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Nov 15, 2010 (Vol. 30, No. 20)

Encouraging Suppliers to Communicate

Earnest Discourse Early and Often Provides Better Outcomes and Increased Customer Satisfaction

  • Corporate Culture

    “Why wouldn’t sponsors have their suppliers involved to manage time lines and expectations better? It goes back to the culture of the pharmaceutical business,” according to Brian Scanlan, chief business officer at Cambridge Major Laboratories. Traditionally, he explained, functions are placed in silos. “If those groups aren’t talking, there’s little chance the organization is set up for suppliers to do that. Therefore, the integral groups must start talking first.”

    Whether the process works effectively depends largely on the corporate cultures of the companies involved, Hennecke emphasized. One key indicator of whether an organization can work effectively with its partners is how well groups within the company work together.

    In that regard, the biotech industry excels. Because many lack some internal resources, they are more likely than big pharma to form virtual companies that rely on suppliers, consultants, and independent contractors, Scanlan elaborated. Therefore, biotech scientists and executives often have developed a greater comfort level, based upon experience, in working with dispersed projects.

    Whether the vendors can work together well depends largely upon how well their cultures mesh, too. If they have similar cultures, matching the policies, procedures, and approaches to work will be easier and will increase the possible benefits that may be gained by having everyone talking.

    Good communication is one of the keys. Hennecke recommended that “the downstream guys know what the upstream guys are working on.” If they don’t know, “perhaps it would be helpful to get reacquainted with each other.” To do this, he suggested sitting in on conference calls, “even if that group isn’t involved yet, to learn the dynamics of the relationships and to learn about potential obstacles early.” According to Scanlan, “The more we talk, the more we learn what is important to them…and that makes handoffs move more smoothly.”

    The technological infrastructure needed to help this process work is already in place throughout the industrialized world. Applications for online meetings, file sharing, contact management, and collaborations are ubiquitous. The next step is to harmonize standard operating procedures, master service agreements, quality control release criteria, analytical methods, and contracts, accoding to Scanlan.

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