As the medical world increasingly coverts to one of electronic data and more life sciences companies rely on electronic data for clinical trials, the information technology group at Quintiles Transnational is taking on a correspondingly more important role.

The latest from Computerworld magazine reflects the IT group’s value at Quintiles – and its satisfaction in being an essential part in the global contract research organization’s mission.

made the list for the first time in 2008 at 37th but in the 2009 list disclosed Monday it vaulted to 16th. Rankings are based on questionnaires that seek information about benefits, diversity, career development, training and retention.

That No. 16 spot is the ftops or an IT operation in the Carolinas and Georgia, surpassing the ranking even of Cary-based SAS, which finished 19th. SAS ranked fifth a year ago. Red Hat, which is based in Raleigh, finished 95th.

Bill Deam, executive vice president and chief information officer at Quintiles, tells Local Tech Wire and that the ranking is not based simply on IT receiving more people, hardware and software.

“It’s not necessarily a question of more resources, but rather, working on things that clearly make a difference to Quintiles’ success,” he said. “I believe people like that.”

“The Computerworld ranking is illustrative our IT employees’ job satisfaction, and correlates with Quintiles’ own internal employee engagement surveys. In those, our scores are improving year on year, so clearly we’re doing something right. Generally, you keep IT team members fulfilled by treating them fairly, providing work-life balance and giving them interesting challenges to work on.

“Our group has moved from being a provider of IT services, to making real contributions to the success of the organization. Today, our IT professionals can see their contributions clearly. I’m not sure that would have been the case five to six years ago. We make a difference now, and people like that.”

In its summary of Quintiles, Computerworld noted:

“This contract research organization in Research Triangle Park, N.C., knows that money is a key motivator. Employees at all levels are eligible for cash bonuses under the company’s Performance Incentive Plan. To ensure that IT goals align with the corporate vision, the IT organization adheres to a strategic plan that focuses on processes, customer value, employees and the organization. Objectives are cascaded throughout IT as the basis for staff performance goals. In a recent internal employee survey, 97% of U.S.-based IT staffers said they think the company’s mission and the work that employees do is important, and 87% said their work gives them a sense of accomplishment.”

Quintiles employs 321 people in IT, and 12 percent of them received promotions last year. Each employee receives five training days per year, and the company invests $750 for training each employee. Turnover last year was 5 percent.

Deam noted that Quintiles has long respected the importance of IT and electronic data. As a result, the world’s largest privately held CRO was in many ways ahead of the electronic medical records curve.

“Quintiles has always been very focused on electronic collection and the use of data – doing things electronically as much as possible,” he explained.

“Today, there is a great deal of interest in the marketplace for electronic health records, as seen from the new administration’s interest and investment. Quintiles has always been aware of the value of electronic data and will continue to use electronic means as effectively as possible.

“We recently announced our 400th EDC (electronic data capture) trial, so Quintiles is clearly a leader in that area. Everything we do is based on the value of data. Wherever we can find new ways to increase the speed and value of the data, Quintiles will continue to pursue those options on behalf of patients and our customers.”

The IT development engine doesn’t stop, either. According to Deam, Quintiles is ratcheting up data mining.

“We currently have a very large initiative under way to fully integrate all of our data and to make it available to our customers,” he said.

Quintiles also strives to ensure the integrity of data from the start of a project.

“We want to capture data once, at the source,” he explained. “It is our intention to validate data at the source so we don’t have to check it again.”

Deam wouldn’t discuss just how much of Quintiles’ budget is devoted to IT.

“We strive to maintain our data budget at a consistent percentage of our revenue, so it’s linked to growth,” he said. “That has been consistent over the past several years.”

Deam also noted that the IT group looks to the future with two perspectives.

“We’re working hard to rein in our costs,” he explained, “but we then invest in new and better things for the organization.”