Don’t Let Weak Training Programs Discourage Embrace of New Technology

Hunter Walker, Chief Technology Officer, Atlantic Research Group

Hunter Walker, Chief Technology Officer, Atlantic Research Group

Clinical research professionals are showing an increasing interest in leveraging new technologies to streamline trials, but that enthusiasm can be dampened fast without the right kind of support and training, according to Hunter Walker, chief technology officer for the Atlantic Research Group (ARG).

Walker offered his analysis this week at the Veeva 2018 R&D Summit in Philadelphia, Pa. He’s hoping new technology, including a Veeva solution he’s implemented, will cut way back on inefficient e-mail usage at ARG, a contract research organization based in Charlottesville, Va.

“I have this internal goal of cutting off 95% of internal e-mail,” Walker said. “[That’s] maybe a bit lofty, but you get the idea.” It won’t be easy, he acknowledged. “There’s [a lot of] exchange of information between e-mail, and that’s never going to go away [altogether], but internally I’d like to really cut that down and use [other systems] to exchange that information.”

Cutting back on e-mail is not going to happen overnight, Walker said. “It’s an incremental type of process,” he noted. “So, every year we seem to have a little bit better integration, better information exchange, you know, other than e-mail…[and] it’s a long process, but I would say hopefully within five years we’ll have that real unified suite of applications and research.”

Turning the tide against e-mails has become a consistent refrain in the clinical trial industry.

In addition to e-mail, Walker is taking aim at overuse of spreadsheets. “If you’re capturing something in a spreadsheet, you know, let’s talk,” he said. “Why are you capturing something in a spreadsheet? Could that be something that could live in a system instead?”

As a self-avowed technology “evangelist,” Walker is also cognizant of the value of proper internal support and training for those new to a given technology. “People have to understand [at the outset] that while a new solution might not flow exactly as they like, we’re going to get there,” he said.

Part of support means being responsive—and never condescending—to users’ inquiries. Tech support should never tell a user they’ve asked a foolish question.

“Don’t give a sort of snotty response, you know, like that’s a dumb question,” Walker cautioned. “I mean, there are no dumb questions.” Walker’s philosophy? “I’d rather you ask the question than make a mistake or just not complete the task, or take it outside into a spreadsheet, right?”

Avoid the temptation to take shortcuts in a training program, Walker advised. He records technology vendor-led training sessions and uses the videos to help additional staff navigate the new technology.

In Walker’s experience, the embrace of new technology is no longer restricted to relatively young employees; he said he has met plenty of people who are older and who love learning new systems. “I think it’s just sort of setting that expectation up front that you’re going to have new systems,” he noted. “And if you have proper support and can ask questions, people aren’t as nervous.”

Walker’s bottom line on the topic: “If you can gain that trust [with quality support and training], that helps a lot with the adoption.”

Author: Michael Causey