Bill Louv, senior vice-president of U.S. pharmaceuticals IT at GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK), describes an IT culture at the global pharmaceutical company that’s marked by opportunities to learn new skills.

Computerworld: What are the most critical systems that are supported by your department?

Louv: We support the financial systems; the revenue cycle systems, such as order processing, contract management and distribution management; the commercial data warehouse; and the sales force automation system for our 8,000 sales reps, as well as [customer relationship management] components, like the call centre.

Computerworld: How would you describe the pace of the work?

Louv: It is challenging and invigorating but not pathologically hectic.

Computerworld: Describe some of the challenges.

Louv: Over the last year or so, we’ve become much more value-conscious. It used to be that there was a queue of requests and we’d just work on what’s in the queue. Now we’re more disciplined about setting priorities we collaborate with our business partners to pick the highest-value project.

Computerworld: How does the change affect IT staffers’ work?

Louv: Each of my direct reports is a full member of a business management team, so they understand the business very well and have developed a very good sense of where they can add value.

Computerworld: Do IT workers learn a lot about medicine?

Louv: I was in R&D for a long time, and I got the chance to learn a lot about basic pharmacology and clinical trials. Now that I’m on the commercial side, I’m learning about sales and marketing.

Computerworld: How would you describe the IT culture?

Louv: It’s action-oriented, with a generally strong work ethic.

Computerworld: What do you mean by “action-oriented”?

Louv: It means that people want to solve problems. If we’re launching a new product and the project manager needs new ways to explain to doctors the benefits of a drug, we’ll find technology to solve that problem.

Computerworld: What are some benefits that an IT professional could get only at GSK?

Louv: If you have a prescription for a drug that GSK makes, you get it for free. But you also get the benefits of working in an industry whose mission is really positive, and there are a lot of learning opportunities, not just in technology but also in medicine and health care.

Computerworld: What do you love about coming to work?

Louv: There isn’t a day that I don’t learn something new. It’s not a routine job.

Computerworld: What do you dread about coming to work?

Louv: Our merger [of Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham PLC] is a year and a quarter old. It’s been very successful, but there are small pockets of people who still look backward, and that’s very frustrating to deal with.