Implementing enterprise software platforms in healthcare is challenging but rewarding because success leads to great outcomes such as better patient care, cost reduction, and process improvement, to name a few.
Prodigo Solutions utilizes a consultative approach to project management backed by many years of healthcare supply chain expertise. Our project managers are healthcare supply chain subject matter experts who have worked in hospital supply chains, and diligently work to ensure our clients fully understand our platform and its capabilities throughout the implementation. We have found the healthcare supply chain community expects software vendors to not only understand the technology they provide, but also be able to adapt it to the specific environments and enterprise systems they use in their supply chain operations.
We recognized this very early at Prodigo and designed and built our software to be flexible and adaptable. Hospitals utilize many different types of enterprise software and no two are set up the same way. It is this variety that makes implementing and integrating new software platforms difficult. We saw this as a challenge and a way to differentiate ourselves from the competition and diligently documented our successes and failures, so we could learn quickly when we stumbled and be able to consistently repeat the successes.
This article will outline some of our implementation tactics and techniques that will help you not only complete projects, but also form a lasting relationship with your clients and vendors.
Aligning client pain points to application features and capabilities
Prodigo’s platform is designed and built by healthcare supply chain experts. Our implementation teams are experts who understand the challenges hospitals face procuring goods and services. We have succeeded where many have failed because we can quickly analyze each client’s supply chain processes and procedures and align our features and functions to improve their operations and increase efficiency. For example, most hospitals struggle with recall management, back orders, and substitutes. Our Marketplace provides the ability to not only display the right label, but also direct the requester to the preferred item before they create a requisition.
Our implementation teams work together with the hospital supply chain team to analyze each scenario and determine how to set up and configure our functionality to provide the end user with a smooth and seamless process, so the right item can be ordered every time. Understanding how recalls, substitutes, and back orders work in healthcare is critical to implementing the right workflow and process to reduce match exceptions and friction in the ordering process.
Consultative approach to supply chain software implementation
Healthcare supply chain is unique and not like any other industry. And without a deep understanding of how it works, and the challenges hospitals face, most projects will fail because the technology is not designed to work in a hospital environment. However, it is not always the software that falls flat – it is often the team implementing it that lacks a true understanding of the nuances of healthcare.
Prodigo’s implementation teams collaborate with our clients to study and learn their supply chain processes and systems that will shape the design of the technology. This is one of the most critical steps in the implementation because it helps the team align the features and functions to specific pain points that the client has, so we can maximize our value. It seems simple but is often overlooked and can cause delays later in the project.
One example of this approach is when we discuss special requests or ad-hoc requests for items or services that are not currently on a contract. Our teams discuss how those items are created and the specific data points needed to help the order flow to the proper buyer for validation of price and vendor. Prodigo has set up the ability to order special requests in our system many times and understands each system’s unique requirements. We work with the client to design a custom page to capture the item or service information and advise them on what needs to be sent back with this item, so it flows downstream to a buyer properly.
This consultative approach helps the client fully understand the process and the impact it may have on their supply chain teams and helps remove or reduce the friction in the ordering process when the system is live.
Understanding the client’s technology environment leads to successful projects
Most hospital systems have outdated technology, but many are beginning to see how investments in new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are paying off in the areas of cost reduction, process efficiency, and data quality improvement. There is also a growing need to integrate the ERP to many downstream applications to share data between financial systems, electronic health record platforms, and procurement applications. Having a deep understanding of how these systems communicate with each other is critical to establishing and maintaining interfaces that connect systems to each other for data exchange.
Prodigo has been successful at integrating with many different ERP platforms and understands the nuances of each one. This knowledge and experience have not only made us an industry leader, but also subject matter experts when it comes to ERP integrations. Our technical expertise and knowledge have enabled Prodigo to become an Oracle Gold Partner and a Workday Certified Integration partner. We have also successfully integrated to many different Materials Management Information Systems (MMIS). This deep understanding helps reduce the time it takes to implement our technology and provides the client with a trusted source for ERP connections.
Why it is important to charge an implementation fee
In most, but not all, cases this decision is made by the salesperson and is typically used as a bargaining chip to help move the sales process along or secure the relationship. Waiving or discounting the implementation fee on an enterprise software solution undervalues the effort the project team puts in to get the platform to go live. At Prodigo, our project teams not only keep the project on time and on budget, but also provide the client with best practice approaches to complex healthcare supply chain issues and challenges that help them drive more value from the solution. The expertise our teams have gained over years of implementing and supporting our software translates to our new clients, so they can gain the benefits of our platform as quickly as possible. As the leader of the Prodigo Solutions implementation team for 10 years, I know how hard we worked to develop proven processes and procedures and documented our successes and failures, so we could sustain and improve the best practices and avoid making the same mistakes in the future. All this effort is worth it and was paid for by hours and hours of work by competent and passionate team members who truly care about our clients’ success. It’s critical that sales teams understand this and are provided specific talking points when potential client waiver on paying the implementation fee.
The importance of a good sales hand-off
The hand-off from the sales team to the implementation is the most important part of any new relationship. Once the sales team executes the contract, the next step is to make sure the implementation team understands what the client purchased. We have found that this meeting should be structured and include specific areas of focus.
The first one is to identify the key stakeholders and decision makers, so the implementation team can ensure they are part of the process from start to finish. Without their input, consensus, and approval throughout the project, expectations are difficult to manage. Identifying the products and services in the agreement is key to ensuring the right steps are taken at the beginning of the project because, typically, the order of operations is critical to success. Our solutions work in tandem to drive value for the client, and the order in which they are designed and configured keep the project on track and in scope.
In healthcare, we see many different types of systems in use within supply chain and our platform seamlessly integrates to them at different points. However, they are all unique, and understanding what the client has is vital to those integration workflows. The implementation team must know not only what systems are in use, but also the version they are on and the modules they have installed. Getting this information in the sales hand-off will accelerate the project and make the integration work happen quicker and with less friction.
Although there are other specifics that the implementation needs to kick off the project, these are the main areas that require detailed discussions.
Importance of involving senior stakeholders early in the project
A lot of enterprise software projects fail because the vision was not set by leadership early enough in the process. Project teams are driven by timelines, budgets, and requirements, but must be motivated by a clear vision from the senior stakeholders. This vision should come from the leaders who were part of the sales process and who fully understand why and what was purchased.
The sales team and client identify pain points and requirements and agree that the solution and services can address specific needs and areas that need improvement. The hand-off to the implementation is critical, but the project team must validate the vision they received from the sales team to make sure the goals and objectives are clear and fully understood.
One way to approach this objective is to have senior stakeholders articulate their vision to everyone working on the project. It sounds obvious, but in my experience is not that easy. Many times, the folks who worked with the sales team are not part of the client implementation team but need to stay engaged throughout the project to ensure their expectations are met. It is up to the project manager to make this a priority, and it requires a high level of professionalism, functional and technical expertise, and excellent communication skills. The ability to convey the value of the solution and services in a way that is easy to understand can be challenging because, in most cases, the senior stakeholders are somewhat removed from the complex day-to-day processes that happen in the healthcare supply chain.
As in the clinical environment, outcomes are very important to the ongoing health of the patient. The same is true for enterprise software projects – the outcomes must be discussed before the project kicks off and must guide the team throughout the implementation. For example, data quality improvement is paramount in healthcare because it improves the user experience, helps to reduce clinical variation, and supports cost reduction. If this is one of the outcomes that is expected, it is important to have the senior stakeholder identify why they believe it is important and how it is tracked throughout the project. This will give the project team the guidance it needs to make sure the right process is in place to report progress and milestones back to leadership.
If you are not measuring your progress, there is no progress, and being proactive with the results – good or not so good – will communicate the right message to the senior stakeholders: That you heard what they said and understand their vision. And to properly measure and track progress, the project team must not only understand the solution, but also have deep knowledge of the healthcare supply chain.
Building a lasting client relationship through functional and technical expertise
The job title project manager can take on many meanings – for example, task manager and coordinator, facilitator, and problem solver. All those skills are important and essential for success; however, it is equally important to have the ability to discuss complex supply chain concepts and make recommendations on best practices in the healthcare supply chain.
Software solutions can solve many problems by automating repetitive tasks and managing large amounts of data, but if the team implementing and supporting those platforms does not understand the why and how, the value of the system will quickly diminish. When you establish credibility with the hospital supply chain team, a lot of barriers immediately come down and the interaction becomes a lot more productive.
Another interesting thing happens – our clients look to us for guidance and advice in other areas of supply chain and logistics. Establishing a relationship based on technical and functional expertise, collaboration and giving advice freely and openly is one of the tenets that have helped us retain clients, some for more than 10 years. Our project managers play a vital role in establishing those relationships and working closely with our clients on a day-to-day basis throughout the implementation, and in many cases long after the solution is live. Check out some of our client success stories and our solutions and services at www.prodigosolutions.com.
About the Author
Ted Dagnal is the Vice President of Government Strategy at Prodigo Solutions responsible for all public sector initiatives and programs. Ted has been shaping supply chain best practices in the commercial healthcare industry for more than 20 years, working with some of the largest health and research systems in the country. He is passionate about bringing industry lessons learned, as well as more than 20 years of leadership service as a former U.S. Army officer, to actively help government clients transform and secure their supply chains and data in a federal environment.
Ted is leading the effort to rationalize the Supply Chain Master Catalog for the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve their data quality, enrich item attribute information, and improve contract utilization. He also led the FedRAMP authorization and ATO approval process for Prodigo’s Marketplace platform at VA.