Glaxo Wellcome and Smithkline Beecham will face a massive task to integrate very different global IT systems should their proposed #100 billion merger go ahead.
Both pharmaceutical giants have successfully pursued a common IT infrastructure policy throughout their global operations. The problem: they are not very common to each other.
Paul Hockings, divisional director of life sciences at Cap Gemini - which manages much of Glaxo's IT - said it would be a significant task considering how much existing IT work was taking place.
"The major challenge is that the merger would be in a period where they already have a major task of fixing Year 2000 problems. They also have regular projects underway such as new manufacturing and financial systems going in at the moment at Glaxo and they cannot just stop all that for six months to work out what their combined computing strategy will be," he said.
One of the key problems will be setting up communication links between the two companies. Glaxo runs Microsoft Exchange for 33,000 users, while Smithkline Beecham runs a Notes messaging system.
Hockings confirmed that linking the infrastructure was a concern but that the two companies would not need everybody-to-everybody connectivity to start off with. The top 100 business managers would have to be connected however and Hockings said this would take some work. In particular, directory services "would be no simple task".
One possible solution is that both companies run extensive Intranets that could be used as a temporary solution for some messaging functions.
This is not the only area where the two companies will have to make some difficult and possibly expensive decisions. For example, Glaxo is currently installing Peoplesoft as its core financial package, SKB has inhouse systems.
Past history is not promising. Glaxo is still integrating and replacing systems from its merger with Wellcome in 1991. In that time a number of IT directors fell by the wayside and significant investment was required to get systems updated.
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