Project Plan: CDISC Implementation



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CDISC standards have been in development for many years. There are now methodologies and technologies that would make the transformation of non-standard data into CDISC-compliance with ease. Clinical trials have evolved and become more complex and this requires a new set of skills outside of clinical research – Project Management.

As with many projects, CDISC is a huge undertake. It requires resources, technology and knowledge-transfer. The industry (FDA for example) has been working on standardization for years but on September 2013, it became official, in which the FDA released a ‘Position Statement‘.

So what is CDISC? We can say that it is way of naming convention for XPT files, or field names naming conventions or rules for handling unusual data. Currently, there are two main components of CDISC: SDTM (Study Data Tabulation Model) and aDAM (Analysis Data Model).

As a project manager and with the right tool, you can look to a single source project information to manage the project through its life-cycle – from planning, through execution, to completion.

1) Define Scope: This is where you’re tested on everything that has to do with getting a project up and running: what’s in the charter, developing the preliminary scope, understanding what your stakeholders need, and how your organization handles projects.

The scope document is a form of a requirement document which will help you identify the goals for this project. It can also be used as a communication method to other managers and team members to set the appropriate level of expectations.

The project scope management plan is a really important tool in your project. You need to make sure that what you’re delivering matches what you wrote down in the scope statement.

2) Define Tasks: we now need to document all the tasks that are required in implementing and transforming your data to CDISC.

Project Tasks  (Work packages) Estimates (work unit)
Initial data standards review 27
Data Integrity review 17
Create transformation models 35

The work breakdown structure (wbs) provides the foundation for defining work as it relates to project objectives. The scope of work in terms of deliverables and to facilitate communication between the project manager and stakeholders throughout the life of the project. Hence, even though, preliminary at first, it is a key input to other project management processes and deliverables.

3) Project Plan: Once we completed the initiation phase (preliminary estimates), we need to create a project plan assigning resources to project and schedule those tasks. Project schedules can be presented in many ways, including simple lists, bar charts with dates, and network logic diagrams with dates, to name just a few. A sample of the project plan is shown below:

project plan sample

image from Meta‐Xceed paper about CDISC

4) Validation Step: Remember 21 CFR Part 11 compliance for Computer Systems Validation? The risk management effort is not a one-time activity on the project. Uncertainty is directly associated with the change being produced by a project. The following lists some of the tasks that are performed as it pertains to validation.

  • Risk Assessment: Different organizations have different approaches towards validation of programs. This is partly due to varying interpretations of the regulations and also  due to how different managers and organizations function. Assess the level of validation that needs to take place.
  • Test Plan: In accordance with the project plan and, if not, to determine how to address any deviation. Test planning is essential in:  ensuring testing identifies and reveals as many errors as possible and to acceptable levels of quality.

test plan-cdisc

  • Summary Results: This is all the findings documented during testing.

An effective risk management process involves first identifying and defining risk factors that could affect the various stages of the CDISC implementation process as well as specific aspects of the project. riskplan

5) Transformation Specification: Dataset transformation is a process in which a set of source datasets and its variables are changed to  meet new standard requirements. Some changes will occur during this step: For example, variable name must be 8 chars long. The variable label must not be more than 40 chars in length. Combining values from multiple sources (datasets) into on variable.

6) Applying Transformation: This is done according to specification however, this document is active during the duration of a project and can change. There are now many tools available to help with this tasks as it could be time consuming and resource intensive to update the source code (SAS) manually. Transdata, CDISCXpres, SAS CDIDefine-it; just to name a few.

7) Verification Reports: The validation test plan will detail the specific test cases that need to be implemented  to ensure quality of the transformation. For example, a common report is the “Duplicate Variable” report.

8) Special Purpose Domain: CDISC has several special purpose domains: CO (comments), RELREC (related records or relationship between two datasets) and SUPPQUAL (supplemental qualifiers for non-standards variables).

9) Data Definition Documentation: In order to understand what all the variables are and how they are derived, we need a annotation document. This is the document that will be included during data submission. SAS PROC CONTENTS can help in the generation of this type of metadata documentation. The last step in the project plan for CDISC implementation is to generate the documentation in either PDF  or XML format.

CDISC has established data standards to speed-up data review and FDA is now suggesting that soon this will become the norm. Pharmaceuticals, bio-technologies companies and many sponsors within clinical research are now better equipped to improve CDISC implementation.

Need SAS programmers? RA eClinica can help provide resources in-house / off-shore to facilitate FDA review by supporting CDISC mapping, SDTM validation tool, data conversion and CDASH compliant eCRFs.

Good Documentation Practice (GDP) for the EDC / SAS Developer



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When writing programming codes for either validating the software or for validation checks, we often have to write comments to explain why we did something.

Since the FDA regulates computerized systems used in clinical trials under the authority of Title 21 the Code of Federal Regulations Part 11 (21 CFR Part 11) – see my other article about 21 CFR Part 11 here, we need to make sure our codes and programs are documented. As you have heard before, if it is not documented, it never happened. Nevertheless, there is no mandatory regulatory agency mandating to have to do this.

GDP is an expected practice”

So how much documentation is needed? We could get into endless discussions of when we should comment, what we should comment, and how much we should comment. I have had plenty of discussions about comments with people with various opinions on the subject.

Here’s a good documentation practice for a SAS code:

The program header was written to validate Clintrial (Oracle).

  • Program name, version, programmer and purpose.
  • Modifications
  • Risk Assessments

The second section contains information about the

  • quality testing, user testing
  • Macros, global variables and any other code that is reusable.

The document must tell the entire story about your program and must be readable by internal or external staff. Two other important things to remember, your program must be accurate “error free” and each section of your program must be traceable, such as who updated it, what and why.

Most companies have SOPs that requires you to record certain information. But do we understand what it is we are recording? or when it was recorded?

Standardized Documentation is KEY”

Do you have a preference? Tell me about it in the comments!

Anayansi Gamboa has an extensive background in clinical data management as well as experience with different EDC systems including Oracle InForm, InForm Architect, Central Designer, CIS, Clintrial, Medidata Rave, Central Coding, OpenClinica Open Source and Oracle Clinical.

From Non-SAS Programmer to SAS Programmer Part II


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Previously, we wrote about how you can become a SAS Programmer with little or no programming background.

Today, I want to share a new link where you can download SAS Studio for free and practice. I have to give a thank to Andrew from statskom for the tip. Visit his blog for more SAS tips.

Here is a quick step on what you need in order to use the SAS University version for free provided by SAS:

1- Create a SAS profile and select the environment based on your operating system in order to download the SAS® University Edition. I  chose Oracle VirtualBox. The options available are: Oracle VirtualBox in Windows, Macintosh, and Linux operating environments.

2- You will receive an email where you can you download your SAS edition as per your selected environment on step 1. Click the link. It could take up to an hour for the entire program to download.

SAS University Edition

3-Go to to install the OracleVirtualBox.

4-Add the SAS University Edition vApp downloaded on step 2 to VirtualBox step 3.


5-Create a folder for your data and results.

6- Start the SAS University Edition vApp

7-Open the SAS University Edition by opening your web browser and typing  http://localhost:10080. From the the SAS University Edition: Information Center, click Start SAS Studio.

There you have it! You have now access to SAS and can start practicing your new programming language.

anayansigamboa sas studio anayansigamboa sas studio anayansigamboa sas studio anayansigamboa sas studio

For more information about the SAS University Edition, see the FAQs and videos at

For Data Management and EDC training, please contact RA eClinical Solutions.

Anayansi Gamboa has an extensive background in clinical data management as well as experience with different EDC systems including Oracle InForm, InForm Architect, Central Designer, CIS, Clintrial, Medidata Rave, Central Coding, OpenClinica, Open Source and Oracle Clinica.


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