On Friday after 5pm I received a call from a potential consulting client. At least I thought that’s what they were. It turned out, it was a headhunter looking for warm bodies to work on serialization and pedigree projects to fill a quota he has from the consulting arm of one of the big-4 accounting firms. The people he’s looking for would probably work on projects under the direction of one of their long-term senior consultants. I’m not looking for that kind of opportunity.
My impression is that this is a sign that we are entering the “Y2K” phase of the California E-pedigree deadlines. That is, it is time for lots of “staff augmentation” companies to staff-up to offer “expertise” in droves. As many of you will recall, as the year 2000 approached, companies became aware that their corporate systems had abbreviated the “year” in transaction date fields to only two digits. When the year 2000 would hit, these systems would think they were back in 1900 instead of 2000. It was a real problem that had to be found within source code and fixed before the turn of the century. As January 1, 2000 approached, more and more companies got into the business and the hype took off. Even before my call from the headhunter, a friend of mine told me last week that he is seeing signs of exactly this kind of thing starting to happen with the approach of the California pedigree dates.
I’m sure the big accounting firm is a reputable company and they probably have very high standards in their hiring of people to work on their serialization and pedigree projects, but I don’t recall anyone from this particular firm participating in any of the industry work I have participated in since I began focusing on this area 10 years ago. (As another small measure, no one from that company has ever subscribed to RxTrace—at least not using the company domain.) Accenture, Deloitte, Wipro, Cognizant, Booz Allen Hamilton, HP, IBM and Tata have all had at least one senior consultant paying attention to what has been going on for a while now, and a few of them have had a number of people participating over the years. And that doesn’t include a long list of smaller consulting companies. So my impression is that this new entrant and others are jumping in now so they can capture some of the overflow business. Watch for the hype to get pumped.
THE CHALLENGE OF E-PEDIGREE VENDOR SELECTION
But what about other types of vendors besides consulting firms? I co-led my first pedigree software vendor selection back in 2005 at Cardinal Health to help meet the 2006 Florida pedigree law. Our team drew up a very large and detailed request-for-proposal (RFP) and invited all of the software companies at that time who had made it clear that they intended to offer pedigree solutions. That included:
- Cyclone Commerce
- Raining Data
The company eventually selected VeriSign, partly because they were viewed as the largest company in the list and, based on their responses to the RFP, they seemed to fully understand the company’s needs, and they seemed to have software that was pretty far along. But about 2 ½ years later, despite having won the Cardinal Health business, VeriSign withdrew their pedigree software product from the market.
As for the other companies in the list above, Cyclone Commerce was purchased by Axway, which continued their ePedigree product line and continues to offer it today. Raining Data exited the pedigree software space and changed their name to TigerLogic (too bad too…I always liked the name “Raining Data”). I left Cardinal Health and went to work for SupplyScape, but after California pushed out the effective dates of their pedigree law, the company looked to new solution opportunities while supporting existing pedigree customers. The following year the original founding members of SupplyScape started a new company named TraceLink, found new venture capital, and acquired SupplyScape and all of its assets, including their original pedigree product (NOTE: I have corrected the SupplyScape-TraceLink history in this version). rfXcel was able to find business in related areas during the lean years and remains a pedigree vendor today.
During the time I worked for SupplyScape I helped my teammates respond to RFPs issued by several major potential customers in the US pharma supply chain. I was amazed to find that I was now helping to answer the same questions I had helped create—most with the identical wording that we had created at Cardinal Health back in 2005. Those original RFP questions we created apparently were spread around the industry by consulting companies and solution providers. Rather than come up with new questions, companies simply reissued the ones we originally created—those questions were that good—and, bonus…I knew all the “right” answers! 😉
After that time I was very graciously offered a job back at Cardinal Health where I worked until last July. IBM entered the ePedigree business only to sell their product last fall to Frequentz, a much smaller company. Oracle has marketed a pedigree solution but I don’t know how the market has received it. One of the key developers from Raining Data landed at rfXcel, then left to start FastPoint Technologies which offers their own pedigree solution.
The lesson from this history is that ePedigree is a niche need and is best fulfilled by boutique solution providers who can focus a lot of their energies toward developing true expertise in meeting the requirements of these unique laws. Big companies don’t do that so well. In general they do best when their solutions can be sold across multiple supply chains spanning many product types and all around the globe. As VeriSign found out early, IBM found out more recently, and small companies like rfXcel discovered (probably to their delight) in the interim, a big company can’t make enough money focusing on a solution that is applicable only in a single supply chain and only in a single State within a single country—even when that supply chain is pharma, that country is the United States and that State is California–but apparently a smaller company can.
Today, any drug pedigree solution vendor who is serious about serving their customers through the coming years will have products that are certified for both the GS1 Drug Pedigree Messaging Standard (DPMS) and GS1 Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) standards. That’s because there is just too much uncertainty yet about which direction the supply chain will go. See GS1’s software certification list here. If your vendor isn’t on both lists, I suggest you ask them why.
Selecting the right pedigree solution vendor for your company is one of the most important steps you will make on your journey to compliance and visibility. Your vendor will become your partner, monitoring the regulations on your behalf as they evolve over time and ensuring that their solution is able to keep you in compliance. They will also be the most important factor in your ability to take advantage of the data you collect for purposes other than compliance. So, select well.