Whenever people talk about business transformation, they talk about people, process and technology in that order—and there’s a lot to talk about, as technology creates business opportunities that continue to redefine healthcare. From sophisticated predictive analytics models to the simpler products and consumer-driven choices that provide information, technology tools are at the heart of the healthcare revolution.

So why do so many of these transformational projects face a challenging implementation, with planning difficulties and expensive disappointments that defy the best scheduling and budget intentions? The emphasis on investing in “tech for success” may be misplaced, and failing to make the investment in people is the root cause of why so many technology-enabled healthcare transformations fail.

If organizations want to deliver on the return on investment (ROI) they envisioned when planning their technology investment—and more importantly, if they want that technology to deliver value in terms of health in the care continuum—they need to put people first. Some proven techniques for viewing technology and process through this prism will help to realize the value healthcare organizations envision from technology.

By focusing on the Five Cs—Customers, Champions, Collaboration, Culture and Communication—people will naturally be brought to the forefront of technological-enabled business transformations, resulting in optimal ROI.

Customers. The most important factor in any transformation is how we define and measure success. To define success, an organization must first identify its customers. As recipients of the process that technology should enable, customers should remain the focus and it is important to evaluate who will benefit from the new product or service, how the organization achieves those benefits, and how the transformation guides project objectives.

Because of budgetary or schedule constraints, technology implementations frequently go live with sub-optimal process flows or inadequate requirements definition. Instead, business rules should be built with the customer in mind, and it is important to remind project team members of that goal.

It is one thing to implement technology to reduce cost, improve job satisfaction or to make someone’s job easier, but healthcare organizations should strive to improve the member or patient experience. There is a rising tide of consumerism in which members and patients now expect to be treated as they are by organizations like Uber, Amazon and Zappos.

Champions. Another critical success component is identifying project champions. It is important that champions are identified early and involved often, from project initiation through execution. Influencers are needed to build the foundation of a business case, and senior leadership’s support affirms an implementation’s legitimacy and verifies that it is a coordinated, strategic initiative. Without stakeholders becoming champions for the project at hand, additional buy-in is less likely to occur.

Leadership helps a transformative implementation succeed by communicating its significance, modeling desired changes and becoming a strong contributor to its success. Champions must be able to translate vision into reality for other stakeholders and especially for those resistant to change.

By empowering others to participate in the process, trust is developed and spread across all levels. Demonstrated commitment to an initiative enhances organizational readiness for change. When an organization’s change readiness aptitude is increased, so is the realized value of the venture at hand.

Collaboration. Bringing the correct players together at all levels of the organization, from project teams, to executive sponsors, is key to a successful technology implementation. Leaders as champions is a start, but business and IT representatives at every level in the organization must collaborate throughout the life-cycle of the implementation. At the project team level, agile development methods better foster this relationship but do not provide a fool-proof solution.

Similarly, at the executive governance level, implementing a formal process whereby IT and business leaders come together to review issues and risks, make timely decisions and sometimes course corrections related to cost, schedule and quality is essential. Having the right people at the table is necessary but not sufficient. An effective governance process must be developed and followed.

Finally, keep in mind that team collaboration at every level is an art not a science. Should you find the same team members in multiple meetings with similar agendas or spending a great percentage of the workday answering “reply all” emails, your organization may have fallen victim to collaborative overload, and it is imperative to examine the frequency and nature of collaborative techniques.

In all cases of successful collaboration, flexibility and adaptability are needed, such that collective solutions can be reached that fulfill project objectives. Business and IT representatives ought to focus on their common goals, which should include optimization of returns.

Culture. As Peter Drucker said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. The same can be said for technology implementations: culture will “eat” technology if the implementation plan is not aligned with the organization’s culture. Culture is often identified as a key factor for success or failure of technological-enabled business transformations but few companies successfully manage it.

Culture determines the degree of cooperation and depth of dedication within an organization. Assessment of cultural values is crucial because it provides the framework within which an implementation plan needs to be developed, as well as the degree of cultural change that may be required. Culture change, however, is generally the most difficult thing to accomplish and takes the longest to take effect.

For this reason, many organizations have turned to out-of-the-box technology solutions which promise quicker and simpler implementations. But even these pre-configured solutions prove problematic when organizations do not take the time to understand their culture and invest in the required cultural shift. Change only truly sticks when it becomes embedded in the organizational culture, when it becomes “the way we do things around here”. Preparing an organization for a successful technology implementation requires alignment of the implementation plan with its culture and transformational strategy.

Communication. Last, but certainly not least, the fifth “C” of implementation success is communication. Successful communicators during a time of business transformation incorporate messages into their hour-by-hour activities. Executive teams should exhaust all existing communication channels to disseminate the message. With the technological advances in healthcare come additional communication channels; it is to an organization’s detriment not to take advantage of them.

Communication can lead to stronger acceptance of change as well as more forgiving employees should anything not go according to plan. It is paramount to remember that while communicating down and out to impacted individuals is important, it is critical to have a mechanism for those individuals to communicate up, and be able to ask questions as well as express concerns. Transformational change only occurs in conjunction with effective, timely and appropriate two-way communication. Communication should mirror leadership’s actions for the transformation to be successful.

The “Five Cs” make apparent the importance of the human factor in a successful technology-enabled business transformation. Process and technology are important, but the focus must shift to people. By placing people at the forefront and focusing on the Five Cs, healthcare organizations can significantly increase the probability of successful technology implementations and realization of expected return on investment.

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