How to Develop a Great Working Relationship with Your CRO

So you’ve gone through the process of selecting a Contract Research Organization (CRO) to help with your project(s) and now you’re ready to get started, but what’s next? Well, don’t think you can just relax knowing your project is in good hands. While it may well be, there are some really important things you should do to ensure the best possible results in this relationship.

Clear Expectations

First, there should be a kick off meeting between your company and the CRO to understand how this relationship will work going forward. At this point, provide any information about your project that will help the CRO’s team understand the importance of this work as if they were an extension of your organization. Make your expectations clear so the CRO understands them. Define goals including protocols, timelines, and budgets.

Clear Roles and Responsibilities

In the kick off meeting, the roles and responsibilities should be clearly defined so you understand who will be your main point of contact, ideally an experienced project manager. How will the person driving the project actively manage it throughout the process? How will things be handled if any issues should arise? Also identify who on your team will be working with the CRO and clearly define their role(s). Find out what the plan is for regular meetings and who will take notes, including action items, and send them out to attendees/stakeholders. Who will be ensuring the action items get addressed as anticipated? Leave no stone unturned here. It should be a good natured and collaborative meeting, but also make sure everything is clearly sorted out and identified in the form of meeting minutes.

Clear Communication

As the project(s) progresses, ensure everything is going as you anticipated. Do not make assumptions, if you are unclear about something, ask. If you have any concerns, be sure to make them known to the CRO early on so they can have the opportunity to address them. This relationship must be transparent and respectful in order to be productive.

Having regular conversations will keep everyone up-to-date on progress so a small issue does not become a bigger problem. A good CRO should bring up potential obstacles before projects start and keep you informed of lead times, reprioritizations and unforeseen problems. Keep in mind that sometimes human error can occur, but what matters is how the CRO deals with that mistake. They should have a strategy to address any issue at hand. Remember that CROs have a great deal of expertise, so lean on their knowledge in this process.

Be sure to be flexible in case any changes are necessary to accommodate the project scope, for instance more frequent meetings or a change to the protocol. Ultimately, the CRO should be very customer focused and doing everything in their power to ensure your project is done on time, with high quality, and within budget. It’s your job to provide them with the information necessary to make that happen.