AstraZeneca: Mergers And Acquisitions From A To Z

AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP has been working on integrating the disparate IT systems by using a three-pronged strategy: standardizing desktops, outsourcing infrastructure, and improving its standing as an E-business.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

September 13, 2001

4 Min Read

IWK500: Biotechnology & PharmaceuticalsTwo years ago, four separate companies converged to form a nearly $16 billion drug and health-care company-and a heck of a challenge for the newly combined IT department. During the last 12 months, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP has been working on integrating the disparate IT systems by using a three-pronged strategy: standardizing desktops, outsourcing infrastructure, and improving its standing as an E-business.

Formed in 1999 from the merger of Sweden's Astra AB, Astra USA, AstraMerck, and London's Zeneca Group, AstraZeneca is known for the Prilosec ulcer-fighting medication, the world's top-selling prescription drug, which is responsible for 40% of the company's revenue. Other products include the anesthetic Xylocaine, cancer-treatment drug Nolvadex, Atacand for treating cardiovascular problems, and Pulmicort for respiratory ailments.

With more than 55,000 employees to support worldwide, standardizing desktop PCs was an IT priority. The company is rolling out Windows 2000 as a common platform for delivering standard collaborative technologies such as E-mail, online scheduling, and document sharing. "We needed to integrate the systems of both Astra and Zeneca into a single platform and decided it would be best to do this globally on Microsoft Windows 2000," says Geoff Red, senior information services business-office manager. Red says migrating to a single platform has helped the staff improve support for users and develop applications that function in a consistent manner across all the company's desktops.

The merger of Astra and Zeneca is forcing the new company to be more progressive with its IT plans-and more proactive in planning for the future, Red says. At the top of the company's agenda is its E-business strategy, which is expected to improve internal business processes, drug development, and relations with physicians, as well as provide continuing medical education. The company is also developing an E-procurement system to directly purchase the materials used in the manufacturing of medications.

Geoff Red, senior information services business-office manager

When Astra and Zeneca merged, management brought in consulting firm McKinsey & Co. to work on a transition plan. What McKinsey and AstraZeneca developed was a corporate structure whereby information services became a decentralized unit within the company. Two years later, each business unit within AstraZeneca-sales, marketing, and knowledge management; drug and clinical development; operations and manufacturing; finance, human resources, legal, and public affairs; and technology processes and services-has an IS leader who works closely with the business-unit leader.

Although the once-independent companies that comprise AstraZeneca have been using the Internet as a channel for distributing information for years, the consolidated company's E-business strategy is to provide a common look and feel across all its product lines, even though much of its research and development work is done independently, and to provide more timely and accurate information for physicians and other health-care clients. Through eBasics, AstraZeneca is looking to use the Internet to aggregate research and information available through industry publications and associations and provide more effective presentation of information about its pharmaceutical products, Red says.

For physicians, AstraZeneca is developing eCME, an area of its Web site that will provide information about issues in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, and eDetailing, with specific clinical information for physicians about AstraZeneca's products. "EDetailing is about making sure our physician clients can get information about our products from the Web, in addition to the more traditional method of calling on a salesperson," Red says.

For health-care facilities, eOutcomes will create a link between AstraZeneca and the health-care professionals that administer its medications. Ultimately, AstraZeneca wants to provide live videoconferencing capabilities so physicians and other health-care professionals can exchange information regardless of location.

The company is also making strides to automate prescription writing and fulfillment through handheld devices. In April, AstraZeneca teamed with ePhysician on a three-year agreement to provide physicians in offices with handheld electronic prescribing and drug-information capabilities. AstraZeneca's goal is to give physicians handheld devices that use ePhysician software to interact with AstraZeneca's sales professionals to deliver real-time answers to product queries.

To free IS personnel to concentrate on E-business efforts, AstraZeneca has outsourced its data center, help desk, and telecommunications network to IBM Global Services. "Outsourcing creates a consistent means of delivering services to users worldwide," Red says. "We're not a data center, although we are an IS-enabled organization." Red says AstraZeneca will spend the rest of this year conducting application and hardware inventory to determine when it can move applications and servers from its own site to an IBM Global Services hosting facility.

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