Many regulatory affairs (RA) teams within medical device organizations are still managing their activities through spreadsheets, in-house custom-built software, or systems designed for other purposes. We believe that regulatory teams deserve purpose-built software that allows them to ensure compliance across products and markets, and provides them with the opportunity to contribute directly to revenue-driving activities.
Regulatory Information Management (RIM) solutions provide the centralized regulatory functionality needed by today’s RA teams. RIM solutions such as Rimsys are product-centric, allowing regulatory professionals to track all product-specific information and then create market submissions, link standards and essential principles, manage registrations by product by market, and control all regulatory approvals and projects. However, not all RIM solutions are created equal. If you have complex products, devices that include software, or other requirements that not all medical device companies will have, be sure to carefully evaluate potential systems for their ability to address those needs.
Any software selection project begins with analyzing the need for the new software, creating a justification for the project, and obtaining the approval and budget to move forward. RIM solutions will allow your RA team to find information more quickly and operate more efficiently, which means that justification for a new RIM system typically comes from four areas:
You will likely need to develop a comprehensive business case to support any RIM investment. This will include detailing the limitations of current approaches (including spreadsheets and costs to maintain in-house systems), quantifying the expected benefits, and explaining the evaluation process to arrive at your preferred vendor. Building this as you work through the early stages of RIM selection will prevent delays as you move into the purchase process.
RIM selection projects are sometimes managed by in-house teams and sometimes managed by 3rd-party consultants. How do you decide which is right for your selection project?
If your organization has a large IT team and/or digital transformation team, they likely have the responsibility of overseeing the selection of any new software systems. Be sure to understand their capabilities – have members of the team managed large system selection projects before, such as ERP or PLM selections? The regulatory team and others within the organization can provide subject matter expertise, but you will be relying on the technical team to oversee the project, define requirements, help set a budget, and more.
If the right level of expertise does not exist within your organization, an outside consultant with medical device regulatory experience and with business system selection projects should be considered. This type of consultant can be extremely helpful during the system implementation and adoption phase of the project as well.
Even if your organization has an internal team with the expertise to manage a RIM selection project, they may not have the time to do so within the desired project timeframe. In this case, an external consultant can augment your existing team to get the project completed as required.
Selecting a RIM solution is as much about digital transformation and process optimization as it is about ensuring you find a system with the right features. Do you have a vision of where you want the RA team to be? Have you looked at the characteristics of top-performing RA teams? If you think you might need a new perspective and an outside voice, an outside consultant may be the right choice for your project.
Once you have determined the need for a RIM system, a selection project should include the following major steps:
Put together a core selection team that consists of:
You will add team members once you begin to implement the system, but selection teams typically consist of fewer than 10 members.
One of the primary responsibilities of the selection team is to define the requirements for the new system, and the criteria on which systems will be judged. Requirements usually fall into multiple categories, including:
Establish project goals and an overall project timeline. Is there a hard deadline by which the system needs to be live? What are the goals and metrics with which the success of the project will be measured? Be sure to get written agreement from the project team and executive team on the goals, timeline, and how the information will be reported.
If you are working with an experienced regulatory consultant, they may be able to get you to your short list without this step. However, if you are unsure of which systems may meet your needs, begin by:
Based on the information gathered in the previous step, you should be able to create a short list of two to six vendors. This may require short conversations with prospective vendors, but you should have your short list before you schedule product demos and/or send out a request for proposal (RFP).
Tip: If you communicate with vendors that don’t make your short list, let them know so that they don’t continue to contact you!
This part of the project varies greatly from company to company, but your process should ensure that all of your stated requirements are being evaluated against each vendor’s capabilities. Not all team members need to evaluate all requirements – individuals should be assigned based on their understanding of the area being evaluated. The same people, however, should evaluate the same requirements across all vendors to ensure a fair comparison.
If your organization requires an RFI (request for information) or RFP (request for proposal), those need to be compiled and sent to the vendors as the starting point for vendor evaluations. These documents allow your team to gather the same information from all vendors. Put simply, these are documents that list your requirements and ask the vendors to indicate if they address them natively within their software, through third-party integrations, or not at all. Our RIM Buyer’s Guide provides a template that can be used as a starting point.
Whatever your evaluation process looks like, your team needs to see the software. For systems as large as RIM solutions, you may need multiple demonstrations with the vendor and your team. Work with the vendor to determine how the process will work, but typically you will have an overview demonstration and then separately schedule individual sessions, if they are needed, to cover specific features or answer additional questions. While everyone on the evaluation team should attend the initial demo, additional sessions should be scheduled only when needed and only with those team members required. The following can help ensure a smooth process:
Using your requirements list, each vendor should be rated for each requirement. Require vendors to clearly indicate if a requirement is met “out of the box,” requires custom development work, or is not supported at all. Consider a scale of 0-5, with 0 being a feature the vendor does not support. Multiplying the rank by the importance of the feature (3 – Critical to have, 2- Important to have, 1- Nice to have), will give you a good picture of where each vendor ranks.
There should be some subjective items that are used in rating, also, such as how easy you believe the vendor will be to work with. Once the vendors are rated, the team should meet to discuss differences between team members' ratings and then to agree on where each vendor ranks. It is important that all requirements are considered and weighed appropriately while ranking vendors. For example, selecting the system with the best price may leave you with a vendor that doesn’t have the resources to support your implementation.
Hopefully, you will be able to successfully (and quickly) negotiate with your top-ranked vendor. However, it does sometimes happen that an agreement cannot be reached with the initial vendor for reasons that may include pricing adjustments or unexpected changes to the availability of their resources. In this case, you will need to move on to your second choice.
For more information on specific criteria for purchasing a RIM system, read our RIM Buyer’s Guide.