Our teams work both on and off site, with our consultants spending much of their time at our clients’ premises. Depending on the project, we can work anywhere between 20% – 100% on site, however Covid 19 has compelled our team to embrace and adapt to remote working full time.
We are in a fortunate position, as a global project partner, in that the team is already accustomed to working remotely, so Scimcon is still able to move projects forward despite the current climate.
It is imperative for Scimcon to continue to provide a high-quality service without disrupting client projects or relationships. We have a global customer base, a global project team and customer sites all over the world with multiple projects in analytical and clinical applications on the go simultaneously. This means that we have needed to be flexible, adjustable and efficient for years, so we are in a fortunate position where our staff can continue to work in this new way with negligible disruption.
Because we work as an outsourced supplier on complex information management projects for pharma and biopharma, we are already well accustomed to having customer laptops that have virtual private networks that connect through to the organisation, so we do not appear any differently to anyone else. With this remote working already in place, Scimcon is therefore not suffering from a great change, which gives us a strong position to remain a constant in this disruption, despite the everchanging environment.
We have adapted our conventional processes for the proportion of projects which would usually require our onsite support, ensuring the project is not impacted and the deliverables remain the same. The pandemic has certainly clarified what successful and sustainable remote working requires from our team, and we are ensuring we go the extra mile so our clients are still meeting their deadlines, despite the challenges we may face in the process.
We are still doing 99% of what we would have originally been doing, we just need to modify certain elements of our workflow process to ensure deliverables remain consistent. The use of white boards in face to face meetings is a tool we have always used extensively for both discovery and brainstorming. We are actively seeking alternative routes to mirror this approach virtually to ensure our project teams can continue to work at full capacity. We currently have multiple graphics tablets, iPads and digitising camera setups which we are evaluating to deliver this.
Things may have changed in the lab, but projects and deadlines don’t change, and this is where Scimcon’s capabilities come to the fore. For example, one current client project involves a LIMS (Laboratory information management system) validation in North America. The reality is the customer needs to meet an organizational deadline to get the LIMS live and operational, and we cannot be on site to run tests. We have dedicated ourselves to this project to ensure it still moves forward and deadlines are met. We have logged in samples remotely from our system in the UK, and then this is received by our contact in the US who accesses the printout and sends a scan of the printed barcode back to us in the UK, which we test. This is a small example of a simple workaround, how our process can still work despite us not being on site.
We have actually noticed that having people on the client side more available at this time means we are shortening the turnaround times within the project for deliverables. We are receiving more feedback, more quickly, meaning more issues are being resolved and projects are moving forward a lot quicker than they were before.
The key challenge for us and our customers is, of course, travel restrictions. Travel restrictions have inhibited us from meeting face-to-face and visiting the organisation’s premises, and there is a good chance the freedom to travel will not go back to the way it was for a long time to come. Personal interaction is a key part of our business, as our personality as a company and personal nature as individuals helps us to drive project success. We understand that our clients may be less adapted to working remotely than we are, especially in laboratories, so we collaborate to ensure our expertise in remote support will fill this gap. We are remote, but we are always in contact.
We realise there is an environmental awareness and cost to meeting face to face, and we recognise as a company we need to adapt the way as the new reality probably will not be the same as the old one. We are making a conscious effort to engage with and help our customers at this difficult time, and we have found that the use of video cameras on web calls has compensated for the loss of face-to-face interaction on both sides. We have found that turning on the camera is surprisingly more effective than previously thought! Communication, including body language, tone and intonation, is essential in understanding issues and requirements, being able to sense when something is important and knowing when to stop pushing an important point. Video therefore helps us to maintain and nurture the relationship we have with our clients – the social tools gap fill the social interactions to ensure we can continue to cement and strengthen relationships with our customers.
When we are leading a project, we need to involve our customers as much as possible, as they understand how their lab works and can explain the details clearly. With the right people on the team we can build support and momentum, despite challenging circumstances. It is therefore our priority during this difficult time to communicate and sustain good working relationships with our clients to ensure we continue to deliver successful projects.
Together, we have learnt that common struggle makes interactions easier. We are simultaneously riding the same wave, which means we can understand and empathise with one another. We have found that this worldwide common struggle has helped to build, strengthen and sustain our client relationships.
Contact us to learn about our tips for successful project leadership of analytical and clinical information management