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Trust. The most important commodity in RBQM.

You’re probably thinking “What’s trust got to do with Risk-Based Quality Management?”

The answer is simple. RBQM requires enterprise level change, and that’s not something anyone undertakes lightly.

If you’re going to do it right first time, you need the right partner. A partner you can trust. You don’t do a quick Google search on RBQM software, then click press to buy. If you do, you’ll fail because it’s much more complex than that. Changing to RBQM touches on many parts of a business, including SOPs, training, roles, responsibilities, technology, operations, business models and cost structures.

That’s why you need expert help.

Unfortunately, however, over the years, some software vendors have used ‘smoke and mirror’ tricks, unscrupulous tactics and busines practices to make sales, then not deliver the customers expectations. Everyone in business has a horror story related to these kinds of practices, and that makes people rightly wary.

So, who do you trust to help you? Before you answer that question, you need to consider how you build trust in the ‘new normal’. When all the ‘old world’ mechanisms of meeting face-to-face, eyeballing someone while they talk, building rapport over coffee or dinner, and shaking hands on a deal have all been taken away.

Well here are some of the things we’re doing to build trust with people we know, and importantly, those we don’t know (yet). We’re putting out lots of free content and helpful information such as how to manage risks, how to conduct protocol risk assessments and how to create integrated strategic monitoring plans to improve your clinical trials. For years we’ve been putting on popular free webinars. We’ve just completed a series of nine webinars on how RBQM can improve trials under Covid-19 which attracted nearly 2,000 people. We also innovate with content such as our ‘5 Minute 5 Questions’ interviews with over 20 senior industry figures from leading organisations. Our operational experts and I are often asked to speak on virtual events such as the SCDM and MCC conferences, and we help with industry thought leadership through activities such as the MCC RBQM workstream. And we also provided our Risk Assessment and Management software free to several companies running COVID trials.

All that builds trust through awareness, but over the last year or so we’ve worked on building trust with three ‘types’ of customer that can be generalised as ‘Piloteers’, ‘Challenged’ and ‘Embracers’.

Piloteers know they need RBQM and are looking for a technology solution and want to run a pilot. We approach this by picking a real study, and going through the whole process of conducting a protocol risk assessment, creating an integrated monitoring plan and setting out the central monitoring approach, all before giving them access to the technology. Only that way can the full implications and impact be understood by the organisation. Being honest with them about the scale of the challenge is of utmost importance. No one likes unpleasant surprises. Or failure.

The ‘Challenged’ group had studies interrupted by COVID. They were mid-study when lockdown was imposed, and they needed a very fast response, not least to ensure patient safety and continued treatment. The pandemic has made these organisations realise that they need to implement RBQM, in particular, remote and centralised monitoring. But immediately they needed help getting studies back up and running safely. For those organisations it was important to rapidly assess the gaps in capability and capacity, and develop then implement improvement plans to restart studies. This required changes in practice such as eliminating SDVs (because they visits couldn’t happen) and new innovations, such as home visits and drugs sent to patients’ homes. There’s nothing like helping some through a challenge like COVID to build trust.

The third group I’ve nick-named ‘Embracers’ because they already understand the need for and benefits from RBQM. They’ve often started implementing it in their organisation, but were looking for a partner to help them maximise the opportunities and benefit from quality and efficiency improvements. With these guys ,we helped build competence, capability and capacity throughout the organisation. This meant working shoulder-to-shoulder through the difficult but necessary change management issues. One of the best compliments we’ve ever had was from a CEO who said publicly, “I can’t tell who on the team is from TRI or my own organisation”. That felt good.

Building trust when you’re working with someone is easy, but how do you do that in the post-COVID virtual world? I believe there are four factors that can help you build trust and rapport remotely. They are: the benefit of doubt; consistency; personal interests; and communication balance. The psychology behind each of them is interesting, but very easy to understand.

From an evolutionary perspective, we’re hard-wired to give strangers the benefit of the doubt, at least at first, even over video link. The reason for that is very simple. We’re social animals and we wouldn’t be able to create social bonds unless we’re inclined to trust new people. That trust doesn’t last forever, it needs to be proven. And quickly.

One way to do that is through being consistent. Do what you say you’re going to do. If you make a promise keep it. As with the rest of life, in business, reliability is one of the most important attributes for anyone who wants to build trust.

Taking a personal interest is easily understood. When we could meet face-to-face over a coffee, at the water cooler or in a bar, conversations always turn to personal interests like sport, children, music and even sometimes politics. Starting up those conversations is easy face-to-face because we’ve all done it for years. It’s a learned behaviour from childhood. But it seems clunky and false when doing it on a video call because it’s such an obvious ‘ploy’ and can quickly put people off you if not done right. You need to practise easing into those conversations.

And when you are in a video or telephone conversation, you need to ensure there’s a balance of communication between talkers. If you’re doing all the talking it can be seen as a sign that you’re trying to dominate, or even worse, you lack confidence and are waffling to fill a gap. You need to bring other people into the conversation by asking questions and shutting up. Give them the space to talk. You’ve all heard the expression ‘you have two ears and one mouth – use them in proportion’.

So, what can we at TRI do to build trust with you, especially if we’ve never spoken to you before or you’ve never heard of us? Obviously you can access all of that free content on our website as I mentioned earlier. That will prove to you that we know what we’re talking about and our claim to be “The RBQM Experts” isn’t some idle boast or marketing spin. But put us to the test. Ask us any questions you like and we’ll happily give you a call. There’s no cost for talking 😊 If you want to know what RBQM can do for your trails, we’d be delighted to show you any and all of our products. Indeed, we’re that confident that you’ll love them as much as we do that we’ll happily let you ‘try before you buy’. That way you can see for yourself and we can build trust together.

(See Duncan's webinar on Trust where he goes into greater detail on the topic at


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