Written by: Chandler Conley, Business Development Manager

Pharmaceutical industry projects are some of the largest and most complex many of us have ever seen. We all have a goal to supply safe and cost-effective therapies and products, which is why it is critical to stick to pre-determined budgets and schedules at all costs- pun intended! 

The question is, how is a project cost determined? One way is to consider similar projects as a baseline and point of reference. Did that project stay on budget? Is the cost realistic? How are the deliverables, scope, and processes in this prior project different from the project you are planning for? The process of staying on budget starts in the initial budgeting, proposal, and planning process. Invest the time to be clear about the scope of work for all parties involved and always try to be as realistic as possible to set the team and yourself up for success. Think about what steps are contingent on other steps… will the manufacturer of a piece of equipment have the equipment and accessories delivered in time to meet your deadlines? Are you giving your quality department enough time to review any documents they should? Will any materials or documents that you need to provide the project team be ready by the project start date? Also recall how long safety and onboarding will take for any new employees hired for this project, as this is frequently overlooked in project schedules. 

If you are outsourcing support to any service providers and requesting proposals, your point of contact is thinking about these things and also trying to develop a realistic proposal and schedule for you. I promise- they want to go over budget even less than you do!  

A fundamental part of project costs are hourly rates. This is a double-edged sword. Having a senior/experienced person may be able to complete a task in less time, which is helpful for project schedules and will result in less labor hours charged. That being said, mixing in multiple experience levels can ensure that people with the appropriate experience level are doing the required tasks. There may be some entry level tasks associated with the project, such as document control support and administrative tasks, so these can be good areas to save some money and utilize staff that are more junior. 

We find it is important to allow time for project management in a capital project, so budget should also be reserved for this. Once a project is rolling, a strong Project Manager will manage deliverables and schedules for you and can give regular updates on the project burn rate. They can also be your primary point of contact for the project. Hypothetically, if a team of 10 people are involved, you either have to communicate updates for changes to all 10 people, or you can communicate to the Project Manager who can then ensure the rest of the team gets the communication without taking up any more of your time, which is the option we recommend. 

A typical reason a project may go over budget is because some unexpected tasks were added. It happens! Some things like equipment repairs and major company direction changes cannot be foreseen. The best thing you can do in this case is keep track of added deliverables that were not in the scope and handle change orders as needed.  

In crunch time, resiliency and agility are important team characteristics when project issues occur that will help the team quickly spring back to efficiency. What we do is not easy, but with a proactive mindset, good tracking resources, and strong project management, you will be set up for success! 

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