Once a risk-averse, siloed and slow-moving company, AstraZeneca has morphed over recent years into a business that embraces fast-paced, innovative and entrepreneurial values. That transformation has been worked through the magic of a hugely innovative, productive and creative IT function led by the pharmaceutical giant's Chief Information Officer David Smoley.

The pace of change championed by Smoley is almost frightening. During 2017 his function delivered more than 250 projects covering all areas of business activity across drug development, production and commercialisation.

One key Smoley initiative has been the implementation of a marketing and sales asset management system in over 70 commercial markets. It replaces a clunky, outdated approval system with a standardised and simplified approval process and experience.

Another has been the automation of manual paper-based processes through a suite of advanced manufacturing solutions, deployed to 75% of key manufacturing sites to date. They have not only spared employees hundreds of thousands of hours of effort, but also significantly boosted product quality and materially reduced the number of deviations and recalls.

Then there is the implementation of global batch traceability through the global supply chain network. The solution provides a real-time, graphical and tabular view of the supply chain network for any AstraZeneca product.

The IT-led innovation list goes on and on. Other highlights include: a mobile app and data platform linking with a Bluetooth-enabled inhaler used by more than 1,100 patients in four countries; a symptom monitoring service for bladder cancer and lung cancer patients; and an end-to-end business process review that led to the deployment of automation tools that have cut contracting cycle time by 25%. And just to show that even tiny IT cogs can turn a pharma behemoth's wheels, a small IT innovation team in Macclesfield used augmented reality to reduce production line changeover time by 25%.

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