Customer Stories / Life Sciences

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Alcon Expedites Insights with an Agile Enterprise Data and Analytics Platform on AWS

Learn how Alcon, a global leader in eye care, built a cloud-native enterprise data environment on AWS.

Just days

 to build and release the first iteration of an enterprise data platform


analytics product development and decision-making

Rapidly attains

business outcomes and value through data democratization and unification

Promotes innovation

and a data-driven culture


and unifies data


Alcon’s purpose is to help people see brilliantly. Backed by a heritage of more than 75 years, Alcon has deep ties and expertise in eye care, with long-standing relationships with eye care professionals who serve patients in over 140 countries.

In 2019, during its spin-off as an independent company, Alcon’s Data Science and Analytics team saw an opportunity to drive company-wide innovation and digital transformation—and lead the industry in advanced analytics. In a little over two months, the Alcon team built a proprietary, cloud-native enterprise data storage and analytics platform that democratizes data and facilitates operational and strategic decision-making across the organization. Alcon found the technology to bring this enterprise data platform to life on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Today, Alcon’s digital teams have the skills, tools, and technologies to transform the eye care industry through technical innovation. With the help of Alcon's platform, built on AWS, Alcon’s teams tap into a traceable data marketplace with 80 different sources to make business-critical decisions and fuel Alcon’s digital culture.

Factory for the production of medicines, glass bottles on the conveyor

Opportunity | Unlocking the Power of Data for Alcon

Alcon manufactures consumer eye products like contact lenses and eyedrops, as well as surgical equipment and consumables. “One thing that makes Alcon unique is how digitally focused we are,” says Joel Stainbrook, associate director of data strategy, engineering, and innovation at Alcon. “Our leadership has prioritized digital so that we can take advantage of data and analytics across the organization.”

With hundreds of terabytes of data spread across 40 data marts, multiple data lakes, and an Apache Hadoop environment, Alcon needed a new enterprise-grade data platform. The goal was to build a unified data lake, which would make data accessible to anyone with proper access controls so that they can derive insights from both structured and unstructured data.

“Instead of a simple lift-and-shift migration, we wanted to build a new data fabric and move from being a descriptive to a prescriptive analytics company,” says Jose Sousa, director of data platform and services at Alcon. “We needed a standardized set of tools and systems for data and analytics.”

Alcon strategized a solution: a platform that helps people see data brilliantly. It would serve a range of use cases across functions, from finance to commercial operations. To power the enterprise-grade platform, Alcon chose AWS serverless services. “On AWS, we can remove the complexity of running and managing huge clusters,” says Sousa. “AWS does what it’s good at, so we can keep doing what we’re good at.”


In the past, you would have to go find the data yourself. On AWS, data is readily available so that we can start analyzing, building, and innovating—and making better decisions."

Srinivas Ravilisetty
Senior Director of Data Strategy, Alcon

Solution | Building a Cloud-Native Data Environment in 67 Days

Taking an agile approach, Alcon built the first fully functional iteration of the platform in 67 days, using a range of prebuilt and managed AWS services. Its innovative architecture facilitates the key tenets of separate compute and storage, serverless, automated, and secure. The solution uses AWS Glue, a serverless data integration service, and AWS Lambda, a serverless, event-driven compute service, for data ingestion and processing. For storage, the platform relies on Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), an object storage service. AWS Step Functions, a visual workflow service, is used for orchestration between different workflows. Amazon S3 bucket policies and AWS Lake Formation, which creates secure data lakes and makes data available for wide-ranging analytics, establish data access controls.
The platform uses AWS Identity and Access Management (AWS IAM) to securely manage identities and access to AWS resources. To provision data for analytics, it relies on Amazon Athena, a serverless, interactive analytics service.
Users can access data through microservices connected by Amazon API Gateway, which is used to create, maintain, and secure APIs at any scale. Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances, which provide secure and resizable compute capacity for virtually any workload, power its business intelligence tools and facilitate data analysis. Amazon QuickSight facilitates unified business intelligence at hyperscale with serverless technologies and native machine learning integrations.
The platform accelerates Alcon’s reporting and business insights. For example, commercial teams use it to determine targets, design promotional materials, and improve sales effectiveness. This has helped the company simplify from 40 key performance indicators to two, delivering major shifts in transparency and standardization. “The platform has helped us integrate data from our internal enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management systems, as well as third-party data,” says Jacob Locke, director of US commercial data and technology at Alcon. “Within 2 years, we delivered the descriptive data our sales team needed to be more effective.”
For finance teams, the platform has automated and optimized a range of functions, from financial management and reporting to audit management and compliance. “With this platform, our finance team built a consolidated platform with automated financial data loads from multiple systems,” says Cristy Foreman, head of finance for BPA—analytics and planning at Alcon. “Teams can develop in parallel based on their reporting needs.” In 2 years, Alcon scaled its financial dashboards to over 2,000 global users.
This shift has spurred an innovation mindset in the company. Alcon's platform unifies data from more than 80 different sources, creating a standardized, traceable data marketplace and driving a self-service culture. The platform not only fuels growth by generating insights but also reduces the cost of ownership, maintenance, and operations of disparate systems. “During an analytics project, teams used to spend most of their time gathering data,” says Stainbrook. “Now, with the platform in place, they can focus on innovative and creative work, building analytics.”

Outcome | Unlocking Alcon’s Data-Driven Insights and Catalyzing Innovation

In 2021 Alcon received two industry awards for its platform: the Data Analytics Digital Award from the Hackett Group, and the FutureEdge 50 Award from

Now, Alcon is exploring ways to improve clinical trial efficiency, accelerate research and development, and deliver new products with its platform. It is also being used to increase manufacturing yields, perform preventive maintenance, and improve overall equipment efficiency. “With this platform, we are helping our manufacturing sites make informed decisions and stay ahead of the challenges in today’s fast-paced production,” says David Heffernan, director of Cork manufacturing business technology at Alcon. “Manual data processes that took days to complete previously can now be done in seconds.”

With data at the core of its digital transformation, Alcon has an eye on the future. It is continuing to experiment with new use cases and technologies to improve patient outcomes, equipment efficiency, and time to market using artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“In the past, you would have to go find the data yourself,” says Srinivas Ravilisetty, senior director of data strategy at Alcon. “On AWS, data is readily available so that we can start analyzing, building, and innovating—and making better decisions.”

About Alcon

Alcon, a global leader in eye care, offers the broadest portfolio of surgical and vision care products to enhance sight and improve lives.  Learn more about Alcon's digital journey and career opportunities at Alcon Digital Careers.

AWS Services Used

Amazon S3

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service offering industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance.

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Amazon EC2

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) offers the broadest and deepest compute platform, to help you best match the needs of your workload.

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AWS Lambda

AWS Lambda is a serverless, event-driven compute service that lets you run code for virtually any type of application or backend service without provisioning or managing servers.

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AWS Glue

AWS Glue is a serverless data integration service that makes it easier to discover, prepare, move, and integrate data from multiple sources for analytics, machine learning (ML), and application development.

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