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Leveraging Data to Lead and Manage the Research Mission

While most research institutions don’t face the same financial scrutiny seen at more commercially-driven sites, there is still pressure for these academic organizations to sufficiently fund a wide variety of research initiatives. As research is dependent on investments from the clinical enterprise, it’s paramount to receive the appropriate resources to carry out your mission.

How do you ensure your institution receives the resources and revenue it needs to succeed? In our recent webinar, Leveraging Data to Lead and Manage the Research Mission: Data-Driven Decision Making at all Levels of the Organization, University of Michigan’s Teri Grieb and Kate Huffman discuss how they use data at their institution to drive the research enterprise and day-to-day research.

Form a Strategic Plan

In order to understand exactly what your institution needs to succeed, you need the appropriate resources. To understand these resources, your institution needs to create a strategic plan. In the case of the University of Michigan, this included focusing on key areas of their strategic mission related to maintaining a best-in-class, high-impact research organization.

Ask the Right Questions

Asking questions enables you to best align resources and talents with priorities at your institution. This also serves as a way to jumpstart your strategic planning by allowing your team to be on the same page about your institution’s needs. Ask questions such as:

From there, you can group together activities you’re currently doing into themes or topic areas, and evaluate whether or not they are what your organization should do. By getting a holistic picture of where your institution is at and where it can go, it positions you well to come up with an actionable and intentional plan to get there.

Involve Multiple Organizational Levels

In order to really solidify a research mission and understand how it ties back to strategy, it’s helpful to track performance and involve leadership in the process. This gives leadership an opportunity to come together, view enterprise opportunities, and understand where their staff are giving time and effort. Grieb and Huffman said at the University of Michigan, they provided a dashboard for leadership to look at. This allows for a quick and easy way to view sources, a central location for source information, and helped with connectivity from leaders, to managers, to individual contributors.

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These operational dashboards provided real-time visibility into daily business processes and an integration of data from multiple independent systems. By connecting decentralized units into a common ecosystem, it puts trial information at your fingertips, saving time when reporting. This also increases transparency throughout the organization, allowing everyone to understand the metrics more clearly and understand how to work toward organizational goals.

Ask More Questions

Once others are involved, start asking “why” in order to get to the root cause of the problem. Involving study coordinators is a great way to understand how metrics are affected during the activation since they are the ones making it come to fruition. This also changes the conversation between leadership and coordinators, and forces better communication with the coordinators to really understand what is going on.

Additionally, asking “why” can help your organization make data-driven decisions. By looking at the data available, it allows you to identify trends and make decisions based off of them. However, it also allows you to re-evaluate if your decisions are the correct ones for your organization. Measuring success at your organization may look like asking questions such as:

Use Data to Drive Daily Work

In their presentation, Grieb and Huffman noted their portfolio managers pull data from multiple locations to ensure IRB, contracting, and budgeting departments are reaching their activation goal. Since these data are in different dashboards, the central location also helped provide an overview of the project as a whole from this perspective.

This same data is then converted to a task list for completed steps in the activation process. Additionally, it becomes the basis for a bi-weekly pre-award meeting at the University of Michigan, driving communication between the finance team and the portfolio managers. The communication also identifies the action needed to make sure the activation process progresses as expected, and empowers staff to see how their work directly impacts the bigger picture.

Grieb and Huffman found this central dashboard increased data literacy, transparency, and governance. Through data dictionaries, staff knew how to better interpret the data they were looking at. Paired with an increase in who could view the data, staff members are now empowered to make timely decisions as needed.

However, even with increased transparency, Grieb and Huffman noted there needed to be a level of governance in order to quickly correct data. To establish staff buy-in for the dashboard, Grieb and Huffman knew data needed quick corrections if there were ever errors.

This central dashboard also created trust among teams since the data needed to be consistent, accurate, timely, and traceable. Grieb and Huffman found through these dashboards, the University of Michigan is able to provide their faculty with access to the data they need to measure their progress, make informed, strategic decisions, and ensure their trials impact their community.

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