Transforming CRO Sales, Finance, and Project Management

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Consistently providing excellent client experiences is one of the hallmarks that separate the most innovative and value-focused contract research organizations (CRO) from the rest of the field. To achieve this, you may want to modernize and simplify the technologies that help you serve clients, empower research study and project managers, and run a productive business operation. Sikich can help you move ahead by integrating Salesforce and Sikich SuiteSuccess for CROs, which is based on NetSuite, into a cloud environment that is optimized for CROs. Recently, we discussed CRO client experience and other challenges, what a CRO-optimized cloud might look like, and what might change when you deploy and integrate Salesforce and Sikich SuiteSuccess for CROs. Today, we consider how modern cloud technology can help in transforming three key areas of the CRO business: sales and CPQ, project management, and finance.

Faster, better-aligned CPQ and sales processes

Given the complex cost structures of CROs, quoting and pricing research trials is a complex effort for them. Because most clients issue an RFP to three or more firms for each upcoming research project, it also happens frequently, absorbing many hours.

Many CROs manage their configure, price, quote (CPQ) process with sheafs of spreadsheets and their own applications created by in-house experts. The account executives and study trial managers who frequently need to confer on proposals spend lots of time emailing spreadsheets and documents in error-prone, largely manual workflows even if they are assisted by software tools. When it comes to streamlining and modernizing business processes, CPQ should be a priority for CROs, because it touches on many roles and activities. Industry research confirms that companies can generate remarkable results by updating their CPQ process:1

  • 25 percent increased sales productivity
  • 19 percent increased upselling
  • 33 percent faster quote generation
  • 38 percent error reduction

In your integrated CRO cloud environment, you can accelerate sales and CPQ workflows and make them more consistent and accurate. You can deliver quotes and proposals faster and with more confidence in their accuracy. Drawing on Salesforce data, you can accommodate highly specific client requirements to quote on exactly the sample size, study duration, quantity tiers, and project milestones clients ask for. You can template proposals for certain clients or types of clients, and you can also provide these accounts and account types with their own, accurate pricing.

Intelligence and actionable insight

On the cloud platform, a seamless flow of pricing information goes from the proposal phase to research study execution and billing, following the schedule and structure clients establish with you. If changing client requirements result in a change anywhere in project management or procurement, updates will immediately be reflected throughout the system.

Throughout the sales and CPQ workflows and the lifecycle of your research studies, you can apply reporting and analytics to understand, for example, how individual accounts and projects perform and how well the entire business performs to its metrics and goals. Nobody needs to navigate multiple software tools and harmonize their data in order to accomplish this. Armed with that information, you can boost the sales pipeline, adjust the focus on certain accounts, improve resource and project management, or take other steps. NetSuite and Salesforce come with ample insight and reporting tools, and Sikich can help you set up dashboards for executives and key individuals, so they can access the data that matters in an intuitive, practical format.

Unleashing project management talent

At CROs, the managers of research studies are key individuals whose talents and successes have a giant impact on the health of the business. On an integrated, CRO-optimized platform, you can give them the freedom to use their expertise to achieve the best possible client outcomes, free from distraction. They no longer need to rely on a variety of software tools and their own processes to manage projects, update clients, and provide information to their colleagues and executives. Instead, they can be more accountable for the performance and profitability of their research studies, using custom dashboards and reports to stay informed. They can see current billing on research trials and accounts receivable at a glance, and their internal reporting may now take just a fraction of the time it used to require.

Client conversations can be more productive when trial managers can make promises and commitments with a high level of assurance and when clients themselves can review research progress, invoices, change requests, and budgets through their own dashboards or documents in the Experience Cloud. When clients’ needs change and they need to modify a research trial that is already underway, fulfilling their requests across the entire cloud platform is a minor effort.

Empowering finance teams

Complex revenue recognition scenarios and individualized billing schemes can easily overwhelm finance managers and keep finance teams bogged down in administrative activities, unable to provide strategic guidance and planning assistance. On the integrated CRO cloud, they have full visibility of financials as well as all data related to clients, contracts, procurement, vendors, and other aspects of the business. They can more effectively forecast and anticipate revenue, invoicing, margins, and events that have a bearing on the company’s financial wellbeing.

You can likely automate some standardized workflows, for example, in invoicing and vendor management, to simplify finance management and provide more productive time to the finance team. For CROs that grow by acquiring more clients or by performing more research studies, adopting the CRO cloud described here can help manage an increasing volume of business with the same resources.

CRO finance teams carry a large share of their organizations’ compliance responsibilities That includes testing their systems and processes to gain assurance that they can successfully pass accounting audits. By improving the availability and accuracy of business data, integrating NetSuite, Salesforce, and the Experience Cloud can make compliance simpler and less risky. Auditors may feel more confident when they see that it’s easier than before to test contracts and activities such as invoicing or revenue recognition across the cloud infrastructure. Instead of testing transactions in NetSuite ERP alone, they may also be able to test processes that begin in Salesforce CRM and eventually impact financial documents and data in NetSuite.

Taking the next step

If you want to find out more or would like to pursue an integration of NetSuite and Salesforce:

1Salesforce research published at

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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