By Michael Riener
I find it interesting that when I’m speaking with a prospective customer or a prospective employee, I often hear many of the same questions.
- How long have you been in business?
- What is your growth plan?
- How do you make a decision on a project that may be outside your comfort zone?
- How do you compare yourself to a “Big Professional Services Company”?
Often, the context changes but the interest and intent behind the questions remain the same. What they really want to know is:
- Are you stable and reliable?
- Will you be able to scale with us if we give you this project?
- What if the project fails?
- We don’t know much about you—why should I choose you?
And I get it. These are all legitimate and fair questions, especially of a company or solution that is “unknown” (which is not to be confused with unproven).
At the heart of all of these questions is a common theme: minimizing risk. On the heels of a tumultuous year, a tendency toward risk aversion helps us feel more in control. It helps us feel safe.
But in the business of science—a business built on boundary-breaking innovation—there is an equal, if not greater, amount of risk that can be associated with mistaking static for safe.
While this tendency is not necessarily inherently wrong (so much of the business world, in general, is about minimizing risk as there is much to lose) the business of Life Sciences is dichotomously at odds with this philosophy.
Research and Development teams are constantly pushing boundaries. In their quest to find the next cure, they often fail, and when they do, it’s important they “fail fast”. But a model that is customized to meet these unique needs of the R&D business is costly, challenging, and risky. More directly, it’s in conflict with the enterprise IT model chartered to provide services that work for all.
But in this attempt to minimize risk, do you not stifle innovation?
I think of the questions two executives may ask when considering an investment in more training for employees.
Executive 1 – What if we pay for this and they leave?
Executive 2 – What if we don’t, and they stay…?
Perhaps innovation is risky but the outcome of doing nothing is the same.
Reap the Reward of Innovation Without Outsizing Your Risk
Now, when it comes to support services for R&D within Life Sciences, I’m not suggesting that you abandon your plan. I’m not suggesting that you allow the business to completely dictate and own the new scientific computing model. Although, we could make a strong argument why doing so, based on proven examples, would serve to both innovate and reduce risk.
I’m suggesting a sort of compromise. The compromise involves identifying which projects, processes and/or workloads would be better managed by other service providers.
You see, too often, we see scientific computing services falling under the consulting and support umbrella of one of those ‘Big Professional Services Companies’. And why?
Not because they are less expensive. (They usually cost more.)
Not because they execute better than others? (When is the last time you hear some sing their praises?).
Because their processes are better? (No, they often layer on another process and throw more resources at the problem which only services to increase costs, stifle innovation and decrease satisfaction.)
So why? Why keep giving projects to generalists when specialists are what is needed?
The only answer is to reduce risk.
However, the reality is choosing the big name in the space just because it seems “safer” can keep the company from moving forward. And—in a process that can almost become self-fulling—these players often become little more than a scapegoat when something fails.
So I would challenge you, isn’t the risk of doing the same thing over and over with the same very average vendor greater than doing something different?
If you’re interested in finding out how you can reduce risk through innovation, I offer you this three-step process to get started:
- Step 1 – Identify those areas and projects that need special attention and/or knowledge and skills. Perhaps those in R&D.
- Step 2 – Find a partner with a proven track record of success addressing those special needs through its own advanced knowledge and skills (for example, the important difference between IT and Bio-IT).
- Step 3 – Leave the other projects to the generalist vendor
This compromise is one that supports innovation and reduces risk at the same time. Besides, you might also find that you are also able to reduce costs, complete projects faster and more efficiently, and gain that much needed internal customer satisfaction.
Or, perhaps the risk is that you may find a better partner.
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