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Serving up healthy ideasweb enabling enterprise data: AstraZeneca

Stylus Systems assisted a multinational pharmaceutical company in providing better service by helping them track their retailer Institutional buyer network on the web. We defined the most appropriate approach for optimizing their sell-side supply chain functions across divisions varied customer groups (Regional, Trusts and hospitals) and geographies. This ensured that all these customers players in their supply chain reduced costs and eliminated inefficiencies in their systems. In addition, the solution provided a way for AstraZeneca to increase customer satisfaction and sales by providing these customers up to date information on their status of their purchases from their supplier , as well as provided a forum for feedback on supply related issues to the company.

Faster access to information online, especially information that swells from microscopic packets into mammoth proportions in a few seconds is one of the most significant reasons for any organization wanting to collaborate on the web today. Any customer needs first hand information in order to make the right decisions at the right time.

Transporting all the required data to the web is not a simple case of just moving all the data online. Information can be of varying degrees of complexity and can involve large databases and complex applications. Also, customers want to interact with data on the web in real-time. Keeping these features in mind, we worked on providing Astra Zeneca with a meaningful web presence and this case study tells you that story.

Case history
The UK marketing organization of AstraZeneca, a multinational pharmaceutical company sells medicines to the hospital sector through a variety of pharmaceutical wholesalers. The company enters into direct agreements with hospitals or consortia of hospitals and trusts in a region to agree to use a certain volume of products over a 12-month period in return for an agreed percentage discount. The wholesalers are then notified by the company about the correct discount to charge the hospital for the medicine that is then delivered as per demand from that hospital over the period of the agreement.

These agreements can be made at various levels or hierarchies – at the individual hospital level, or at the trust level that centrally manages hospitals, consortium level that manages a group of trusts and finally at the regional level comprising all hospitals in a certain region.

Business Challenge
Paper-based agreements of such a magnitude are difficult to manage. What adds to the complexity is that all these agreements are made at different prices. Thus a typical hospital would be able to purchase the same drug from Astra Zeneca at different prices, depending on which agreement they were referring to. In addition to the inefficiencies it brought into the purchasing process, it also made useless, any analysis of sales data for strategy formulation. It was often difficult to analyse the data on the of the purchase of a particular drug to a particular hospital, since purchases were logged in under many different agreements. Until now an intermediary organization, NDC – Health made such information available to wholesalers from the individual hospital purchasing points. This raw data is linked to the relevant hospital or Trust and stored in a data warehouse. Multiple contact points made it difficult to integrate multiple transactions and present a single point of contact to the customer. The end result was a confused customer and confused marketing team.

In addition to this, there were other issues that the sales force needed to address. Often proper information regarding new drug releases and availability of existing drugs was not going to the customers accurately, or sufficiently early. Could the supply chain solution that Stylus help meet the need to keep the customers informed on the latest changes in the product line, while also providing, in alow cost manner, a way to get customer feedback on these changes?

A pharmaceutical company needs to collect data from millions of people and use this information effectively to produce better and more affordable drugs. Building an electronic infrastructure that will enable this company to compile all this data is a major challenge because of the variety of sources, formats and complexity of the information that pharmaceutical companies must handle.

ROI – Return on Information
Based on the study of the requirements, Astra Zeneca IT specialists and Stylus designers, came up with an on-line account management system for hospitals on a password-protected website. This extranet would provide a way to allow purchasers to view account information at Regional, Consortium, Trust and Hospital Levels depending on the level of the agreement held with Astra Zeneca. This kind of a service would make entering into an agreement with Astra Zeneca more attractive and elevate them as an organization, in addition to providing the company with a competitive advantage and thus drive sales. A portal technology that aggregated customer touch-points and inaugurated a value chain that had an immediate effect on customer retention and ROI. (say, what?)

Expected benefits: Streamlining and integrating the supply chain

  • A service that opened up a rapid channel of communication to a key customer group whereby purchasers could be alerted to special offers, short-line stock, product changes, etc
  • A place to post company information such as legal documentation, background product information and technical specifications.
  • Agreement tracking at different hierarchies – Customized access to users from different levels.
  • Help users query about supply issues, clinical and medical issues.

Solution: A supply chain initiative under a single umbrella
The data collected by the Health Care Organization NDC is collected in the data warehouse and stored there. This data was extracted and transferred on to the extranet for use by their entire retailer network. Our technical team at Stylus developed this solution for them by extracting the information from their data warehouse and then exporting it to the web in a secure manner.

In effect, what Stylus did was to help combine their services and their retailer network using the power of the Internet to aggregate and share data. Such a wealth of information available online allows for dynamic user interaction. Participants in the supply chain could then work more effectively towards improving their key services.

The site displays 3 levels of agreement information. Information that each user sees is personalized, depending on the role he plays within the network. Level 1 provides an overview of each agreement; its status and whether all products covered under the agreement are performing on target. Drilling down from Level 1 to Level 2 provides a product list relating to the agreement and details like the brand name, pack size, target volumes and performance percentages etc. Level 3 allows the user to view the historical data about the agreement and also identify a sub-account and it’s performance in relation to the commitment made at the beginning of the agreement period.

Access to data in real time: From paper to the Web
What the new extranet has on offer:

  • Provides customized information and site access privileges to each user
  • Allows users to store and share documents online. Account details can be viewed and edited on-line.
  • Eliminates repetitive data entry thus leading to increased efficiency and timesaving.
  • Access to sub-accounts based on the hierarchy of the user. Users can initially see purchase data for the selected product at the Regional Level and at this stage the user can expand the information to reveal purchase data from each sub-account. (This would allow the user to identify whether the sub-account is performing well in relation to the commitment made to the Regional Purchaser at the beginning of the agreement period.)
  • Product status data and technical specifications.
  • Alerts on supply, clinical and medical issues.
  • Facility to post queries on supply and medical issues online.

In short, web enabling their database helped them build a comprehensive resource and support site that enabled a real-time tracking of all their supplier and distributor networks that form a part of their global infrastructure.

In short , Stylus helped deploy a cost-saving and revenue enhancement strategy that effectively integrated AstraZeneca’s institutional buyer network and made all their transactions transparent, thus saving millions and simultaneously improving customer service and reducing inventories.

Technology: ASP, SQL and XML and Microsoft Excel
Gazing through the crystal ball
Collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment involves more than just throwing data “over the fence” between hospitals or trusts and the company. Getting data visibility in real time meant tracking transactions and agreements online, but also using this data to forecast demand. Which in turn would help shape demand and aid them in coming up with the best price that the user wants. Collaborative planning helped reduce order cycle times from months to weeks.

The Alerts system permits all parties to post and review changes but also detects alarming situations when the supplier and the retailer may be targeting different dates or similar situations that can generate proactive alerts.

Achieving operational excellence through strategy is the key to exemplary customer service. What customers need today is speed, elimination of errors and the freedom to interact whenever convenient to them.

Customer-centricity is the key business imperative driving the move to web-enabled data access today. More superior information about customers can be learned because of their interaction online. This process of gleaning more and more information about customers can create a spiral effect that will enhance the “core competency” of an organization and also provide the best competitive advantage to an organization.

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