Consultants as Business Partners
Author: Christopher J. Wentland
Consultant engagements have proliferated amid the rising tide of IT complexity in healthcare. For many providers struggling to simultaneously keep pace with the demands of patient care, an evolving technical infrastructure and new quality-based payment programs, consultant partnerships offer a proverbial life raft in a sea of competing priorities.
As consultants, our goal – and our promise to the client – is to be a true business partner. As you embark upon the path of provider partnership, there are four key business practices to keep top-of-mind as you endeavor to establish trust with internal leadership teams.
1) Sending the Right Message
The first impression you make will set the tone for how you are perceived by clients from that moment forward. From how you physically present yourself to how you position your subject matter expertise, don’t underestimate the importance of making a good first impression.
Example: Shining your shoes might not mean you are detail oriented, but looking disheveled could subconsciously associate you with lacking detail.
2) Building Partnerships
Making individuals feel like you are working together as a team will be vital to a successful partnership. Empower clients by asking questions and seeking their advice as you flesh out your understanding of their organization’s specific pain points and goals.
Example: In lieu of large, overhaul proposals that may be alienating, offer incremental suggestions to get the ball rolling without overwhelming your team.
3) Cost Consciousness
One primary objective as a business consultant is to work with the client to understand cost metrics and analysis. Be conscious of articulating the fiscal impact of time investments, as well as money investments, so you and the client have a shared view of the organization’s true cost of business. Identify metrics to gauge performance over time early on in the engagement process.
Example: Work with clients to quantify instances where time is money. If a work around costs the organization five minutes every hour – almost an hour of productivity every day – is it worth it, or is there a more cost-effective solution?
4) Seeing the Bigger Picture
Perhaps most importantly, cement an organization-wide, big-picture view of the healthcare client’s specific needs and short and long-term goals before diving into project intricacies. What state is the organization currently in? What projects are already budgeted? A clear, comprehensive view of all moving parts will drive priorities and help you anticipate roadblocks as things progress.
Example: Are there other IT implementation, migration, or roll-out commitments already in play that may compete for resources?
Heightened industry fear, apprehension to engage new payment models, and burnout are major challenges for providers today. As the industry seeks to find progress, consultants will no doubt play a huge role in helping providers achieve clinical, financial and operational goals. Our ability to derive maximum benefits with and on behalf of our clients is tangential to our ability to solidify true business partnerships early on and throughout the relationship.
In future blogs in this series, we’ll delve into each of these business practice areas individually to offer you real-world examples of each. We’ll touch on good and bad examples of provider/consultant engagement and specific ways you can improve your approach to establish a true business partnership with clients.