So, you’ve decided to use a business process service (BPS) as part of your regulatory information management activity. Whether it’s to supplement your internal activities to deal with peak workloads, or a strategic shift to outsourcing, establishing and maintaining good vendor relationships is vital to achieve cost benefits, gain efficiencies, and drive quality and customer service.
By Usha Sharp, Regulatory Engagement Management, Life Sciences, CSC
Of course there’s a contract, but it’s as important to build a strong partnership when choosing a vendor, since true partnerships strengthen the business. Life sciences companies are increasingly turning to vendors to support many non-core services. Developing a healthy relationship with your vendor partner can deliver a real competitive advantage.
You should consider the following five areas when developing strong vendor partnerships:
Always be honest. Be upfront with your vendor about your requirements and what you are expecting. Without a frank exchange of goals, there will be disappointment all round: Relationships will fail and the work – those key dossier submissions and regulatory updates – will be undermined. Fair and honest partners will always win in the long run.
There should be no surprises. It is better to deliver the bad news or identify potential problem areas early on. For example, if you don’t have all the data you need, be transparent about this from the outset. Equally, you need to know your vendor is being honest with you. You might want to ask them to verify that they have the experience and results they claim to have. Ask for examples that demonstrate their capabilities.
There should always be a high level of professionalism and mutual respect for one another, recognizing that both parties are likely to have concerns and needs. In every vendor/client relationship the goal is to meet milestones, achieve specific outcomes and deliver the best results. There are times when circumstance lead to a setback – for example, the regulators take longer to provide their feedback, or they ask for documents that hadn’t been anticipated. In such situations, it’s important to work together amicably to achieve resolution.
When selecting a vendor, their level of professionalism should be clear from the start. In your early meetings with a prospective vendor, do they demonstrate the level of professionalism you expect? Are they punctual, able to answer questions clearly, ready to provide what you need and eager to go the extra mile? Does your vendor give you enough proof that they know how to do it, when to do it and are able to do it the right way?
This is a critical part in the day-to-day relationship between the vendor and the client. Today’s always-on communication world means there are many ways to keep in contact and stay informed. But have you told your vendor how you prefer to receive information – email, phone calls and/or written information? It’s important to establish your preference early on and ensure your vendor maintains and respects your preferred methods of communication, or to make it clear if you would like to receive information through a variety of mediums.
Throughout the relationship you should always aim to keep each other well-informed. You want a vendor who makes themselves available when required and replies promptly to any queries.
But remember, communication is a two-way street. If you are going to be out of the office, especially if a submission is due or under way, have you provided your vendor with a contact for urgent communication?
Transparent and clear communication is vital in order to ensure your vendor can serve you best. At times you may not know how to respond or you may be busy with other projects. In those circumstances it can help to let your vendor know that you have received their communication and it’s on your to-do list.
4. Share your Knowledge
Companies often choose a vendor because of a specific service or product they have to offer. As you get to know each other, you will undoubtedly find other areas they can help you with.
By ensuring your vendor has disclosed their extended knowledge and expertise – or the expertise that lies within their company – you gain insight into whether they might be a good source for other projects, which mutually benefits both parties.
In the long-term, as your relationship grows, your vendor can become an integral part of the team and share their knowledge and advice in areas that might be beyond scope of the project.
5. Meet Deadlines
Managing time and meeting deadlines is essential to successful partnerships.
But you need to ensure that you provide your vendors with the documents they require to meet deadlines. That might take some forward planning, particularly when information comes from other internal departments or even from external sources. Have you thought about what will be required and do you have easy access to those documents?
After you have been working with your vendor for a few months, it’s worth checking whether those deadlines have been met, or whether work has been delivered quicker than you expected. However, in requesting an estimate for project delivery, you want your vendor to be realistic about what they are able to do.
With the best determination in the world, projects sometimes hit a snag, such as a technical issue. You want a vendor with enough depth to manage and juggle potential unexpected technical issues and come up with alternative solutions to ensure you don’t miss those important submission deadlines.
Take care of these five areas and the growing relationship with your vendor will yield synergies and build a rapport that goes above and beyond simply getting the job done. Working side by side toward the same goals, the lines between you and the vendor become blurred to the point where you become a team.
At that point you know you have achieved true partnership.