Seven Best Practices for Better Major Project Results
Managing a major technology project—such as a clinical communications implementation or a connected care transformation—is a bit like taming a beast gone wild. Well-groomed systems and processes can become unmanageable, and only project managers with level heads and courageous hearts can expect success.
Fortunately, horse-whispering skills are not a prerequisite for reining in a technology update or major overhaul of important systems. Instead, start with best practices drawn from Burwood Group’s experience.
1. Design the project roadmap around the user experience.
Successful project management begins and ends with the user experience in mind, from project inception through design and implementation to training and post-deployment support. With an end goal clear, a critical path roadmap will provide the most strategic approach to its activation. Your roadmap should include a comprehensive list of all activities required to fulfill the goals, the time needed to complete each activity, the dependencies between them, and the milestones or deliverables—from the perspective of end-users and stakeholders.
2. Identify project champions.
With Burwood Group's experience in healthcare technology planning and implementation, we know that one critical success factor is to have one or more operational champions to serve as “cheerleaders,” work with the project sponsor and secure participation from each stakeholder group. Depending on the project, the champion(s) may be a physician, a nurse, an administrator or someone with both caregiving and administrative responsibilities. The champion can help bridge the communication and perception gaps between stakeholder groups and help the work proceed.
3. Prioritize cross-departmental relationships.
Successful implementation depends on engaging key stakeholders and creating realistic expectations based on a shared vision of the project. To ensure all parties have a voice, while mitigating the risk of chaos, we recommend creation of a multi-disciplinary team that includes the project champion(s). Cultivating these connections will lead to reduced conflict and a smoother project. And, you’ll save resources needed for issue resolution, since "in-the-know" project champions tend to use their influence to solve problems.
4. Know thy gaps.
A current state assessment and gap analysis is the first critical step in a major technology project. For example, a technology team member can “shadow” a clinician, administrator or other end user to track current workflows. End-user workshops are another means of gathering information. Digging more deeply into current-state processes will uncover gaps between the needs and expectations of frontline staff and those of senior management or the technology team to ensure that the technology addresses the right problem.
5. Plan for training for adoption and post-deployment support.
In the focus on logistics and implementation, user training can become an afterthought in a project roadmap. However, technology ROI is greatly improved when the project roadmap includes budget and resources for training so that users are equipped to maximize the advantages of new systems. Training should be based on actual workflow and real-life context, and should be customized for your corporate culture. The less invasive the training and development, the more easily users will accept it. There’s enough going on in a major technology project without the additional burden of introducing new training tools.
6. Look past deployment.
The system is live and the project team has disbanded. So where will users go when they need help? To maximize technology ROI, the project plan should include plans and resources not only for adoption, but also for “Day 2” support. This support could include help desk training, online help, or other forms of assistance. No project plan is complete without a support plan.
7. Ready, set, prepare to go-live.
Repeat after us: test, test, test, with specific testing plans, commissioning methodologies and mock go-live scenarios. A key milestone at this stage is user acceptance training, in which a small group “test-drives” the new system so that problems can be remediated in advance of a broad rollout.
We recommend a systems engineering “freeze” for a pre-determined timeframe for any new IT solutions, to allow for efficient testing and building solutions. Testing should be based on real-life scenarios based on the actual users’ workflows, in order to identify system glitches and training priorities.
Thoughtful plans for smart changes
The underlying best practice throughout is to establish a technology transformation plan that reflects your organization's unique strengths and challenges. Strengthening healthcare technology can have a significant impact on clinical success and patient care—and keep the project beast from going wild.