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John Barry

By: John Barry on September 12th, 2019

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Walking the Pattern of Excellence

Pharm-Olam Insights | Pattern of Excellence

In this post, we hear from Pharm-Olam's Chief Operations Officer, John Barry, and how he walked the Pattern of Excellence and described the value of it to a prospective customer.  

Sponsors are looking for CROs to provide more value and to more clearly differentiate themselves.  This in part is why Pharm-Olam established its Pattern of Excellence.  Through John's story, you may learn how the Pattern of Excellence could apply to you and your next study, with Pharm-Olam as your CRO partner.  

In a recent capabilities presentation, I was asked to overview our Pattern of Excellence (POE) and the 6 dimensions of delivery we feel are important to the company and to our customers. I found myself “walking the POE” as I “entered” by describing our commitment to ecosystem accountability, the Culture of Accountability that we feel is critical to customer and study success. As we discussed this dimension, I explained to our prospective customer that, while we have responsibility to deliver the services agreed by our contract, our customers are only successful when the entire ecosystem delivers in synchrony with our other supplier partners. We don’t need to be responsible for the ecosystem to be accountable to it, and we expect other partners to feel the same. This discussion begged an obvious question from the customer; “How do you know the ecosystem is delivering?” This led me into the next POE dimension of Earned Value Management or EVM.

As we began to discuss EVM, I explained that most project oversight methodologies will track time and money, two of the most important value dimensions for a Sponsor and CRO. However, I also explained the paradox that both time and money, while creating value for us [CRO], often erodes value for our customers [Sponsors]. Our interest is in accruing value for POI that is in sync with how we accrue value for our customers. Using EVM, we have introduced a third variable that reflects the value we are accruing for customers. An example of this type of value might be patients enrolled, patient visits completed, or patient data entered. Trials have little to no value without patients or patient data and its trial value that is of interest to our customers. As the conversation continued, the prospective customer asked an important question which led me to the next POE delivery dimension, our Project Team Loyalty program. Their question was, “How do you ensure that your team is committed to your culture of accountability and in accruing value for their customer?”

I explained that our project team loyalty bonus program is unique in the industry in that it is a delivery  based bonus, and not a time based bonus. Other CRO programs will generally be annual retention bonuses and, despite plenty of examples where these are in place, turnover continues to plague the industry. Our thought is that, if we cannot solve the problem for us, perhaps we can at least insulate our customers from turnover. Therefore, we tie a meaningful bonus for customer facing staff to a key final deliverable like database lock. The bonus accrues value based on the duration the individual is assigned to the project. People have incentive to stay on the project through the final deliverable. Where in place, this has had a meaningful impact on our turnover which helps ensure we have a stable platform to drive accountability into our culture. As we discussed this, it begged the next question of “How do you hold the organization accountable?” and this turned our attention to our next POE dimension, Performance Based Contracts or PBC’s.

In the absence of consequence, it's an easy thing to say that we’re confident, to say “trust us” when a customer wants to know why we think we can deliver. The question though is how is this level of confidence affected by the consequences you will feel if we fail to deliver? That’s the purpose of our PBC’s, to create a consequence for us if or when we don’t deliver for our customer. If we’ve eroded value for our customer, then we should not be creating value for Pharm-Olam. One way we address this is by tying meaningful payments to a “commitment milestone.” This differs from the more typical milestone payment in that we don’t qualify for the payment (full or partial) just because we achieve the milestone.  When we achieve the milestone, is now also important. And, should we not deliver this milestone on time we forgo the payment or receive a reduced payment pending the agreed terms. This creates a meaningful consequence and aligns the value proposition of the two companies. Of course, our delivery is also connected to the delivery of our other partner stakeholders and this leads to the next dimension of the POE, the Scalable Delivery Ecosystem.

In our model, we depend on our customer, sites, labs other suppliers and parties to collaborate and deliver the customer project. This requires a delivery ecosystem that can scale with the needs of our projects as we dial up or down the various stakeholders in it. While there are a number of “full-service CROs” in our industry, the reality is that no CRO provides the full set of services to support a clinical development program.  In contrast though, our delivery ecosystem does allow us to bring together a truly full-service offering, with therapeutically aligned and beneficial partners (sites, vendors, etc.). Yes, it may spread the responsibility across multiple contracts and their suppliers but, as it is managed as one entity, accountability converges with Pharm-Olam. This model also allows us access to best-in-class offerings from any number of suppliers. Of course, managing a delivery system of multiple stakeholders requires effective Project Management and this led me to the last, and perhaps most important dimension of our POE, which is Bow Tie Risk Management.

Pharm-Olam’s Risk Based Management approach to project management is underpinned by a disciplined system, called Bow Tie Risk Management. We’ve learned that all projects have risks and it’s the successful projects that manage these risks effectively. Indeed, a problem we might have on a project is just a risk that has manifested. If we think of that risk as the knot in a bow tie, the left-side bow represents the various failures that might occur that translate that risk into a problem. Similarly, the right-side bow represents the various consequences we might feel in the event the problem occurs. Our Bow-Tie model then allows us to consider contingencies to prevent the problem from occurring as well as the contingencies we should consider should the problem occur. It enables both proactive and reactive risk management as, when performed effectively, allows us to deliver on the remaining POE dimensions.  


It was an interesting journey around the Pattern of Excellence as each question from the prospective customer led me to the next POE dimension. When selecting a CRO partner, it is important to find one that has a comprehensive methodology for partnership and study delivery.  We feel like Pharm-Olam is on the right path to closer collaboration with our customers.  Is your CRO partner measuring value the same way you are at a Sponsor organization?  Our goal is to partner with pharma and biotechs, to deliver successful research and to change the lives of people for the better thereby creating a healthier world for everyone to enjoy. 

We are dedicated to our customers and our patients, and someday you or a loved one may be the beneficiary of one of the life-changing treatments our customers get approved.  So, in the end, our commitment is to them.

If you want to read learn more about the Pattern of Excellence, see our Why Pharm-Olam page of our website.  We look forward to sharing more with you during our next post on the blog.  


About John Barry

John joined Pharm-Olam in 2017 and serves as our chief operating officer. He has worked in our industry for over 20 years having worked at both PPD, Quintiles (now IQVIA) and Merck before joining Pharm-Olam. He is based out of Wilmington, NC where you may find him cruising the sun-soaked roads on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.