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Evaluate CTMS software like an IT pro – blog series: part 5

In this blog series we are sharing with you our 10 years of experience on how to evaluate CTMS software. In the last blog we talked about the importance of an intuitive user interface. Today, in part 5 out of 10 we are sharing questions to ask in order to help price-protect yourself before finalizing your shortlist. Read on to find out more about “The nuts and bolts of the pricing game.”

Pricing is not always straightforward

This is one of our most popular topics and with good reason--the world of software pricing can be complicated. Not because it has to be, but because this is the place where a vendor can have you over a barrel unless you understand the basic principles of how software vendors make their money. So let’s decode a bit of the pricing puzzle so that you can make decisions based on real numbers.

Is the pricing process transparent and fair?

We’re all in business to make a profit. The question is, is your vendor transparent about costs and fees?

While all vendors collect some kind of fee for the initial software purchase, installation, and migration, software vendors generally make the bulk of their money on recurring fees such as license fees. More importantly, many software companies count on the fact that their clients probably won’t realize what they’ll need in the coming years. This can keep the initial purchase price low, but unexpected costs that mount up year after year can become oppressive. Unlike other eClinical systems, the average lifespan of a CTMS is over 13 years1, so it is critical to fully understand how your vendor will charge you year after year.

Typical pricing traps when buying a CTMS solution

  • Fee per site: Ask your vendor what exactly comprises a “site.” Some vendors consider the same investigator to be a new site if the study has changed. Are you required to estimate the number of sites you’ll need before implementation? What if that number changes? Will you be charged “archive” fees if that site closes?
  • Who owns your data, and where does it live? What happens to it after you part ways with the vendor? Are you charged to take possession of your own data?
  • When do license fees kick in? Are you charged license fees before the solution is fully implemented and running to your satisfaction? What is the process to alter the number of users if your needs change (either fewer or more licenses), and is there penalty for doing so? Get examples using rea numbers.
  • Future software alterations: What happens if technology changes force you to have to alter the CTMS in order for it to continue to fit within your infrastructure or to support new software you need to add? Are you charged by your software vendor for such alterations (hint: your vendor already knows what’s coming down the path but assumes you don’t).
  • Is the CTMS built on open source code? Is the software you are contemplating purchasing compatible with other eClincal applications? Is it built with open source code? Some vendors create and sell applications that are designed to only work with the other applications they sell. Sounds sneaky to us.

Dig deep into the pricing structure to avoid unpleasant surprises during the implementation phase and beyond. If unsure, set up a hypothetical pricing model to try and predict what you’ll be charged initially and over time.

Software vendors often obscure the pricing process to their advantage

We can state, with a very high degree of certainty, that experienced software developers know exactly what the trends are and how they will influence your infrastructure.

Ask the vendor what could change over the next several years, and how that could affect the CTMS. What adjustments would have to be made and at what cost? An experienced software developer will be able to discuss trends. Do not accept answers that are more like excuses (i.e. “No one can predict the future.”).

If this seems confusing and filled with opportunities to be tricked, unfortunately you are right. We don’t begrudge any company for making a profit. We do, however, renounce some of the pricing tactics that are being employed by our competitors in order to obscure the pricing process to their advantage.

Fixed pricing is the easy way to protect yourself

The easiest way to get around all of that, however, is actually quite simple. Ask the vendor to offer your organization a fixed price for the software and integration. At BSI we understand software and CTMS in particular, we know our clients’ business, we are at the core of innovation, and we’ve been doing this for over 20 years. We believe in sharing the risk with our customers. You will always get a fixed price for our services. Press your CTMS vendor for this option.

Up next: Have you narrowed down your vendor list? It’s now time to employ our handy 4 step process to finding the CTMS vendor who is perfect for your organization.

All articles in the blog series

  • Part 1: How to become a CTMS evaluation hero
  • Part 2: The killer criterion that immediately narrow down your list
  • Part 3: Are they going to march to your beat or will you have to march to theirs?
  • Part 4: Bells and whistles, the monitor visiting process, and how to evaluate the user interface
  • Part 5: The nuts and bolts of the pricing game

Next Best Action:

BSI Life Sciences




Jan Nielsen,
Community Manager Life Sciences

+41 58 255 96 22