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AstraZeneca's CIO Jon Kirby buys into technology

Mark Chillingworth | Jan. 18, 2013
Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has had a difficult recent history and like many businesses it faces some tough challenges in the near future. Jon Kirby, CIO at the Anglo-Swedish organisation, is part of a new leadership team facing up to those challenges.

Welcome developments

Kirby is enthused by the opportunities, especially the externalisation of R&D, which he and many others in his sector see as critical to the future of pharmaceutical manufacturers.

"The externalisation of our R&D and partnerships across our commercial teams cannot happen without secure and rapid collaboration so that we have meaningful ways to share," he says of the increasing need for partnerships with niche companies or specialists.

"Collaboration is the biggest challenge we have. It was very difficult to have a conversation because the stability of the email, for example, was not there. That has been rectified through this fundamental change to our operating model that was necessary and courageous move that as a company we are very proud of," Kirby says of his IS team.

"Now there is much more synergy as we take a leaner approach to the company. IS has to make sure we are working across collaboration to deliver the business outcomes."

Not only was the structure of the IS department revolutionised, but Kirby has completely modernised the IT sourcing of AstraZeneca too.

"Historically we had a big single-source relationship, but that had issues with performance and our control of it. We had these monolithic infrastructures that met the needs of nobody. There was no strategic control over key elements, with no transparency. That meant AstraZeneca was not making the right investments to drive services and the IT costs didn't support the business needs.

"So we have moved from a single provider outsourced model to a multi-source model with some level of in-sourcing, removing dependency on a single supplier and bringing the critical strategic and control layers into AstraZeneca, providing transparency across all activities. We've also implemented an incentive mechanism across the supplier ecosystem that is accretive to all parties based on absolute performance," he says. The transparency means Kirby's team can segment users by their needs and provide the ability to scale up or down provisions as and when needed.

"We can have a conversation with the business on the cost and functionality it requires; IS can tell departments their infrastructure, application and storage costs. So then they have choices and they like that conversation. Our supplier partners are part of that conversation too.

"Previously we did not have sight over the age of the infrastructure with the single-source relationship and that was causing those infrastructure issues," Kirby explains.

Today Kirby's supplier base includes Wipro, HCL, Computacenter, BT and AT&T for infrastructure, while Accenture, Infosys, Cognizant, support application development and maintenance, with other suppliers such as Microsoft, Oracle and SAP supporting the overall environment.

Asked about his reasons for bringing parts of the service provision back in house, Kirby says: "IS understands the processes of AstraZeneca and how they hang together."


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