Leading global biotech firm embraces cloud collaboration to focus on patients with rare diseases

Shire, a global leader in serving patients with rare diseases, strives to develop therapies across a range of therapeutic areas. After acquiring biopharmaceutical company Baxalta and its more than 17,000 employees in 2016, Shire adopted Microsoft Office 365 to support the communication and collaboration needs of the larger combined organization. The result has been a smooth transition of affected IT systems and closer, mutually supportive work within and among product teams.

Serving underserved patients

A typical large pharmaceutical company devotes much of its resources to developing drugs for conditions that affect large populations. But biotechnology company Shire focuses on patients who suffer from rare diseases for which treatments might not otherwise exist. “We have a passion for patients who are underserved,” says Matt Walker, Head of Technical Operations at Shire. “There are approximately 7,000 rare diseases, and only about 5 percent of them have an approved treatment. They represent a huge medical need, and we exist to address them.”

Researching and developing new drugs is expensive and difficult. It takes many talented people and a well-managed business. The Shire business model encompasses not only internal research but also the evaluation and acquisition of other companies so that it can serve patients with the best and brightest employees, products, and technologies, while also maximizing global access.

Establishing a global footprint

Shire has an ambitious plan to serve rare-disease patients. As part of the plan, the company acquired Baxalta in 2016—a move that immediately more than quadrupled its total number of employees. The newly combined company has products in more than 100 countries around the globe, which provides wider access to important therapies. Shire was determined to integrate its people and processes as quickly as possible but knew it would have to transform how it operates to handle such rapid growth. Shire recognized that cloud solutions would play a critical role in that transformation and in fostering an environment where a globally dispersed workforce could work together effectively. Says Walker, “We need to be connected. We need to be able to work without geographic or time restrictions if we’re going to move our programs forward to meet patients’ needs and our revenue goals.”

With those goals in mind, the company standardized on Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based productivity services, including OneDrive for Business to more safely access documents anywhere on any device and SharePoint Online to manage content, knowledge, training, and apps. The company also created The Hub, a digital workspace, using Office 365 to go beyond a traditional intranet by taking advantage of the full suite of modern Microsoft communication, collaboration, and productivity tools. Wei Wong, Commercial Analytics Lead at Shire says, “With OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online, all employees can now access news and documents centrally instead of using disparate legacy systems. Using The Hub with Office 365 has greatly accelerated our information sharing and brand planning efforts.”

Creating a universal destination for communication and collaboration

The company uses The Hub to publish engaging, up-to-date content for its newly expanded global and mobile workforce by incorporating the latest SharePoint releases, including modern communication and team sites, OneDrive for Business, and other productivity tools. The Hub has been critical in providing employees with information about the corporate integration and enabling them to get their work done. Paul Cassidy, Interim CIO and Head of IT Integration at Shire says, “People ask, ‘How do I do this task now? What’s happening with corporate benefits? How do I work cross-functionally? Who do I reach out to if I have a question? What’s happening with leadership and my function?’ We’re now able to address all these questions using The Hub with its communication and collaborative tools.”

Jim Lyver, Collaboration Services Lead at Shire, explains that The Hub weaves together day-to-day collaboration tools, SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, Yammer, email, instant messaging, and mobility. “I’m most excited about the high-quality experience on mobile devices and traditional web browsers alike,” he says. “Mobile access to content on OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online is key for our productivity. And it helps to have the option to share a link rather than attach documents in email. I also consider the security features in OneDrive for Business and SharePoint reassuringly comprehensive.”

Encouraging employee involvement and feedback

The Hub’s centralized, globally accessible communication sites solicit feedback from employees and direct it back to the content owners. Nicole Rojas, Head of Digital Communications at Shire says, “When we jumped from about 5,000 to almost 24,000 employees seemingly overnight, we were able to start from scratch with Office 365 and quickly build a modern, seamless corporate-communication solution that serves everyone. The Hub is our home for all things Office 365—one destination for all our employees around the globe.”

Each functional area has a content owner with a clear understanding of that area’s audience and has been trained on Shire’s publishing standards to ensure that information is in the right format and follows The Hub’s governance guidelines. “The Hub isn’t something you just use and walk away from,” says Carlos Pelayo, Lead IT Business Partner for Communications and Public Affairs at Shire. “It’s also about empowering content owners and optimizing each team’s ability to communicate, work better, and be more productive.”

Collaborating anytime, anywhere

Many in management were impressed to find that Shire could implement such comprehensive functionality on a single platform to keep employees informed, engaged, and working cohesively. “We used to do things in a very siloed way,” says Cassidy. “To provide, share, or retrieve information about a specific project or program, for example, you had to be in a certain place at a certain time. Now, I can be anywhere, anytime, and not only give my colleagues useful content but also the ability to contribute.” He adds that colleagues collectively share and work on documents with a purpose and a direction that they can immediately respond to, helping them reach desired outcomes faster.

Wong sees the Yammer enterprise social network as another key communication tool for the company, particularly to build a community and share real-time updates. “Someone might see a post or thread in Yammer and think, ‘Hey, I didn’t know this person was interested in this issue’ or ‘That was a really great speaker at the conference. I’ll connect with that person and discuss it more,’” she says. Wong believes that Yammer will continue to bring employee communities together and bring to light real-time employee activities. “Once we started using Yammer to post about various events, engagement skyrocketed.”

Preparing for ongoing growth

Shire will continue to face new challenges and opportunities—more facilities, products, initiatives, and employees to manage. But it will also be able to help more patients. Will Tilton, Group Vice President, Due Diligence and Integration at Shire says, “When you see a patient right in front of you who has a rare disease, talking about their life’s journey, it’s really powerful, really moving—and that’s what inspires everyone at Shire.”

Lyver agrees and concludes, “With Office 365, we’re achieving our vision of accessing our business content and communicating across the globe—anywhere, anytime, on any device, in a more secure way. By moving to Office 365, we’ve empowered our employees to support patients across geographies, around the clock, on weekends and holidays, in varied cultures, in different languages. It’s truly amazing how we’re able to help improve the lives of patients by using technology.”




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