With Claus Thomsen, CIO, Lundbeck
At Lundbeck, CIO Claus Thomson has reduced his own IT team to a skeleton crew. This gives Lundbeck the flexibility to quickly shift priorities and focus on the digital projects that provide the best value.
At heart, Lundbeck is a company born from biology. For more than 50 years, the core of Lundbeck’s business has been the composition of pharmaceutical products and the health benefits they provide. And Lundbeck’s CIO, Claus Thomsen, keeps that in mind as he navigates the digital course for the company.
– We basically don't believe that digital is going to replace our core products. But it can augment it. There are a lot of open roads to explore and in some areas, we're moving quite quickly. For instance, we are buying and analyzing a lot of external data to build better solutions for both research, development and sales, says Claus Thomsen.
Lundbeck has chosen to digitalize based on four distinct tracks: Administration, Production & Supply Chain, Research & Development and Sales. All digital initiatives are funded through one of the four tracks, which ensures a clear ownership and senior level sponsorship, with the four top executives providing the necessary investment muscle to launch projects and keep them going.
– Ownership of the digital journeys in Lundbeck is shared between the business stakeholders, who owns the strategic direction, and IT, who owns the technology. Put together, that equation equals digital innovation. It's a yin-yang relationship that ensures that we are pulling towards the same goal, says Claus Thomsen.
One of Claus Thomsen’s most impactful leadership decisions has been to outsource Lundbeck’s own IT resources down to key tactical and strategic IT functions. Now, the skillset of the internal IT staff is focused around six key competences: Business partnering, Architecture, Project & Change management, Vendor management and IT Service Management processes. Access to additional capabilities are through external partners.
– Not long ago, we had a lot of very skilled developers, who were great at building solutions for sales or production, for instance. But I was always constrained by having to find work to exactly that specific group of competencies available internally. Now we have six things that we do really well and an adequate budget, which we apply as needed. It's a lot more agile than having a specific number of people who are locked into a specific platform or business area, Claus Thomsen explains.
This approach is only possible through a series of strategic partnerships built on trust and solid track records, and Claus Thomsen sets high standards for Lundbeck’s external partners. Lundbeck also had to be willing to make other sacrifices, for example saying goodbye to a lot of inhouse knowledge and capabilities.
– I was challenged a lot internally on this point. But our assessment is that the agility we gain is more valuable for us.
One of the areas where Claus Thomsen sees a great potential for digitalization is faster and more efficient clinical research through AI and data analytics.
– Because of the financial potential in medical research, there has been significant willingness to invest and experiment in research data, and Lundbeck is quite advanced in this area. We're already running a lot of experiments, but we can see that the progress is slower than we would have guessed just a couple of years ago.
The slow pace underlines the importance of managing expectations, both with senior management and the rest of the organization. Especially in a culture that is accustomed to very high quality standards.
– AI is going to be amazing – at some point! In general, all parts of the organization are very pro-technology, which creates a positive pressure on us in IT. We don't want to become naysayers, but often it's more complicated than people realize and can't be done in half a day. If we don’t align expectations with our business stakeholders, when experimenting with immature technology, it will backfire, says Claus Thomsen.
In other fields, Claus Thomsen believes that the pharma industry has much to learn from for instance the financial sector, which is far ahead on customer interaction. But regulatory constraints often prevent Lundbeck and other pharma companies from getting too close to their end users.
– Regulations forbid most direct contact with the patients, so all dialogue takes place through patient associations. The only place we are in direct contact is the patient portal for clinical trials we're building. Here, we involve patients directly in UX-design through a series of agile sprints.
Lundbeck is part of Digital Dogma, a joint initiative by major Danish companies who have committed each other to lifting the digital qualifications of their employees. This is done through a series of initiatives such as retraining and including the employees in projects with learning potential.
Lundbeck recently hired a corporate entrepreneur, who originally was part of an external startup project testing technology to prevent depression. She has been tasked with establishing several internal startups that are intended to operate completely independent from Lundbeck.
In cooperation with an external partner, Lundbeck is working to develop a tool that will be able to determine where in the world it is most cost-effective to recruit patients for clinical trials. The tool displays the info on a map in real time using public data and machine learning.
Don’t get tied down by your in-house staff. It can constrain you in an unhealthy way.
A change mindset is key to the modern IT organization – you must be able to get people to experiment outside their narrow field of expertise.
Partners must also be permitted to fail. Outsourcing won't work, if you see you partners exclusively as suppliers, who are not allowed to make any kind of mistakes.
This year's Expectation Barometer delves into the opportunities awaiting Danish and international companies, and their readiness to scale their digital initiatives. What differences are there? And where? And what does it require - strategically, technologically and organizationally - to scale such digital
initiatives? We call this Digital at Scale.
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