Harnessing the Power of Human Capital: Enabling Transformation for Healthcare IT Initiatives through Effective Project and Change Management
By Bill Slama, business consulting senior manager; Philip Handal, business consulting senior manager; and Jamie Morisco, business consulting experienced manager, Grant Thornton LLP.
Healthcare organizations are scrambling to harness the potential of digital technology to transform their business and gain a competitive edge in the marketplace. Whether they are looking to modernize their back-office systems, optimize their electronic health record, or leverage smart medical equipment and IoT for advanced data analytics, health systems are constantly engaged in transformational projects and programs. According to reports, 25 percent of these technology projects fail outright; 20 percent to 25 percent don’t show any return on investment; and as many as 50 percent need massive reworking by the time they are finished.
But the question is why: Why is it that such a high percentage of these technology enabled transformation projects fail? Studies show that poor project and change management is to blame for 54 percent of failed projects – while only 3 percent can be attributed to technological problems. Having an effective program and change management strategy – and the resources to implement and sustain that strategy – is critical to ensuring the project is on time, on-budget, and aligned with organizational goals and culture.
Change management means understanding the holistic impact of a change and encouraging and empowering employees to adopt and own that change. Without proper change management in place, projects can become burdened by: increased end-user stress and frustration, resistance to new technologies or processes, decreased adoption, and lower financial and operational returns on project investments.
One of the most common change-related reasons projects fail is due to lack of active and visible sponsorship (i.e., sponsors who are engaged, participatory, and of relevant standing/influence). Setting the tone at the top while maintaining consistently visible and active commitment from sponsors and relevant leaders is the foundation of a successful change and ultimately transformation project.
A common mistake is making the assumption that having a kick-off meeting means you’ve effectively communicated the scope, approach, purpose and goals of the project to all the primary stakeholders. Projects are dynamic – change happens on weekly, if not daily, basis – it is critical to engage and stay engaged to truly manage, communicate and effectively enable change through transformation. Stakeholder communication should always outline the benefits, risks and opportunities the change presents to their groups. Doing this with regular cadence across various channels of communication helps establish a network of change agents throughout the organization that can be relied upon to champion change and fully integrate change into the strategy and culture of the organization.
Enabler #1: Change Management
Change management activities should be integrated into the overall project plan through four critical phases:
- Awareness – Creating awareness that change and/or transformation is coming and informing those impacted of the timelines and tasks associated
- Organizations should provide advance notice that significant change is on the horizon – whether it be a new business application, emerging technology, or automation of manual processes. This step is critical to successful change adoption. Advertising the macro-level timelines and micro-level tasks required to implement and sustain related to the impending change allows those impacted to be better equipped to navigate the change and minimize the impact on their day-to-day operations.
- Understanding – Communicating the genesis of the change, why it’s happening, and its impacts/benefits
- Those impacted by the change (e.g. user community, stakeholders, sponsors, etc.) want to know why the new change is occurring – especially if the old way of doing things seemed to be working just fine. Fostering a culture of transparency, sharing the impetus for change and its expected impacts, and affording those affected by change the opportunity to ask questions or voice concerns allows everyone impacted to feel more involved in the process. It helps to establish a culture of togetherness and collaboration, and conveys the message that those impacted are part of the solution rather than an impediment to progress.
- Adoption – Acceptance and willingness to support and participate in change
- Creating ownership of the change allows those impacted to see change is not “being done to me”, but rather “with me”. This can create enthusiasm among those impacted to adopt because they have an ownership stake in the success of the change.
- Commitment – Dedication to sustainment and enablement of change over time
- The more people feel as if their contributions, ideas, thoughts, work products, and more positively contributed to the success of the change and/or overall program, the more eager they will be to adopt and sustain that change over time.
Always remember change – and ultimately, transformation – does not happen because of the implementation of new and emerging technologies. People drive change and transformation. Without their support, endorsement, and acceptance, change and transformation are not possible.