From chaos to order: Streamlining project management for a medical device company with remote cross-functional teams

Every medical device startup has a unique need, and this Invitro diagnostics startup was no different. After successful product development, they sought help streamlining their production and marketing efforts to enter the commercial market and get FDA approval. They had remote cross-functional teams with members spread over multiple regions. The company was facing product delays, communication issues, and structure breakdowns. Leading to time, revenue, and resource loss.

They required a project management process that worked for a remote cross-functional team whose members worked both virtually and in-house. The company engaged the services of a Waddell Group medical device project management consultant specializing in managing remote teams.

Let’s take a deep dive into how the Waddell Group Project Management Consultant brought the company from chaos to order so their product could reach the market faster. 

The Challenge: Managing Remote Cross-Functional Teams to Project Success

There are significant differences between remote and in-person work. When you work with a geographically dispersed team, the way you talk to people, motivate people, and get information from people is different. Making managing them a whole different ball game. – Julia Estrada (The medical device project consultant who worked on this project)

Julia started by interviewing the CEO  + team-members,  reviewing the company’s current project plan, and doing a GAP analysis. She noted the following imminent challenges:

Cross-Functional Communication Issues: The company had various cross-functional teams working remotely on the project. The lack of day-to-day interaction and inability to meet in person created a siloed approach not conducive to fostering collaboration. 

Unstructured Team and Other Stakeholder Communication: Communication methods, styles, and preferences varied across individuals, resulting in:

  • – information gaps
  • – hindered decision-making
  • – misalignment of goals
  • – lack of accountability
  • – difficulty in conveying complex information 
  • – inability to share daily progress updates efficiently

Lack of Project Structure: Despite a  detailed document that served as an outline, the company didn’t have a comprehensive project plan. Some essential tasks were not tracked. The breakdown of tasks and timelines required for effective project management, along with formal project management processes and tools, was very high level. This created challenges in planning, coordinating, and execution. 

Unclear Workstream Dependencies: The company struggled to identify and understand the interdependencies among various workstreams. They faced difficulties prioritizing tasks and aligning their efforts toward a common goal. As a result, some team members were overworked, impacting their productivity and the overall project timeline.

The Solution: Improving efficiency through enhanced individual collaboration

Julia, the medical device project management consultant, took a systematic approach to address the challenges faced by the company. Project management tools and methodologies like:

  • – stakeholder management
  • – communications management
  • – change management
  • – risk management
  • – a decision log

were applied to streamline the process. The key steps taken were:

Work Breakdown Structure and timeline development keeping the virtual and dispersed nature of the team in mind

Julia meticulously analyzed the project requirements and developed a comprehensive work breakdown structure. This involved:

  • – carefully reviewing the product information provided by the company
  • – conducting individual interviews with team members and company leaders to understand their specific roles and responsibilities
  • – reviewing the project management document created by the company
  • – identifying and defining the tasks and milestones necessary for successful product development
  • – including previously overlooked tasks – like setting up internal infrastructure so customers can place orders – in the project plan.

She also educated them on creating realistic timelines by taking into account individual team members, task dependencies, company goals, and other factors. The scope of the project was identified, and the project charter was prepared.

Stakeholder Management: Julia focused on understanding each team member’s obstacles, needs, and working styles. She provided necessary support to overcome challenges and ensured effective collaboration among team members. She was able to do this by:

  • – employing a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) framework to clarify roles, responsibilities, and decision-making authority
  • – scheduling regular online meetings – as a team and with individual team members – to discuss project updates and address any concerns or obstacles 
  • – establishing a live project dashboard, allowing team members to access project status information in real-time
  • – aligning individual responsibilities with the project’s overall goals to foster a sense of unity and purpose among the team members

She kept people accountable and ensured they were making the key decisions and following through on their actions as planned.

Streamlined Meetings: As the company’s medical device project manager, Julia focused on making meetings more productive and efficient by:

  • – establishing clear agendas for each meeting, specifying the topics to be discussed and decisions to be made 
  • – creating structured systems to ensure only essential team members were invited to relevant meetings, reducing the number of attendees, and facilitating more focused discussions

Tailored Communication Approach: As physical in-person communication was almost impossible, Julia encouraged the use of a variety of other communication channels, including:

  • – phone calls
  • – emails
  • – automated dashboards
  • – verbal conversations

to ensure that stakeholders received information in the format that worked best for them.

Virtual Project Management: As the project management consultant operated remotely – just like the medical device company  – virtual project management tools and techniques were used to effectively communicate and motivate the team members spread across different locations. SOPs were created for effective virtual team management and project completion.

Risk Management: Julia formalized the risk management process in the company and developed a risk register to help them avoid and mitigate risks.

The Result: Improved employee satisfaction, speed, and better risk management practices in 18 months.

The engagement of the medical device project management consultant yielded significant results for the company like:

  • – an enhanced project structure
  • – clarity and direction to the entire team
  • – a clear understanding of the project’s critical path and milestones
  • – improved task prioritization and dependencies
  • – efficient allocation of resources
  • – smoother progress and minimized delays
  • – strengthened cross-functional collaboration
  • – improved communication and cooperation among teams
  • – effective decision-making
  • – streamlined project execution

There’s more!

Team members were able to focus on their core responsibilities saving time and resources and reducing duplication of work while together to get a commercially viable product to the market.

Increased accountability reduced bottlenecks and improved overall project efficiency. Meeting durations were reduced from hours to 45 minutes!

The company was able to accelerate its progress toward FDA approval. 

The project manager’s focus on individual team member’s needs and challenges led to increased employee satisfaction and stakeholder engagement.

Hiring additional resources to alleviate overburdened team members’ workload demonstrated the organization’s commitment to supporting its employees.

The organization recognized that project management principles could be applied beyond the product launch process, benefiting other projects and initiatives.

Contact Us Today

Need a medical device project manager that gets your project to exactly where you want it to be? Get in touch! To start or improve a project with The Waddell Group, contact us at 952.221.3333. We’ll be glad to help with your medical device project management needs.

A word from the Waddell Group project Manager, Julia Estrada

A dedicated project manager can make an enormous difference in how your people are functioning. A project manager with experience in virtual work will have a good understanding of the tools and processes for helping people who are geographically separated work together towards a common goal. They will do everything from fostering engagement and communication to team building activities, identifying the work breakdown, and facilitating communication. So it’s just a huge help. A project manager can make the difference between something taking three years to get to market vs. 18 months.



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