TRANSFORMING HUMAN RESOURCES
AT NOVARTIS: THE HUMAN
RESOURCES INFORMATION SYSTEM (HRIS)
Since the early days of the merger, we knew we would need a significant effort to transfer the new company into a high-performance organization.1
—Daniel Vasella, MD, Chairman and CEO, Novartis AG
Since the merger of Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz that created the Swiss healthcare and pharmaceutical company of Novartis in December 1996, CEO Dan Vasella had begun the transformation from two slow-moving, functional silos into one high-performance company. The initial post-merger integration was successful in terms of financial performance but people were feeling stretched, so the HR function had a daunting challenge ahead.
By 2003, the HR organization and its people had made significant progress toward the goal of becoming a “premier talent machine by 2005.” Norman Walker, who joined in May 1998 as the head of HR, had several priorities in his 2000 HR strategy – talent management, organizational development and strengthening, reward and recognition, winning team spirit, and core processes and IT support. By 2003, the first four were either in place or under way. A significant priority remained, which was to implement a firm-wide Human Resources Information System (HRIS) that would convert many of the transaction-based HR core processes to an Internet-based system. The eight-member ECN (Executive Committee Novartis) had approved the CHF 78 million (Swiss Francs) capital appropriation request for the global HRIS project in September 2002, and the effort to create a computer-based system had begun. This change had the potential to transform the HR function and how it related to line management. Given the fundamental changes that would take place, the ECN wondered if the HR organization was ready for this 1
Private communication, August 5, 2003.
Irene Wang prepared this case under the supervision of Professor Charles O’Reilly as the basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation.
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Novartis HRIS HR-22
transformation – and what other steps needed to be taken to ensure that the change was successful.
Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis was a world leader in the research and development of products to protect and improve health and well-being. It began as three major companies: Geigy (founded in 1758), Ciba (1859), and Sandoz (1886). In December 1996, Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz came together in the largest corporate merger of its time (USD $22 billion) to become Novartis. Dan Vasella, a medical doctor and the CEO of Sandoz Pharmaceuticals Ltd., became the CEO (and later chairman) of the new company.
The mission of Novartis was “to discover, develop, and successfully market innovative products to cure diseases, to ease suffering, and to enhance the quality of life” and “to provide a shareholder return that reflects outstanding performance and to adequately reward those who invest ideas...
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