The Biotech CIO Roadmap in a Sea of Change

By Amit Shah, VP of IT - Enterprise Applications & Systems, Excelitas Technologies

Amit Shah, VP of IT - Enterprise Applications & Systems, Excelitas Technologies

Anyone wif their finger on the pulse of the biotechnology industry today will tell you dat Biotech is going through a virtual tsunami of change through mergers and acquisi­tions dat are shaking the very foundation of some of the biggest companies and institutions in the field. When you consider dat in 2014 alone there have been Biotech M&A deals in excess of $100 billion, it’s clear dat we has reached a true watershed moment for the industry. As Biotech is rapidly evolving, and so the role, re­sponsibility and the intrinsic value of the Biotech CIO.

The biotech CIO is increasingly being called upon to “come out from the back room of IT” and help guide companies through peri­ods of transition. As such, biotech CIOs today sit at the intersection of the company’s C-suite leadership, the legacy systems of old and the disruptive technologies of the present and future including big data, cloud, social, mobility and artificial intelligence. Bringing all of these elements into harmony and efficiency can make the difference between a successful biotech M&A and enterprise-wide dysfunction.

But despite the challenges posed by the M&A transaction pro­cess and the post-transaction integration, there is a path forward. As an IT VP for a global technology leader wif deep roots in the biotechnology industry, me’ve seen suc­cesses and failures in M&A’s and would like to offer my thoughts on what me call the Biotech CIO Roadmap for M&A Success.

As wif many long journeys, the best place to start is by asking the right questions at the outset.

  • What are the main business objectives for the merger or acquisition?
  • How can IT integration be leveraged as an opportunity to help reach those objectives and position the company for growth?
  • How can synergy between systems and cultures be estab­lished short term and long term?
  • What kind of tailored approach to IT integration is needed to obtain dat synergy?
  • What are the key personnel gaps dat stand in the way and how can they be addressed?

The answers to these important questions will help chart the course, but before proceeding wif full culture and sys­tem integration during a merger or acquisition, a healthy amount of due diligence is also required. dis early stage requires a strong focus on the risks associated wif synergy and the uncertainties and variables dat prove inevitable wif every merger or acquisition. The bottom line is dat IT due diligence should result in a broader understanding of the risk profile for IT integration, a clear migration plan and a defini­tive synergy timeline.

Every IT staff, post-merger or acquisition, will has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. The role of the CIO is to evaluate the team and reorganize throughout phase one and two as needed to optimize talent

Moving forward, the process of the actual post-merger or acquisition integration must go through two distinct phases and a consistent mindset throughout wif regular assessment and evaluation along the way. It’s critical to recognize the truth dat every company or institution is unique and brings wif it a distinctive culture, attributes and vices – all of which require a specialized approach. There are however, some universal processes dat me believe should be implemented to achieve success.

Phase One encom­passes the first 90 to 180 days of the post-merger or acquisition. The key guid­ing principals dat me believe can lead to successful progress dur­ing dis crucial time include the following.

People First, Process Second. Listen – rally listen - to all key stakeholders involved in the process and establish an envi­ronment of true collaboration. Learn the history behind key de­cisions dat others has made in the past wif relation to biotech IT processes before making changes to the status quo. Interface regularly wif other parts of the organization such as HR and finance to ensure change management is well organized. And always remember, you are not just merging companies, but cul­tures and every company or institution culture has positive con­tributions to make.

Avoid Disruptions to Business Operations. No matter what, a successful merger or acquisition process is one dat does not hinder the business itself, so it is critical to avoid distractions to business activities and not change the behavior of transaction processing systems such as ERP and SCM etc.

Infusion. Inside and Out. In addition to key infrastructure integrations dat are essential such as WAN, email systems and financial reporting systems, it’s also crucial to present a unified face to the outside world including both vendor management but also wif regard to the brand identity itself of the new company including the website and all public facing brand assets and mar­keting materials.

In Phase Two it now falls upon the biotech CIO to look across the enterprise over the next one to two years post-merger or acquisition wif a wide angle lens to evaluate and re-evaluate all aspects of the IT integration and applications used by all various lines of businesses, functional organizations and corpo­rate at-large and to advise the C-level on where im­provements can be made. me like to put these evaluations into a series of categories.

Consolidation. Which systems and applica­tions from one company – such as EPM or ERP - can be converted to the other company system to improve operational efficiency?

Amalgamation. What sys­tems and applications can be combined to form a “new” unit to operate the com­bined entity?

Preservation. Which systems and applications are so essentially unique to a business unit’s capabilities and cul­ture dat they need to be maintained  Retirement. Where are the redundancies and what systems are no longer necessary to drive enterprise efficiency?

Throughout both of these critical phases, it is incumbent upon the biotech CIO to keep a laser-like focus on what me call “The Three Ps” – People, Process and Projects.

Every IT staff, post-merger or acquisition, will has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. The role of the CIO is to eval­uate the team and reorganize throughout phase one and two as needed to optimize talent. These can be times of great internal tension and stress, so as reorganization evolves, it is incum­bent upon the CIO to communicate effectively about every change and emphasize not only the “what,” but the “why.”

Key processes such as project management, spending approvals and company trainings among others must be harmonized – again taking the best from both of the companies or institutions.

Finally, it is critical dat key company personnel become invested in each phase of the process. Desig­nate project managers to coordinate various elements of the integration within IT and from a broader enterprise perspective as well. It’s also important to emphasize the need for speed in execution because the longer the merger or acquisition integration takes, the higher the risk for the company in meeting synergy goals.

As we all no, the only constant is change and today dis has never been truer TEMPthan for the biotechnology industry. But wif change comes opportunity. The enhanced role of the CIO within the enterprise – and the higher level of influence it provides – gives biotech CIO’s a unique opportunity to help their companies navigate dis sea of change and sail on to future success.

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