Adopting public cloud in AstraZeneca took some 'risk balancing'

AstraZenecais using cloud technology to collaborate with external organisations, harmonise business processes across sites and generate innovation for new drug creation - but it had to balance the risks to do so, it’s senior enterprise architect said during Cloud World Forum.

The firm have recently completed some large cloud adoption projects, including migrating 10,000 employees mailboxes from on-premise to Microsoft 365 mail and calendar, deploying Sharepoint online. It has just deployed a new intranet portal on that hosts 20,000 pages of content for employees and partners like researchers, “because we no longer feel employees are the only people who need to access information”, senior enterprise architect Ian Helliwell said.

Confidential drug data

The pharmaceutical firm, which turns over $26 billion a year, also gave its 51,000 employees access to Box to share files and encourage collaboration worldwide in January.

However, AstraZeneca is in a “challenging business environment” and moving tools to the cloud has been a difficult process, Helliwell added.

“We have to keep lots of data for a long time”, he explained.  The firm is responsible for clinical and drug data for the life-span of a drug patent  - plus thirty years.

Confidential resarch, development and discovery of new drugs is the pharmaceutical's "lifeblood" and the firm is heavily invested in securing it. However researchers and universities now expect to work with large medical manufacturers in a digital way. This meant AstraZeneca had to consider whether security risks like dual editing tools in Google docs, for example, outweighed the benefits of giving employees and partners the means to work more effectively.

'Educate your employees'

For firms that are considering cloud-based tools, Helliwell advised: “You need to make sure your employees are empowered by educated. You need policies and codes of conduct, but you also need to educate them.

“You have to accept that the risk profile is going to change, but look at things in a different way. For example, is availability of information more important that the confidentiality of it?..You really need to balance the risks.”

How long will the migration take?

Legacy IT, including a sprawling SAP estate spanning seven global ECCs; 50,000 employees and heavy regulations made moving on-premise tools to the cloud challenging, Helliwell added.

The mailbox migration, for example, was not as simple as first planned.

“Microsoft told us they could move our mailbox in 42 days. But it’s not whether the vendor can move the data but whether you can support the business change; the network can support extra bandwidth.”

End-to-end, the migration took AstraZeneca a year.

“It’s worth it - but go in with your eyes open”, Helliwell added.

AstraZenecawill begin publishing clinical trial data through a 'Data Transparency Portal' as part of a larger transparency program that will post data on public websites regardless of trial outcomes.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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