AstraZeneca controls compliance with Celonis

Raaj Joshi, AstraZeneca

Working in a highly regulated environment, with the need to prove that every financial transactional system action is correct, AstraZeneca was looking to reimagine financial controls compliance with the help of the right enterprise technology to drive better performance.

Raaj Joshi, director of controls and compliance transformation at AstraZeneca, shared that when you start process mining across very disparate processes, you get a very complex picture. He highlighted the crux of this challenge in sharing: “People were like ‘oh my god, information overload, no idea what to do right now’”.

Freshly entering the organization from his consulting role, Joshi had some ideas and genuinely believed they could set a new direction for compliance monitoring and operating across clients and controls in the marketplace, while positively disrupting the status quo.

Joining all elements

This is when AstraZeneca decided to expand its existing collaboration with Celonis, using the full extent of the platform on its controls – the part of the firm’s processes designed to accomplish a goal. Joshi explained that to operate those controls and protect the organization from financial misstatement and fraud, organizations set themselves up as what they call the three lines of defense – management, internal controls and auditors. 

AstraZeneca implemented a program designed to allow all three to operate in the same system.

“I’ll give you one example of a control that we run. It is a beast, it takes ten days to prep and then another three or four days to operate, and it operates at the last minute so people are kind of rushing. But in this way, we’ve totally revolutionized it. We’ve stripped that down entirely. There are no more ten days of prep, there’s no prep whatsoever,” Joshi explained.

On budget implementation 

Overall, this project has taken approximately ten months from start to finish, impacted by the fact that work on financial controls requires data of a higher level of accuracy and completeness. In addition, the company needed to bring its auditors on that journey too and get them comfortable with the new technology.

As a result of these efforts, the project is ready to go live in January 2024, delivered on budget. The team decided to hold fire on a business go-live to avoid a clash with the accounting year-end.

Augmenting employee efforts

The solution is now already augmenting what employees do, helping to redirect their efforts to more important tasks, but its key role in the field of compliance makes the biggest difference, helping the company keep its license to operate.  

Looking at the transactional data, the rules and the algorithms that AstraZeneca has, Celonis software helps to pick out exactly the ones the team needs to start looking for. Instead of waiting for five or six weeks before it gets to access that data, AstraZeneca can view it in real-time, giving its team this time back while also finessing the population of records it looks after.

“The ability to do it in real-time and meet our obligations is critical for us because if we don’t, we get something called significant deficiencies or material weaknesses which have a massive impact on our share price, so doing that in this kind of environment is extremely game-changing,” Joshi said.

For the pharma firm, the benefits from this partnership will continue to trickle down, with ongoing qualitative results across its financial controls. Plus, the ability AstraZeneca has gained to take care of these actions behind the scenes, is set to result in massive quantitative savings too, across expenses, time and redirected team efforts.