The Project Manager is responsible for the development, oversight of implementation, and communication of clinical research studies.

So what is a Project?

A project is a work effort with a definite beginning and end, an identifiable end result (deliverable), and usually has limits on resources, costs and/or schedule.

What is Project Management?

The application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project tasks in order to meet project requirements.

In order to be a successful project manager, you need to understand the “Tripple Constraint” and how they affect your project. Let’s look up the WBS-edit checks:

Note: I will refer a project = clinical study

Scope: What is in the contract? How many edit checks, SAS checks and manual checks are required in this study? What is the effort per edit check, SAS check and manual check?

The goal is to convert the idea of data management to that of statistical analysis – an analyzable database.

Time: What are the deliverables and timelines? What resources are needed?

Cost: What are the budget restrictions? Are there any risks associated with any changes?

Project Planning: During the planning of a clinical study, we identify the project scope, develop the project management plan and we identify and schedule the clinical study activities.

Some questions might arise during the project planning phase: how many sites/subjects and pages will be collected?Who will attend team meetings? what study fields will be code (i.e. Adverse Event term)?

Other important activities that the project manager and clinical team members will need to be involved:

Work Break Down (WBS) – it is the list of activities that will be performed during the course of a clinical study.

Resourcing – it is important to assign the right person to a particular task based on skills, education and experience.

ICH Guidelines ‘…all personnel involved in clinical trials must be qualified and properly trained to perform their respective tasks…’

Estimating Cost – look at historical data as well as good estimates from effort per unit and units using your WBS as references.

Scheduling and Budgeting – you will be able to build schedules and budgets that transform project constraints into project success after you successfully construct your Work Breakdown Structures (WBS) and network diagrams and estimate task durations.

Projects managers used techniques for employed to establish project. Project Manager can decide which activity can be delayed without affecting the duration of the projects. They help improving quality and reduce the risks and costs related with the projects.

A recent survey by the Project Management Institute provided 10 challenges affecting project managers. This research intended to identify key factors affecting project team performance:

  1. Changes to Project Scope (Scope Creep)
  2. Resources are Inadequate (Excluding Funding)
  3. Insufficient Time to Complete the Project
  4. Critical Requirements are Unspecified or Missing
  5. Inadequate Project Testing
  6. Critical Project Tasks are Delivered Late
  7. Key Team Members Lack Adequate Authority
  8. The Project Sponsor is Unavailable to Approve Strategic Decisions
  9. Insufficient Project Funding
  10. Key Team Members Lack Critical Skills

Another question to ask is what tools are available to help you get the job done?

  1. Resource allocation (and the software’s ability to easily display staff who were overallocated)
  2. Web-based/SaaS option
  3. Cost/Price of the system (big one!)
  4. Contractual terms we could enter into (i.e. 6 months, 12 months, month to month)
  5. Ability to demo the software and for how long
  6. What sort of customizations could be made to the software after purchase
  7. Types of customers the software has served
  8. Report types
  9. Ability to sync with accounting software and which ones, if so
  10. Timeline generation capabilities and import function with MS Project
  11. Ability to create template projects
  12. Ability to alert on early warning signs (i.e. budget overruns over 10%)

It is suggestted that you review each suggestion on project management tool very, very carefully to determine how it fits your processes.

Your organization’s processes are unique to your organization; no other organization anywhere has quite the same processes. So what may work for one organization may not necessarily work for you. Your organization developed its processes to suit your particular corporate culture, the particular collective character attributes of the employees (their experience, etc.), the type of projects that you execute and the particular types customers/clients that you have (especially the regular ones).

You now have to make sure that the tools you choose work for you and your particular processes. Do not change your processes again to suit whatever workflow (process) is dictated by the fancy tool that the fancy salesman sold to you; you are likely to find that the tool-dictated workflows do not work that well in your organization, with the result that the employees will give up following processes and/or give up using the tool, throwing everything into chaos again.

Be careful if you are looking at tools that offer to do a number of different functions or can be made to do any function you want it to do. They seldom do the job that you bought it for particularly well. For example, I have worked with a tool that was advertised as a combination issue tracking and defect/bug tracking tool. It was used as a defect tracking tool but it was very poor; it was tremendously difficult to make it prepare useful reports. A hand-written tool set up in a spreadsheet (e.g. Microsoft Excel) or database (e.g. Microsoft Access) would have worked better.

That said, there are tools out there that are specific to one particular function but do offer flexible workflows – they may be modified to match whatever processes your organization already follows.

If your organization has just started to organize the PM processes and PMO that would mean processes & other related areas are not explicitly defined. So there may be a huge risk trying to adopt an integrated and centralized project management system. It is more likely to offer you a very comprehensive, complex but expensive solution wherein your problem is still not defined completely. In such a case you are just not ready with the environment and process maturity that an integrated tool requires prior to implementation.

A more efficient approach should be iterative, incremental and adaptive in nature. That means you shall use simple, not so expensive tools with limited scope to begin with; they can be tools with basic functionalities of WBS, scheduling, traceability and custom datasheets. These tools should have capability to exchange data both ways with more commonly uses tools like MS Excel, MS Project, and Word etc. The processes are likely to mature over time and we will then know the real effectiveness of these basic tools in the context of company requirements. That may be the time to analyze and switch to more integrated solutions.

One important key to remember. The role of project management in clinical trials is evolving. There is a debate about who should be the ‘project manager’ for a particular clinical study. CRA or Clinical Data Manager or an independent project manager? Let’s review their roles within data management.

Clinical Research Associate (CRA): main function is to monitor clinical trials. He or she may work directly with the sponsor company of a clinical trial, as an independent freelancer or for a Contract Research Organization (CRO). A clinical research associate ensures compliance with the clinical trial protocol, checks clinical site activities, makes on-site visits, reviews Case Report Forms (CRFs) and communicates with clinical research investigators. A clinical research associate is usually required to possess an academic degree in Life Sciences and needs to have a good knowledge of Good clinical practice and local regulations. In the United States, the rules are codified in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations. In the European Union these guidelines are part of EudraLex. In India he / she requires knowledge about schedule Y amendments in drug and cosmetic act 1945.

Clinical Data Manager (CDM): plays a key role in the setup and conduct of a clinical trial. The data collected during a clinical trial will form the basis of subsequent safety and efficacy analysis which in turn drive decision-making on product development in the pharmaceutical industry. The Clinical Data Manager will be involved in early discussions about data collection options and will then oversee development of data collection tools based on the clinical trial protocol. Once subject enrollment begins the Clinical Data Manager will ensure that data is collected, validated, complete and consistent. The Clinical Data Manager will liaise with other data providers (eg a central laboratory processing blood samples collected) and ensure that such data is transmitted securely and is consistent with other data collected in the clinical trial. At the completion of the clinical trial the Clinical Data Manager will ensure that all data expected to be captured has been accounted for and that all data management activities are complete. At this stage the data will be declared final (terminology varies but common descriptions are Database Lock and Database Freeze) and the Clinical Data Manager will transfer data for statistical analysis.

Clinical Data Management (CDMS) Tools: (we will review each of them on a separate discussion)

  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  • The Data Management Plan (DMP)
  • Case Report Form Design (CRF)
  • Database Design and Build (DDB)
  • Validation Rules also known as edit checks
  • User Acceptance Testing (UAT)
  • Data Entry (DE)
  • Data Validation (DV)
  • Data Queries (DQ)
  • Central Laboratory Data (CLD)
  • Other External Data
  • Serious Adverse Event Reconciliation (SAE)
  • Patient Recorded Data (PRO)
  • Database finalization and Extraction
  • Metrics and Tracking – see BioClinica article on Metrics
  • Quality Control (QC)- see discussion on A QC Plan for A Quality Clinical Database

In conclusion, a key component of a successful clinical study is delivering the project rapidly and cost effectively. Project managers must balance resources, budget and schedule constraints, and ever-increasing sponsor expectations.

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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.