Headquartered in the UK and with operations in the US, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is one of the industry leaders, with an estimated seven per cent of the world’s pharmaceutical market. It is the only pharmaceutical company to tackle the World Health Organisation’s three ‘priority’ diseases – HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria – and it produces medicines that treat six major disease areas – asthma, virus control, infections, mental health, diabetes and digestive conditions. Along with this, the pharmaceutical giant is also the manufacturer of brand leaders such as Gaviscon, Aquafresh and Lucozade.

Earlier this year, GSK met forecasts with a 16 per cent rise in 2006 profits. The organisation claimed a strong financial performance in 2006 with a turnover of £23.2 billion – an increase of nine per cent. The group also seemed to be on track for a number of significant new launches and has 158 projects in clinical development.

This massive organisation is a complex enterprise, involving a computer network that supports over 80,000 internal users and thousands more externally. Its employees send 300,000 email and instant messages per day, spend 100 million minutes in audio conferencing each year, and enrol in 40,000 training sessions (mostly online) every month.

The GSK IT organisation is split into business facing units, such as global manufacturing and supply IT and R&D IT which support the business units and deliver the IT component of business improvement projects. Other components are core IT units such as systems and communications services, which manage infrastructure services and projects, and global IT risk management which addresses IT risks that present a potential threat to the organisation.

GSK seeks to keep costs down by using an electronic sourcing system from Emptoris. The 700-strong buying team spends more than £7bn a year on over 1,000 different products and by using the system GSK says that it added £1bn in savings to the bottom line over the first three years of using it. The system was first installed in 2002, initially just for electronic purchasing but it is now used for spend management and rating supplier performance.