Ingo Elfering, vice president of IT strategy, GlaxoSmithKline

Never let a good crisis go to waste. Those are words to live by for Ingo Elfering, vice president of IT strategy at GlaxoSmithKline PLC in Newtown Square, Pa. Sure, he's challenged by a tough economy like everyone else. But that's only part of a one-two business punch facing the pharmaceutical company. The other is what Elfering calls "the big patent lift" that's taking place between now and 2012, when many drugs will change status from branded to generic.

Elfering is using this time to press forward with aggressive IT-enabled cost-cutting so that the $39 billion company will be well positioned to collaborate globally.

"Economic pressure gives you a good lever to change things that otherwise the inertia of a large organization is not going to be able to execute," says Elfering, 42. "The reset scenario is to really do things completely differently so at the other end of this journey, we're more adapted to the changing business model of pharma."

Late last year, GlaxoSmithKline and Microsoft Corp. signed a contract that calls for the software vendor to move Glaxo's calendaring, e-mail, data archiving and collaboration services to a software-as-a-service model. Throughout 2009, under an initiative known as Information Workplace Transition, the company has been migrating users to the new infrastructure, cutting costs by 30% in the process.

"You always hate to use the term 'visionary' because it is so overused these days, but in Ingo's case, the shoe fits," says Pamela Roberts, director of IT strategy.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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