Project Management Institute

Small time

FROMTHE TOP

Diane Beubing, Emiliem, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

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Diane Beubing has quite a deliverable: Help come up with a cure for cancer. As director of project management at the small biopharmaceutical firm Emiliem, she manages vendor relationships and oversees pre-clinical trial management for projects focused on discovering and developing molecular-targeted therapeutics for oncology.

Before joining Emiliem last May, she spent more than 20 years managing projects for major pharmaceutical companies, including Upjohn, Pharmacia and Pfizer. She recently spoke with PM Network about how the move has changed her project management style.

You spent most of your career at huge global pharmaceutical companies. Does working for a seven-person virtual company change the way you manage projects?

Resource management is the biggest difference. At companies like Pfizer, if you need a toxicology expert, you pick up the phone and ask for one and you have your asset. In a small company it's much harder to manage resources. We spend a lot of time talking about which contractor to use, who brings the best value and whether we have the money to pay for them. It's a much more involved process.

Are there benefits to working at a small company versus a big one?

There is a lot less documentation. At big companies you have to document everything in the project and program and really sell it to senior management.

At big companies you have to document everything in the project and program and really sell it to senior management. But at Emiliem, I go directly to our CEO Dale Johnson and say, “This is the project. This is what we need to do.”

But at Emiliem, I go directly to our CEO Dale Johnson and say, “This is the project. This is what we need to do.” It's much less stressful and we all work on it together.

As a virtual pharmaceutical company, you outsource most of what you do. How is that challenging from a project management perspective?

Fortunately, the companies we outsource to are used to dealing with pharmaceutical projects and the proprietary nature of the information. As with any contract, we negotiate for price and put confidential disclosure agreements in place before we start. But it still takes a lot of communication as the project moves forward. I like to have one point person at the contractor who I communicate with all the time. That's how I worked on big pharmaceutical projects. The only differences are we aren't all in the same room and the contractor isn't part of the company.

In an industry in which so much of the project involves unknowns, how do you set expectations and minimize risks?

I think risk management is pretty similar no matter what industry you're in. You identify the things that can trip you up, look at the probability that they will occur and define a plan for what you will do if they do.

What lessons have you learned in moving from a big pharmaceutical company to a small one?

You've got to be willing to wear multiple hats. There's not always someone there who can do what needs to be done, so you have to jump in, but that's the fun part. You get the chance to experience every aspect of the project instead of handing it off to someone else. PM

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

DECEMBER 2008 PM NETWORK

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