CRO Evaluator™

The CRO Evaluator™ is a decision-making tool for the systematic selection of contract research organi- zations. It helps shorten and clarify the journey from identifying the requirements for the new service provider to finding the best fit prior to on-site visits. Applying the CRO Evaluator simplifies a typically ad-hoc, long-winded and subjective group activity by guiding through an organized assessment. At first capture your requirements and their associated importance for the new outsourcing partner. The CRO Evaluator supports this process by guiding through a comprehensive list of 15 pre-selection criteria. In a second step the offered value is described and scored for each provider.

The CRO Evaluator computes a Value Map, a graphical representation of strengths and weaknesses for each provider. The group of assessed providers are ranked according to a summary score and their detailed ranking is compared side-by-side in a Match Curve.

Detailed instructions for CRO Evaluator

The CRO Evaluator guides through two stages:

  • A) Outsourcing Needs Assessment,
  • B) Identifying the Offered Value of several providers. Both activities can be carried out either by a single individual or by a team of internal project stakeholders.

A) Outsourcing Needs Assessment

The Requirements tab opens the Outsourcing Needs Assessment.

  • a. The PROJECT description; e.g. "NMR-based natural compound library screen"
  • b. State the OBJECTIVE; e.g. "identify a STD-NMR service, that can complete a 400 sample screen before the end of the quarter"
  • c. Line out the particular CHALLENGES; e.g. "Supplier must accept 3rd party compounds library (400), solubilized GPCR samples provided by us; make available raw data for all 1H 1D spectra"
  • d. There is also a special field for NOTES; e.g. "If the samples produce useful data and service provider performs well, we will likely need to carry out other biophysical testing such as ITC and SPR with a subset of compounds“

Collecting and articulating this information helps to keep the focus on the particular outsourcing needs for the specific project.

A simple way to keep all your project outsourcing project information and associated internal requirements together.


Check the 5 pre-selection categories of requirements and each associated specific criteria to generate your own particular requirements and their respective importance. A yellow box with explanations pops up when hovering over or clicking on a specific criteria. Using these tips, specify your requirements and rank their importance to your organization according to the available selections.

Requirements Importance ranking

  • IGNORE - a requirement that is not relevant and should not be taken in account at all
  • LOW - a requirement that should not be ignored, but should have only little impact to the final decision
  • MEDIUM - a requirement that has some impact in the final decision
  • HIGH - a non-negotiable requirement that has a high impact on the selection of the provider
  • MUST - an absolutely mandatory requirement; a deal-breaker if not met

Requirements Description


  • Vendor / Supplier - typical for materials
  • Service provider - typical for sample analysis
  • Partner - multiple engagements, multi-step workflow
  • Collaborator - expecting to learn, scientific discourse
  • Academic collaborator - free exchange of ideas, overlapping agenda?


  • niche players typically provide highly specialized technologies; can be flexible, may need hands-on managing;
  • large global providers can handle many different projects. Likely less overhead to manage, unlikely to have high expertise in every single technology;
  • interplay with other outsourcing partners desired? Integration with in-house efforts?


  • Impacts ease of communication (time zones, language if overseas)
  • Sample transfer and shipping
  • Personal interactions desired?


  • % employees with PhD and industry experience
  • Historical staff turnover (3-5 years is typical)
  • Stability (years in operation, plans for change?)
  • Interaction with scientists or project manager proxy?


  • Technical and scientific know-how
  • Frequency of work carried out
  • Type of desired experts
  • Backup instrumentation


  • Track record for specific service (technology, clinical indication)
  • Core expertise (publication record, case studies)
  • Similar work carried out before? (could be useful


  • Validation data for service sought after (positive/negative controls)
  • Examples for data formats
  • Compatibility


  • Feedback from (more than one) former client
  • Colleagues' recommendation


  • Type of facilities/documentation required; GLP, GMP?
  • Auditing
  • Result of FDA inspection?
  • Quality agreement and documentation


  • Data & document sharing practices
  • Information sharing platform
  • Data safety & security


  • Time commitment
  • Fixed cost
  • Risk sharing (milestones)


  • Service description, content
  • Terms & Conditions
  • Payment schedule
  • Clarity
  • Flexibility


  • Total price, price schedule
  • Discounts
  • Payment stipulations


  • Accessibility via phone call and email
  • Data analysis and sharing
  • Platform compatibility


  • Chemistry
  • Personality
  • Familiarity

If needed, there are two open placeholders for additional criteria at the bottom of the list.

The completed Outsourcing Needs Assessment is a convenient tool when conducting a phone-interview with several providers.

B) Identifying the Offered Value of several providers

There are five Provider tabs at the bottom of the CRO Evaluator. For each provider collect the requested information and fill in one separate sheet (blue and yellow cells). Discuss the project with a CRO representative over the phone, obtain a quotation and check with references (if needed). The contribution of multiple stakeholders (if available) should be acknowledged and merged for each assessed criteria.

1. Fill in provider information (blue cells)

  • A. The name of the ORGANIZATION; e.g. "NMR Bioservices, Inc."
  • B. Capture the CONTACT; e.g. "T. Overhauser, 1-900-547-3561"
  • C. LOCATION; e.g. " Protonia, CA"
  • D. There is also a special field for NOTES; e.g. "recommendation from Richard E."
Capturing the CRO information and offering that is relevant to your specific partner and project requirements.

2. Fill in Description of OFFERED VALUE and assign a score.

Inspect the corresponding requirements of OUTSOURCING NEEDS and describe, based on the interview, references and quotation the value that is offered by the service provider. For each value description assign a score according to the following key:

Offered value ranking
  • DISQUALIFIED - a red flag that clearly indicates that this provider should not be selected
  • LOW - a sign that the particular provider has a weakness in this area
  • MEDIUM - average performance expected
  • HIGH - the value received with this provider likely higher than average
  • IDEAL - excellent performance virtually guaranteed, certain superior value

C) Evaluation and comparison


The CRO Evaluator computes a Value Map (Provider 1-5 tabs), a graphical representation of strengths and weaknesses for each provider. Good candidates typically map in the green section; high outsourcing importance scores and high value scores. Characteristics in the left-most column (IGNORE) should be excluded for the assessment. Providers with characteristics in the bottom row (DISQUALIFIED) should be excluded altogether from further assessment.

The VALUE MAP provides a graphical view on how the value of a particular provider relates to your outsourcing needs.


The 'Comparison' tab displays the providers ranked according to the Direct Score and the Requirements-Weighted Score. The Direct Score is the numerical sum of all value scores given to a provider. The Requirements Weighted Score is a the numerical sum of all products of value scores and importance scores. The top provider with the highest Requirements Weighted Score is ranked on top.

Find the best provider from the automated ranking of up to five different contract research organizations according to the computed score.


The Match Curve allows a side-by-side comparison of providers according to the Requirements Weighted Score. The top-ranking providers typically show high scores, indicating a good match with the project and your organizational requirements.

Graphical comparison of up to five different service providers according to 15 criteria, the MATCH CURVE.

And of course don't hesitate to contact us at if you have any questions about the CRO Evaluator™ or if you need further help with our outsourcing strategy and building a network of research service suppliers.