Cloud HR tools support 'transformation' of pharmaceutical industry, say Workday customers

Workday's software as a service HR tools are facilitating the 'reinvention' of the pharmaceutical industry by unifying management of large global workforces, according to some of the market's largest firms.


Workday's software as a service HR tools are facilitating the 'reinvention' of the pharmaceutical industry by unifying management of large global workforces, according to some of the market's largest firms.

Speaking as part of a panel at Workday's first European customer conference in London on Tuesday, IT and HR leaders at three of the largest healthcare and pharma companies - GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi and AstraZeneca - highlighted the importance of cloud HR tools in modernising their businesses to manage tens of thousands of staff.

"We are really in an industry that is the process of reinventing itself," said Denis Sacre VP for HR services at Sanofi. “Like many other pharmaceutical companies, Sanofi grew massively through mergers and acquisitions over the last few years. But, as much as we do a good job of integrating the front end side of the business, it is more cumbersome when you go to back-office functions, particularly HR."

Sanofi announced last October that it would be replacing a number of large HR applications with one unified cloud-based HCM application for core HR and talent management across the entire organisation. According to Sacre the project was necessary to resolve some of the challenges of Sanofi's highly acquisitive nature - buying up to 30 new businesses a year since 2008.

Sacre said the company intends to go live with Workday HCM by the end of 2015 for 70,000 of its 100,000 staff by the end of 2015. This will allow the firm to gain better insight into the talent within its organisation, as it moves into new fields such as genetics and animal health.

"[Sanofi] requires new skills, new ways of working across the entire company, and the ability to identify where the talents are. That was a big driver for going to Workday, in terms of building a common layer across the entire company from a data and process management perspective."

"The reality is that we are in a business that needs a radical change, and where we were working pretty much in silos before, now we need to work in a much more transversal way across the different business lines of the company."

Another global pharmaceutical customer, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), began implementing Workday in 2012 as part of its 'Gemini' HR transformation programme, replacing 50 legacy applications. A phased rollout is currently underway, and is expected to see 75,000 employees in 75 countries on the system by the end of 2014.

California-based firm Workday competes with other HR software providers such as SAP and Oracle, both of which also provide software as a service tools following acquisitions of SuccessFactors and Taleo respectively, as well as traditional on-premise versions. 

According to Clare Hickie, head of technlogy for the Gemini project, GSK chose Workday over solutions from other suppliers to help manage its global workforce with a single tool.

"GSK has been transforming a company since around 2008 and that has been as a result of having to adjust to the dramatic changes in the pharmaceutical industry," she said.

"We wanted simpler ways of working for HR and our customers, and one global people management system, with effective HR contact channels and information and resources.

"Workday won [the contract] hands down against SAP and Oracle Fusion due to cost and flexibility, and the fact that it does not involve any customisation."

Also speaking at the event, Dave Smoley, CIO for British-Swedish multinational AstraZeneca, revealed the firm is in the process of deploying Workday to 66,000 staff across 130 countries and in 12 languages.The company expects the system will go live in June 2015 as part of a 'big bang' deployment, having begun global design and the localisation phases.

Earlier this year, healthcare device manufacturing firm Medtronic highlighted its own project to move 45,000 global staff from Oracle PeopleSoft systems and onto Workday, as its business outside of the US grew substantially.

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