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Global pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca needed some strong medicine of its own to fix a burgeoning IT-asset-management problem brought about by multiple acquisitions and their non-standard gear, a high-tech workforce spread across 255 facilities in 147 countries, and in total more than 67,000 employees using more than 90,000 hardware and software assets ranging from notebooks up to SAP and Oracle enterprise applications and databases.
With software vendors becoming more aggressive on audits as sales of new products are generally weak, and with greater internal collaboration requiring a more consistent set of tools to simplify processes and maintenance, the $31 billion pharmaceuticals company realized a few years ago that Microsoft's Systems Management Server was simply overmatched for the job of managing the global enterprise's complex base of IT assets.
So Microsoft recommended the asset-management products offered by a French company called PS'Soft, which is a subsidiary of BDNA Corp., a top provider of IT infrastructure inventory and analysis solutions. And in the years that AstraZeneca has been steadily getting its IT assets under control, PS'Soft has distinguished itself like few other IT vendors, according to AstraZeneca Global IT Asset lead Bernard Warrington. (The delightful Mr. Warrington retired from AstraZeneca on Dec. 31 but was kind enough to share his experiences in between rounds of golf.)
"In all my years, our engagement with PS'Soft was one of the first and only times we had an IT vendor show such willingness to work as a true partner and really try to solve our problems with us," Warrington said in a recent phone conversation.
Referring to PS'Soft's Julian Moreau, Warrington described the uniquely open collaboration that allowed him and his team to understand the problem, design the solution, and then execute on that plan.
"Julian and I worked extremely closely together, and from there our partnership cascaded down to the other members of the team," Warrington said. "But I need to be very clear about that: in the beginning, the knowledge and expertise were clearly with them—they were teaching and we were learning."
The problem, Warrington said, is that in the increasingly strategic world of IT-asset management, "the toolset itself meets only 30% of the overall need: on top of that, you need to build the processes, understand the costs, come up with standards, develop interfaces with other major vendors, and much more—we simply didn't have all the skills necessary to cover that total lifecycle. But PS'Soft did have those skills, both in-house and through their contacts."
In addition, Warrington said, PS'Soft and BDNA had the global experiences necessary to help AstraZeneca get its arms around its global sprawl of IT gear, which was essential for two reasons:
First, so that the company could begin to gain greater leverage in purchasing negotiations, and second, to be able to fairly but aggressively hold its own during audits by software vendors.
"In so many countries where we operate, the tradition has been that budgets are managed locally, making it impossible to see the global aggregate in detail," Warrington said. "We simply did not have the ability to get a global view. The old tools we used gave us something of a snapshot, but didn't let us have enough insight to be able to manage the situation.
"At the same time, the IT vendors are getting very aggressive with audits, and without offering a specific number I can tell you that millions and millions of dollars are at stake—and before our engagement with PS'Soft, no matter how hard we tried with the old toolset, we were just not able to achieve those potential cost savings from vendors."
Over time, Warrington said, AstraZeneca gained that necessarly level of control and knowledge: "Now AstraZeneca is in a position to enter negotiations from a position of strength, confidence, and knowledge."
And that achievement has given the company a new perspective on the realm of IT-asset management, Warrington said: "Too many companies just look on IT asset management as nothing more than beancounting, versus looking deeper and understanding the ROI and ROA that can be achieved.
"But we learned first-hand that there is a huge opportunity to get control over what you have, to satisfy even the most rigorous audit, and to negotiate better contracts. And that's a lot more than beancounting."
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