In 2009 pharmaceutical giant Pfizer acquired Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in a $68 billion deal that sent Jeff Keisling, Senior VP and CIO at Pfizer, on a journey aimed at integrating some 500 Wyeth systems into the Pfizer IT portfolio – quickly. At the CIO 100 Symposium and Awards Ceremony in Colorado Springs, Keisling explained how he accomplished the task by maintaining a sharp focus and getting his team invested in the project.

Key to the task was choosing a strong leadership team and getting them embedded with the businesses they would serve, so they “had a seat at the table.”

Next Keisling established a set of five core values (which he did not name) and explained what they were to the entire global organization. The idea was to ensure that the IT organization and the business side shared the same values and worked towards the same goal.

Finally, he created an integration playbook that outlined a set of repeatable processes, to “institutionalize” how to go about a merger (as well as a divestiture). The playbook “adds tremendous speed and agility in our ability to move through the portfolio of products in the company,” he said.

And there was no shortage of products, with some 55 financial systems alone. Kesiling and his team poured through all of them, selecting the best options from both the Pfizer and Wyeth portfolios, with no preconceived notions.

Fast forward to today and the company has successfully deployed a single global instance of itsERP platform to cover all global operations, manufacturing and supply chain. What made the difference was structuring around those core processes and having a consistent global implementation.

“The key for us was vanilla; one set of standards, one common set of business practices,” he said. “Our view was there’s a broad range of things that happen in the enterprise that don’t uniquely add value to the company.”

The Wyeth acquisition was really just another in a two decades-long consolidation in the pharma industry, Keisling noted. At the same time, the pharma industry is fundamentally changing. Whereas once it focused on developing drugs that would have a mass market appeal, now it is far more targeted, focusing on problems that may affect only 5% to 6% of the population.

That puts the focus more squarely on business intelligence. In practice, it means taking petabytes of human genome information, combining it with clinical data about patients and making it available and easy to mine for the scientists and medical professionals who can make sense of it.

And it’s working, as evident by a new, highly targeted cancer drug now on the fast track for approval later this year.

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