Clinical trials, and in particular oncology studies, can be very complex and often involve multiple parties: Sponsor, CRO (sometimes several CROs!), multiple sites as well as numerous other vendors. It is not rare that Sponsors chose to delegate various particular aspects of a study to different vendors: regulatory, lab samples processing, data-management, imaging are only a few examples of what may be outsourced. Together these vendor teams work from different companies and environments with one common goal: the success of their Sponsor’s study.
Effective vendor relationship strategies build trust and a commitment to mutually agreed upon terms based on achieving the corporate goals of all parties, in service to the Sponsor’s project. However, not all vendors are the same. Hence, vendor relationships can never be handled with a single strategy.
Successful vendor relationships require quite a bit of planning, hard work, and good relationship savvy. Here are a few vendor relationship management strategies that can be used to maximize the value of your vendor relationships:
1) Communicate Often
The main concern on any given project, be it a simple or a complex multi-vendor environment is communication – which needs to be given the utmost priority. Most projects fail due to the inability to convey or receive important information from the multiple parties involved in a timely or effective manner.
The most effective CRO, understands and streamlines each vendor internal process. Who does what? When? Who is in contact with whom and when? When and how should an issue be escalated? This will allow a good understanding of all the steps taken during a specific process and take act at the appropriate level in the first place. It is also important for all to know who is the main contact is for any particular aspect of a project, to prevent delays in getting responses, and avoid nonproductive back and forth emails.
A good example of this in practice is to keep your vendors posted on any site personnel change, as it helps ensure emails/queries get to the right contact in the first place for speedy resolution.
Another good practice for the project management team and their vendors is to hold regular meetings on the project so that inputs can be obtained, keeping every key team member on the same page with regard to project deliverables.
2) Build Partnerships
The key to efficient vendor teaming is moving out of a transactional relationship and into a strategic relationship model. The first step in this process is to respect all vendors as valuable partners with the aim to work collaboratively as a team.
This will not only allow you to tap into each parties’ expertise, it also offers other benefits such as increased trust, enhanced commitment to your project, and more.
3) Provide Reports
It is advisable for all vendors to submit their reports to the project management team or other vendors on a regular basis. The report should contain information such as progress updates, issues encountered together with proposed solutions, improvements, and risks, along with mitigation plans and other related matters that require the attention from the Sponsor or CRO. This report should be submitted on a frequent basis so everyone is kept up-to-date on project progress, and readily able to address issues in a timely manner.
4) Be Aware of Each Other’s Reality
Not all vendors and study sites are necessarily located in the same country or time zones. Often, different teams from different time zones and cultures collaborate together for a Sponsor. It is important to be aware of these differences, and the reality of each different vendor team to better facilitate an open discussion and find solutions adapted to each country. A good example of this is the use of different couriers depending on the country the site is located in: one courier can be very effective in one country while in another country people may be reluctant to use this same courier. In such a case it is important to ask questions to determine what works in each country so the best strategies can be put in place for the global success of the project.
Managing a multiple-vendor projects can be challenging and chaotic, given the potential complexity of the project and the task of managing many vendors on a global project team.
Prior to starting a project, it’s always advisable to clearly define the process, procedures and roles of each key team member in the early stages of the project, to avoid any conflict of interest or miscommunications.
In the interest of the study, all parties should be involved early in the process and work closely together. In the end, all these efforts are rewarded with a seamless and effective vendor-teaming for the Sponsor and the chosen study sites.
Skilled in vendor teaming, at Scimega, we’ve been working with other CROs and multiple vendors for years and have had the opportunity to build strong partnerships with numerous stakeholders, which helps us contribute to the success of your studies.
Scimega Consistently Goes Above-and-Beyond
With 22 years unparalleled Canadian oncology experience Scimega Research has an optimal operations design critical to its ability to consistently go above-and-beyond for every one of your studies.
Scimega is a Canadian niche oncology CRO that serves small to medium size biotech companies in clinical development of cutting-edge oncology therapies. We consistently deliver our services with a strategic focus on Sponsor program success with clinical trial start-up times 50% faster than the North American average, premium quality data, and trial sites that are often among top enrollers in our Sponsors’ global oncology studies.
Contributed by: Maëva Roques, M.Sc, Clininical Trial Leader & Program Specialist (Clinical Operations Oversight)