Interview With Alexander Ingram, Head Of Visual Analytics, International At Shire Pharmaceuticals

'Today's best BI tools are providing better out of the box techniques to handle big data from a visualization perspective'


Alexander Ingram is Head of Visual Analytics, International at Shire Pharmaceuticals, a global leader in the treatment of rare diseases. With a background in data science, data warehousing, and visual analytics, Alex has worked with clients across the healthcare industry, including large specialty healthcare organizations, healthcare data providers, and healthcare-focused private equity firms. As Head of Visual Analytics, his core focus is to drive data-driven decision making by capturing and combining data across the global commercial organization, ranging from patient support programs to customer-facing excellence, from finance to competitive intelligence, and more.

We sat down with him ahead of his presentation at the Big Data & Analytics for Pharma Summit, which takes place in London this March 21–22.

What changes have you seen in how big data is viewed in society?

The term 'big data' is ubiquitous today, and its applications run through our everyday life. Your Amazon shipping cart recommendations, Facebook news feed, and Alexa voice commands are perfect examples of this. From a commercial pharmaceutical perspective, however, I believe big data applications are just taking shape. Traditional sales data, either direct sales, distributor sales, or IMS prescription data, for example, are relatively small, fixed snapshots of data that can be handled with traditional technologies. But in other areas, customer-facing excellence as an example, this is changing. Understanding which account leads are seeing which healthcare stakeholders and using which materials, and deriving insights from this, is a task that requires teams and tools that can capture millions of daily records with varying levels of accuracy and quality.

Which emerging technology has the potential to change big data the most?

Today's best BI tools are providing better out of the box techniques to handle big data from a visualization perspective, which is my core focus. Applications are becoming better and better with handling large datasets in memory, as well as directly pulling from non-RDBMS systems, such as Hadoop. However, more modular design principles, such as web front-end development for end-user dashboards, allows us to even further segment datasets, while still deriving insights from the data blended together where needed. This will also be the focus of my discussion during the Big Data & Analytics Summit.

What are the main challenges that we currently face within data?

At Shire, our center of focus is our patients. However, because of the nature of rare diseases, we have smaller patient populations and less data than a traditional big pharma. That means our data quality is even more important. To understand what an account lead's next best action is, we still need to understand historical interactions and historical sales and volumes, but more than this we need to know the quality of those measures. If we use details or e-details, what content is most engaging? What is the difference between peer-to-peer events vs. 1-on-1 calls with specialty physicians? Always striving to add and maintain the quality of this data is a constant challenge.

What can the audience expect to take away from your presentation in London?

I'd like to bring focus to design and user-centricity as a direct way to address issues inherent with big data challenges. Making sense of data, communicating it in a timely and actionable fashion, and connecting all the commercial data points available - from finance to patient support to value demonstration & access - is a challenge for everyone. And on top of this, taking a deep dive into core architecture to enable this analysis should provide a great discussion on how BI tools are enabling creative solutions to big data problems.

You can hear more from Alex, as well as other industry leading professionals, at the Big Data & Analytics for Pharma Summit. You can view the full agenda here.


Read next:

Why Blockchain Hype Must End