The NHS needs to move away from a short-term ‘fix it’ mentality and, instead, start to take a more strategic, longer-term view as to how it can apply smart digital solutions to meet its ever-changing healthcare challenges.
To put it as simply as possible, flexibility is far more important than long feature lists when it comes to procurement. After all, as the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated, the future is uncertain. With hospitals required to rethink all their processes virtually overnight, in today’s fast-changing world, software which is not flexible is not going to get the job done.
Below are five critical tech procurement considerations organizations must ask when considering what software to deploy.
- Ask the right questions at the tender stage
Too often, the problem stems from people asking the wrong questions at the tender stage. Don’t come armed with long, rigid feature request lists for your software vendors, as this is too prescriptive, too rigid, and only reduces the opportunity for an open discussion with your provider.
Plus, one of the key problems with using long feature lists as the primary way to judge the viability of a tender, is that they don’t allow for companies to qualify or contextualize their answers – or even to question further a requested feature. It’s a missed opportunity: these guys want to understand the problem because it will make any solution they offer you far more effective.
- Instead of feature lists, understand how the software works
What’s more important to explore is how the system in question does these things. For example, it is far more meaningful to ask what auditing functionality it has, how easy it is to create or change audits, how quickly an audit can be set up for users and whether it’s straightforward to interrogate the data collected.
So, instead of merely asking whether a platform or piece of software can perform a particular task, which these days is almost certainly a given, ask how long it will take and how much it will cost. When you need an audit question changed or a spelling mistake corrected, it’s more useful to know that it will take up to three months and add £250 to your bill.
Instead of spreadsheet checklists of hundreds of functional and non-functional requirements going into ever greater detail, the single most important question NHS trusts need to ask is: “Can my platform change in line with my requirements changes?” In other words, is the platform configurable by nature and what kind of service is the software or platform provider committing to?
- Your software needs to adapt to new regulations, not just new requirements
Regulations change frequently so having software that can be adapted in response is crucial. Take the National Standards of Cleaning as an example – when originally issued in 2007, they were meant to be reviewed every five years. In reality, the first review was not performed for 14 years, and the latest 2020 Standards are indicating more subtle improvements will come every year. How well would your existing solution provider cope with these changes?
- Start from the top
Instead of getting hung up on software features in granular detail, NHS Trusts need to focus on the problem they need solving and build out from there. Starting with a lengthy shopping list of minutely-detailed requirements inevitably results in a slow – and therefore costly – tender process, let alone the complex implementation, as the scope is simply too large. Even worse, it encourages ‘scope creep’ as each stakeholder adds their own requirements, exacerbating the problem.
Too often, when an NHS trust doesn’t choose a flexible platform it’s very likely that within days of using it, they will discover problems or shortcomings of some kind. By which point it will be too late and they will find that it could take months to make any changes due to the scale of requirements being huge and cumbersome. Added to which, training staff to correctly use an inflexible platform becomes a mammoth task in itself.
By all means look for software, or better still a platform, which can solve your immediate issue but ensure it’s a solution that, like our own mpro5, can evolve and scale up with your business, otherwise it will limit you.
- Choose the right service, not just the right software
Finally, when considering potential providers, look for a company that is always developing the software or platform far in advance of you needing new features. This means you won’t have to spend your time sourcing a new piece of software to do the same things slightly differently in just a few years’ time. (Having to recreate the base functionality all over again is typically what leads to the creation of ridiculously long feature lists in the first place).
And always remember this: the ‘service’ part of the Software as a Service (SaaS) is key. Ideally, you want a company that implements a simple solution quickly, and then is on-hand to adapt and update things swiftly as your needs evolve or scale up. In other words, it’s not just the software that needs to be agile – the supporting service needs to be too.
mpro5 is a digital transformation solution that improves operational effectiveness, ensures process compliance and drives productivity gains and cost savings for businesses, typically but not uniquely, in facilities management, retail, transportation and healthcare.
An innovative, configurable platform that unifies cloud, mobile and smart technologies to enable the quick implementation of tailored, digital processes, turning complex jobs, workflows and scheduling into simple, effective and continuously compliant processes.
mpro5 is a subsidiary of AIM listed Crimson Tide and has offices in the UK, US and Ireland