Biotechnology innovator Zymeworks has no time to waste in its quest to save the lives of people who are battling rare cancers and other serious diseases. Spurred by fast-growing global expansion plans, the ambitious company, which invents medicines for people who have difficult-to-treat illnesses, decided to modernize its enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems on one cloud-based platform with SAP.

“We are driven by our mission to make a meaningful difference for people worldwide who are impacted by difficult-to-treat cancers and other serious diseases,” said Chris Astle, chief financial officer at Zymeworks. “We chose SAP S/4HANA Cloud because it’s a trusted solution for the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, proven to manage the complexities we face around pricing, manufacturing, supply chain logistics, and more. We’re building the bedrock for our growth in a dynamic industry with ever-changing market conditions.”

A 2023 SAP Innovation Award winner, Zymeworks went live with a broad range of solutions through RISE with SAP. I sat down with Astle during this year’s SAP Sapphire & ASUG Annual Conference Orlando, where he filled me in on how SAP solutions are essential to the company’s expansion plans. He told me that Zymeworks expects significant resource savings from replacing manual, multi-step processes with self-service automation, gaining efficiency improvements from 50% up to 90% respectively across operational planning, HR, and invoicing.

Digital Platform Creates Automation Efficiencies

Working on new drug development and clinical trials for oncology treatments, Zymeworks is tackling one of the most challenging healthcare markets given the numerous kinds of cancers, sub-types of cancers, and patient populations. Headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, with operations in the U.S., Zymeworks is expanding to Europe and Asia. Astle was well aware of what the company’s finance, manufacturing, research and development (R&D), supply chain, procurement, and HR teams are up against as the volume of transactions, currencies, and compliance mandates increase with geographical build-out.

“We’re constantly exploring therapeutics for patients where there’s a high unmet need with few treatment options to date,” said Astle. “As we grow, we’ll need to manage greater transactional volume, risk, and complexity. Having end-to-end, integrated data company-wide will automate processes and provide the digital foundation of the company. Once the systems are fully operational and everyone is trained, we expect a significant reduction in time to prepare budgets, close the books, and manage HR onboarding and reporting. This will free people up to focus on more strategic, value-added activities.”

Data Transparency Supports Financial and Healthcare Governance 

Although currently in the clinical development phase, Zymeworks went live with SAP solutions to be better prepared to meet global industry mandates, including external audits as products are launched.

“Embedding compliance within our processes reduces risk and gives us more flexibility and agility,” said Astle. “We interact with healthcare leaders, as well as government policymakers and auditors. With SAP Ariba solutions, we can accurately track and report our spend with partners like physicians, grant writers, and advisory boards. SAP Concur solutions are our primary source for travel and expense data, helping monitor compliance with industry regulations.”

Integrated Data Has Company-Wide Business Results

People are at the heart of Zymework’s innovation and using SAP SuccessFactors solutions for the company’s self-service HR will help bring extended benefits throughout the company.

“We’ve developed an organizational hierarchy matrix with well-defined roles for promotions and career planning,” said Astle. “We’ve set up workflow automation based on someone’s role, assigning tasks accordingly, whether it involves onboarding new hires, regulatory sign-offs, or purchase order approvals. Automation from integrated data helps people make better decisions faster, increasing efficiencies from standardized processes as we grow.”

Working with SAP Bolsters Continuous Journey to Best Practices

Zymework’s relatively small size compared to industry behemoths in no way detracts from the value of the company’s relationship with SAP. In fact, the organization has the best of both worlds – best practices with less customization.

“Implementing a tier 1 solution like SAP was a big training opportunity for our finance team and the wider organization,” said Astle. “We’ve acquired best practices from the largest industry leaders and can go with a more out-of-the-box solution that’s already standardized and fit for purpose, requiring almost no customization.”

Future-Proofing the Business with Adaptability

Despite the daunting task ahead developing advanced treatments, Zymeworks is well-positioned for growth, committed to ongoing investments for innovation.

“It’s strategically important to be diverse to reduce company risk, and we are looking at other therapeutic areas, too. We have some really innovative science and fantastic scientists, and we’re not afraid of the challenge,” said Astle. “With our move to SAP, we’ve laid the foundation for the future growth of our company. We can focus on achieving our vision, innovating to bring new medicines to market for patients in need.”

To hear more from customers on their digital transformation journey with SAP, watch SAP Sapphire event replays on demand.

Susan Galer is a communications director at SAP. Follow me @smgaler.