“Operations keep the lights on, strategy provides the light at the end of the tunnel, but project management is the train engine that moves the organization forward” – Joy Gumz.
A typical medical writing agency consists of scientific and client servicing teams. The scientific team comprises medical writers, subject matter experts, quality assurance, editorial, and creative designing staff who primarily focus on content development. Whereas, the client servicing team includes project managers/account managers who liaise with clients and scientific teams.
Medical Writing Services and Project Management
Medical writing services are strictly timeline bound and include both short and long turn-around projects. Medical writing services like abstract submission (late breakers) to a congress; daily congress newsletters; or a publication alert are to be turned around quickly in timelines ranging from a day to a week. Whereas, medical writing services like, content development for a manuscript; submitting a clinical study report to regulators; or organizing an ad-board/symposia, run over months to a year. Project management is crucial to the success of timely submissions of regulatory documents, publications, or event management. Each project involving all such internal and external stakeholders is an orchestra of activities that need to be well planned, executed, tracked, and coordinated by a project manager
The Role of Project Managers
Medical writers play an important role in scientific content development. They multitask and work closely with multiple stakeholders (scientists, medical teams, authors etc.) to communicate the research outcomes and healthcare product information to the target audience. They are often overwhelmed with these activities and do not have the bandwidth for project management activities which are critical to delivery. That is where the project managers come in to the picture and play a key role in supporting medical writers from conception to completion. They ease out the medical writers’ burden, so that writers can focus on value added content, creative thinking, and developing quality documents. The project managers act as an interface between the clients and the core scientific writing team, hence are an integral part of the service team. They are also responsible for leading and managing designated accounts, tracking multiple projects – big and small. Project management involves developing a strong client relationship while delivering high-quality projects and also ensuring overall client satisfaction. Those involved in events management coordinate production of material to promote events, sourcing venues, program development, and vendor management.1
A Typical Project Management Workflow
For successful service delivery, a project manager implements the five step process as defined by the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). The workflow is representative of, but not limited to the project manager’s activities.
Project Manager – Skills and Career Growth
The project manager plays a crucial role in effectively and efficiently managing project execution by liaising between teams. Successful project management is a combination of majorly soft skills which are complemented by the technical know-how to a certain extent:
- Communications – excellent oral and writing skills
- Managing multiple stakeholders – working in a matrix environment
- Interpersonal relationship – negotiation and influencing abilities
- Analytical and decision making
- Time management
- Conflict management
- Medical writing domain awareness including services/products knowledge, standard operating procedures; process maps; publications/organization’s internal tools; and high-level business operations.
- Hands on experience in Excel, PowerPoint, and project
The starting career point into project management could be a junior role as a Project Specialist. They can eventually grow in different directions depending on their skillset and interest.
- Those interested in core project management can grow as a Project Manager/Event Manager/Event Lead
- Those inclined towards science, the growth path could be, Medical Communications Lead / Publications Manager / Service Manager → Service Liaison
- Those interested in accounts can progress as Account Manager → Account Director
- Those interested in business operations can choose to become an Operations Manager → Operations Director
Reference: 1. Moon A. From academic to medical writer. 2016. Available at http://medcommsnetworking.com/careersguide.pdf. Accessed on Feb 1, 2019.
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