Chief Information and Digital Officer at French pharmaceutical giant Ipsen, Malika Mir, has sold her digital vision for the company to the board but says the biggest challenge will be to tackle the top down management and spread digital culture across the company. [See also: Chief Digital Officer salary and job description - What's the CDO role and how much do Chief Digital Officers get paid?]

Speaking to CIO UK at the Gartner Symposium and IT Expo in Barcelona last week, Mir said that as well as touching every employee across the 30 countries the company operates in, protecting the digital team from the legacy culture of the IT department, and finding suitable partners in the less mature digital vendor ecosystem were also major challenges.

"It is not about the technology, this part is simpler," she said. "The real challenges are coming from selling the idea of digital to the company, but not the board because they are already on board, and finding out how to use digital technology to rethink completely the way we do things.

"I shared my vision in 2014 and then the CEO and deputy CEO who realised quite quickly what the business can get out of it. So now every board member is on board and aligned so we can transform the vision into a product.

"We have a very international spread; we are in 30 countries, so the focus is to tackle from top down the management and they can affect their employees. And do digital awareness with everyone when we are in other countries. We need to show them videos of what is possible. They didn't realise we were that ready, that the world was that ready to embrace digital solutions in pharma."

However, Mir said that for the time being Ipsen plans to keep its new digital team and capability away from the legacy technology culture of the organisation. While Chief Digital Officer at Travelex, Sean Cornwell, told CIO UK that putting digital in a silo was a mistake, Mir suggested eventually the new method will become pervasive.

"We have split the team and have a wall between them because the digital team is smaller and need to protect them from the older culture," Mir explained. "We have identified some people who are leading the change and in the business there is major education to be done because lots of people don't understand why we are changing their way of working."

Mir said that the other major stumbling block to transformation came from the outside the organisation, with the technology vendor market also needing to keep pace with the digital transformation and cultural change that was going on within Ipsen.

She asked: "How do we rebuild our supplier and how do we identify partners so we can work differently?" Where are the startups who are aligned with what we are doing?

"Some of the old vendors are rebranding what they are doing, but we will use the classical IT vendors for IT but not for digital because they are not changing. The new ecosystem is quite a challenge, finding out who are the key players and what are the key competencies, and we are starting from scratch and learning as we go on our way."

Away from the digital challenge, Mir said that the organisation was also starting to look at the Internet of Things and its use cases in the manufacturing sector, as well as how Ipsen might be able to gain a competitive advantage through its R&D programmes and the application of Big Data.