How Better CRO Project Management Tools Can Pay Off

We live in a data-driven world now. But for life sciences companies—and for Clinical Research Organizations (CROs) in particular—the stakes are higher. Data is not just the lifeblood and the north star of the business, it’s the raison d’être. So, the accuracy and accessibility of that data is critical.

Too often, however, CROs are hobbled by siloed project management and disorganized data. Many lack access to modern, centralized tools that can allow them to truly leverage the value of their data, and streamline their operations for speed, accuracy, and efficiency.

How Siloed Project Management Hobbles CROs

Because CROs consist of multiple divisions, departments, or component organizations—possibly as the result of mergers—many are using disparate and disconnected systems to manage trials.

Other times it’s because the CRO has grown from a small startup where spreadsheets and other disconnected tools were enough to skate by on, and it hasn’t yet invested in a system that’s robust enough to keep up with its growth.

In either case, team members may be using some combination of Excel spreadsheets, Smartsheets, and project management software that varies by division. Or they’re stuck with aging legacy systems that can’t talk to each other. Team members may even be relying on personal tools that are set up on the fly, rather than as the result of unified planning.

Regardless, this hinders the smooth communication of data within the organization, and it also denies team members real-time access to powerful insights the data could provide if were all in one place and accessible to everyone when they need it.

Accounting is one area where this lack of access really makes a difference. Tasks like revenue recognition, revenue forecasting, and reporting can’t happen in a smooth and efficient way without timely access to complete data. Consolidated reporting is another capability that only comes with the right tools in place.

Imagine a library where instead of being neatly organized on shelves, the books were piled on the floor in random stacks. It would take so long to find the information you need that the books would be nearly useless. It’s the organization and accessibility of the books that unlocks their value—knowing that anyone who enters can find what they need quickly instead of spending an hour searching for it.

What takes everything to an even higher level is having that library digitized and searchable, with AI-enabled tools that can detect patterns in the data and surface valuable insights that would otherwise be missed and also make those insights easy to report and share to others within the organization.

Adoption Is the #1 Challenge

Ultimately, change management is a major part of this equation. Leadership needs to recognize how much they can reduce the friction that holds them back, and how they can turbo-charge their operations with better project management tools.

But it doesn’t help to put a new system in place if it isn’t adopted by team members at all levels and in every corner of the operation. If they cling to disconnected personal tools out of familiarity, resistance to change, or lack of thorough, ongoing training, the implementation won’t deliver its rewards.

So, it’s important to make sure all stakeholders understand how the system will directly and personally benefit them by making their jobs easier. For example, it will relieve them of tedious and time-consuming repetitive tasks and put new and better achievements within reach.

It’s then important to monitor and measure how the system is being used as well as ensure training of both existing and new team members as part of the onboarding.

Eyes on the Prize: The Rewards

In addition to the benefits already mentioned of better data accuracy with real-time access and reporting capabilities, visibility, and automation of lower-level tasks to free up the time of skilled team members, better project management has compelling specific benefits for CROs.

One of these is better business development through better connectivity between business development and operations. The right solution will not only improve the onboarding of new clients, but also make it easier to launch new studies for existing clients. A lot depends on how much data is being captured and the accuracy and accessibility of the data, which in turn depends on the robustness of their CRM solution.

If your system can capture the necessary data about proposals and estimates, you can set up projects automatically in a way that’s well conceived and executed. Thus, it will spare busy managers from having to manually create projects based on an email with a PDF of a signed contract.

Successful studies depend on the accuracy of data and the ability to report it efficiently. Making sure that project managers and executives have real-time visibility into both the operational and financial side of what’s happening can reap huge rewards.

It’s not just that quality data yields better studies with less rework and a less rocky path to completion. Billing clients accurately to avoid cashflow problems and ensure good client relationships is a linchpin, as well.

One way of looking at it is that it’s all about providing the best client experience. Ultimately, in a highly competitive market, life sciences firms are much more likely to award you the next study if the previous study went smoothly and successfully.

So, making sure you’re equipped to guarantee success—and avoid turbulence—is a fundamental need.

Creating a Unified Solution with a Two-Layer Approach

Choosing the right solution to fit the specialized needs of a CRO is the other big piece of this puzzle. In some cases, one system is the right fit, but other times a two-layered solution is valuable for CROs to best serve the needs of both project accounting and operations teams.

Finance teams have a wide range of accounting needs, from budgeting to reporting and everything in between, including:

  • project budgeting
  • job costing
  • allocations
  • expense management
  • billing
  • revenue recognition
  • project profitability reporting

Meanwhile, project operations teams have their own areas of concern, from managing project plans and resourcing to understanding the utilization of team members. Having timely and accurate access to ETC (Estimate to Complete) calculations is essential, and the ability to efficiently manage change orders is a mission-critical capability, given how research projects and studies can change on a dime.

We often find that the right solution to ensure that both sets of needs are being met in an optimal way involves choosing one tool for accounting and another for project operations, and then tightly and seamlessly integrating both to ensure smooth communication and interoperability.

A Surefooted Guide Shortens the Journey

Does all of this sound like a complicated balancing act? Not if you’ve already got the experience that comes from having successfully executed and integrated similar implementations for multiple clients. We have worked with several CROs to leverage NetSuite for project accounting, and Open Air for project operations.

At Sikich, we’ve seen the complexities of the process up close, and have developed time-tested solutions that avoid the pitfalls and shorten the path to the payoffs.

We make recommendations that will save time, headaches, and unnecessary costs. We’re able to provide the kind of confident guidance that will help you not only identify and implement the right solutions for your organization, but make sure they’re adopted throughout it.

There’s a saying that sometimes people get so focused working in the business that they forget to work ON the business. Ultimately, CROs are focused on research, as they should be. But the right partner can help you see the bigger picture and the greater opportunities within it. With Sikich by your side, you’ll have an experienced and skilled navigator to help guide you down the road to new possibilities.

Find out more about how Sikich can help you the unlock the value and power of your data with the right project management tools for CROs. Reach out to us today.

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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