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Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca’s new technology centre in Chennai will begin taking control of its global SAP estate by the end of February.

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca’s new technology centre in Chennai will begin taking control of its global SAP estate by the end of this month.

It now has around three hundred staff ready to take over its Asia Pacific SAP Enterprise Central Component (ECC) and will have placed around 700 more IT workers to support AstraZeneca’s remaining seven ECCs, alongside its other IT, by 2016. There will be 1,000 IT staff working on the pharmaceutical's estate but it is yet to be confirmed how many will focus on each function.

The technology centre will focus on “technical leadership”, supporting and developing a range of applications and services from smartphone applications for sales teams to analytical tools, speeding up clinical trials, to deploying analytical tools for scientists.

The centre, which opened its doors last year, will reduce AstraZeneca’s reliance on service providers – part of a larger cost-cutting plan.

It is bringing its SAP estate in-house to assist with an ongoing consolidation of its many ERPs and “hundreds” of disparate systems, project manager at AstraZeneca, Jonathan Charles, said during a Panaya ERP testing summit in Tower Bridge.

The central SAP team have already put best practice measures in place to avoid duplication across testing for migrations and upgrades, Charles added.

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“It’s quick ramp-up. By the end of this year, support for all SAP systems will be done from Chennai in-house. That’s one of the reasons behind the drive to toward standardisation. We can’t have eight ways of doing things in eight different systems.”

As part of this best practice, AstraZeneca has refined its bug-testing processes for upgrades and migrations using a combination of semi-automated testing tool Panaya and SAP solution manager.

Using the tool has “harmonised the way we approach change documents for tests,” Charles said. Employees' test evidence and change documentmentation time has been cut and Panaya stores each test in an online library so they can be re-cycled.

In one instance, AstraZeneca’s testing window was halved thanks to Panaya’s semi-automation features.  IT at the firm’s Macclesfield manufacturing plant used development tests from Panaya’s application as a script that was loaded into SAP Solution Manager, signed off and re-executed.  

But he added that “it works very well in stable areas like purchasing and sales but is a bit clunky on production processes.”

The firm, which outsources some project and support services to Infosys and Computacenter, recently announced it would use cloud-based file-sharing tool Box across the entire organisation, signalling a transition toward cloud-based services.

AstraZeneca underwent a job cull between 2009 and 2012, making over 30,000 job losses over four years. It is currently hiring for a range of IT professionals in its Indian hub.

Image: Flickr/Ana C.