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AstraZeneca is using ServiceNow to ensure its scientists focus on science, not bureaucracy

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez October 12, 2020
AstraZeneca began using ServiceNow within its IT function years ago, but is expanding its use case in a number of areas to help its scientists push boundaries.

Image of biological cells under microscope
(Image sourced via AstraZeneca)

AstraZeneca is one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, bringing in close to $25 billion in revenues in 2019. It states that its mission is to ‘push the boundaries of science' and to deliver life changing medicines to those that need it. To achieve this, of course, it needs its scientists to focus on the important work - the science - and not get weighed down by manual processes and organisational bureaucracy.

With this in mind, AstraZeneca has been making use of the ServiceNow Now platform in recent years to automate processes, deliver self service tools and integrate disparate systems in order to boost scientists' productivity.

Gillian Davies, director of shared services and automation at AstraZeneca, and Ellis Stapleton, ServiceNow business analyst for IT end user services at AstraZeneca, were speaking at the recent ServiceNow Now at Work event detailing the company's journey from using the platform for IT, all the way through to HR, supply chain, marketing and facilities management.

For all of diginomica's coverage from Now at Work, check out our dedicated events hub here. For a link to the event itself, click here.

Davies explained that AstraZeneca has three strategic priorities:

  • Delivering growth and therapy area leadership

  • Accelerating innovative science

  • Being a great place to work

She argued that the expanding use of the ServiceNow Now platform is helping to support these strategic goals. As mentioned above, the pharmaceutical company started using the platform for ITSM a number of years ago, followed by custom apps for disaster recovery and business continuity. Over the years the scope has grown to include HR, finance, ITBM, GRC, config and discovery. AstraZeneca has 65 active themes, at any one time has approximately 100 demands in flight, and has 34 ServiceNow professionals across the globe.

Davies said that AstraZeneca's ServiceNow strategy has three key elements. These include:

Out of the box. Given we've been a customer for quite some time we've made some mistakes along the way. We've learned a lot about governance, customisation and control. So one of the things we're trying to do is simplify and go back to out of the box so we can take advantage of some of ServiceNow's innovation.

The next area of focus is around great employee experience for enterprise services and we've joined up our roadmap with our business functions and enterprise service management to roll out some of the new capabilities that come with ServiceNow's platform. And most recently we've launched our virtual agent across finance, IT and HR.

Thirdly, we recognise that we are in a unique moment in history and there is a strong theme of digitisation and innovation within our culture. There is need to do more with less and make sure that every single dollar is spent on our purpose of delivering life changing medicines. So we started to support new areas of the business to bring the power of the Now Platform to help them solve some of their challenges.

New use cases

AstraZeneca is delivering a number of new projects via the Now platform this year, which were detailed by business analyst Ellis Stapleton. The first of which is a solution for the company's supply chain call centre in Madrid, focused on helping the team automate their processes and better track product related questions, claims and requests. These were all being received via multiple channels (including faxes!) and it was too easy to lose track of who was working on what and what the status of each request was. Stapleton explained:

So the solution is based on core ServiceNow functionality of ticket logging and tracking, allowing the team to better manage their end to end process. A key aspect of the solution were the data imports from SAP to bring in information about products, customers and their orders. This allows the team to associate a ticket in ServiceNow with an order placed by the customer and allows them to validate that request. So, for example, if a customer rings up and says they ordered 10 units of a product but only nine arrived, then the team can confirm this without having to jump between different systems. So it saves them time and also improves the experience for the customer.

We also have an integration with a third party logistics supplier who partners with the call centre team to resolve customer queries. The integration that was built creates a new ticket for any inquires opened directly with that logistics supplier so that we've always got a record of it in ServiceNow. It also updates any existing ticket to reflect any changes that the supplier has made on their side.

AstraZeneca went live with this solution just a few weeks before the world went into lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which helped the supply chain teams ensure that they could continue to deliver life changing medicines to patients. Stapleton added:

We're really proud to have delivered this solution, which allows them to work more effectively and efficiently during these unprecedented times.

Another more recent project is focused on helping the business support their operations. AstraZeneca currently operates in nine geographic locations around Cambridge, with almost 4,300 employees - most of them scientists. They're all due to be relocated to the new R&D Center on the Cambridge biomedical campus, once the facility is ready for operation. Knowing this, ServiceNow has been used to develop a facilities management solution for two fo the existing sites, with the aim of standardising on the ways of working, so that it can be rolled out to the new campus when ready.

The main element of the solution is a new site operations portal that encourages employees to self-serve requests and information. It offers a fully comprehensive request catalogue, a multi-level knowledge base that provides information to scientists and other end users, and issue reporting and tracking capability. The aim is that the portal becomes a one-stop shop for scientists to see everything that they've requested and ordered.

The second major element is the scientific preparation ordering system. Scientists can order materials for their experiments as either a one-off or a recurring order. The recurring orders are automatically generated by the platform. Stapleton said:

We need our scientists doing what they do best and working in our labs to develop those life changing medicines - not sat at a desk raising requests. The scientific prep ordering solution also includes a shopping cart functionality. The finally thing to point out is that items available to order through the portal are completely managed by the business, allowing them to be agile in their service offering.

This project has delivered a tonne of benefits to the site operations community and the scientists. Firstly, in relation to cost, we are now able to hold vendors to account in terms of the number of tasks they are completing, as everything is tracked within the system. Whereas before, everything was paper based or on spreadsheets. So this can then allow the team to review the service level agreements with the suppliers, so that's an opportunity to save costs.

Productivity has also increased, as the teams are now able to schedule, report and review on what is happening within the FM space. It allows them to have a proactive approach, rather than reacting to user feedback. Also, processes are improved by standardising operations across sites. With a single point of contact and a familiar UI to other portals, the solution is easy for our scientists to engage with, which increases customer satisfaction. Those CSAT scores are now reportable, which gives the team a better understanding of the areas of improvement, which ultimately allows us to contribute to the great place to work strategic pillar. Having more data to drive decisions around supporting building infrastructure reduces risk.

Advice and tips

Given AstraZeneca's extensive history with and use of the ServiceNow Now platform, Stapleton also took the opportunity to offer some words of advice to other organisations that may be considering it as a tool to boost productivity and increase efficiency.

Firstly, Stapleton notes that one of the key challenges is that not everybody in the business will know ServiceNow as well as those working closely with the platform. As such, she said, it's important to take time to work with new stakeholders to educate them on the platform functionality. Stapleton said:

ServiceNow has some great online materials that you can share with them. And that coupled with demos and workshops will really help to bring the Now platform to life for them. What you end up with is people that started out as novices, end up being your network of advocates.

Secondly, it's important to know and understand your surroundings. By this, Stapleton means getting a clear understanding of the environment that your stakeholders are working in. She said:

Granted, in pre-COVID times this was much simpler, as you can go and visit your customers and go spend a day in the life of. But it's still possible to do this virtually by asking the right questions and keeping that engagement going. Remembering that not everybody works at a desk is key. Sometimes your initial design or solution may change based on what you learn about your customers' surroundings.

Thirdly, Stapleton urged companies to remember that things will change in a fast paced environment - which has never been clearer in this COVID-19 world. Keeping stakeholders engaged and preparing to be agile should allow you to adapt to any disruption or changes that occur, she advised.

Finally, Stapleton offered the following pearls of wisdom for how to successfully deploy the Now platform across an organisation. She said:

Networking within your organisation is key and making connections with the business is invaluable. Look out for events that you can attend or meetings you can present at. But of course nothing beats that chat around the coffee machine. And while you're networking, always remember to be an advocate for the Now Platform. If you're enthusiastic about what it can do, then others will be too and they'll want to work with you and hear what you have to say.

Showcasing your success is also really important and that's something that's really helped us in AstraZeneca. Understanding the company strategy goes without saying and if you can align your ServiceNow platform strategy to the strategy of the organisation, you will be onto a winner.

Finally, look for openings and opportunities where the Now platform could help solve a business issue. Then use your network to advocate what you can do by selling previous successes.

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