Pharmaceutical information-based processes are changing at an accelerating pace, and Generis CARA’s story over the last 19 years is one of staying ahead of that curve and making it possible for pharma companies to evolve their content and process management without a ‘big bang’ system replacement every five years.
When I joined Generis 15 years ago, CARA was simply a life sciences application front-end to Documentum. It supported a single browser (Internet Explorer version 6) on Windows only.
In my role as a developer then, my challenge was to revamp CARA for the next era – with faster performance, and support for multiple browsers as Firefox and Chrome gained prominence. Back then, Documentum was still the enterprise content management (ECM) repository of choice for life sciences, and we provided the user-friendly user interface and a configuration engine allowing us to tailor experiences to meet customers’ specific needs.
We had other industries in our sights, and other ECM options were coming onto our radar – Alfresco, Oracle WebCenter – so it became clear to us that we couldn’t confine our offering to Documentum, which by now had been acquired twice and wasn’t keeping pace with enterprise needs.
And so we decided to develop our own content management platform.
Carving our own path
Although Documentum is seen as a powerful engine, its performance had limits due to the architecture, and this was my greatest concern. The speed of search and retrieval is probably the most critical element of any content management system.
This deep-seated need for ‘Google’-type performance was driving customers to copy their information to Elasticsearch (the free, open search and analytics solution) in order to achieve broad and fast search capabilities. We figured, why should customers suffer that content migration headache? Why not build a platform that harnesses Elasticsearch?
If we could do that, and support the cloud – which is where everyone wants to be now – we’d really be offering clients something forward-looking. Our platform would be cloud-native; support the hyperscalers’ cloud infrastructures – AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud; and it would enable efficient service re-use.
So we took what we had learnt from the Documentum years, and from extensive client feedback about what worked and what didn’t – and what was important to customers–and created something perfect for life sciences companies’ needs today; and, as it has turned out, for all kinds of other organisations.
This proved to be a liberating and empowering milestone in all sorts of ways, although initially it was daunting to jump into the deep end of becoming a full platform vendor!
Everything customers were asking for – and the freedom to add more
The CARA platform is readily expandable and, although life sciences remains our core focus, the Enterprise version of CARA is readily applicable to a whole host of other sectors, from other regulated industries to local government (where CARA’s success is replicating rapidly via word-of-mouth recommendation).
One of CARA’s many differentiators, alongside its exceptional speed/performance, is its impressive configurability. It’s why we’re seeing use cases spread from information management in Regulatory and Quality, and Safety and Clinical, right through to HR, Finance and other corporate functions; and even IT infrastructure management. Customers of ours, including Merck and Bayer, are finding that they can – and want to – deploy CARA across multiple departments, because of the huge range of benefits it provides.
The common denominator drawing all of these user groups to CARA is the scope for easy integration with other platforms, and the ability to search at speed for any content, and seamlessly link enterprise information assets with each other – all within one platform.
In the government sector, there is a strong inclination to build proprietary software in house. CARA’s appeal here is that it lets these customers define and configure functionality and settings to their own requirements – without compromise. Whether it’s us doing the work, development partners, or clients themselves – it’s possible to build anything on top of CARA.
Besides that, we don’t push our customers off one version of our product when we decide to enhance our offerings. We don’t operate in big-bang five-year cycles, forcing clients to switch and upgrade to new versions as we retire old ones. We still have clients today that started the journey with CARA over 15 years ago, and we continue to support them with ongoing enhancements. In fact, we’re very proud to offer the longest-serving, continuously-evolving life sciences content management platform on the market.
A world apart from the competition
It’s all of these factors which make us very different from Veeva, which is considered to be our main competitor in life sciences. Although they too are promoting a ‘platform’, their product is the same for everybody; there is no client configuration – and the platform is a series of vertical solutions built with the same technology, rather than a single ‘information space’ where everything is linked.
The CARA Life Sciences platform, by contrast, is pre-configured to life sciences best practices – and comes with full customer control in the form of a companion configuration platform. This is included by default with CARA to enable pharma companies to modify the platform for their own requirements.
Of course, a lot of companies in life sciences still use Documentum as their ECM, but we are making great inroads here – especially as users of CARA RIM capabilities at the front end realise they can migrate their ECM seamlessly to our platform, for substantially better performance and a much more modern user interface. And because we supply CARA primarily as a cloud-based SaaS proposition, it’s a more streamlined and cost-effective proposition – with no hidden licence or maintenance costs.
Moreover, the CARA Life Sciences platform is continuously expanding as more applications leaders integrate with us, and even use our platform to build their own industry solutions (a great example being ExtedoPulse). Once customers have signed up for it, they benefit from having our committed team working to put them on a sure path to a bright future.
Find out more about our powerful platform via our new Life Sciences website.
-Mariusz Pala, CTO, Generis