Jeff Scott Is helping PRA Health Sciences Keep Pace with Rapid Growth

PRA Health Sciences has experienced explosive growth in the past several years. Business has expanded from about $700 million and five thousand employees in 2012 to $2 billion and more than fifteen thousand employees. Its contract research clients span the world—throughout eastern Europe and Asia, as well as parts of South America and Africa. To help keep pace, PRA added Jeff Scott, vice president, global procurement, to its staff in 2017.

“Our strategic third-party partners are integral to our success,” Scott says. “As business increased, we not only recognized the need to invest in additional resources to support procurement, but also that more specialized expertise was needed to optimize the processes. Those strategies have allowed project staff to keep their focus on science and a separate team of professionals to focus on procurement.”

Much has changed in procurement since Scott began his career, including the development of formal college-level classes to train practitioners. Although he believes it is important to introduce well-trained professionals who are familiar with the technologies and can keep up with the pace of change, he knows there’s a limit to what individuals can learn in a classroom; they need real-world experience to learn about things such as negotiating, reading contracts, interpreting terms and conditions, and—something Scott learned the hard way—attention to detail.

Early in his Lockheed career, he ordered a round rubber spacer needed for a supersonic spy plane the company was building. However, the specifications called for a square one.

Jeff Scott, PRA Health Sciences Photo by Brittany Cross Photography

“Something that I didn’t think made much difference resulted in a plane that couldn’t fly and an unhappy program manager standing at my desk,” Scott says. “The moment you see in the notes that it’s because of a mistake you made, you learn very quickly to appreciate that there’s no such thing as a small detail.”

Scott’s operational strategies depend on whether he is handling clinical, research, or infrastructure projects, as well as any associated regulatory guidelines, client requirements, and project locations. To address these details, he and his team frequently work with external third parties that offer highly specialized expertise and have proven themselves to be reliable, long-term partners. The three-to-five-year agreements that are typical in these scenarios help transactions occur more efficiently and help support his objective to provide service that is consistently quick, nimble, and the best value.

Scott has prioritized creating working relationships in which partners are expected to be proactive and to take ownership of their performance. And, unlike many other companies, part of that approach is to encourage them to challenge PRA requests and requirements if they believe they can offer a more effective or more efficient solution. In one instance, a partner the company has worked with for more than fifteen years recommended a complete outsourcing of a particular service that PRA traditionally performs internally. As a result, this strategy is being implemented on projects where it helps support the stated objectives and the partner is clearly able to add additional value.

“We foster an environment in which partners can suggest alternatives if they can explain why we should be doing something differently,” he says. “They are the experts, so it makes sense to encourage them to play a role in our efforts to do what we do better.”

“The beauty of partnering with PRA is their willingness to engage their domain experts,” says Elena Logan, senior vice president, Eurofins Central Lab. “As their laboratory specialist, we’ve contributed to critical items pertaining to laboratory solutions and the use of leading-edge technology that ultimately provides value to sponsors.”

From the beginning of his relationship with PRA, Jeff Scott brought an outside perspective that helped highlight the benefits of introducing specialized procurement expertise. Even during his interview, he made the case for investing in new technology that would help optimize operations, potentially delay the need to hire additional staff, and drive additional savings. One of his current initiatives is researching and evaluating a range of best-in-class contract management and vendor management tools that will assist with tasks such as supplier onboarding, vendor management analysis, procurement, and creating a supplier portal.

He anticipates that once the final choices are made, a staged implementation strategy will be coordinated with a comprehensive communication plan to help support an ongoing transition to the new platforms.

Scott and his team have already leveraged existing policies to develop standard procedures and scalable, repeatable processes. Contract templates for third-party agreements, for example, have already produced results by significantly reducing the time to execute agreements compared to the time required to develop each individual contract from scratch.

“We don’t expect our growth to level off anytime soon, so all our planning and ongoing changes will help support the company as we move forward,” Scott points out.

As the procurement team has developed and expanded, it has been able to offer some unexpected capabilities. One example is Scott’s coworker Angela Tabick, a new addition who is able to offer expert advice on import/export regulations and logistics. Her input has become a corporate level resource, and she now sits on PRA’s internal committee that focuses on import/export regulatory compliance.

Scott believes that Tabick illustrates the kind of value that procurement can provide. “Our department recognized import/export compliance as a potential area of risk, so we took action that now benefits the entire company,” he says. “Making sure that kind of issue is addressed is what we’re here for.”

With more than forty years of experience, Imperial Clinical Research Services optimizes clinical trial outcomes for study sponsors through evidence-based patient engagement
programs and robust site support. Imperial specializes in patient engagement, ISO-certified clinical translation services, and site readiness and support through study material
production and global fulfillment of ancillary supplies.

NET(net) congratulates Jeff Scott and the entire PRA Health Sciences team on being recognized for their achievements and innovations. We place tremendous value in our relationship and look forward to many more successes together in optimizing PRA’s technology supply chain. To learn more about NET(net), please visit: