shutterstock_343048862The ringing of the phone startles me as I was in deep thought and contemplating about a joint testing provision in a partner contract that I am currently drafting. I answer the phone and get to talk to a colleague in Sales who tells me about a customer who urgently needs to control a set of non-Thermo Scientific chromatography instruments in Chromeleon. But let me start at the beginning: I am the business partner manager of the Informatics and Chromatography Business Unit at Thermo Fisher Scientific and as such responsible for handling business aspects of expanding 3rd party instrument control in Thermo ScientificTM ChromeleonTM Chromatography Data System (CDS).

When Chromeleon was introduced twenty years ago, it set a new standard in multi-vendor instrument control.  We now have more than 540 proprietary and third party modules from 25 different manufacturers that can be controlled by Chromeleon and, as the business partner manager, it is my mission to continue to expand this list every day as new technologies become available. While listening to what my Sales colleague tells me about our customer’s requirements regarding the requested instrument driver I am fulfilling one important part of this mission.

While customers expect that the latest instrumentation will be compatible with their CDS, it may not be obvious at first the level of collaboration that is required with other chromatography instrument manufacturers to make this a reality. Whether it is large multinational manufacturers or smaller companies that have developed a single instrument module tailored to a specific chromatography application, a strong, cooperative partnership is required to incorporate their instrumentation into Chromeleon and support our mutual customers. Our philosophy at Thermo Fisher Scientific encompasses partnering with these vendors in order to provide our customers the keys to unlock their lab equipment’s full potential. This is why I am calling one of our partners after I hung up. I am working with this partner closely and frequently so I immediately get to talk to the person in charge and reach an agreement about the instrument protocols. Without these, our software development team is unable to develop the respective instrument driver.

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Although this time it was easy, sometimes it can become a challenge to turn a culture of competition across different instrument vendors into an atmosphere of collaboration and trust. I always enjoy the moment that consensus is reached and everyone agrees to exchange source codes, invest work, jointly test and support our mutual customers. This is when I get to work with our very talented software development and support teams to ensure that we provide the best product, training and support for our customers across all of the instrumentation in their lab.

A few months later I receive another call from the Sales colleague mentioned above. He tells me how happy our customer is with the driver that our software development team has delivered. In fact, it has enabled our customer to analyze the drug they produce and hence, sell it to patients who urgently need it.

So for me as the business partner manager, it does not take the blacksmith’s ability of shaping iron into keys but the soft skill of contract negotiation and building iron-solid business partnerships to open the doors to unlimited analytical possibilities and reliable success for our customers.