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AstraZeneca CIO David Smoley interview - From transformation to innovation agenda

Edward Qualtrough | Sept. 5, 2017
AstraZeneca CIO Dave Smoley discusses the global pharmaceutical's three-year transformation, and building on the platform with a new innovation agenda for competitive advantage.

AstraZeneca CIO David Smoley
AstraZeneca CIO David Smoley. Photo via CIO UK. 

AstraZeneca CIO David Smoley has guided the global pharmaceutical company through a three-year transformation process and is turning his attention to enabling business innovation for competitive advantage, he told CIO UK.

Smoley, a member of recent editions of the CIO 100 who joined AstraZeneca in April 2013, said that the transformation's tagline was "twice as good for half the cost" and was underpinned by two major pillars - insourcing and technology transformation based on cloud and mobile technology.

"We started in 2013 doing this mass of transformation," Smoley said. "In the end it was achieved within the three-year timeframe so we were quite proud of that."

For the CIO it was crucial to move from an outsourced IT function to bringing crucial skills back into the Cambridge-headquartered pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company.



"That insourcing represented a fairly meaningful skill-shift and culture-shift," he said. "From one of overseeing service providers to one of actually owning and therefore having to have the technology, leadership, operational excellence skills and customer-focused mentality."

There was also a push from AstraZeneca to refresh its technology stack with more innovative technology, with an emphasis on cloud-enabled, mobile-first tools.

"We were continuously looking at how we could refresh, and as part of the refreshing then streamline, simplify and consolidate to make the footprint smaller," the CIO explained.

Smoley described this as good "meat and potatoes" business in the classic MBA mould; weighing the investment against the payback and the risks to make the organisation more efficient and effective.


Vendor consolidation

A consolidation of AstraZeneca's key technology and IT partners was necessary as part of the CIO's strategy, which Smoley said had a kick-on effect of creating the more innovative team the company required.

"We went through all of our procurement contracts, all the agreements we had with software and hardware vendors and service providers," Smoley said. "It wasn't about cost-cutting, it was about prioritising relationships which were strategic, dynamic and helpful as opposed to others that were pure buy-and-sell, or kind of walk-away relationships.

"I think there are a number of companies that we work well with and I think at this point most of the successful companies are coming around and getting on board.

"Then emphasising those partnerships, which led to more creative thinking, to more creative and innovative solutions."

Smoley said this this had manifested itself in the team solving business problems and understanding customer needs rather than "just jamming technology in".


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