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Timeline Management: In Search of the 25th Hour

by Hope Cullen

Do you ever feel there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done? In the life-science industry, we are forever trying to achieve completion in time for the next site initiation visit or first patient in. Ensuring clinical trial materials are on-site in time can be challenging. To meet the challenge, it’s important to start with the end in mind.

Knowing the first date materials need to be available provides the target. Using this, work backwards and add the activities involved in developing, producing and shipping materials, as well as the time required for each. In an ideal world, you would start with the end date, build in time to perform each activity, and come up with an appropriate start date. But let’s be honest, you may not have a lot of control over the start date, either.

Start dates are typically dictated by protocol approval, purchase order initiation, or some other “go forward” activity. So take your ideal timeline and massage it to conform with the start and end dates. Though it can be much like trying to put 5 pounds of sugar into a 3-pound bag, by compressing, manipulating and maneuvering each activity’s time allotment you can often meet very aggressive deadlines.

There are a few  things that can help you succeed. For projects with multiple components, such as medical writing, design, translation, printing, and shipment, choose a full-service provider that can perform all of these functions to maintain consistency in quality and control over timelines. At Imperial, we assign a project manager to oversee this process and to ensure communication occurs smoothly and with a level of transparency to our clients. The project manager also ensures accountability for activities so that internal team members and clients understand their roles and perform their assigned tasks on time to meet the ultimate target. By having an end-to-end understanding of all the steps and everyone’s role, the project manager helps to navigate the process forward to completion.

Of course, sometimes a timeline just cannot be met. Two things no team should ever do is to skip steps or compromise quality to meet a deadline. While the need for speed is understandable, ultimately getting it right is more important than getting it fast. When circumstances conspire to make timelines unreachable, connect with your team and work through alternative solutions. Creative thinking and a sense of urgency helps to navigate what is sometimes an ever-moving target to support clinical trial needs.

And sooner or later, maybe we can all find that 25th hour in the day.

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