It Goes Both Ways
Most of the executives interviewed note that a high-level relationship between the sponsor and the CRO is possible only if
there is mutual respect, cooperation, and honesty. And several of the executives acknowledge that the sponsor companies have
to work harder to achieve that atmosphere.
"There's a continuous need to work with and interact with the CRO at a level that is really supporting them as a part of the
team. It's more of an us as opposed to a them," says Purdue's Katz.
"It goes both ways," agrees Babani. "My title—VP of alliance management—speaks to the nature of the relationship we're trying
to build. When people are focused on building higher-level relationships—and it has to happen on both sides—you tend to have
satisfaction in those relationships."
This more mature dynamic also means that the CROs have to step up to the plate. If they are gaining more respect and seeing
a greater investment in the relationship by sponsors, the sponsors in turn expect greater accountability and engagement. Biopharma
companies are no longer content that CROs be only their 'arms and legs,' " says Babani. "We're demanding that they be more
intellectually engaged and responsible."
In the past, sponsors typically micromanaged the relationship with CROs. While that can still be a problem, if they're not
being micromanaged, that inherently puts a lot more responsibility for the work onto the CRO. "They can no longer say, 'We
didn't know what to do; you didn't tell us what to do,' because they're being held accountable for making decisions and recommendations
around the areas of service that they are providing," Babani says. This scenario does hold the promise of greater satisfaction
for the CRO, and thus better results, because people thrive when they are not being micromanaged and are given respect as
a team member. "So if you push some of the accountability onto the CRO and hold them responsible for those things, then people
will tend to be more satisfied, and satisfaction leads to better results and people doing a better job overall," Babani concludes.
"When you can convince the CROs that you are serious and that you are doing something very proactive yourself, and are willing
to listen and put lots of trust in the CROs, you will often see things back that you haven't seen before when you worked in
the classical provider relationships," a clinical outsourcing director agrees.
Satisfaction—The Start of a Trend?
While no one can predict the future, it's hard to argue with changes that produce successful results. Global economic realities,
coupled with positive changes in reported satisfaction within outsourcing relationships, make it more important that sponsors
and providers build upon the improvements and ensure that the best practices outlined above are fully institutionalized. Without
that, permanent change will remain elusive.
Lisa McKay is Senior Director of Relationship Management Programs; Jackie Syrop is Senior Writer; and Dr. Denise Calaprice-Whitty, Ph.D., is Executive Director, Survey Research and Relationship Management Programs, The Avoca Group