The Keys to Successful Partnerships – Have You Considered All of Them?

Outsourcing is often a way of life for many biopharmaceutical, medical device and life sciences firms.   They often outsource clinical research or portions of their manufacturing process.  They may contract with partners who supply backroom functions like I.T. and human resources.  The quality of the partnerships they form can have a big impact on the atmosphere and profitability of the company.  But are all partnerships created equal?  Much has been written about the elements needed to make outsourcing work for your company.  But most authors have left out one of the most important factors.  Have you considered it in your company’s outsourcing decisions?

 What are some keys to successful partnerships?  One obvious key is the partner’s ability to deliver on their promises, to efficiently perform the work they’ve been contracted to do. Clearly, if an outsource contract is for a key aspect of research or manufacturing, it must be done properly or the results can be disastrous.  This is even true for more mundane backroom tasks that have been outsourced, not to enhance capacity but primarily to save money. “If those mundane tasks aren’t done properly,” writes Elizabeth Gardner in The Job That Doesn’t Go Away, “savings can evaporate.” Gardner cites a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey in which more than 50% of the companies studied said they weren’t realizing the savings they had expected from outsourcing.

 How could this happen?  If outsource partners have the necessary skills, facilities and capacity to perform the work, what could possibly get in the way?  One potential pitfall is the partner’s quality standards and belief about what constitutes acceptable work. 

 One life sciences company provides a potentially life-saving service for newborn infants.  They contracted with a seemingly well qualified fulfillment partner to assemble kits and send them to expectant parents who requested them.  That partner had the necessary sterile facilities as well as experience in life sciences fulfillment.  Unfortunately, they didn’t share the company’s quality standards and commitment to customer service.  Kits were often sent out missing key components.  The vendor refused to send anything out after 2:00pm; kit orders that came in after that had to be filled by the life sciences company’s sales department.  Executives made a number of requests for changes, but the vendor was unable to implement them.

 Clearly, this life sciences company needed to select a new partner.  The partner they chose had substantial experience in running fulfillment programs for healthcare organizations and hospitals as well as marketing support programs for medical device manufacturers. But this organization had little experience in life sciences fulfillment. Selecting them was a bit of a gamble.  What did the life sciences company see in their new partner that could compensate for their short résumé in this vital area? That organization may have won awards for managing hospital print management programs.  But what could help them effectively handle critical, time-sensitive life sciences fulfillment?  How have things turned out?  Stay tuned.

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