Formed in 2014, Walgreens Boots Alliance brought together two of the world’s most storied pharmaceutical retailers. Boots, a fixture on the high streets of the U.K., had previously merged with Swiss pharmaceutical supplier Alliance UniChem in 1997. In 2012 Walgreens purchased a 45 percent stake in the resulting firm, and in 2014 bought the remaing 55 percent. “We’ve only been a company for two and a half years,” said Anthony Roberts, CIO at Walgreens Boots Alliance.
 
Mr. Roberts was speaking with Robert Enslin, member of the executive board, president, Cloud Business Group at SAP SE during that organization’s Sapphire Now conference in Orlando recently. The session was titled “Grow Your Business While Delivering an Outstanding Customer Experience.”
 
The discussion focused on how Walgreens Boots Alliance is growing its operations to meet consumer demand while consistently delivering outstanding CX. Technology is playing a key role in helping the Walgreens Boots Alliance advance its goal helping people around the world lead healthier and happier lives.
 
“First of all, our brand recognition is a little bit low,” Roberts continued. “I say ‘Walgreens Boot Alliance,’ and Americans hear ‘Walgreens,’ the Brits hear ‘Boots,’ and no one’s quite sure what the Alliance bit means because it doesn’t have a consumer-facing side of the business.”
 
Walgreens Boot Alliance is a global enterprise. “We are big as a wholesale pharmaceutical and distribution company,” said Roberts. “We provide health care services and we provide for brands and companies as well. Bringing this together in two and a half years into a fully integrated company was one of the first challenges we faced.”
 
Walgreens Boots Alliance is a very aggressive company in terms of being focused on growth, building its brand, and making sure the vision of the company remains supported.
 
“We’re a company that has grown by acquisition and merger,” Roberts said, “but we also have a very organic growth agenda as well. When the companies came together, the first thing I had to look at was the technology landscape particularly in our biggest markets.”
 
In the U.S., Walgreens had a set of robust systems as well as multiple custom developments and a host of different solutions. “The first thing we looked at was how to bring these elements of the company together. The retail company, the brands company, the supply chain for those, the master data—in looking at that we made a decision very much led by the board that we were going to radically transform our landscape and do something completely new.”
 
That meant a new stack for retail, as well as a new stack for pharmacy, from the start, and across all of the Walgreens Boots Alliance companies starting in the U.S.  “I was very lucky person,” Roberts noted, “because there aren’t many CIO’s who get to build not just one new stack but two new stacks, and this is really what we started on two years ago. We are significantly far along in that journey now.”
 
Roberts has gained valuable insight into the process in the past two years. “First of all, you don’t talk to the businesses about technology stacks,” he insisted with a laugh.  “I think that’s one of the most important things. We’ve done this from a customer-led perspective. People know Walgreens and people know Boots. We touch so many customers on a daily basis, we need to have systems that are much more agile, much more responsive, and that we can be deployed in a much faster way.”
 
That desire has led to the transformation journeys that Walgreens Boots Alliance is currently on, one that has received a great deal of executive support.  “One of the things we’ve done,” Roberts said, “is brought together our senior technology providers, like SAP, into what we call a ‘power of three’ discussion from a governance perspective. That was done with our CEO and the whole transformation journey is driven from that.”

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