Regardless of whether your company partners with a full service provider or you are functionally outsourcing your capabilities, there is a growing reliance on outsourcing in the pharmaceutical industry, which is resulting in increasing partnerships between sponsors and vendors. Given the centrality of these relationships in ensuring the successful completion of clinical trials, the smooth running of sponsor-vendor relationships is integral to a trial’s success.

However, it is not uncommon for relationships between partners to turn sour as a result of miscommunication or through the lack of clear expectations. These factors give rise to the possibility of thwarting a trial’s success by delaying its rollout or increasing the costs of conducting clinical research. Therefore, improving relationships is vital for sponsors and vendors alike.

1. Establishing a clear communication pattern prior to the start of a partnership ensuring deliverables are provided on time

Communication is central to any successful partnership, both in business and in life as a whole. However, too much communication can become overbearing while too little can result in loss of trust and make partners overly worry about a trial’s success. Sponsors need to realize when they request an urgent update from their vendors they are actually thwarting their own study as this requires the vendor to deviate resources disrupting pre-arranged timelines.

It is therefore essential that before a trial begins, both parties clearly establish the frequency and regularity of updates so each team manager is aware of when new information will be delivered and can therefore plan accordingly. Not only is communication cadence vital, but adhering to these timelines is central to a smooth running relationship.

2. Encouraging teambuilding between in-house and partner teams to improve trust between parties and minimize resource misuse

It is vital sponsors make those assigned by their trial feel like a member of the in-house team. By dedicating resources both to your internal team and their contracted counterparts, sponsors are more likely to create a cohesive unit which will further the success of your trial. By equating your trial’s success with theirs, contracted individuals will increase their commitment to your project.

If this is successfully achieved, sponsors can ensure that quality is maintained throughout study duration and that they are not required to constantly check up on their study manager and micromanage their output. Additionally, functionally outsourcing your capabilities lends itself best to achieving team spirit because it results in a lower turnaround of staff which in turn enables sponsors to guarantee those who begin working on their project are likely to stay on board until the study completion.

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3. Partnering with a CRO which can cater to the size of your company and tailor their expertise to your needs

The CRO market is saturated with companies of all shapes and sizes. There are big and small, local and global, niche and generalist companies who can assist you when conducting your trial no matter the size of your company or the complexity of your trial. It is not uncommon for companies to complain about getting the A team in the bid defense meeting while getting the B team running your trials. An easy way to avoid this, and to ensure a successful relationship between you and your partner, is to choose a CRO that matches the size of your company, and who will work with you instead of requiring you to work around them.

4. To outsource or not to outsource, this is the question? Examining the arguments behind keeping capabilities in-house versus contracting out

Even though the tendency in the industry is to outsource capabilities, there is a growing current that questions this move. The main reason companies of all shapes and sizes decide to outsource is that this is seen as a way to lower costs and guarantees the bottom line can be met. However, this is not always the case.

A failure in a partnership between the vendor and a trial sponsor can heavily delay the move into the next phase of a trial’s development which can severely increase the costs of a trial. Meanwhile, keeping capabilities in-house does serve to improve communication management and reduces delays in turnaround. Meanwhile, keeping certain capabilities in-house can be more effective than engaging in a full-service outsourcing as it gives sponsors greater control, meaning you only pay for the expertise you don’t have in-house.

While this list is not exhaustive, it does offer an insight into what sponsors and vendors can do to improve their partnerships given that the success of these is paramount in ensuring that new therapies are readily available to those know need them most.