Virtually Seamless: Best Practices for Working in a Global Environment

Virtual team: A group of individuals who work across time, space and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technology. According to a RW3 Culture Wizard 2012 Survey, respondents said 61% of their productivity was dependent on working virtually. Further, 41% of respondents had never met their other team members face to face, and 24% physically met only once a year. Virtual teams are a reality, but it’s no mystery that working virtually presents both challenges and opportunities. Despite the logistical challenges of technical limitations and time zone differences or team cohesion challenges like developing trust or dealing with cultural differences, virtual teams do work with effective leadership. When leading a virtual team, there are four building blocks one should use to help to overcome the complexity of the virtual environment: technology, structure, communication and synergy. Technological advances offer many options for interacting with virtual colleagues, but these options will only increase team productivity if team members are comfortable with their use. Any discomfort with technology can be mitigated by providing education for the team on how to use and manage these tools. While technology is a basic building block for successful virtual teams, working virtually is truly more about people. A far more important building block than technology is the need to provide structure. With less face-to-face contact, you need even more formal structures to reduce uncertainty for the team and manage cultural differences. This is where project management tools become indispensable. Team charters, project plans, process maps and responsibility assignment matrices (such as a RACI matrix) are vital to virtual team productivity. These project management...

Building Blocks of Biotech Success

Imagine if you purchased a premium building lot in Manhattan with the intention of constructing one of the world’s most state-of-the-art skyscrapers. Now imagine that you have never constructed a skyscraper before. Where do you start? Could you learn how to build a skyscraper on the fly? Would you trust your investment of millions to an inexperienced construction team? Most would answer a definitive ‘no’. Instead, you would hire a general contractor and a professional team with an expertise in skyscraper construction. A team that has all the tools, resources and is familiar with the complex rules and regulations required for successful skyscraper construction. In a sense, drug and device development is much like skyscraper construction. In the biotechnology industry, the patents and inventions behind the product is the building lot in the analogy above. Yet, many biotech companies continue to try and develop their product with inexperienced ‘construction’ teams. As a result, many new and innovative products never make it to market, not because the products are flawed, but because of a faulty development process stemming from a lack of experience, foresight and resources. There are two reasons for this. First, the inventors and founders of biotech companies are unquestionably experts in the basic science behind their products. However, basic science is only one aspect of the large, ever-changing landscape of drug and device development. This leads biotech companies to underestimate what is required to successfully bring a drug or device to market. Drug and device development is a complex and unpredictable process that requires an expertise not just in science, but also in a vast array of...

Think Globally, Work Virtually: The Future of Biotech Success

Recently, I found myself walking through the halls of a University biotechnology incubator in Florida when the inventor of a novel medical device asked me if I knew of a good device regulatory consultant. I answered that I knew of several, but none in Florida. She seemed disappointed, and said that she wished there were someone local she could talk to. The biotechnology industry is volatile and often resource-limited which makes local, affordable, world-class drug and device expertise difficult to find. The expertise should come from seasoned, collaborative and highly specialized individuals who can tailor their advice to be company and product specific. So I asked myself, in an era of cutting-edge communication technologies, why would it matter where the expertise comes from? The pool of talented drug and device experts does not have to be limited to your immediate geographic area. Here is a success story of how two teams on opposite sides of the world came together and accomplished a successful, global regulatory filing 6 months earlier than originally expected. When a larger European pharmaceutical company acquired a small but innovative Canadian biotech company, there were concerns as to how the two teams would interact. The virtual team was cross-cultural and there was a 9 hour time difference between them. The Canadian team had a very strong clinical and regulatory development skill set, specializing in drug approvals in the US and Canada, while the European team was excellent in getting over the hurdles of Europe’s EMA. Most of the key team members worked virtually and maintained a positive team dynamic by relying on web-based communication tools for...