"For my industry, data is the underlying currency," he says.
It wasn't easy to get to this point. As High points out, the daily efforts to keep your own company running can consume a lot of an IT organization's time. When Thomas came to Quintiles in 2005, he brought in new leadership to change the culture from the top and shift his people into also thinking about the problems the company is trying to solve for its customers.
"That work [on the infrastructure] can fill the day, and unless your focus is on the big problems, how can you know that you're making a difference?" he says.
As the shift has taken hold, Thomas and his people have formed close relationships with the marketing and sales groups within Quintiles, since that is where the real expertise in turning services into product lives. He has also emphasized to his staff the importance of listening to external customers as well as the leaders within the company.
This process of learning about customer needs is creating another commercial service that could have a huge revenue potential, Thomas says. Over the past three years, Thomas' staff has been working with global giant Eli Lilly to create a new service for designing clinical drug trials. They created a team of people from both companies, set up shop in Indianapolis, where Eli Lilly is headquartered, and spent almost three years creating a process that is heavily reliant on analytics and data visualization.
Now that work is bearing fruit. Eli Lilly has a service designed for its needs, and Quintiles is starting to market that service to other pharmaceutical companies. Full launch is still in the works, but Quintiles is already seeing more than $400 million in new business from early sales that include this new offering, Thomas says.
Consequently, executives decided to set up a new business unit for the service--called the Center for Integrated Drug Development--with its own P&L. Quintiles appointed Rick Sax, SVP and global head of integrated clinical services, to lead the unit. While Sax is staffing up the front office, Thomas's IT staff is handling the technology back end, and what Thomas says was "just an exciting idea" three years ago is now on the verge of being another IT-driven service in Quintiles' product portfolio.
Seizing the Opportunity
Technology can be especially powerful when it improves the sales process. TBC Corp. operates multiple tire and automotive services brands throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico, including Big O Tires, National Tire and Battery, and Midas. In every retail and service location, sales associates are faced with an overwhelming variety of options for the many makes, models and model years of vehicles. When the company decided to upgrade its existing point-of-sale systems, CIO Steve Smith saw an opportunity to streamline the sales process.
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