and oneDPA automated templates—agreements designed to be easily and quickly agreed upon as they use market standard wording that shouldn’t be amended. If the internal client is generating these agreements, there will be very little scope to negotiate or make any changes.

• Control of requests for less complex legal documents
• Empower business users who can create their own drafts
• Less involvement of in-house legal team for first draft. They can be there to review only, saving time and freeing up capacity.

Benefits for internal client

• Empowered to create first draft simple legal documents
• No reliance on legal departments for first drafting, improving contract velocity
• Use of standardized wording templates allowing quicker agreement of contracts


What Organizations Should Know About Getting Started With Workflow Automation

In today’s business climate, things are moving faster than ever. Organizations are now tasked with managing and protecting more information, and speed and efficiency have taken over as two of the top priorities that enable organizations to keep up with the pace of business.

However, many businesses still rely on the legacy approaches to managing that influx of information, such as the multistep process of mailing, waiting and responding before a contract can be finalized. Organizations today should instead consider solutions that enable them to increase productivity, improve efficiency and deliver significant business impact. One way in which organizations can achieve these goals is by incorporating automation into their existing workflows.

Workflow automation automates everyday work tasks according to predetermined business rules to increase consistency, improve efficiency and achieve faster throughput. It helps make real-world processes simpler to follow and more repeatable. Workflow automation rarely makes a process fully automated, but the streamlining and elimination of mechanical steps, and the guidance it provides, can have a meaningful impact on the bottom line.

For example, here are a few of the benefits that can be expected from workflow automation:

Increased Productivity

Automating specific tasks around client information can help reduce some of the mundane, time-consuming tasks that often lead to unnecessary cycles. Through workflow automation, employees are instead guided through the process automatically, so they don’t have to physically remember what comes next or spend countless minutes searching for that long-lost document.

When an employee starts a new client project, for example, workflow automation can automatically provide the background context, as well as pre-fill templates for project deliverables. Similarly, when the deliverables are being finalized, workflow automation can ensure all the required reviews and approvals are completed before sharing the final outcome.

Feeling Of Safety With workflow automation, existing processes can be set up to be intuitively followed so that work is done on time and information is proactively delivered to the right destination. The correct workflows, security controls, records management and approvals are applied to information automatically, helping to ensure that employees no longer need to be fearful of making mistakes.

Strong Compliance Standards

Managing information is a critical part of achieving compliance, especially in highly regulated industries.

Workflow automation can automatically ensure policies are enforced, documents are secured and files are created, stored, used and retained in ways that comply with regulatory requirements. Workflow automation can help make sure projects move through all required steps appropriately and all rules are followed to meet compliance requirements, which can help ensure only the right people have access to sensitive information.

Improved Audit Trail

Workflow automation can also enable organizations to track information version history and immediately view an audit trail. Every step is documented automatically with a date and time stamp. Organizations gain instant audit trail visibility across all documents to ease control oversight and show evidence of compliance.

The traceable records provided by automated workflows provide proof that a required process is being followed, such as access only being granted to specific individuals, which is valuable to meet stringent external audit requirements. For example, an ISO-compliant company that has implemented workflows in a quality management system (QMS) can prove that they are processing corrective and preventative actions properly.

How To Get Started With Workflow Automation

As companies continue to add additional tools to their technology stack—from ERP (enterprise resource planning) to CRM (customer relationship management) and HR (human resources) systems—it’s important to ensure efforts aren’t being duplicated across multiple systems. Workflow automation can help be the practical tool that glues everything together.

To begin your workflow automation journey, it’s important to remember it’s OK to start small and grow. Begin with a process that won’t be overly complex to automate and use that as a means for validating the solution, easing change management and learning how to best implement automation in your organization.

Think of a process that isn’t mission critical, so if there are problems or delays with the implementation, the effects are minimal. A process that is limited in scope with respect to the organization (i.e., a department-specific process, rather than companywide) is often a good starting point. Starting with a process limited in scope can also enable more efficient testing and iterating within a smaller group to gain the most actionable feedback.

Once automating noncritical processes have been mastered, it’s easier to build on that by automating additional and more complex solutions. Starting small enables you to better understand and define your goals for implementing an automated solution so that you can ensure the automation is improving processes over time and providing the desired value.

When incorporating workflow automation, the biggest hurdle is typically the fact that people are so used to manually approving and moving information, that they’ve turned this into a key part of their job versus truly understanding it’s simply busy work. Having the discussions with employees to help them understand how workflow automation can help them focus on higher value work, instead of spending endless cycles on unnecessary manual labor, is a key part of a successful workflow automation strategy. Humans remain the biggest hindrance of success if they don’t understand the potential value from the onset.

With the massive increase in the amount of data that organizations generate, process and collect from myriad data sources, workflow automation can enable businesses to keep pace with constantly changing environments. By starting small and communicating the benefits with employees upfront, workflow automation can increase efficiency, productivity and compliance efforts—but only if approached in a well-planned manner.


What is Workflow Automation?

While it’s absolutely true that a lot of your business processes are important, they also expose your organization to a wide range of potential issues that you may not even realize.

Every manual process performed by one of your actual human employees leaves open the possibility for productivity bottlenecks. Things are getting done, but they’re just not getting done as quickly as they should. It also creates the potential for miscommunications — two people involved in the same process just weren’t on the same page and now they’ve suffered a major setback because of it. The mishandling of information, low employee morale, you name it — these are the hidden costs of those tedious manual processes.

But the good news is that it is possible to make sure that all of this work gets done in a way that allows you to avoid every one of the issues outlined above. It’s called workflow automation and if your organization hasn’t already begun to explore its wide range of benefits, now would be an excellent time to start.

What is Workflow Automation? An Overview

At its core, workflow automation involves both the digitization and automation of business processes, all in an effort to reduce the amount of manual labor required by your employees as much as possible.

All told, there are a wide range of different types of workflows that are prime candidates for automation. These include but are certainly not limited to ones like:

  • Filing or making changes to documents with a consistent structure.
  • Reviewing and approving changes that have been made to documents.
  • Notifying people (like team leaders) when a change to a document has been made by an employee.
  • Processing accounts payable or similar administrative functions.
  • The management of records retention and document storage.
  • Executing process management reports.
  • And much, much more.

With an intelligent document management solution like M-Files, for example, you can make sure that documents are always routed to the correct person when they’re created or when certain status changes have been made. If you have a single document that needs to be approved by 10 team leaders before it can make its way to a client, for example, the employee who created that document shouldn’t have to spend time chasing down every single one of them to keep things moving. With workflow automation, each of those team leaders can be instantly notified that there is a document that needs to be signed off on and once they do, it continues to move further and further down the line.

Likewise, many workflow automation solutions allow you to monitor, report on and even analyze your current business processes — all to help capitalize on opportunities for improvement on an ongoing basis. Many provide reporting dashboards, for example, that allow process managers to view each step of a particular business workflow in fine detail. This puts them in a better position to eliminate the types of performance bottlenecks that cost time and money, thus improving those processes in meaningful ways.

They even offer the ability to show users a full history of all business process steps, confirming beyond the shadow of a doubt that automation software is getting the job done in a way far more efficient than humans could on their own.

In a larger sense, workflow automation also makes it easier for employees to communicate with one another — which itself is a great way to empower their ability to collaborate. A lot of the workflow automation solutions you would be using include built-in communication tools that make sharing documents and other important project-related data easier than ever. When you make it easier for your employees to work together, you increase the chances that they do — thus improving employee morale and improving the quality of work that they’re able to do in the first place. 

In the end, workflow automation is more than just another IT trend or passing fad. It’s an opportunity to optimize processes across all departments in a way that eliminates human error, gets rid of performance bottlenecks and that improves the quality of work you’re able to do with your clients. It improves the speed at which your organization can move because it frees up the valuable time of your human employees so that they can focus on those matters that truly need them.

It’s also a way to save valuable resources while improving both internal and external transparency, which for many businesses may very well be the most important benefit of all.