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Bob Arnesen Of eClinical Solutions: Lessons I Learned From Last Year To Take Our Organization to the Next Level in 2024

Creating return on investment for our customers, which manifests as helping them achieve reduced clinical trial cycle times and overall redundancy. The value and ROI need to happen sooner and faster as our current customers and prospects demand to have highly effective systems that empower them to succeed.

This series aims to discuss the experiences and lessons learned by top executives over the past year, and how these insights are shaping the landscape for change and innovation in 2024. The past year has been a time of unprecedented challenges and opportunities, requiring adaptive leadership and innovative strategies. We believe that sharing these experiences can inspire and guide others in their endeavors to drive positive change in their organizations and industries. I had the pleasure of interviewing Bob Arnesen.

Bob Arnesen is President and Co-Founder of eClinical Solutions, a global provider of digital clinical software, the elluminate Clinical Data Cloud®, and biometrics services that help biopharma researchers manage trial complexity in less time and with fewer resources. With over 20 years of experience in the medical and life science industries, Bob Arnesen has built organizational strategies and processes for a myriad of organizations responsible for the collection of research data. At eClinical, he designs and implements strategies for the industry adoption of the technologies and services offered by the organization, as well as identifies and builds strategic partner channels for business development.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share a little about your background and what pivotal moments led you to your current position as an executive?

From a young age, my entrepreneurial spirit flourished — evident when I launched a painting business in high school. The joy of forging connections fueled my passion for sales, leading me to strive for a career that not only allowed me to embrace leadership but to keep a competitive edge. A pivotal moment came when, while painting a home, I met a mentor who introduced me to the healthcare industry, redirecting my aspirations.

During college, my focus shifted towards healthcare and life sciences, envisioning a career dedicated to improving care and tackling complex data challenges. Managing sales teams revealed my passion for cultivating success, and my father’s influence became pivotal as he instilled the value of hiring exceptional individuals and supporting them 100%. As my career continued, I immersed myself further in industry culture, aligning with missions I wholeheartedly believed in, and prioritized collaborative problem-solving, learning the importance of leading by example.

What were the early challenges you faced in your career, and how did they shape your approach to leadership?

The first challenge that comes to mind is getting people to believe in you, your goals, and your mission. Gaining trust and commitment towards our shared mission was paramount, and with a new company, you have to prepare for the reality that you might not succeed, and you’d be faced with a zero-sum game. However, as the strategic goals of the company were being realized by our now customers, a domino effect occurred.

Scaling up also comes with significant challenges: during those formative stages, resources were more limited, and each win mattered in terms of our ability to build and grow the company; expanding our customer base emerged as the key for success at that time. And believing unwaveringly in our vision became non-negotiable. These experiences have shaped me as a leader, and I’ve internalized the importance of trust — in what you’re doing and in your teams. If you don’t believe in your business, don’t do it, because embracing this level of trust in your vision is essential for long-term sustainability.

We often learn the most from our mistakes. Can you share one that you made that turned out to be one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned?

One learning in our journey of building a new organization was not investing into HR, People & Culture as early we could have. When founding the company, CEO Raj Indupuri and I were deeply committed to prioritizing our people in every aspect of our operations. We worked hard to live by that principle and surrounded ourselves with subject matter experts who had the knowledge to help us grow quickly. In retrospect, investing in the proper infrastructure and dedicated personnel for People & Culture is critical to fulfilling that mission of putting our people first — ensuring teams have those resources and support. As the company grew rapidly, we recognized this and built out the function, but if I were to do it all over again, I would identify and invest in that area earlier.

As an executive, how do you define success, both personally and for your organization?

Personally, I take pride in the success of building one of the most exceptional teams in the industry, distinguished by expertise and shared dedication to our mission and values in helping our clients achieve their goals. We have cultivated a world-class software and service organization, where our offerings aren’t just a nice-to-have but are essential tools for our clients and mission-critical applications for their success.

While we’ve achieved significant milestones, I don’t want us to rest on our laurels. To me, true success is an ongoing journey, and we need to continually innovate. My aspiration is for every member of our team, regardless of their role, to actively contribute to our collective success by helping companies manage key data that drives research forward. As a leader, if we can meet our clients’ needs and help them suceed while cultivating teams who are fulfilled in their work, believe in what they’re doing and are able to meet their own personal goals, that would be the icing on the cake for me.

Reflecting on 2023, what was the most unexpected challenge you faced, and how did you navigate it?

Our most unexpected challenges were due to global economic headwinds that hindered our customers’ ability to allocate funds towards R&D initiatives and new study trials. This unforeseen slowdown posed obstacles for our industry in terms of investing in workforce, advancing R&D endeavors, and meeting financial forecasts.

What was a significant risk you took this year, and how did it turn out?

This year, we undertook significant risk through evaluating innovative ways of assisting and collaborating with our customers. This introspection worked very well, igniting fresh perspectives within our team while fostering stronger trust with our valued customers and partners.

Specifically, we encountered a scenario where a customer only wanted specific components of our elluminate software platform rather than the entire product suite. While conventionally perceived as a comprehensive enterprise solution, by offering customizable solutions, like activating or deactivating certain features to accommodate budgetary constraints, we not only provided practical alternatives but showcased our commitment to customer-centric innovation. This newfound flexibility aligns with our 2024 goals of maximizing ROI and reinforcing ourselves as a responsive and adaptable partner.

How has your company’s mission or purpose affected its overall success? Can you explain the methods or metrics you use to evaluate the impact of this purpose-driven strategy on your organization?

From day one, our commitment to our mission and core values has been exemplified by myself, my business partner, and the entire executive team. Day in and day out, we reinforce this foundation by leading by example.

We take pride in our culture and consistently measure our success through engagement surveys and review cycles, ensuring individuals have objectives that embody our core values. Recognizing and rewarding our team members is integral to support dedication to our mission and living by our core values.

Have you ever faced a situation where your commitment to your purpose and creating a positive social impact clashed with the profitability in your business? Have you ever been challenged by anyone on your team or have to make a tough decision that had a significant impact on finances? If so, how did you address and reconcile this conflict?

These scenarios come up all the time. We take a very simple approach: we choose to put our people first in everything we do. Past experiences have taught us valuable lessons on the importance of strategic investment, and we’ve figured out where to reinvest that ultimately leans into the core principles of our business.

Could you list the top five things you’ve learned in 2023, with specific examples of how these lessons impacted your decisions or strategies?

I am going to answer this a little differently. Here are the top five actions that we learned and need to focus on from 2023, heading into 2024.

  1. Demonstrating and achieving balanced growth and profitability heading into 2024. For example, investing into R&D, people, and achieving balance while striving for profitability.
  2. Creating return on investment for our customers, which manifests as helping them achieve reduced clinical trial cycle times and overall redundancy. The value and ROI need to happen sooner and faster as our current customers and prospects demand to have highly effective systems that empower them to succeed.
  3. Strengthening customer-centricity as a core value across all functions to achieve a highly satisfied, referenceable, and repeatable customer base. For example, during challenging times in our global economy, we need to continue to strengthen the trust we build with our clients, sharing the successes and shortcomings to give them confidence in our products and teams.
  4. Accelerating the deployment of AI and ML — recognizing the space between intent and readiness among customers means focusing on delivering timely innovation tailored to their precise needs. While interest in AI is soaring, our 2024 Industry Outlook Survey highlights a lag in investment. Our commitment is to bridge this gap by refining customer strategies and expediting the delivery of precisely tailored solutions, ensuring the right innovation at the right time for optimal outcomes.
  5. Investing in people, processes, and technology. This is a core tenant in our company philosophy, and it’s how we achieve our goals year over year and continue providing value in a way that matters.
How have these top five lessons from 2023 changed your outlook or approach for 2024?

These core lessons will drive the success of our company and are the foundation of our goals in 2024. They have evolved into actionable objectives that will help guide our multi-faceted approach and ensure we are steadfast in embodying our core values.

In terms of innovation and adaptation, what’s one change you implemented in 2023 or plan to do in 2024 that you believe will be crucial for the future of your business?

Moving forward, we need to make sure we continue to invest in our AI/ML strategies within our current platform. By empowering our customers with enhanced data evaluation abilities, we help them make more informed decisions in real-time.

We also must remember to always come back to customer centricity. That’s where it all starts: the more we invest in our customers and their success, the more they can rely on our product and services, which will allow us to truly partner together — improving both their business and our own.

As a leader, how do you foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement within your team or organization?

As I have harped on, one of our core values is investing in our people. Believing in what we sell is paramount, so we make sure we’re investing in our team and that they are embodying our principles and leading by example. This investment manifests in various forms, from engaging coaches and mentors to enhance public speaking and leadership skills, to providing access to LinkedIn learning modules and role-specific trainings.

Our team also benefits from in-depth trainings on our elluminate platform and associated services. This not only enhances their proficiency but instills a deeper sense of trust and confidence in the platform’s capabilities. This ties back into believing in your business and getting your team to as well — as individuals gain a deeper understanding of the platform, their belief in its success is fortified, which fosters a greater environment for innovation.

Looking at the broader industry landscape, what emerging trends do you think will be most influential in the coming year?

I have cautious optimism that there will be lots of innovation in healthcare and the Life Sciences. As the landscape changes, more companies are starting to come back to where they were years prior and are wanting to outsource their work as they realize they need to adopt more technologies to keep pace. As accessing data is getting more difficult, our industry needs to leverage the best technology and service providers so that research does not slow down.

If you and I were having a conversation one year from now, and we were looking back at the past 12 months, what specifically has to happen for you to be happy with your progress?

I’d be ecstatic to see us achieve the five actionable goals I outlined earlier. At the end of the day, I’m happy when our team members realize they are making a difference in helping patients by being part of a dynamic company that is advancing clinical research and development.

How can our readers further follow your work or your company online?

Via our website https://www.eclinicalsol.com/ and on LinkedIn!

This was great. Thanks for taking time for us to learn more about you and your business. We wish you continued success!

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ENGAGE 2024- October 10-11, Boston.