In the cult classic movie “Office Space” Peter and his fellow Innitech employees are subjected to one-on-one meetings with consultants brought in to surely fire everyone who wasn’t productive.
“They’re going to downsize Innitech. How do I know? They’re bringing in a consultant, that’s how I know.”
In meetings with said consultants, employees defensively attempt to prove their worth and viability within the company and “interview for their own jobs.” After trying to uncover exactly what one employee does, one consultant asks “What would you say … you do here?”
Peter, who sees right through the consultant smokescreen, famously delivers the perfectly flippant line: “Good luck with your layoffs. I hope your firings go really well.”
In a real-world setting, terms like staff augmentation and managed services once had a similar “Office Space” connotation.
Now, in many cases, these partner-based, flexible models are becoming a near-perfect solution for many healthcare IT departments who were overworked and understaffed before COVID-19 and all its unexpected curveballs became part of the equation. The perception of managed services has shifted and is now viewed as staff empowerment which can free employees up from low-level, less strategic work that, while important, does not deliver the job satisfaction and career growth enterprising HIT professionals crave. Staff augmentation is now an important lever to deliver professionals who can function as “players/coaches” for teams too, in an environment where healthcare IT departments need broader expertise across more competencies than ever.
While staff augmentation is the more traditional model, managed services is newer, with innovative approaches to the model emerging; it is viewed as less of a product and more of a strategy. It is no longer an unidentified pool of resources doing low level tasks, but a critical resourcing strategy to free up resources or tackle backlogs / projects that have stalled.
Today the staff augmentation versus managed services question is no longer an either/or decision. It is about understanding the organization’s strategy and aligning IT resourcing to enable it. It is also about the work – are you interested in driving down costs and filling a gap in your core competencies – or looking for a specific skill set? Once you have defined your core competencies, you can identify the best resourcing solutions for your needs. Picking the right model also helps to get the most value from consulting resources — paying for utilization and outcomes, rather than unused overhead.
Know Your Needs
Bringing in a new employee with a specific skillset can be a 6-to-9-month effort – from the interview process to onboarding and training. Competency and mastery can often take months or years more. Organizations can radically accelerate the ramp-up with staff augmentation and managed services partners who can bring the exact expertise needed – often in a week or less, leveraging a proven team of talent that can be fractionally shared across clients as needed.
Staff augmentation is typically focused on a specific resource, whereas, managed services often provides for a dynamic team of resources. This team may evolve with the project timeline or market pressures such as the COVID-19 pandemic, where organizations need to quickly address the scheduling, patient portal and telemedicine impacts in the EHR.
Typical staff augmentation and managed services profiles and organizational value definitions:
One Pivot Point Consulting client had a robust pipeline of projects planned for 2020, but when COVID-19 hit, they shifted focus to finish existing initiatives and respond to COVID-19. They sought to keep their internal team on COVID-19 efforts, so they partnered with us to architect a managed services solution for ongoing initiatives which allowed their team to stay heads-down on mission critical work and be more strategic. With a small financial investment, and minimal impact on their day-to-day team, they were able to significantly expand the capability of their HIT team in a challenging pandemic environment.
Another IT department excelled at core IT work, but was not as strong in newer, innovative technologies, advanced analytics and AI. Staff augmentation proved to be a great fit. Within just a few weeks, Pivot Point Consulting, provided a team of dedicated experts who served as players / coaches and, ultimately, handed work off to the internal team after establishing a solid project foundation.
For another organization, we tracked utilization to project demand. We were able to calibrate and pass along resource savings to our client – shifting resources around and sharing an expensive labor pool as part of a managed services solution – to enable them to get access to the right resources they needed when they needed them most (offering an efficient alternative to “hire + fire”). It also provides value back to the client through resource rebalancing and shared savings contractual arrangements.
Start Small, Big Results
Staff augmentation and managed services do not need to be big, expensive or disruptive. It is important to have a measured, intentional approach that begins with identifying a problem you want to solve and starting with a pilot or limited deployment. This approach is lower risk and creates opportunity to manage change, performance and overall cultural fit.
One client sought Pivot Point Consulting resources to focus on optimization requests. We provided a team of highly qualified analysts who delivered a massive and rapid (30-60 day) return on their investment, which lead to broadening of the resourcing partnership. Another organization initially sought managed services resourcing talent to resolve a backlog of 400+ requests. After demonstrating immediate value, they expanded managed services to include strategy and leadership work, driving enhanced value through outcomes attainment and process improvement.
COVID-19 has increased comfort and trust in new, often remote, resourcing models. As the pandemic forced most everyone to work from home, healthcare IT leaders embraced remote work across large swaths of their teams, both FTEs and consultants, reducing on-site activities to those maintaining physical hardware and clinical devices.
Resourcing models need to be re-imagined to fit today’s dynamic needs and evolving skillsets. If the industry can take any positive learnings away from the pandemic, one is that healthcare IT can sustain, and in fact benefit from, new ideas in how we resource teams, address an ever-escalating demand for expert knowledge and continue to provide safe and effective platforms for patient care. Managed services, in particular, is well-positioned to rise to this challenge and evolve the healthcare IT resourcing market for the better.
About the Author
Zack Tisch is a dynamic healthcare IT executive leader with 15 years’ experience in leading complex, integrated healthcare information technology projects at some of the nation’s leading healthcare institutions, such as Cedars-Sinai, MD Anderson Cancer Center, UCLA Health and Stanford Heath Care. He is passionate about maximizing value out of the EHR systems to provide efficient, effective patient care.
In his role leading Strategic Growth for clients, Zack focuses on architecting high value solutions to enable client growth as well as process and resource optimization. Zack is a former Epic employee and is certified in 15 Epic applications. He is also a PMP. Zack received his BA from Duke University and has completed Executive MBA Coursework at UCLA and the University of Texas.