Consulting services as try-before-you-buy option

Customers often use Cresset’s consulting services to evaluate our techniques before they buy the software

As CEO of a software and services company, I am sometimes asked whether Cresset is a software company with added consulting services, or a consulting company that has turned some bespoke software into products. The easy answer is ‘a little of each‘, but the reality is more subtle and complex.

Over the 20 years that I have been involved in drug discovery, the R&D structures, methods and philosophies have changed greatly. Combinatorial chemistry and high throughput screening were once the brave new worlds; now we are looking to ‘omics for the future. There have been swings between internal and external research and between biology-led and chemistry-led research. Over the last five years the emphasis has been on externalizing early-phase discovery, with large pharma companies concentrating more on in-licensing then developing compounds through to market launch.

Through these changes, one thing has remained constant: any company that provides support and services to the industry must focus on flexibility. In other words, in order to stay useful we need to be adaptable! So, ‘Is Cresset a software or services company?’ The answer always has to be ‘Yes’!

The focus at Cresset is always to develop the best scientific methods and technologies to help scientists to make better decisions for drug discovery. How we deliver this depends on our customer. We see consulting services as a direct adjunct to our software products, and vice versa.

One very direct example of the synergy between the two sides of the business is our ‘try-before-you-buy’ service offered by our consulting team. Clients often approach us with an interest in our software products, but then use the consulting services as a way of evaluating Cresset’s techniques before they buy the software. This helps them to understand how our technology will fit with their R&D workflow.

The ‘try-before-you-buy’ service has a number of benefits. Internally, it is often easier to justify the purchase of consulting services to solve a problem, rather than asking for the budget to evaluate yet another piece of ‘vital’ software. The consulting service takes the place of the evaluation, but is focused on real research problems. The impact of the science behind the software can also be evaluated somewhat independently of any issues surrounding optimal use and set-up of the tools.

From our side, engagement in a consulting project provides a great way of understanding the specific problems a customer is trying to solve, or the specific workflows which they have within R&D. This also helps us to see how the software products can be optimally aligned to those processes and challenges.

This is a true win-win situation. If the consulting project goes well, the customer has progressed a project and we have a happy new customer. On the other hand if the results are not positive, we are all in a better position to understand the reasons behind this. We can then explore alternative approaches to get the maximum benefit, even from a negative set of experiments.

Over the last couple of years I have seen a number of successful examples of our ‘try-before-you-buy’ approach. The customer has ended up taking a combination of consulting services and software products. In a couple of instances the actual choice between software and service has changed from year to year. In all cases I like to think that the customers appreciate the flexibility which is provided to them by their ‘software and services’ partner.

Dr. Robert Scoffin, CEO was in conversation with Sue Peffer, Marketing Manager.

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