Technology and healthcare: Rethinking traditional change management

As the landscape shifts for healthcare and dental payer organizations, the need for strong OCM intensifies

Technology and healthcare: Rethinking traditional change management

As the call to action intensifies for health and dental insurance companies to accelerate change, naturally cautious traditional players may be wondering how to sustain rapid change across multiple core areas of their businesses.

The need for strong organizational change management (OCM) tactics in any major technology initiative is not new. While we’ve seen traditional OCM mature and evolve, we’ve also witnessed a widening gap between development and deployment, highlighting the fact that traditional OCM was built for waterfall development and big bang go-lives – it centers activities on a one-time change and a “success vs. failure” perspective on outcomes.

But what if you are testing iterations, concerned about adoption, and not even sure when and what “the end” will be?  

We’re facing a new reality in the world of agile development and digital transformation. In order to create alignment between development cycles and the change management needed to support successful deployments, we must also shift to an agile OCM approach to ensure that the way we introduce and implement technology is coordinated with the way we select and build that technology. 

This is achieved by building operational readiness in your OCM plan: an accumulating framework that integrates business goals and end users’ needs together for more flexible change management. The goal is not to just get the new solution out there, but make it stick.

Change is difficult. Instead of the mighty “adapt or die,” try more gradual  and continuous strategies for OCM in an agile context:

1. Understand and prepare your end users  

Users begin to trust you once they see that a team is considering their experience before dropping something new on them without warning. Try these tactics as you look to inform an impact assessment and strategize: 

  • User personas (Define): Gain a comprehensive understanding of who exactly is using a system and how they are using it. Roles are one aspect, but personas that include their environment, daily objectives, and even frustrations add critical color to a static job description. 
  • Focus groups (Observe): Observe them at work with their current tasks in an unfinished future state. By creating space for them to perform in a no-pressure environment, you gain insight into your users’ intuition, needs, and feedback as early as possible. 
  • User-centered design (Iterate): Transform your observations into business validation exercises, wireframes and prototypes, and training materials so pieces get tested early and your team becomes equipped with actionable data and feedback. 

2. Establish cohesion between business and technology in the organization

Examine the opportunity for technology and business to work together in your organization and be proactive in setting yourself up for success, especially if the situation doesn’t appear to be conducive to cooperation at the outset. Start big with visioning sessions and exercises with business and IT leadership, and then be ready to transform that vision into reality with small tactics. For example: 

  • A team of business analysts teaches a group of customer service representative users what agile development is and why it matters to them
  • A product owner is added to a virtual chat or channel with early users to view their unfiltered questions, feedback, and reactions to a newly built system 

Cohesive operations are both interpersonal and structural, and both are vital to creating a successful environment for change.

3. An official pilot program allows you to go “live” before your go-live 

Create a formal pilot program that pulls select experienced users into the live production environment to test out how go-live could have gone if you had ripped off the band-aid on any given day of the pilot. These trusted users will identify key showstopper defects, validate training materials, and organically develop into a scalable support staff that you can lean on before and after launch. With a special user group working so close to the action, feedback can be gathered in small doses and changes/fixes applied quickly – before issues can affect the full user base and become painfully amplified.

Remember, an “official” pilot program is:

  • Formal: Results are tracked, users are surveyed, and findings are reported back to the business
  • Incentivized: Participation should be rewarded in any manner possible – SWAG, perks, activities, etc.
  • Empowered: Users know their input will shape the future product

Surprises on go-live day are inevitable. But as a rule of thumb, most questions and errors tend to follow the 80-20 rule, where 80% of what’s identified can be traced back to 20% of possible factors. 

4. Define success beyond go-live day

Defining and committing to tangible metrics ties the change to strategic objectives. But what exactly should be measured, and when? In the world of agile, targets will not be achieved on day one. Select metrics focused on adoption, and then set incremental targets (e.g. 30, 60, and 90 days) into a value realization timeline to allow your metrics to evolve with your systems and processes. For example:

  • If the goal is to increase self-service, measure the over-time decrease in contact center call volume or increase in system utilization 
  • If the goal is to eliminate manual processes, measure the anticipated time savings in avoiding to complete manual tasks as those processes are retired over-time

Realistic, goal-oriented definitions of success will allow you to establish metrics that formally integrate business and technology and lay the groundwork for continuous improvement.

As the competitive landscape shifts for healthcare and dental payer organizations, so must our mentality around the continuous management of technological and organizational changes needed to keep pace. Aligning your business and technology teams to an operational readiness framework helps instill comfort with the rapid rounds of development, testing, and implementation essential to supporting the imperative to “fail fast” in a safe environment.

Change is difficult, but embracing it will mean better outcomes and experiences for all of your key stakeholder groups.

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