Ockham implements Leading-edge automation system from Mindprint Inc.
Why Profitability Analysis is Challenging for CROs
It would seem like a simple matter for a CRO to figure out the profitability of any particular study it undertakes. The reality is that this is one of the most difficult—but important— aspects of the business.
The problem is that pharma companies which outsource studies to CROs, employ a so-called unitized method of setting an overall budget. The scheme works something like this: the pharma company pays the CRO for each unit delivered. It is up to the CRO to estimate accurately ahead of project start how much time each professional—whether clinical research associate, project manager, quality analyst, or others—will need to spend in order to produce the deliverable regulatory document, which is called a ―unit.‖ If it turns out that the CRO underestimates the actual time required by the various professionals on the project to create a deliverable unit, then profitability goes down. If certain units are consistently exceeding the estimated time, the budgeting system must be fine-tuned to ensure future profitability. This crucial aspect of the CRO business is handled automatically by the Mindprint software, ensuring much more accurate profitability analysis.
It was a good problem to have. Expecting only about a dozen or so new clinical trials in the next few months, Ockham, a leader in the field of oncology services, suddenly saw its new contracts jump more than five-fold. Having recently acquired a contract research organization (CRO) in Scotland, and, before that, a US-based CRO, Ockham’s business was growing quickly—but not without some growing pains.
Even before the acquisitions and growth spurt, Ockham, which provides a full range of services to pharmaceutical companies—from providing top-notch research staff, to managing and conducting end-to-end cancer therapy clinical trials—Ockham faced a big challenge in finding the right software tools to manage the lifecycle of its Clinical Studies.. The company, based in Cary, North Carolina, chose Toronto-based Mindprint Inc. for a company-wide professional services automation (PSA) system that promised to make the entire company more productive and profitable.
―We have completed more than 250 clinical trials for new cancer therapies,‖ explains Jim Baker, founder and CEO of Ockham. ―But one of our biggest challenges was measuring the profitability of each study, simple as that may sound. We just didn’t have the right tools in place to do that consistently and accurately.‖ Baker added that integrating the data systems of the new acquisitions was also a challenge that required a new set of tools.
Mindprint, which specializes in enterprise software for CROs, was nearing deployment of Ockham’s new custom system—when news of the sudden spurt in business came in. ―We had to move quickly to import a large number of studies into the system,‖ explains Prasad A. Sristi, founder and CEO of Mindprint. ―But we were able to quickly redesign a core part of the system to allow for the importation of a large number of new projects, and make the system much more scalable. We turned a challenge into an opportunity.‖
For Ockham, the business challenges caused by the outdated software, quickly turned into formidable new tools for business growth and profitability. ―We work seamlessly across four continents now,‖ notes Baker. ―Our staff is more effective, our clients are happier, and we are on a sound growth path.‖
The technology that made all this possible is an innovative platform called Axpert, developed by Bangalore, India-based Agile Labs. The patented Axpert system is based on a method of rapidly creating custom enterprise software – without expensive and time-consuming programming.
“Axpert makes application development and maintenance easy, by substantially reducing the effort required,‖ explains Prasad Sristi, founder and CEO of Mindprint—which developed a large library of Axpert modules specifically for CROs. ―Application development using Axpert requires only domain experts. No expensive coding is required.”
- Fully functional Professional Services Automation (PSA) system—a single operational system to run the entire company.
- Fully scalable solution that will allow the software system to continue to grow with the company
- Core functionality comprising the following capabilities:
- Study Proposals: built-in flexibility, allows customizable proposals for each client’s unique requirements, with risk-free, fixed-bid, engagement model.
- Study Management: includes automated staffing, timesheet and expense report generation.
- Revenue Forecasting: using business intelligence technology that can be fine-tuned by user input. No programing required.
- Resource Planning: allows Ockham to align their professional resources with the client’s exact needs.
- Invoicing: highly automated invoice generation cuts invoicing time, allows for high level of individual client personalization
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM): includes client management, lead generation, and site report generation.
- Human Resources (HR): automated expense reports, vacations, and sick days.
- Entire company working on a single & simple-to-use platform. Excellent scalability and low training requirements.
- Much more accurate financial data. No mis-reported units and returned invoices
- Accurate financial forecasts for the entire company. Senior management can look into the next 12 months of expected cash flow with the click of a single button
- More discipline in budgets. Ockham team is able to churn out dozens of budgets from our system every month.
- Invoicing time cut down drastically
- High visibility into profitability. Study profitability is measured down to each unit based on the salary of employees actually working on those units.
- Decreased administration overhead costs. Ockham can quickly start operations in a new country or geography.