Technology is a key part of the research and development of new pharmaceutical goods at AstraZeneca and the company has stated that it is continuing to look for "external partners" that have leading edge technology platforms that will benefit proof of concept phases in pharmaceutical development. The company already has a number of alliances with specialist technology providers.

AstraZeneca has continued a progressive outsourcing policy. The London headquartered manufacturer of drugs added Infosys to the list of outsourced providers it relies on.

In 2007, it signed a £832 million deal with IBM to provide email, hosting, networking, PC management, server, storage and service management support, and in March 2008, the company signed a £47 million outsourcing deal with Cognizant for centralised data management services.

Commenting on the Infosys deal, Richard Williams, global CIO at AstraZeneca, said: "We chose Infosys as a strategic partner for its understanding of the rapidly shifting dynamics in the pharmaceutical industry. Infosys' outsourcing expertise, technology leadership and proven record in rationalising and standardising business process were all contributing factors to our decision."

Under the contract, Infosys will deliver services through a global shared-services model that offers "fixed price for outcome-based deliverables, and flexible, unit pricing for managing changes in the base scope of the engagement," the outsourcer said.

The business model aims to give AstraZeneca greater operational flexibility, lower risk and better spend control. AstraZeneca expects to see improved asset use, standardised business processes, globally consistent service quality and a predicable cost structure. Some AstraZeneca employees in Sweden and the UK will be "rebadged" to Infosys. Infosys already provides AstraZeneca's HR system.

AstraZeneca is also teaming up with another Indian outsourcer, Genpact, in a five-year deal to manage finance and SAP-based accounting systems and processes. Genpact will concentrate most on processes affecting procure-to-pay, record-to-report and order-to-cash functions. It will implement Lean Six Sigma management and development methodology.

Graham Russell, head of global transactional finance at AstraZeneca, said that streamlining business processes would enable the company "to improve the effectiveness" of its finance function "in driving, measuring and reporting business performance". It would also cut operational costs.

AstraZeneca currently houses its finance operations in two regional shared services, in Manchester and the US state of Delaware, according to outsourcing analysis firm Nelson Hall. This work will be moved over the next two years to Genpact's five principal delivery centres in India, Romania, Morocco, Brazil and Guatemala, it said.

Rachel Stormonth, analyst at Nelson Hall, noted that the outsourced services "will be provided by fewer full-time employees, around 400, than are currently deployed on them by AstraZeneca". The drugs giant is currently consolidating from 12 SAP finance systems to four, Stormonth noted.