Is your CRO a friend or a foe?

Revised and Updated by Seth Preston on: June 16th, 2020

Seeking out the right Contract Research Organization (CRO) can be a pretty intimidating task… At the end of the day, it often boils down to a pretty straightforward need:

“We need a company that we can trust and work with pretty easily.”

Sound familiar?

You’re not alone. No matter where you’re at in the industry, if you’re outsourcing clinical trials, studies, or services, you need to have a pretty in-depth knowledge of the CRO’s experience, aptitude, capabilities, and more. Expounding even further, maintaining trust between organizations is a must-have.

A confident, secure, and trustworthy CRO is worth its weight in gold.

By now, I’m sure most in the industry realize this. But today, we’re here to discuss if your CRO is a friend, or a foe.

When one first ponders this question, we often face an initial blockade that is typically “Where do I even start?” It can be a seriously daunting task to evaluate another company, but if you’re reading this, chances are you shouldn’t skip this evaluation. I’m not sure anyone could magically wave a wand and say if your CRO is good or bad, but if they could, they’d be in business till the end of time. Until we find either the wand or the magician, we’ll stick to evaluating things ourselves.

When you first begin your evaluation, create a list and deem this your “Feedback List”. Now, mentally go through your organization’s team, and record those who can provide feedback on your CRO. If you can, include someone from each possible department/branch possible. Gathering feedback from a wide spread of people in your organization can highlight both strengths and weaknesses. Maybe your CRO receives high marks from your financial team, but your Clinical team has less than desirable comments? This could be hard to know without asking around.

Now that you’ve created your Feedback List, go out and get that feedback. Make sure you record it in notes or another medium.

When you’ve gathered all the feedback you can handle, you’re in a much more capable place to speak on behalf of your organization. Beyond that, your team will be appreciative of the fact that you value their professional opinion. It’s a win-win, really.

When you’re ready, discuss the information received with others in your company. Similar to the step above, this helps produce a more rounded evaluation, and thus, a greater understanding of both your organization and the CRO under evaluation. Sometimes, pain-points can start within your organization or the CRO. This is an incredibly important piece of information to remember.

Once you’ve discussed the feedback, you’re well prepared to give an evaluation. The preparation requires a lot of leg-work, but in the end, the results are often more refined thanks to it.

Now, consider the following aspects when approaching a potential CRO, or interacting with your current partner:


1. Communication:

This is the base of everything- do you have direct access to your CRO when you need it? Are you getting satisfactory responses?

Ultimately, both the CRO and Sponsor need in-depth communication- the channels this communication arrives in depends heavily on current trends, preferences, and abilities . Remember that successful business-relationships are based on transparency, easy communication and professionalism. Poor communication, or lack there-of, can be one of the deciding factors between success and failure. I believe anyone in the business can guess which side the sponsors want to be on.

When communicating with your CRO, you shouldn’t feel the need to drag information from them; the contacts you have should be open, honest, and willing to share information both good and bad. This is one of those scenarios where you shouldn’t provide a lot of leeway- mistakes can happen, but you’re not paying for information to be redacted or withheld from you.


2. Flexibility:

In an ever-changing world, being able to make adjustments on the fly is a must. Often times, various things change- this is especially true in 2020. If all roads to our goals were straight, perfectly paved, and imperfection-free, we wouldn’t have to worry about being flexible. Truth is: things can change, studies can be altered, problems can arise- but having the right CRO in place to step-up and take the helm is priceless.

A well-versed and truly flexible CRO will make adjustments that benefit both the sponsor and themselves, and on occasions, may not feel like an adjustment at all. If things go smoothly, great adjustments are often unnoticed.


3. Expertise

Expertise goes beyond the numbers- expertise lies within the people that make up the organization. Being able to trust your CRO to deliver is something a Sponsor never wants to worry over. In fact, it’s something a Sponsor should never have to question. Are the people involved in your study knowledgeable, ready to answer questions, and poised to succeed? Each and every aspect, study, protocol, procedure, data interpretation, and report should resonate expertise.

When considering or evaluating a CRO, they should be honest about their team’s experience and history. Many of the best are extremely open to small “audits” of team credentials, as well as various other counts of verification.


3. Team:

Who are the people working on your project? They should be people with the right education, training, and experience. While this ties into the expertise aspect, the team’s composition can vary. Are the people handling your study comfortable, confident, hard-working, and willing to do what it takes?

When the sponsor says “Jump”, the people involved should ask “How high?”. The CRO’s team should meet your organizations needs.


Now, you’re pretty qualified to answer this question:

Is your CRO a friend or foe?

If you answered yes, congratulations! As we mentioned, a good CRO can be worth it’s weight in gold!

If you answered no… you might be in for some more conversations with your internal team about the next steps in fixing some of these issues.


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Looking for the right fit? Consider Trial Runners! We’re an Ophthalmology CRO that’s always looking to go above and beyond for our Sponsors.

To see if we’re the CRO that fits your organization, contact us or request a proposal.