Finding the right chemistry: an interview with AstraZeneca's Angela Yochem

By Stuart Sumner
05 Sep 2012 View Comments
Angela Yochem Astra Zeneca

Leading pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca (AZ) is currently dealing with IT issues that will be familiar to many CIOs and IT directors. Due to periods of regional growth and acquisitions in the past, the company has many duplicate IT systems that were not fully rationalised post-merger, leading to unnecessary complexity that reduces business agility and increases costs.

Further reading

This is a situation that AZ CTO Angela Yochem is determined to rectify by optimising IT across the business.

“We’ve looked at the outcomes that every line of business is trying to achieve, not just this year but over the next several years. We then had to decide on the optimal technology capability we’d like to provide to support those outcomes.”

Yochem explains that this process is multilayered. First, her team decides on the foundational technologies that need to be in place across all lines of business, then it moves on to those that are more business unit specific.

For example, foundational capabilities might include collaboration technologies. AZ is laying down foundational components of Office 365 and cloud applications, security federation and SOA (service-oriented architecture) to improve its collaboration capability across the business.

Also extending across the organisation is the rollout of AZ’s new information management strategy. Yochem is using information lifecycle technologies to enhance visibility, access, management and exploitation of big data across all parts of the business.

Among the programmes to implement specific technologies to support individual business units is FIPNet (Fully Integrated Pharmaceutical Network). This solution, which is currently being rolled out, supports AZ’s neuroscience research and development department.

Whereas R&D used to be carried out entirely internally, AZ now uses partnerships with academia and other industry bodies in an effort to be first to the big discoveries. This collaboration is co-ordinated by the Innovative Medicines unit (iMed), and requires a robust and secure method of information exchange.

Yochem explains that it’s a nonsense to believe that all the answers can come from internal teams.

“We’re talking about life saving activity here, we have to source ideas from the best and most appropriate places,” she says.

FIPNet is an integrated IT framework that creates an end-to-end (from target identification to proof of concept) solution for the orchestration of information and materials throughout the iMed network. Without this solution, the virtual nature of the iMed (with scientists based all over the globe) would not be possible.

Building an IT ecosystem

Alongside these programmes to overhaul foundational and business unit IT, Yochem also arrived in time to witness the completion of a a major programme to overhaul – or more accurately to create – a supplier ecosystem by AstraZeneca's information services team. 


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