What will your technology legacy be?

Posted on September 14, 2016

By: Nancy Panos, Application Consultant

You are about to spend hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions on a new technology for your pharmacy operation.  You did all the work to get the project signoff, got the funding and you’re eager to have the installation done, because the business benefits are going to be AMAZING.  But in our 20 plus years of experience with technology projects, there is one clear and consistent fact:  Implementing a new technology into the pharmacy is not simply a fact of install and hit the ground running.  It’s a people project.  You’re about to press a button and tell everyone in the team to change; change how they worked (maybe for the last 20 years), what to do, where to go, and how to do it.  Success is not solely based on the performance of the technology, but the acceptance and engagement of the people who are intended to interact with the system.  So before you dive headfirst into 2 feet of murky water consider the fact that you need to manage the people aspect of this project as much as anything else.

Have a champion — Every project needs a leader, and not just a figurehead.  A true champion is someone who is the central contact, a solid decision maker, a leader of the team and has a positive attitude about what’s happening.  This person will help remove obstacles, support the change, find solutions when problems arise, and will be visibly out there to support the project.

Assemble a strong team — While a champion is an absolute must, your project will also need a strong project team.  Assemble a team that includes a representative from each area affected by the new technology.  Then make sure every team member is involved in the decisions.  Users who have input into the future state of the pharmacy will likely demonstrate a greater acceptance of the changes that will take place.  As willing participants, they also become the advocates of the change within their department.

Really consider the use of the best practices as outlined by your vendor — If you try and take a software product and make it fit into how you always did things in the past, there’s really only one outcome to expect.  The software will no doubt put a big, glaring, flashing, red light, focused directly on a poor business practice or procedure.  So follow the best practices as established by the vendor, at least at first.  You’re implementing software for the efficiencies you’ll gain, the value added information you’ll receive and the cost savings you’ll benefit from.  Those best practices are really important to maximizing all the business benefits you were sold.

Communicate frequently — Sudden change in a process is often the most difficult for people to accept.  Instituting a communication program that gives people time to acclimate to the coming changes will ensure a smoother transition.  This also gives them time to ask questions and get engaged.  Also important is to vary your communication methods.  Everyone learns differently, which means that you will want to offer email and poster announcements, but also consider product demonstrations, handouts, podcasts, theme days and even a project website that give everyone a chance to get excited.  Remember, if you aren’t communicating, someone will be.  Speculation, rumors or gossip can destroy any momentum your project has.

Manage change — Change is tough for people, there is no other way to put it.  That’s why you have to put a plan in place to manage the change.  Minimize downtime, work-arounds and disruption of daily tasks.   Find ways to involve everyone, so that there is an increase in the sense of ownership.  Remind everyone about the goals and that you are not doing this to preserve the past but to improve the future.  Make sure there is coverage during implementation and that employees using the new technology have time for training.  Recognize that the unexpected is likely to happen during the go-live and it’s normal to have bumps in the road.  Set-up a schedule and assign tasks as appropriate.  Set ground rules with employees who are hanging on to the past to avoid change.  In a big project, it’s big work and frankly, managing the change and the people factor might just be the hardest part of the entire process.

Meet dates – Once you set the plan in motion, the vendor will work with you to set up the schedule.  It is highly likely that your team will have tasks to complete before major milestones can occur.  Create a clear schedule, assign a person to manage the task, and then hold those people accountable for hitting the schedule targets.  Create and publicize a spreadsheet with colorful bar charts outlining the status of the project.  It is imperative that you avoid delays.  Your vendor has allocated people to your site, to your project and delays cost somebody money.   Every time you miss a target, you’re mismanaging change.  These time delays can prevent the vendor from installing the next customer and can cause discomfort to the same employees you’re trying to keep calmly and successfully engaged.

Celebrate milestones – Change is stressful, so it is important to keep staff positive and the department running smoothly.  Recognizing and rewarding the performance of top staffers and people who made a difference on the project can go a long way to insuring a successful implementation.

Remember, this technology project and how you plan and manage the change to your pharmacy operation is your legacy.  Do you want the staff to think of you kindly or associate you with the worst disaster they have ever encountered?  It’s that dramatic and people’s memories seem to last forever.  So that being said, manage the people, manage the process, stick to timelines, and you will achieve those AMAZING business benefits.

About ARxIUM – As the developer of automation systems that support pharmacy operations, ARxIUM has been heading up implementations of very complex systems for more than 20 years.  RxWorks Pro is a software suite that allows a pharmacy to implement a system of integrated tools to manage the business of the pharmacy, automate the inventory functions, implement practices to improve fulfillment functions and enhance the safety of medication dispensing.

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