The Practice Leader role at ALTEN
In January 2023, the Life Sciences division set up a new position to support its development on the Belgian market: a Practice Leader.
After a few months in this position, Stan explains what the role consists of, between technical expert and business manager, its stakes, the benefits for the company, and the possible evolutions.
My Name is Stan VAN KERKHOVEN and I joined ALTEN at the end of January as a Practice Leader for the Life Sciences division (LS). My journey in the industry started in 2006 as an equipment validation engineer. Furthermore, I gained experience in cleaning, sterilization, computerized system, process, and lab equipment validation, before I took my first steps into consulting in 2018. There I gradually improved my people-management and commercial skills and grew into a business manager role. Then, ALTEN came to me with the proposition of the role of Practice Leader for the Life Sciences division. Since I had never heard of this function, I got intrigued with this role since it merges my 17 years of experience in the LS sector and my combined studies in Bioengineering and Business Economics.
What is the role of Practice Leader?
Generally speaking, I am constantly looking to expand our services to our clients on managed work packages and fixed price projects. Nowadays, the industry is constantly evolving, and new technologies are emerging and deploying themselves. ALTEN has to be on the spot of these new technologies, for clients to come to us for projects related to this expertise. That is why I am looking for these new trends and technologies so that ALTEN can provide them to our clients.
Besides this, I am also assisting our team of Business Managers to understand the needs of the customers and building tailor-made offers thanks to the experience I gained during my career in various technical roles. Sometimes certain new regulations or technologies can create a new need at our customers. I will assist the Business Managers so that ALTEN can make a real difference for the client and be more competitive.
Last but not least, I am the link between our Technical Direction (TD) and the Business Management team to share the technical knowledge from one team to another. During prospections at clients, I give presentations to showcase the Technical Direction, explain how work packages and fixed price projects work, and I demonstrate what ALTEN can deliver to our clients.
What are the benefits for ALTEN?
The benefits of this role for ALTEN are multiple:
First, this role combines the sales activities of the TD and the technical activities of the Business team in one role. This enables the TD to focus on their main activities, which is delivering managed work packages and fixed price projects on a qualitive way. The Technical Direction does not have to focus on their sales activities and can support more projects and therefore strengthen the unique way of working by ALTEN with the Technical Direction. The customer can benefit more from their experience and the Technical Direction can also focus on further continuous improvement of their services. The Business team can further focus on their core activities and benefit from the presence of the Practice leader because an experienced person at a prospect with a client generates more trust between client and Business Manager.
Second, since the industry is constantly evolving, the role as Practice Leader provides technical knowledge on new and emerging technologies or new and changing regulations in the sector. In this manner, ALTEN can remain a leader in the LS sector. Providing new technical offers with these new technologies and/or regulations will lead to new customers or new offers to the clients. Also, our consultants can benefit from this part of the role because the Practice Leader can provide them with new trainings to further improve the services to our clients and the technical capabilities of the consultants.
Third, this role is also an international role. Since I am closely working with TD Benelux teams, as well as the North and South of Europe, we can benefit of each other’s knowledge and best practices, giving the benefit to our clients of being a global company.
What prospects for this role?
To start with a first example, offers we are providing to our customers are coming from the international collaboration with our colleagues from the South. We are now also offering to our customers the possibility to outsource thermo-mapping and sterilization validation activities. This offer extends our services on Commissioning Qualification and Validation so that clients can stay with one partner.
A second example where we further expand our services comes from the change in regulation for hospitals in Belgium. We have set up a gap assessment with our consultants and established a partnership with a cleanroom builder to provide hospitals the opportunity of benefiting of our knowledge on the Pharmaceutical Inspection Co-operation Scheme norms. This was done with the collaboration of the Sales/Business team, consultants, and me.
What vision for the future?
Since the start of my career 17 years ago, the industry has evolved a lot.
Further globalisation is certainly a trend in the Life Sciences industry which has been more and more important to firms.
The big Life Sciences firms are more and more looking for partners able to provide these kinds of services since it keeps the knowledge of their processes within one or two firms in which they can rely on. The consulting firm of the future must be a firm which can provide all these services (a full set of services through the complete value chain) that a Life sciences firm is looking for as an external partner.
This will cause also for consulting firms to grow further. To stay flexible, the consulting firm of the future must build knowledge centers to keep the knowledge available for the regional partners and have a flexible structure to provide this knowledge: think global, act local. A Practice Leader LS can be the right person at the right place to provide the knowledge in the regions from the global centers.
As mentioned earlier, a lot of new technologies are getting into Life Sciences. Digitalisation and Manufacturing 4.0, and how they will further deploy in the LS industry are certainly trends to keep in mind. Paperless validation and Manufacturing Enterprise System systems are technologies which fit in these trends and are constantly evolving. ALTEN wants to be a pioneer in providing these technologies to our clients. Furthermore, the implementation of Artificial Intelligence in the Life Sciences sector is certainly a trend to follow. Again, a Practice leader can be the person who could follow these trends in the future and provide the Business team with some new offers and building the knowledge further together with the Technical Direction.
Stan Van Kerkhoven