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GlaxoSmithKline: Sourcing Complex Professional Services

 Heidi Gardner and Silvia Hodges Silverstein  
Product number:
16 pages
Product Type:
September 30, 2013


Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) uses an innovative new approach to procuring outside legal counsel: it replaces relationship-based selection and law firms’ traditional time-based billing with data-driven decision making and an online reverse auction.  In the case, GSK is hit with a potentially devastating suit and must hire a firm in time to respond.  The recently hired managing attorney, Sophia Keating, grapples with GSK’s approach. The GSK veterans assure her that the approach drives down costs and improves the quality of work by systematically increasing the rigor in the procurement process.  Still skeptical, Sophia runs the process of systematically analyzing and comparing the competing firms’ bids.  This case also describes the process by which these tools were created and adopted.  Beyond the implications for law firms and other service providers, lessons from this case are applicable for teaching about institutional change, procurement processes relevant to many fields, and how to increase rigor in typically informal business processes.

A supplement to this case provides a request for proposal for case participants to complete.

Subjects Covered

Legal industry; procurement; change management; professional service firms; pricing; competition.


Geographic: United States

Industry: Pharmaceuticals

Event Year Begin: 2013

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