Contract Research Organizations: Need a Simpler Billing Solution?

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Billing is always a challenge, but for contract research organizations (CROs), it’s another beast entirely. Depending on the organization, CROs must juggle billing for several clients across various phases of pre-clinical and clinical trials, all while remaining compliant with government regulations.

Most CROs rely on QuickBooks and Excel to track expenditure, deliverables, and invoicing. Unfortunately, manually entering data into spreadsheets can be messy, time-consuming, and prone to error. In addition, legacy software systems make coordination between departments a headache.

While clients expect CRO billing to be quick, efficient, and accurate, lengthy billing processes often result in late, inaccurate invoices that fall outside project parameters. Falling short of expectations, especially in such a regulated and fast-paced industry, can lead to unhappy customers and lost opportunities.

Although upgrading your technology around a critical part of your company may seem daunting, embracing a robust, modern industry-specific ERP solution can help you streamline workflows, reduce errors, improve visibility, and enhance your customer’s billing experience.

CRO Billing Challenges

Contract research organizations billing is complex. One of the reasons for this is the exhaustive number of billing options available. For instance, many CROs bill their clients on a per-unit basis. This means CROs look at how many deliverables were budgeted (such as documents, samples analyzed, compounds consumed, etc.) and bill clients based on actual units completed.

Others bill their clients by the hour, while some charge a monthly retainer fee with built-in estimated costs. Still, others may have a milestone system, where they are paid as they reach pre-set milestones, and some request payment upon project completion. Often, a CRO will use some combination of the above and throw in an upfront fee for good measure.

Payment structures vary depending on the research organization, client, type of project, and research phase. Keeping up with a mountain of invoices with varying levels of complexity can be daunting for finance workers – especially if they are expected to manage everything manually.

Sikich’s Solution for CROs

SuiteSuccess for CROs, powered by NetSuite, simplifies workflows, automates data entry and provides real-time tracking. You can improve visibility into your operations while ensuring clients receive timely, accurate invoices.

Time Savings

With so much variability to account for, manually managing data entry, approval requests, and invoicing requires time and resources your team doesn’t have. Automation solves this by streamlining data entry, invoice creation, approval requests, and customer interactions.

For instance, with Sikich’s solution inside NetSuite, your team won’t have to spend hours inputting figures into spreadsheets. Instead, the engine automates much of this process while still giving users the flexibility to review and make changes. The solution can also automatically generate and send approval requests, so teams don’t have to print out documents or track down emails.

On your client’s end, the solution will automatically submit invoices at pre-determined times and send follow-up emails to remind clients to pay their bills. This feature ensures clients receive their invoices on time while minimizing the time your team has to spend keeping track of overdue accounts.

Greater Visibility

Gain real-time insight into every step of your billing cycle. For example, the finance team will see:

  • Rates for each project, including discounts or special pricing
  • Billing structures (unit-based, milestone-based, etc.)
  • Expenditure estimates, including which projects are over or under budget
  • Invoice due dates
  • Overdue bills
  • Real-time changes in price or billing type

Better visibility will enable your team to be more productive and organized.


Track all changes and updates made within the system. This makes it a fantastic tool for organizations that frequently undergo audits. For instance, if you find an accounting error or inconsistency in your data, you can quickly go into your system to see where the problem occurred and which user was in the system at the time. Likewise, if someone on your team makes any further changes, SuiteSuccess for CROs will immediately reflect any new information across the entire system, so you can keep track of data in real-time.

This function allows CROs to maintain accurate reports while simplifying the auditing process. Instead of sending complicated Excel files to auditors, you can generate an accurate, concise, and easy-to-read report within NetSuite. Then, you can grant access to the report as needed. Utilizing this functionality will make audits easier for your team and ensure that finances comply with government standards.

Cross-Departmental Collaboration

There is a high burden on finance teams within CRO companies to understand pricing, keep up with projects, and coordinate with various departments.

When you integrate our NetSuite solution into your billing structure, teams will be able to coordinate with each other without the hassle of sending countless emails back and forth or sitting through lengthy in-person meetings.

With improved collaboration, your finance team will be able to strengthen cooperation with:

  • Sales teams: Finance teams can use NetSuite to see contract terms and prices negotiated by your salespeople.
  • Research teams: R&D teams can update NetSuite when expenditure or resource usage is over or under budget.
  • Operations: Managers and C-Suite executives can use NetSuite to see big-picture overviews of general finances, invoices, past due bills, resource allocation, and project progress.
  • Clients: Employees can easily see what billing structure each client has in place, the date invoices are expected, and which accounts have overdue bills.

Competitive Edge

NetSuite gives CROs a competitive advantage in two key areas. First, it allows CROs to run leaner. If your finance teams have to manage everything manually, they will spend unnecessary time on menial administrative tasks. Workflows within NetSuite enable finance teams to spend their time on more important projects, allowing CROs to do more with fewer employees.

Secondly, using SuiteSuccess for CROs will also improve your client’s experience. Automation and enhanced cross-departmental collaboration will ensure your clients always receive accurate invoices on time – putting you top of mind when they need to find a CRO for their next project.

If you are interested in making this update, contact one of our experts to learn more about Sikich’s SuiteSuccess for CROs and how it can revolutionize billing for contract research organizations.

This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. In addition, this publication may contain certain content generated by an artificial intelligence (AI) language model. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.


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