The Changing Landscape of Strategic Resourcing

Strategic Resourcing is a relatively new term in the clinical research space. It has been coined in recent years to describe a range of services that vary from traditional recruitment activity to the provision and management of quality focused clinical resources, and has emerged as a popular theme in strategic partnership discussions across boardrooms in the drug development world. Understanding Strategic Resourcing requires knowledge of its evolution, definition, current state and future prospects.


Fifteen years ago, there were two fundamental sourcing solutions for the pharma industry: 1) contract staffing (use of contract staff to supplement in-house permanent resources), and 2) full outsourcing of projects, the heart and soul of the rapidly growing CRO business.

Ten years ago, an alternative evolved - Functional Service Provision (FSP), a cross between staffing and outsourcing. FSP combined the capability of the large recruitment firms selling managed service programs (MSP) and business process outsourcing (BPO) with the clinical nous of the CRO.It sold the idea that the provider could manage an entire function more cheaply and efficiently than the customer, and remove the headaches of resource management. FSP also removed some of the risks and trust issues associated with full outsourcing. A limited number of firms specialised in
the FSP market, which was largely uncompetitive (with the exception of the occasional high-volume deal, when CROs quickly stepped in). This was a good market for the mid-sized CRO that struggled to compete with the top 5 CROs on bigger deals.

Five years ago, the concept of Strategic Partnerships emerged. Pharma wanted to put deals in place of a size and scale that forced a significant reduction in pricing, created much more integrated alliances and benefited from the best that the CRO could offer. These deals were attractive and lucrative for CROs, especially the top 5. Some observers had forecast the end of the FSP market and that Strategic Partnerships (constituting only fully outsourced programs) would be the future.

However, not everyone agreed. FSP providers consolidated and continued to grow. They increased their share of the outsourcing market and began to brand their services under a 'Strategic Resourcing' umbrella. It was quickly evident that buyers considered FSP to be within the scope of Strategic Partnerships and CROs began to expand and develop their Strategic Resourcing capabilities through acquisition, organic growth or partnering. What caused the evolution of Strategic Resourcing? What is it? Is it recruitment or some form of operational delivery? What is its future?

Defining Strategic Resourcing

Throughout this period of evolution, the war for talent in the marketplace raged. The most precious  commodity in clinical research was (and is) well-qualified, experienced and competent resources. Recruitment agencies found themselves profiting greatly from the needs of CROs and pharma, as everybody clamoured for every viable option that would identify precious human capital.

However, temporary staffing agencies struggled to understand the culture, requirements and ethos of
their clinical research customers. The identification and management of qualified clinical researchers came more naturally to organisations with experience in operational delivery, i.e. CROs and specialist resourcing groups. They understood their market and people, and were suitably networked.

The gap between the provision of temporary staffing options and accountable, qualified delivery of clinical research narrowed. FSP fell neatly into that gap. Other large-scale resourcing solutions also evolved, fulfilling a variety of customers’ needs in certain geographies, functional areas and sectors.

Today, there are five distinct categories that fall within the Strategic Resourcing Spectrum and which most outsourcing, procurement and operational departments have an interest in understanding.

  1. Permanent Hiring Solutions: the acquisition of talent to fill permanent positions.
  2. Contingent Resourcing: the provision of staff to fill short-term, temporary gaps in a permanent  workforce, usually on a small scale and on a transactional basis.
  3. Program In-Sourcing: the provision of dedicated and focused teams for specific periods of time and for specific outcomes.
  4. Strategic Capacity Management: the provision of supplementary staffing to meet the peaks and troughs of demand that the customer is experiencing. Usually on a large scale and over a more prolonged period of time, with a more strategic and longer term view.
  5. FSP: as described above, the full outsourcing of a function (as opposed to a project). The customer can retain responsibility for direction and ownership, while relinquishing the headache of resourcing.

These models fulfil the majority of resourcing needs experienced by any large pharma. They form a continuum of solutions with increasing importance, scale and strategic value. Each has its own specificity, operational challenges and regulatory requirements across the globe. The clinical research environment is sufficiently nuanced that this spectrum of Strategic Resourcing services cannot be easily deployed by any provider and very few providers, even the top CROs and recruitment agencies, can provide all the elements.

Current State

Today, outsourcing departments are under pressure to deliver cheaper options to their organisations whilst maintaining quality. This is no easy task, but a single provider offering Strategic Resourcing (to complement the customer’s internally managed development portfolio) and full outsourcing options (to complement the customer’s overall strategy), provides a number of benefits:

  1. A single governance platform with clear accountability for all aspects of delivery.
  2. The opportunity to move qualified, experienced resources between resourcing and outsourced models without losing talent.
  3. Single infrastructure: training, contracts and invoicing all managed centrally.
  4. Discounting, based on increased volume.
  5. Flexibility in operational models that suit the needs of an organisation’s region, function and culture.

In addition to these fairly obvious benefits, there is increasing discussion about hybrid operational models, which are emerging as innovative thinking drives organisations toward leaner, more efficient models. What if we take the best of the FSP and Strategic Resourcing models and introduce some of
the CRO’s scientific expertise or best practice? How can we include elements more commonly delivered in full outsourcing models (such as feasibility or site contract negotiation) in a strategic FSP model for clinical monitoring? How can we leverage the rapidly developing technological innovations
associated with EDC, risk based monitoring and site GCP training, while delivering a data management FSP from a low-cost location?

The only way to answer these questions is to identify an organisation that is not only capable of delivering the full continuum of Strategic Resourcing solutions, but also one that offers the full range of outsourced solutions. Further, this provider must be appropriately integrated and aligned to discuss the alignment and delivery of all these services, either independently or via a hybrid model.

Future Prospects

All CROs will need significant Strategic Resourcing capabilities in the future. Some have specialised in specific elements, but those without adequate permanent hiring engines will struggle to acquire talent to feed the more significant capacity management and FSP models. Those without FSP and CRO capability will struggle to bridge the gap to develop innovative hybrid models.

In the last two years, acquisition and consolidation has introduced a number of big players into the Strategic Resourcing market. In addition, a number of CROs have announced (and in some cases re-announced) significant investment in their resourcing capabilities. This signals a growing recognition amongst vendors of the significance of this market and the importance of these services as a core capability.

More and more customers are seeking to understand the full range of resourcing models and are requesting information on how to create hybrid models, either in terms of bundling separate services, or, overlapping services across models. The drive for lower cost options and the continuing adoption of high value technology solutions may well be leading us to a point where CROs offer a different model than we see today. Imagine centralised, cloud based, data-driven solutions, governed by standard processes, managed by key Data Analysts and Project Managers. Imagine customers with reporting and data access services monitoring their trials remotely. Where does Strategic Resourcing fit in? Imagine deploying highly commoditised execution focused solutions as optional bolt-ons to the operating system described. FSPs connected to the central system and directed by the Trial Managers. Perhaps Strategic Resourcing solutions will emerge as the execution arm of the industry?

DOCS is a leading provider of Strategic Resourcing solutions to the biopharmaceutical and medical device industries. Since our inception in 1997, DOCS has provided customers with tailored solutions across the entire resourcing spectrum. As part of ICON plc, DOCS is supported by approximately 10,300 employees operating in 38 countries.

Contact Us to find out more about how DOCS can support your resourcing requirements.