VISION Becomes Reality!

A vendor and category management application has long been needed for clinical R&D. While this has been on our radar, there is something to be said about “the stars aligning,” and success is almost always defined by timing. Late November 2021, we received two independent requests: one coming from a top tier pharma, frustrated by the lack of systems for strategic partner and alliance management and another from a leading “umbrella” biotech who manages a portfolio of single asset biotechs. Both requestors wanted to find a smart answer to a simple, but critical question: “Which service providers are working on which study, department, therapeutic area?”.

It turns out the answer to such a fundamental request is not an easy one to provide, due to the inherent state of industry: generic vendor management solutions do not allow for tracking granularity at department, subsidiary, study, program or therapeutic area level; even if those systems could be somewhat customized, sourcing information often resides in another application, or more commonly in Excel, contract information resides in yet another, qualification and RFI processes are conducted using Excel, surveying tools such as Survey Monkey, or yet another generic system, quality-focused information related to oversight plans and audits- are often hosted in yet another solution. And well, you get the picture. The common link universally seems to be some form of manually maintained “central tracker”, which requires gathering information by logging in multiple systems, searching through multiple document libraries and sources of data.

Here is a classic example of the category manager problem. In a recent conversation, we challenged a strategic vendor manager to tell us the extent of work the company was doing business with CRO X. Initially, CRO X could be identified at the study level- in the late-stage division of the company. But it turns out CRO X also worked with the early-stage division. And wait! They also worked on real-world evidence studies, managed by a different group. But there is more! CRO X also owns several other business lines, including FSP, home nursing, RBM, eCOA, to just name a few…and they recently acquired an entity with whom our Sponsor also conducted business as stand-alone. AND… there is also a separate regulatory affairs contract under a consultancy scope of work through an entity that is now wholly owned by CRO X but maintained the legacy name. Long story short…the answer to understanding the extent of work of CRO X required more research. How can any of the decision-driven, business minded category managers afford the luxury of contracting more and more research, without the tools to execute?

Category management is an essential element in a heavily outsourced industry, such as pharma. Consumers need strategic vendor data to rapidly assess the state of their partner portfolio in order to tailor risk assessment and performance management based on live scope of work information across all departments of the organization. Equally important, the consequences of poor category management can be quite severe. For example, the lack of visibility into provider and sub-contractor relationships at the study level can lead to poor oversight which can severely impact the study success. Many Sponsors think about critical services such as eCOA, IVRS, labs, imaging, as “pass through cost” and rely on the CROs for the management. This approach can quickly lead to having multiple relationships “buried” in the CRO contract with limited or no access to the CRO vendor management and oversight process.

Shortly after the initial requests for a vendor management system the Strategikon team embarked on a journey of better understanding the industry. We conducted interviews with category

management leaders from both Sponsors and CROs and dived deeper into the industry challenges and success stories. The thought leadership research was quickly embedded into product design as we began prototyping VISION, the newest member of the Clinical Maestro application family. With each demo and reiteration of the prototype we further improved the product roadmap. Working in an expeditious, agile fashion, we formed a “SWAT team” to build VISION on the existing foundation of our provider management application in SOURCE and rallied our energy to complete the VISION release for category management in record time. Clinical Maestro VISION turned into reality with our September 2022 release, bringing to market the first vendor excellence management solution to the industry!

The story of VISION inspires me personally and stands out in support of our mission and philosophy to listen and embed the customer’s voice into our product strategy. What started as an inquiry into pharma specific category management solution, led to industry-wide research, thought leadership and contributions from outstanding industry leaders and resulted in a product that is built from ground-up to surpass in its intended purpose: bringing greater transparency into tactical and strategic vendor relationships!

By Anca Copaescu, CEO, Strategikon Pharma

To contact Anca for more information, please email her at