Ensuring ROI with New Software Implementations

Investment imageKey Recommendations for a Project Manager

By Connie Larsen, Hayes Management Consulting
Twitter: @HayesManagement

When a healthcare organization decides to implement a new software solution, whether they are replacing an existing software or upgrading from a manual process, it is of great importance. Extensive effort is placed on deciding which software will satisfy the need. There is typically a substantial financial outlay with the expectation of a return on investment (ROI). Promises are made and expectations are high. The software company provides an implementation team and a project manager is assigned.

Key recommendations for a project manager to keep in mind when tasked with installing a software solution will make for a smoother landing – and flight.

  1. Choose the right super users
    Super users are helpful during the installation process for tasks not limited to unit testing, training users and go-live support. Choose staff that will use the software solution in their day-to-day jobs and are also inquisitive, reliable, quick learners and peer leaders. Empower the super users to test, test and re-test the software solution, ask many questions and learn to love the new system.
  2. Develop a relationship with the software company
    Take an even-keeled approach by being likeable, collaborative and a team player so that the software installation team will enjoy working on your project. When a project manager gets answers and solutions back to the software company in a timely fashion, the software company installation team will be encouraged to do the same for you.
  3. Lean on software installation team support
    The software company’s installation team is often the brightest and best. After go-live support is transitioned to a support team, be sure to take advantage of the one-on-one support offered during the implementation phase. Spend time with the software installation team when they are on site and make their trip productive.
  4. Budget staff time appropriately
    Remember all team members when budgeting time and expenses for a software installation project. IT departments tend to budget time for project and clinics and revenue departments often do not have “project” time scheduled in their budgets. Having the super users perform unit testing “when they get a chance” is impractical because their jobs will always be the priority. Encourage the manager of the super users to schedule the unit testing ahead of time. Schedule coverage to allow the super user dedicated time to the project and consider hiring temporary staff if necessary.
  5. Accounts Receivable (AR) will increase before it decreases
    New software solutions often promise to lower your A/R. Be prepared for you’re A/R to increase before it decreases. Educate managers and directors that a short term increase in A/R is expected and does not reflect poorly on the software or installation.
  6. Software change freeze times are important
    Do not let last minute changes interfere with the success of your go-live. Set an absolute date for freezing software changes and stick to it. Communicate your absolute freeze date and treat the freeze date with as much importance as you do the go-live date. Remind people that the deadline is real and unmovable.
  7. Prioritize testing outside the IT department
    The biggest mistake made with testing is assuming that the IT department will do the majority of the testing. The functional testing that the IT department does is minimal. The real testing is the super user unit testing. The IT department will know how the new software should work and the super users will know how the new software will be used.
  8. Manage the team’s efforts and timelines effectively
    Too often, the efforts during the implementation period can be represented by an inverted bell curve. The team is engaged at the beginning and the end of the project, but there is a lag during a bulk of the middle. Team members tend to set the project on the back burner to attend to their individual jobs. This is where an effective project manager can assign short term deadlines, hold team members accountable to their tasks, and keep the project within original scope guidelines.
  9. Avoid approval process bottlenecks
    There are never a shortage of choices to be made during a software solution implementation. If all of the decisions need to be made by one person (which is not practical or efficient), the project stops moving when they are unavailable. Do not allow anyone to be set up as the only decision maker and thus bottlenecking the progress of the project.
  10. Beware printer issues
    Printer issues are a common go-live issue as they are hardware, not software. They are often forgotten when testing a new software solution and printer connections are often overlooked during testing. There is a printer in every location and in every office and there are local printers and network printers. Be sure to schedule a full inventory of printers including all of the ways that the users need to use the printers with the new software. Lastly, have your printer experts available for go-live support because no matter how much prep you do, there will still be printer issues.
  11. Go-live security and access issues
    New software solutions always come with new security set up. Inevitably users will forget their passwords or how to access the system. When assembling a list of users, consider all functions that need access, do an entire inventory of users and do not leave out the splinter groups like Credentialing, Coding, Reporting or Finance departments. Lastly, prepare the go-live support team on how to reset passwords and be prepared to send instructions to new users that need training and access.

While an implementation can be daunting for all its moving parts, adequate preparation, managing expectations and effective communication can go a long way to ensuring your ROI.

This article was originally published in Hayes’ Healthcare Blog and is republished here with permission.