Scaling data, school of fish
Digital at Scale

Lundbeck is ready for the next digital quantum leap

CIO Claus Thomsen announces that digitalization has gotten its own part of the business strategy at Lundbeck. This will make it easier to evaluate the technology and to determine how it can be improved, while at the same time protecting the pharma company.

The digitalization process has left its marks all over the company and, over the last twelve months, Lundbeck has added both a dedicated cloud department and a science department to its IT division’s organizational diagram. Even the pharma company’s business strategy has been amended, adding a new digital focus to create a solid foundation for future decisions on digital initiatives.

The new strategic focus on digitalization is anchored in the department of business development and includes a representative from each of Lundbeck’s business areas. They are in turn supported by a digital council, all facilitated by CIO Claus Thomsen’s organization.

"At this moment we are working with 80 different digital initiatives distributed across every part of our value chain. From back-end solutions and R&D to customer experience. It’s everything from classic chatbots to a new voice application for the Chinese market and innovative ways of using data. As an example, we have a new digital solution based on publicly available data which will show where in the world it’s cheapest to recruit participants for clinical experiments," says Thomsen.

Science culture meets tech culture
The primary objectives of the ongoing initiatives revolve around improvement of existing business processes and reduction of costs. It has only been necessary in a few cases to change the company’s fundamental business model – a model in which the physical pharmaceutical is still very much at the center of attention. An example of a digital supplement to Lundbeck’s pharmaceuticals is the digital services which support the way that patients use pharmaceuticals or handle their illnesses. Thomsen explains that there are several reasons why the company’s focus on digitalization continues to revolve around its core business processes.

"One reason is that it is very regulated how and to what extent we are allowed to have contact with the patients. Another reason is that some of our science people are a bit skeptical of the possibilities of combining biology and technology to contribute to recovery and increased quality of life. But the skepticism is changing for the better, especially among the younger generation of doctors - who often have a better understanding of digitalization."

But there are also simpler business considerations to take into account.

"The company’s core product is still based on a pill or injection which the patient must ingest to recover. Therefore, our products are still physical and not digital. If we develop digital supplementing services, there’s a potential risk that those services can be used by competitors with counterfeit products. With that risk in mind, it’s crucial that we consider how we invest in digital supplements to pharmaceuticals if the patent at some point expires," says Thomsen.

Internal seminars about innovation start-ups
Lundbeck uses an extensive ecosystem of digital partners and distributers. Among other things, Lundbeck occasionally hosts internal innovation start-up days – to which start-ups are invited to present their ideas to employees from all parts of the company.

"Every start-up is given fifteen minutes to pitch their idea. Afterwards people are gathered in groups to discuss the pitches and contribute to the idea development. These days have contributed to making digital a part of the agenda and to getting people to talk together in new ways. Furthermore, the start-up days give us a whole new perspective on our partners. Some ideas die immediately while others evolve," says
Thomsen, and continues:

"It’s all about utilizing people’s strengths. Start-up partners are very skilled at being creative and building prototypes. But when the idea is tested, they are not the right people to realize it. From that point on we have better prerequisites on our own to scale it and ensure compliance".

Internally at Lundbeck there is no shortage of volunteers who want to help with the testing of new technologies. In fact, the readiness creates positive challenges from time to time.

"Sometimes people want to put themselves in a position digital leads because it sounds exciting. As a result, the professional and technological debate blends with politics, and a disagreement about the ownership of the digital project occurs. But it is a luxury problem that so many people volunteer. It’s definitely positive for Lundbeck that our employees have the motivation and an appetite for developing and testing digital possibilities."

New and old digital threats
One precaution that takes focus from all the others when talking about digitalization is: safety! And the management board of Lundbeck has an ever-increasing focus on that very subject.

"The health sector is, together with the energy industry and the telecom industry, one of the most vulnerable areas when it comes to cyber threats. Because of that, there is a great willingness from the company management to prioritize safety in everything we do. When it comes to the health sector, it’s clear that industrial espionage and cyber criminality are the biggest threats, and the presence of Lundbeck on the global market increases both the complexity of the threats and at the same time the ways in which the company secures its data. We feel how the cyber criminals have become more aggressive and shrewder," says Claus Thomsen.

Digital facts about Lundbeck

  • Over the last ten years Lundbeck has moved away from developing its own solutions and today the company has very little actual development. The infrastructure consists of a set of standard packages and if something new is to be tested, it most often happens as agile projects with AWS or Azure as platforms.
  • Lundbeck experiments with the use of VR instead of written standard procedures when employees are to be educated in new procedures. This gives – among others – the advantage that VR contributes with a visual element which can show methods and concepts which normally can be difficult to express as written information.
  • As a pharma company, Lundbeck has a big focus on compliance as a part of the company DNA. Claus Thomsen has experienced a clear shift with the authorities over the last couple of years. Whereas earlier the IT part of compliance was almost non-existent, today the authorities have hired IT specialists who look into every little detail of solutions, access control and more.

Claus Thomsen’s best tips for the agile CIO

  • Find out how digital the company should be and what role IT should play in it. Whether you as CIO will be taking the lead or a more retiring andreceiving position, making a clear definition of the role of IT in the digitalization of your company will be your opportunity to improve the chances of success.

  • Choose the right people for the job, both internally and from your ecosystem. An agile and innovative start-up company can be an inspiring partner but at the same time lack insight into operations and compliance from a GxP perspective, or if the right solution must be scaled.

  • Agility is not automatically for the better. It must make sense with the solution and with the organization. As an example, Lundbeck often uses a hybrid project model where the agile elements are being incorporated into classic waterfall projects. Until now we’ve only used agile teams in a few cases, but we are experimenting with it.