Pan Asian Clinical Research Association (PACRA)

Even Santa is agile. So are we (or at least we want to be)

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I bet every person no matter how much time has passed since his/her childhood remembers a sensational feeling of Santa’s high standards for on-time present delivery. Therefore we can make the conclusion that if Christmas is considered as a project, then a collaborative team, a charismatic master and a proper project management tool are all we need to do magic.

So we begin.

Being innovative in soul, clinical trials stay very traditional in their form. Rules, procedures, regulations, guidelines… As a CRO we feel it even stronger as we have to follow multiple processes that are provided from the different Sponsors with whom we work. We are flexible but the problem is that it is simply not enough anymore. We have to find new approaches for continuous improvement and efficacy.

We started with the pre-selection of a new CTMS system in the hope that it may balance the entropy and at the same time will help our Project Managers. However, after assessing several presentations we concluded that a standard system alone cannot address non-standardisable processes. Furthermore and importantly we do not want standard results, we want outstanding ones!

So the more applications we reviewed the clearer it became that we needed another approach to grow our productivity, quality and timelines.

From this insight we have therefore started our transition from traditional flexibility to modern agileness.

Agile methodology has come from programming, but it has taken its roots from the car industry. Why not to bring it to clinical trials? Following Thomas Jefferson “If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done”. And so, we have switched our focus to agile software.

Do you know that Wikipedia lists 139 project management software tools? Well-known software tools, because if you are famous - you ought to be in wiki :)

Unfortunately even having 139 tools available it is as impossible to select one as it is to find a single pill for all diseases. As a first step therefore our agile team focused on the identification of the most ‘life-threatening processes’ that might gain benefit from Scrum and Kanban agile models. It resulted in defining five pain points or processes that should be addressed as part of a pilot.

And so the time has come for the perfect software. No names to be disclosed but I will share the thoughts that have driven our decision.

1. Technology. Starting from 2010 the most popular project management solutions are cloud-based. However, to take it all you should not only reach for the “sky” but have it with you as apps for your smartphone right in your pocket.

2. Visualization. A common problem with project management is the difficulty with both viewing and understanding huge volumes of constantly fluctuating data as well as changes in scope of work. To tackle this problem visualization is a must.

3. Simplicity. Do you need a system that will require months of implementation, tuning, support and staff training? If you have invested significant time, resource and finance into implementing a new system it’s always difficult for one to then acknowledge the system one chose doesn't meet your needs or expectations. It is also equally difficult to do a U-turn. Do you have the confidence (yet alone resources) to repeat the process again with yet another system? Lesson learned - keep it simple.

4. Price. Do you want to pay for a perpetual license once but with no guarantees it is the tool you need till “the death tears you apart”? Take a look on SaaS solutions.

5. People. Collaboration is a key in any agile environment. For remote teams it is really THE key. So let the system be friendly and promote easy communication between all its members.

6. Methodology. If you really need an agile project management tool then make sure the software meets agile values.

No matter what agile methodology you choose: Lean, Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban or whateverbanscrum – let it brightens your life. Our choice looks friendly and promising at the moment. So the miracle is about to come…


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