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Case Study
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Case Study

What going digital means for Takeda

Takeda Business Solutions (TBS) fast-tracked its digitalization evolution through an innovative top-down and bottom-up journey.


Should digital transformation be top-down or bottom-up?

Takeda’s finance organization wanted to explore how they could contribute to executing Takeda’s digital transformation

Takeda, headquartered in Japan, is a leading global biopharmaceutical company, one of the largest in Asia and among the top 15 globally by revenue.

Takeda’s global CFO, Costa Saroukos, shaped the vision for finance in which employees “deliver insights and drive value for patients.” He described the priorities as “partnering with the business to reallocate resources so we can deliver on our financial commitments and drive efficiencies across the organization through data and automation.”

This is the story of how Takeda’s finance organization has adopted what is now called Takeda’s Global Data, Digital and Technology (DD&T) organization’s ambition. This ambition is to help transform the company into a trusted, science-driven, digital pharmaceutical company in order to continue to best meet the evolving needs of its patients.

Following its sizeable acquisition of, and subsequent integration with, Shire Pharmaceuticals in 2018, Takeda needed to rapidly accelerate its digital transformation. This is a focus that is reflected in its Corporate Philosophy, in which a key imperative is “unleashing the power of data and digital.”

Takeda Business Solutions (TBS) is a key business partner and enabler of Takeda’s finance vision. It provides simplified and innovative solutions across finance, procurement and human resources. The value TBS creates is freeing up time, so employees can focus on operations that better serve patients. TBS does so with a clear focus on creating exceptional people experiences where its stakeholders feel supported and confident in its solutions.

Saroukos and the newly appointed Senior VP & Global Head of TBS, Sanjay Patel, shared a vision of fostering a culture of digital literacy and citizen-driven innovation that would enable the finance organization to help Takeda deliver on its commitments. To bring this vision to life, TBS partnered with Global DD&T to build an innovation hub to introduce digital solutions, artificial intelligence, robotics, automation and analytics.

This emerging focus on data and being digital-first culminated in an award-winning application – CFOInUrpocket™, a global finance reporting and analytics platform that gives every relevant employee direct access to data and analytical tools via their laptop, smartphone or tablet. And rather than follow the industry trend of outsourcing, the solution was developed leveraging in-house capabilities.

Embarking on that value creation journey, Patel chose an unconventional approach to leapfrog the digital journey. He used a considered balance of top-down classic approach, implementing and embedding the latest technologies and a less traditional bottom-up approach, socializing and democratizing technology throughout the organization. The outcome was surprising.

The focus on being digital-first generated results quickly. A global finance reporting and analytics application was built to give relevant employees direct access to data.

High angle view of old machine part

Starting the digital journey by choice, not by chance

In every challenge, a greater opportunity awaits.

Assessing the landscape and issues at hand

In September 2019, the finance and TBS leadership teams attended an EY-hosted “CFO Space” workshop in Frankfurt to look at “the art of the possible” in finance. Mike Zingg, CFO, SVP Takeda Global Manufacturing, Supply and Quality, attended the session: “Our objective was to move transactional finance activities out of sites and global functions, and to focus on forward-looking, value-adding, strategic finance business partnering,” says Zingg. The overall objective of this CFO Space session was to understand how digital was disrupting finance and how Takeda could best leverage what others had successfully done.

The CFO workshop opened the field wide for TBS to look at data and digital, not just in terms of working capital, cost and cash – but vision and improved people experience.

Following the workshop, in January 2020, Sanjay Patel sponsored a three-day immersive lab with the automation technology provider UiPath and EY teams in Bucharest, kickstarting the beginning of the digital journey. The lab helped attendees address some of the process challenges they were grappling with. “The heavy lifting for finance was the heterogeneous processes and differences in data structure and governance across legacy systems and multiple instances,” says Zingg. “It was a major challenge to harmonise data before handing it over to TBS.”

Creating a roadmap forward

After the CFO workshop and the immersive lab, the TBS team co-created an automation roadmap for TBS. The ambition was to scale up automation within TBS but also to democratize it for a larger group of stakeholders across the entire Takeda organization.

The project was executed in a series of sprints over 90 days, and rather than creating an expert team around the technology, the team around Patel focused on embedding and uplifting digital skills among employees in different areas of Takeda. One of the initiatives was a gamified “digital champions” concept to disseminate awareness and skills in digital, making it challenging and fun to unlock the full automation potential. The first cohort of 21 digital champions joined the program in April 2020, quickly creating buzz across the entire organization and landing placement in Wired and Nikkei.

“We’ve always wanted to democratize technology and innovation to make sure everyone is educated and can benefit from the opportunities it provides,” says Vanessa Gleason, Vice President, TBS Strategy, Process Excellence, and Innovation at Takeda. TBS introduced additional learnings across technologies including Power BI, as well as Agile Methodology, video creation and presentation skills.

An Artificial Intelligence Discovery series also trained employees in AI as a concept and its capabilities, as well as how it applies to their work. The series gave employees the skills needed to identify fresh opportunities to leverage RPA and AI. This culminated in an “AI Ideathon,” which generated a pipeline of 190 ideas. Six were then shortlisted for an “AI Dragon’s Den”, in which employees presented their ideas for entry to the next round, and three were identified for prioritization by the business.

A pipeline of


ideas were generated after an "AI Ideathon."

Being reactive to external challenges

In early 2020, the finance organization received an unexpected opportunity to explore the potential for greater efficiency and value for patients. A TBS provider of scanning optical character reader (OCR) technology was impacted by the first COVID-19 lockdown, and people did not show up for work. It quickly became clear that the provider’s process did not have an immediate backup plan for a situation of this magnitude and relied, to a large degree, on human capital. Broken or inefficient processes can risk delayed payments and strained supplier relationships, which in turn risks patient access to medication. The lockdown immediately started affecting invoice processing, putting the patient journey at risk.

TBS had to react fast. TBS implemented a state-of-the-art intelligent OCR capable of making the invoice-to-pay process touchless. 

Smiling pharmacist with commissioning machine in pharmacy

Digital and data democratized

Digital now belongs to everyone, with processes, new roles and an automation use case pipeline.

Historically, TBS has been a transactional back-office organization – it has since evolved into a true transformation engine for Takeda. Today, TBS is spearheading digital innovation, relentlessly pursuing greater efficiencies through automation and AI, and getting ever closer Takeda’s vision to drive value for patients.

Digital now belongs to everyone. Take all this into account and it’s not surprising the agility TBS manifested when faced with the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Digitalization in large organizations often fails due to the lack of commitment and not having the proper skillsets in place. Technology is often a black box, but not in TBS’ case. Even if the project harnessed a top-down approach in places – complemented by a bottom-up approach elsewhere – the way the TBS project team was galvanized into action was second to none,” said Helmut Rattenberger, Partner, Consulting, Ernst & Young AG Switzerland.

Clear benefits to both the top-down and bottom-up approaches to digitalization

The top-down approach, leveraging technology to minimize human dependency, led to a global deployment of a touchless invoice-to-pay solution. For Takeda’s medical reps, this means they don’t need to send paper invoices to the invoice processing team via mail – instead, they simply take a photo of the invoice and email it. This process increased productivity while reducing the likelihood of delayed payments and strained supplier relationships. It also significantly reduced invoice processing costs within the first year. Most importantly, the technology gives TBS employees the opportunity to focus on the things that matter most – delivering innovative, life-changing medicines to the patients who need them.

Takeda’s medical reps no longer need to send paper invoices to the invoice processing team via mail. They simply take a photo of the invoice and email it.

By comparison, the bottom-up automation digital champion and AI Ideathon programs have truly embedded digital and data within the entire Takeda workforce – and created the foundation to transform the people experience with TBS at the core. One of the most surprising benefits from the bottom-up initiative was the creation of more engaged, happier employees across the entire organization.

People going through this process of upskilling are getting a lot of visibility and recognition – sometimes driving lateral shifts in roles after finding strengths they didn’t know they had. “One employee who had a transactional role in procurement contracting demonstrated a real talent in RPA. She has now taken a role in IT,” says Gleason.

In return, the employees deliver a constant pipeline of new ideas, with identified use cases and ownership of them – for many organizations this is a holy grail of digital transformation.

“Investing in skillsets is unique in business services, and now we actively scout for ideas in automation and continuous improvement,” continues Gleason. “For example, the pandemic sometimes caused stockouts, and someone was manually checking stock levels daily. They suggested a way to automate this check, and it now takes less than a minute, rather than 20, and is 100% accurate.”

Generating value for people and the wider organization 

The digital champion program has generated many other tangible process improvements across the organization and is driving a continuous evolution of its ways of working. To date, TBS has trained over 1,700 employees; created 480 certified digital champions and over 500 bots; and – through the program’s efficiency – generated over 500,000 productivity hours per year.  

The pandemic sometimes caused stockouts, and someone was manually checking stock levels daily. They suggested a way to automate this check, and it now takes less than a minute, rather than 20, and is 100% accurate.
Vanessa Gleason
Vice President, TBS Strategy, Process Excellence, and Innovation at Takeda

TBS has delivered


productivity hours per year.

TBS’ digital champions are also tapping into their experience deploying automation training to supercharge Takeda’s hiring power, launching the Takeda Digital Accelerators program in Poland and Japan. The program invites university students to solve a real Takeda business problem by harnessing the power of data and digital technologies, with winning teams joining TBS for a rotational internship.

“It’s crucial that both our TBS strategy and operating model directly connect everyone in the organization to Takeda’s overall vision, values and purpose,” says Patel. “By achieving closer alignment with these imperatives, we crystallize the value we’re creating for the business, be that through the digital initiatives we’re driving or through the emphasis we’re placing on strengthening people experience.”

These initiatives demonstrate how organizations can find ways for technology to enable and empower people, and as a result, add significant value to the finance function and wider organization.

Patel says, “For TBS, our priority is unleashing the full potential of data and digital. We’re growing a culture of democratized capabilities – meaning every member of the team has the vision and skillset to challenge the status quo and ensure we’re creating seamless solutions that support agility. Our people are a major component in how we deliver insights and drive value at scale and in the long term.”

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