Pharmaceuticals giant Amersham Health is rolling out applications from SAP as part of a global Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) project to standardise processes and improve efficiencies across the business.
The phased multimillion-pound implementation, which is due to go live in the UK by 1 January next year, will replace different versions of SAP and 13 separate versions on Baan across Europe.
The project, which also includes sites across Europe and the US, will be run by a consortium of consultants headed up by specialist change management practice Partners for Change, and including SAP implementation consultancy Diagonal.
Rollout is scheduled to be completed by 2005 at the latest.
Adrian Bagg, executive vice president of Amersham Health, told vnunet.com that the SAP project would offer the company global visibility of customers for the first time.
"We did a beauty parade and made a decision on who the team felt could best deliver the change with the least risk and for the best value," Bagg said.
"The investment will realise tangible savings and ensure we work in a properly validated environment allowing us to work in ways that deliver better service to our customers," Bagg added.
The deal includes manufacturing and financial applications from the German software supplier. Human resources applications, also from SAP, will be rolled out over the next year as a separate project.
"We will start with the basics and then go to self service. HR has never been properly systematised. This is a big change and is key to HR delivering added value."
Amersham will also eye up CRM offerings on the market with a view to formulating a strategy during the first half of this year, Bagg said.
"I put Siebel in at Diageo very successfully, but at Amersham we're still at the strategy stage. The question is, do we really need full blown CRM?"Meanwhile Bagg admits that an ever increasing level of regulation across the pharmaceuticals sector is putting IT departments and their suppliers under growing pressure.
"It puts a huge overhead on things. But you can see the point: it's a quality assurance thing.
"From an IT perspective, any system involved in the production of our products or services needs to be checked to the same level. The burden of validation is quite a big challenge," Bagg said.
To respond to the challenge Bagg said the company had moved to an increasingly global model. "The IT that sits behind that is quite important in terms of forecasting and distribution."
Amersham has been using supply chain planning applications from Manugistics for demand forecasting, chosen over rival i2 for its simplicity of implementation. "You don't need to have every bell and whistle working from day one."Bagg is no stranger to large-scale projects, given his former role as head of IT at drinks giant Diageo. But he admits that the Information Management (IM) department of today at Amersham is a far cry from the IT set-up he walked into when he took on the role just over two years ago.
Nationalisation during the Thatcher era together with a merger with Norwegian counterpart Nycomed ASA in 1997 was a harder nut to swallow than the company had anticipated, and had left its IT department in a sorry state, Bagg recalled.
"IT didn't deliver systems on time, and there was no confidence in the function from the business. IM was pretty much setting the agenda ... it was classically broken."
Turning it around hasn't been simple but the key, according to Bagg, revolves around setting a clear vision based on delivering shareholder value through consistent deliver.
"The strategy was to be a best-in-class IM function within three years and getting a good project pipeline in place."
It's a strategy that appears to have paid off. Of the 30 or so IT systems projects defined last year, all were completed to time and to budget, bucking a trend of IT 'failures' across the industry.
Bagg said that using a combination of internal and external measures, including a balanced scorecard to benchmark progress, is key to keeping that strategy on track.
To boost the delivery-focused nature of the department, Bagg took a conscious decision to include more customer-facing than IT-facing people on the IM team.
He also believes that being in a position to influence the business debate - in Bagg's case through a seat on the executive at Amersham - is absolutely critical to success.
"The chief information officer in most organisations is there to deliver transformational change. If you are ruthless about architecture and service delivery and if you can deliver change that involves IT, you can move from a service provider to a business partner."
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