In Pursuit of Intuitive Life Sciences Apps: Q&A with Triumph Consultancy

Today, we announced a partnership Triumph Consultancy Services, which works with biopharma, CRO, and medical device companies to enhance the quality, experience, and value of clinical trials. According to Duncan Hall, Triumph’s CEO and founder, the industry is “crying out for a better approach to clinical trials.”   He’s on a mission to make Clinical Trial Management Systems (CTMS) as intuitive and easy to use as the apps on your smartphone or tablet—and the Mendix App Platform is playing a central role in that initiative.  On the heels of the announcement, we spoke with Duncan to learn more about clinical trial challenges, the limitations with traditional solutions, and Triumph’s experience developing with Mendix.

Could you tell us a little more about Triumph Consultancy Services?

We’ve been working exclusively in the life sciences space for 12 years, helping pharmaceutical companies, CROs, and medical device companies with clinical trial optimization.  A key part of what we do is work with these companies to define and enhance their clinical trial process.  Over the years, we’ve developed an industry best-practice, end-to-end process that we use as the basis for defining the ideal process for each client in a very short amount of time. Along with that, we will also design and deliver CTMS or e-clinical solutions, supporting the process from implementation and training to change management and ongoing support.

What do you see as the biggest challenges with managing clinical trials?

The life sciences industry is crying out for a better approach to clinical trials.  We talk to very few companies that are fired up and excited about how software supports the way they run clinical trials.  They’re struggling to obtain the desired level of consistency across trials, and there are two key reasons why.  First, they haven’t fully defined their processes or implemented systems to manage those processes.  Secondly, there are typically high attrition rates in the industry.  Because of this turnover, companies never really get to the point where staff are bought into one specific process and delivering trials on a consistent basis.

What are the limitations with traditional e-clinical solutions or CTMS?

Traditional CTMSs are basically database software with a web-based front end. The front ends are usually table or form based, and designed for data capture, not navigation through a trial.  They’re not intuitive and they rely on the end user to understand the clinical trial process and know exactly where they are in it—which is challenging when they might be involved with multiple trials at any given time.  This can lead to a significant amount of inconsistency and lack of quality.

This is frustrating to me because smartphones and tablets have brought simple, intuitive software to the masses.  Mobile apps are proof that software doesn’t have to be awkward or unpleasant to use.  You don’t have to open a manual to use an iPad app.  There’s no reason it shouldn’t be the same for clinical trials; they shouldn’t be something you dread from a software perspective.

A couple of years ago, we started to look into how we could automate our clinical trial process and deliver more “app-like experiences” with a web-based solution.  Fortunately, we discovered Mendix before we went down the path of custom web development.

Why did Triumph decide to partner with Mendix?

We felt that the combination of Triumph’s deep industry expertise and Mendix’s powerful app platform would allow us to deliver intuitive solutions for optimizing clinical trials—and to do so much more quickly, efficiently, and cost effectively than other development methods.

Specifically, we saw three key benefits of adopting the Mendix platform:

  • Flexibility – While the clinical trial process is fairly consistent across companies, our approach ensures that the solution is tailored to each client’s needs.  With Mendix, we can easily map the CTMS to their workflow and deliver exactly what the business needs. We can also implement as much or as little of the processes that is required, meaning that we can fill gaps, add new capability or simply just integrate between existing applications.
  • Integration – CTMS typically require extensive integration with other systems.  The ability of the Mendix platform to integrate with any system or data source, and make the right data available at each step in the process was another important consideration.
  • Speed – Lastly, there was speed of delivery.  Using Mendix, we can develop a proof of concept for a client quickly and inexpensively, and then adjust it easily based on user feedback or other business requirements. Following a simple, Agile approach means the customer is seeing value in a very short space of time.

What has been your experience like developing with the Mendix platform?

We have found the Mendix platform to be very intuitive and easy to use.  There is little ramp up to the point where you are building applications.  On our team, there is only one person that’s a true developer.  The rest of us have exposure to the software development process, but have been more focused on the business analysis side of the projects. Thanks to Mendix’s visual modeling capabilities, we’ve all been able to jump right in and start designing processes and business logic.

We created our first CTMS module prototype in literally a week.  The initial iteration was up and running in a couple of days, and we spent the rest of the week making tweaks.  Had we tried to develop the same application through other means, it would have taken several weeks, if not months.  We love how quickly we can develop applications with Mendix as well as how easily we can make adjustments on the fly.