Oriola-KD makes IT work in the East and the West
CIO Heikki Lahdensuo of Oriola-KD knows how to make IT serve the working cultures of three countries. The Swedish and Russian ways of doing things are far from each other, but a Finn between them finds something familiar in both of them.
Over the past years, Oriola-KD has grown and become increasingly international, focusing strategically on retail and wholesale of pharmaceuticals. The company has been seeking growth in expanding its business to pharmaceuticals retail and wholesale in Russia. Moreover, the company launched pharmaceuticals retail business in Sweden after the pharmacy monopoly fell there last year.
IT is the artery of business operations, as it provides control over wholesale product volumes, delivery requirements and speed. Pharmacies, too, lean heavily on IT systems.
”Earlier IT development was reactive. The IT department developed solutions at the business unit's requests. The end result was not always the best or as cost-efficient as possible. Over the past years we have learnt to work together. Our needs are prioritised earlier on and we implement the jointly agreed projects. Thereby we have better control over costs and development projects,” CIO Heikki Lahdensuo says.
However, it's a balancing act that requires the skills of a ropedancer from the CIO.
”The company can't afford to let IT costs go through the roof, because wholesale and the pharmaceuticals distribution business operate with huge volumes and thin margins. The industry couldn't survive without the systems, but it is an equally impossible situation where the systems were developed or maintained at any cost.”
Towards a unified IT process
”During the past year we have been transforming the Group towards a pure pharmaceutical wholesale and retail enterprise. We have divested our healthcare retail business, but it still rather heavily permeates our IT systems. Clearing it out effectively and smoothly is pretty high on our priority list,” Heikki Lahdensuo says.
In Russia, the company is aiming to standardise its IT infrastructure and develop new systems to support the business. In the longer run the goal is to use the solutions in the other group companies.
”We just finished an architecture survey project which is now in the early stages of being put into practice. Our group companies are still quite independent and in different stages of development. In the future we will be better able to utilise each other's strengths. We are seeking synergy. We may never become a group with one set of unified IT processes, but that's the direction we are headed in.”
Lahdensuo is on the move every week. One hour on the plane takes him either to Sweden or Russia. In the eastern neighbour he lands in Moscow, whereas in Sweden his destination is Stockholm with the pharmacy business head office, and Gothenburg, which is next to Mölnlycke, the home of the wholesales head office.
”I should spend even more time with both of our neighbours. The biggest tasks at hand are, in fact, clearly in Sweden and Russia.”
”Us being a company that has grown through acquisitions, the maturity, culture, IT systems and architecture have developed at their own individual pace and in their own individual direction. We haven't tried to force feed the same architecture and model into the new units – at this stage. Of course, we aim to unify our infrastructure services, but the markets are different, and their requirements likewise.”
Currently Oriola-KD is developing its IT functions one business area at a time.
”We do, however, keep in mind that at some point the architecture will be unified. We have reached the point where we are selectively able to utilise things that have already been done somewhere else in the company.”
There is no need for the systems to communicate between the three countries.
”Reporting will of course be centralised. Within the market there is a definite need for information that our operations generate. We distribute pharmaceuticals on behalf of various pharmaceutical principals and the pharmaceutical industry. They are highly interested in knowing how well and where their products sell. This is clearly a developing and increasingly sought after service in each country.”
This time Heikki Lahdensuo starts off his Monday at the head office in Espoo. In Lahdensuo's opinion, a CIO must have a reasonable insight in the requirements of the company's operations. Only then is CIO able to translate development needs into IT requirements. The CIO will then be able to offer solutions, challenge the requirements and have constructive discussions on the topic.
The IT infrastructure of Lääketukku Oriola-KD is managed by Fujitsu's Patja service. The latest contract was signed in August 2010. Patja was first adopted in 2004, and in 2008 it expanded to cover voice services.
Oriola-KD's Patja service incorporates workstations, servers, network services and printing management. The voice services include fixed and mobile phone network subscriptions and traffic, Peitto-wlan, lifecycle services as well as Fujitsu Pushmail and VoIP voice services with contact centre functionalities.