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Five Steps to Streamlining Capital Portfolio Planning for Life Sciences

Published March 8 2023
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Pharma, med device and biotech companies all face similar challenges including siloed systems, ever-changing regulatory requirements, finding and keeping talent, and more. And when it comes to capital planning, Life Sciences leaders need to establish a clear capital-allocation strategy to build winning portfolios. Leaders link strategic imperatives to a target capital portfolio, setting and communicating targets for growth and productivity improvements and for sustaining capital expenditures. This journey is not as daunting as it may first appear, especially if the transformation is broken down into manageable components.

When thinking about streamlining the process, we like to divide the capital planning process into five steps:

1. Request

Whether you’re an enterprise CFO or ‘the finance guy’ at a startup, you know it’s crucial that the capital expenditure (CapEx) approval process runs smoothly and without error. The CapEx approval process is crucial to the smooth running and growth of an organization. That’s why it’s a big problem when requests take time or get lost under a mound of paperwork. Without automation, CapEx approval workflows can be a veritable nightmare. Manual errors drive down efficiency and productivity in the CapEx approval process. People can make mistakes with the routing of approvals and in calculations. This affects productivity directly. As more and more people need to sign off on company expenditures, the room for error also increases.

When you automate this process, you gain the ability to:

  • Submit emergency, routine, and major capital requests.
  • Eliminate time consuming paper, Excel/Word and email-based processes with continual, cloud-based monitoring.
  • Attach related documents like quotes, estimates, and plans.

2. Prioritize

Prioritizing capital projects is challenging in any organization, and Life Sciences is no exception. It can be exceedingly difficult to establish project-scoring criteria and then objectively evaluate projects against these criteria. However, effective capital deployment requires that you prioritize these efforts.

Standardizing a defined approval process enables you to:

  • Ensure consistency from approval to approval, across the entire company.
  • Pinpoint any bottlenecks more easily.
  • Provide individuals outside of the approval process with concrete steps.

Another way to improve the approval process is to implement automatic approvals. For instance, you could set criteria that purchases under a specific dollar amount do not require CEO approval. This saves time, while also speeding up the approval process. Effective prioritization of capital expenditure planning often depends on your ability to sync with other people in your company. Here’s the problem: As a finance professional, you’re able to review and digest information easily and on the fly. But for those who don’t work in finance, it’s much more challenging.

To improve collaboration and transparency, it’s important to:

  • Allow individual departments & functions to develop their own strategic roadmaps.
  • Create request portfolios by department, function, or funding source.
  • Allow cross-functional teams such as IT, Facilities, and Purchasing to review requests early in the process.
  • Incorporate qualitative and quantitative ranking measures so you can pick from the best set of investments.
  • Incorporate automated request workflows that consolidates pending investment requests for presentation to your internal investment committees.

3. Fund

To create a sustainable capital plan, the finance officer and other participants in the capital planning process need to consider all capital needs, assess fiscal capacity, plan for debt issuance, and understand impact on reserves and operating budgets, all within a given planning timeframe. Capital planning policies provide an essential framework for managing these tasks and for assuring that capital plans are consistent with overall organizational goals.

Automating the funding process allows you to:

  • Understand short and long-term capital funding needs.
  • Fund initiatives with organization-specific sources such as bonds, grants, fees, or endowments.
  • Ensure funding applied to individual initiatives meets source-of-capital restrictions & covenants.

4. Approve

Approval processes can get messy, but there are ways to streamline them to achieve success. At the quick pace of modern businesses, organizations increasingly depend on process automation to deploy standardized approval processes and minimize room for error. Leveraging automation, you and your team can automatically request edits from the appropriate stakeholder, track changes, set up reminders, and avoid bottlenecks. All of this increases the efficiency of responses and ensures that deadlines are met. It’s important to:

Define a Capital Approval Policy

Who are the key stakeholders? What are their tasks? What exactly is needed to complete the approval process? If the steps are clearly defined, there is less time spent on debating the process and more time spent on executing it.


It’s a cumbersome process to continue pinging or emailing multiple stakeholders to remind them of a task they are assigned to complete. With automation, you can avoid missing deadlines by setting up notifications for tasks and responses. It also allows you to configure reminders and escalations if deadlines are missed.

Leverage the Cloud

Sifting through email threads to track approvals and edits is not the most productive way to spend your time. Instead, utilizing a cloud platform allows everyone to reference the latest and up-to-date version of capital request documents.

Automating the approval process allows you to:

  • Capture initiative approval notes and create a board approved budget.
  • Configure approval workflow with variable approval paths for emergency, routine, and strategic requests.
  • Inform Project Management, Procurement, and other systems of a newly approved capital initiatives.

5. Execute

It feels like a victory in itself when you reach the execution stage of the capital portfolio planning process. It’s important to stay on top of the in-flight projects and monitor and close them out when possible.

By automating and streamlining the execution, you can:

  • Create funding change, carry-forward, and project closure requests for in-flight capital projects.
  • Monitor in-flight project health by comparing capital budgets against actual PO commitments & paid invoices.
  • Provide department owners with an analytic sandbox to evaluate capital request backlog throughout the year, facilitating simplified approval submission during the planning season.

Alithya Can Help

Alithya’s prescriptive and proven Capital Portfolio Planning accelerator can help by activating an integrated request-to-project-to-asset lifecycle using the industry’s leading SaaS planning platform: Oracle Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) Planning Cloud. With Alithya’s accelerator, you can deploy an integrated portfolio planning process in a few weeks.

Alithya’s proven accelerator deploys an agile investment incubation & prioritization process enabling business leaders to ideate, collaborate and incubate their investment ideas related to new product lines, facilities, equipment modernization, R&D projects, and IT investments. Capturing qualitative & quantitative assessment criteria facilitates organizational prioritization & budgeting.

As ideas grow into formal investment proposals, Alithya’s accelerator harnesses this entrepreneurial energy with a connected workflow to take an investment idea through prioritization, budget setting, and project execution in one place.

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