Spotlight on 4th Generation Electronic Document Management (EDM) Systems

Advances in technology and methodology may bring compliant EDM systems to the masses.
Oct 01, 2005
Volume 18, Issue 10

Daniel Hahn
The "vision" to implement compliant electronic document management (EDM) systems — with process facilitating and monitoring functionality such as template-based authoring, fully automated work flow, electronic signatures, submission-status portals, and filing through fully digital backbones — has existed for decades.

Until recently, the combination of vague regulatory agency guidance and fragmented technology has prevented both large and small pharmaceutical companies from fully achieving the vision. Yet many companies have invested millions of dollars and years of manpower to implement marginally successful, compliant EDM solutions.

To successfully achieve the vision and effectively manage EDM projects, first categorize the current state of your EDM system, then build a road map with manageable phases to reach the desired end state.

The goal of this article is to provide: (1) real-world examples of valuing EDM projects; (2) methods for categorizing a required solution; and (3) useful guidelines and rules of thumb for building a road map after the solution has been categorized.


Building a road map is a natural starting point for any well-managed project. With EDM projects, visioning and road map activities become especially important for several reasons:

  • There are likely many EDM projects within the organization
  • The purpose of various projects may be convergent or divergent
  • Managing expectations of the various constituencies is extra-ordinarily difficult with the potential functional solutions that EDM can provide
  • Achieving any specific value, either business functionality or financial, is particularly difficult if a company attempts to do everything simultaneously
  • Compliance and coordination issues associated with multiple projects and poor project mapping can cause a budget to balloon by more than 100 percent.

Categorizing EDM Projects
By way of narrative example, the clinical operations function at most life sciences companies produces documentation to effectively manage ongoing trials, monitoring documentation such as visitation reports, protocols, and amendments; investigator's curriculum vitae and licenses and general correspondence. Additionally, medical writing groups typically develop clinical study reports and other final documents that appear in US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) submissions.

Electronic trial master file (eTMF) systems differ substantially from submissions management systems in that eTMF systems control, organize, and share study-related information within the clinical operations group. A submissions management system, on the other hand, controls inter-functional processes — among groups such as regulatory affairs, quality assurance, and clinical operations — of published content in individual leaf documents (such as FDA's 1572 clinical investigator form; or FDA's chemistry, manufacturing, and control [CMC] document) related to an investigational new drug (IND) or new drug application (NDA).

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