In my ongoing search for new insights, trends, and developments across the outsourcing industry, I’m usually pondering several questions. In preparing for the DIA Annual Meeting being held in late June, I thought I would share some of the questions I’ll be trying to answer as I attend the sessions and work the exhibit hall.
Do companies really understand the difference between a core competency and a critical competency?
Forgive me if you’ve heard this one before. But I hear too many executives identifying their company’s core competencies as tasks they can do very well; are those managers really oblivious to the fact that many competitors and peers can perform those tasks just as competently? I suggest they pay more attention to defining their firm’s critical competencies — not only tasks they can do very well, but tasks they must do themselves because no other firm can do them quite as efficiently or effectively. The list of such critical competencies is much shorter than the laundry list of core competencies spotlighted on many companies’ websites.
Can outsourcing firms help their biopharmaceutical clients’ internal drug development efforts?
Various types of strategic partnerships seem to be based not only on indentifying work that will be outsourced, but also on helping improve the efficiency of all the sponsor’s research activities. Is there a role for traditional or non-traditional service providers in helping their clients improve the performance of their research enterprise, rather than just performing the work that is outsourced?
What is the answer to cracking the recruiting and retention nut?
Recruiting and retaining patients still represents a tremendous challenge for all the parties involved in clinical research. Would the process be meaningfully improved through the use of more technology? By recruiting more patients from the broader healthcare world? By paying larger stipends? By greatly simplifying study protocols? Or will they do it by . . .?
Are the industry’s most visible strategic partnerships working well enough to be renewed or extended?
I suspect even the participants don’t yet know the answer to this question. But I’m eagerly anticipating the comments at some of the meeting’s creative and provocative sessions on outsourcing and partnerships. Indeed, I’m hoping to learn a lot from the panelists at the DIA session I’ll be chairing: The Unintended Consequences of Strategic Partnerships.
How will some C-suite newcomers change the direction of the outsourcing industry?
Less than a handful of important outsourcing service providers are headed by executives with meaningful management experience in other industries. However, the appointment of Accenture veteran Tom Pike as Quintiles’ new chief executive officer is only the latest example of an industry veteran (in this case Dennis Gillings) giving up his or her day-to-day management responsibilities. The opening of the TV version of The Odd Couple asked, “Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?” CRO watchers may soon be asking, “Can industry outsiders extend the successful track records of company-founders without driving their employees crazy?”
How will private equity investors change the management and direction of the many publicly held outsourcing firms they have taken private during the past few years?
People from sponsors and providers seem alternately perplexed, annoyed, fearful, hopeful, and confused about the effects of these changes in ownership. Much of their public and private commentary seems based on an incomplete notion of the practices of the professional investment community. I’m not sure this meeting is the best forum to address that issue. But stayed tuned. Addressing this question plays into one of my own core (or is it critical?) competencies. I’ll have more to say on it in future columns.
Michael A. Martorelli is a Director at the investment banking firm Fairmount Partners. For additional commentary on the topics covered in this column contact him at Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org or at Tel: (610) 260-6232; Fax (610) 260-6285.