Great Communication Makes a Great Consulting Project

In this series of blogs, Dr Martin Slater, Director of Consulting Services at Cresset, talks about what makes a great consulting project.

In the best discovery pipelines, computational chemists work closely with medicinal chemists to help direct and refine lead generation and optimization.  Making this work in an outsourcing model is a continual challenge for all parties.

It’s fair to say that good communication can make or break almost any scientific project, but it is particularly important when working in a consulting model.  We inevitably work in different locations to our clients, often across time zones, and of course we come across many different corporate cultures.

How closely we work with our clients depends absolutely on the individual client.  A few customers prefer a hands-off approach; they give us the input and we give them the results.  Provided the project has been well defined and expectations set accordingly, that can work well.  But the real strength comes from a more collaborative model.  Ideally, there will be a constant stream of information between the consultants and the client.

For example, a few years ago Cresset developed an extremely close working relationship with a US biotech firm.  We would speak on the phone several times a week to discuss the results we were getting.  Our initial collaboration was a hit finding project.  They developed the hits as we reported them.  We became an integral part of their team, giving their chemists our view of each compound from a computational point of view and discussing different ways to optimize them.

Success led to further projects and more extensive collaborations.  In the end, they bought our software and built their own in-house computational chemistry team.  Our work with them resulted in a patent, and eventually they were acquired by a major US corporation.

I mentioned already how important it is to define a project clearly and to set realistic expectations of success.  Making sure everyone understands the deliverables of a project, the methods we plan to use to get there, and the time frame makes communication during the project much easier.  Getting these process-oriented aspects defined clearly also means that administrative issues do not get in the way of the science.

Finally, it is important that we let our clients know from the start how likely we are to succeed in a project.  At the end of the day, we can define deliverables, but we can never guarantee what the results will be.  After all, we are engaged in scientific research for our clients.  But, I am pleased to say that we have many successes, and many satisfied customers who have come back to us again and again.

In my final post on consulting I’ll discuss some of the business models we use for consulting projects.

All posts in this series:

Dr Martin Slater,
Director of Consulting Services


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