The business of Clinical Research Organizations (CROs) has been expanding recently due to the slow growth in the pharmaceutical industry. Working for a CRO offers numerous challenges and rewards. The following highlights some of these in greater detail:
The client CRO relationship plays a crucial role in today’s workplace. CROs need to go that extra mile to exceed client expectations, thereby retaining existing customers and sustaining the business. Out-of-scope requests by clients are not uncommon. Tackling such requests can be challenging, but are often well received by the majority of clients when approached in an open and honest manner.
Efficiency is one of the pillars for a successful CRO business. The overall utilization of resources in a CRO, captured in terms of monthly ‘billability’ and ‘profitability’, are often the hot topics of discussion at the end of each month. Striking the right balance in terms of project time, cost and quality can result in substantial gains for the business. Periodic tracking and sending project status updates to the client helps to keep everyone on the same page and leads to successful completion of a project.
There is always a pressure of timelines converging from multiple projects while working for a CRO. Studies that weren't important suddenly become important and the client expects them to be delivered as soon as possible. Conversely, high profile studies with aggressive timelines require protected resource that can become available (and non-profitable) if a study is delayed unexpectedly. In addition, if clients are inexperienced, they often underestimate how long things take to complete. It goes without saying that if the timelines are shortened, there should be no compromise on the quality of the interim and final deliverables.
Working in a CRO can be an extremely rewarding career. Unlike a pharmaceutical company where only a few drugs are studied, life in a CRO provides immense opportunities to work on different drugs/devices. It also provides opportunities to work on multiple projects at a time across a wide range of therapeutic areas. Working for different clients (experienced versus inexperienced) in a CRO is also enjoyable, and provides endless opportunities to build strong relationships. It is extremely encouraging and satisfying to receive positive feedback from the client after a project is completed.
There is the possibility of international travel to meet prospective or existing clients. Working for a CRO also helps to sharpen time management skills whilst working on multiple projects at one time. Cross functional team meetings in a CRO not only provide project specific information, but also helps educate all involved. A CRO can also provide a platform to build strong professional relationships, both internally with colleagues and externally with clients.
A CRO can give you the opportunity to identify and execute best working practices and processes within a function. It helps to develop the ability to work in teams, and to be flexible enough to meet client requirements.
Every CRO has a mix of resources with varying levels of experience. There can be occasions when very few resources in a team will have hands on experience of the type of work that a prospective client requests a CRO to complete. It is of paramount importance to allocate ‘experienced’ resources in such projects, specifically if it is the first time that a CRO has worked with that client. Less experienced staff can also be involved in such projects, receiving training on a project driven basis. This, in turn, increases the ‘pool’ of trained resources who can be allocated to a similar piece of work in the future.
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