Q&A: AstraZeneca CIO Cindy Hoots on COVID-19, collaboration — and change

Over the past two years, Swedish-English pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has been at the heart of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, developing a vaccine and supplying more than 2.5 billion doses to people in 170 countries.

Like most organizations, it was forced to shift rapidly to a remote-work model for many of its 70,000 employees when the pandemic struck in March 2020. Connecting a range of workers, including lab staff, was vital to maintaining operations during what was an unprecedented period, said Cindy Hoots, AstraZeneca’s chief information officer and chief digital officer. Doing so meant relying on a variety of digital communications platforms such as Meta’s Workplace, the social network that Hoots said proved instrumental in connecting staff, whether they were working remotely or in one AstraZeneca’s laboratories.

Cindy Hoots AstraZeneca

Cindy Hoots, AstraZeneca’s chief information officer and chief digital officer.

The following is a lightly edited account of a recent discussion with Hoots about AstraZeneca’s workplace collaboration strategy.

You are both the CIO and CDO at Astra Zeneca. What do each of those roles entail? “In the CIO role, I lead up all of technology for AstraZeneca globally. It’s about how we leverage technology as a competitive advantage, and how we think about not only infrastructure and cyber and data analytics foundations, but also all the applications and the support services that sit on top.

“We are predominantly an insourced IT organization; most of our IT team are AstraZeneca employees and they’re located in our main hubs. So, the US, the UK, Sweden, India, Guadalajara and, in Asia, India being one of our biggest center,s which holds about 45-50% of our employees from an IT perspective.

“In terms of the chief digital officer role, it’s really about how can we leverage new technologies, new mindsets, new ways of working to think about patient care, and how we can discover medicines more quickly and get them through the clinical trial process.

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