Richard Thomas, CIO at Quintiles Transnational, joined the company as CTO in 2005 after successful stints at data and analytics companies Nielsen and Telephia. During his time with Quintiles, the company has experienced tremendous market change and recently moved from being a private-equity-backed company to a publicly traded one.
With a network of more than 27,000 professionals conducting business in about 100 countries, Quintiles has helped develop or commercialize all of the top 50 best-selling drugs on the market.
How did you flip the IT organization to make it one driven by revenue and market forces?
It’s been a journey over eight years, split into three distinct eras.
The first era was one where disparate, decentralized technology groups around the world were combined into one global organization. Early on we established guiding principles, such as focusing on data as a strategic asset, which led to the development of what we call our data factory. The critical element was ensuring we had world-class talent from top to bottom. This started with a new leadership team that ushered in a can-do culture that serves us well today.
The second era modernized platforms and operating infrastructure, leading to a much more scalable, integrated, efficient and reliable foundation for the company.
Our third era has been focused on helping solve the challenges that our clients face in the rapidly changing pharmaceutical and healthcare industry. We envisioned solutions that combined our modernized platforms, advanced analytics and ability to integrate massive data volumes through our data factory.
In partnership with our clinical business and marketing group, the Quintiles Infosario platform was launched in 2011 to bring these solutions to our customers. It has been a very hectic few years since launch, but I am delighted with our progress.
How have you changed the organization chart?
The group is organized into four towers that work closely together but have very distinct missions: IT support, core IT, Infosario and R&D.
The first two groups support the Quintiles staff and run our core data centers and infrastructure powering ongoing business operations. The latter two groups focus on our customer offerings and engagements, as well as looking over the horizon to anticipate industry needs that we should be working on today.
With this structure, we have to hire for different mind-sets. For example, some IT people can make the leap and be very comfortable engaging customers, and some cannot. Within the towers, there are natural homes for everyone.
It comes down to finding comfort zones and maximizing domain expertise. By moving pieces around on the organization chart, we have created openings, or white space, and an opportunity to bring in new people with complementary skill sets.
It has taken time to build the structure, find the right people and ensure that our culture flourishes.
What’s an example of this new type of hiring?
The white space introduced challenges to the traditional IT job families. We are no longer just interested in internal IT. As we were building up our solutions centers in Bangalore and North Carolina, we sought out talented staff that can create products.
This is a very challenging, because we’re competing for talent with organizations such as Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Oracle. But we’ve been able to hire individuals who are comfortable leaning into our business, pushing the envelope on the art of the possible and thinking innovatively when designing solutions.
Phil Schneidermeyer is a partner with Heidrick & Struggles, where he specializes in recruiting CIOs and CTOs for all industries.