By Kevin Torf, co-founder and managing partner of T2 Tech Group
In the midst of this pandemic, technology and healthcare have become some of the most complex and ever-changing industries. As hospitals try to keep up with requirements for IT services, many are finding available resources and guidance scarce. Often, what’s needed is a trusted IT partner to help guide hospitals and healthcare systems through short- and long-term strategic plans. The ideal IT consultant should not only be knowledgeable across the IT ecosystem but also understand how emerging toolsets can be used in clinical workflows to better serve patients.
When selecting an IT firm, hospitals should consider companies as more than just a service provider but a partner in achieving their organization’s overall goals. A well selected partner can solve difficult internal problems cost-effectively, but an average partner can worsen those problems or even create new ones. It’s an important and difficult task to pick the right partner for your IT needs, so how can hospitals identify top-performing, healthcare-savvy IT consulting firms in an industry brimming with hundreds of options? Consider the following criteria when evaluating a potential partner:
- A Potential IT Consulting Partner Should Demonstrate Relevant Experience
Finding a partnership is just like a job interview, it’s critical to ask the tough questions, such as: What projects have they completed? Who are their clients? What is their reputation in the industry? What referrals can you reach out to? Getting a glimpse into a firm’s past relationships and work ethic can paint a better picture of how they’ll collaborate with future partners.
Asking about the team members who will be on the account is also an important step. What type of experience and qualifications do those individuals have? Will your team and theirs have good chemistry? Like with any blending of companies, it can be intimidating to bring a team in who claims to do the job better than they currently are or bringing in new ideas and energy. Eliminate those feelings immediately with your team by reassuring them these consultants are experts and complementary to their efforts, when it comes down to it, you are all working toward the same goal and are on the same team.
- Accessibility and Communication
With any successful relationship, good communication serves as the foundation, and that is no different from a business partnership. Going beyond communication, it’s also crucial for consulting firms to be able to listen. Your IT firm needs to pay attention to your needs and provide constructive, honest opinions about what obstacles you’re facing and how they can assist in overcoming them. A way to tell if they are good listeners? If they seem like they aren’t listening during your first meeting, it’s likely a sign they won’t listen in the future.
Consistent communication between stakeholders and team members should happen on a predetermined cadence, often daily or weekly. Establishing routine check-ins will help eliminate any surprises down the road and make sure everyone is on the same page at all times. Though the time and effort may seem daunting at first, in the long run, you’ll appreciate the time and costs saved by avoiding potential obstacles. Overall, these discussions will also help build a culture of collaboration and a strong relationship among both teams.
- Flexibility of Response and Solutions
When determining what you want out of a strategic IT partner, you’ll want to avoid a firm that tends to rely on easy, pre-cooked solutions. Potential IT consulting firms should instead have a set, proven methodology. This will in turn ensure that their team can work on projects, while also completing existing operational responsibilities. To prevent service disruptions and make sure there are limited risks and downtime, all teams involved (IT, business and clinical) must work together.
For example, using an Agile-based project management approach will ensure the flexibility needed in overall project execution. By giving frequent feedback and assessments when needed, incremental results can be achieved. These consistent opportunities for prompt reflection and correction can give you peace of mind that your projects will maintain the proper course. Of course, roadblocks will happen, but you’ll be able to overcome them along the way and early warning signs will also help control costs and ensure consistent results.
- Goal-Focused Alignment with Your Mission
One of the most important considerations you should have when evaluating an IT consulting firm is goal alignment. As someone looking to take on a partner, it is vital that you clearly explain your goals and how you measure success upfront in order to manage expectations. If the firm can’t immediately demonstrate that they understand your goals, it’s an early sign of miscommunication. It is also proven helpful to explain your terminology to the consultant to ensure that there are no ambiguities about what you actually mean. With two separate teams uniting, each with their own terminology, culture and habits, it’s important to make sure there is a mutual understanding between each other.
The scope of work and the business outcome expected from the consultant are two other areas that should be understood thoroughly. When clarification is needed, take the time to discuss and define the results further. Remember, as partners you should both be aiming to provide the best patient care through information technology.
- Core Values in IT Consulting
Keep in mind that you aren’t just choosing a vendor, but a partner. Find a firm you trust, with leadership that you trust, and that shares your hospital’s culture and values. While a vendor provides basic service delivery, a genuine partner is committed to achieving much more to proactively help you improve your IT operations and its organizational impact. This type of partner can be trusted to look for new and better ways to continuously improve your users’ experience, the overall quality of performance and cost-effectiveness to support your bottom line.
As you start to have your conversations with potential partners, look for red flags, such as:
- Unable to keep scheduled meetings
- No accountability for their actions with past clients
- Can’t provide current biographies for their team (including credentials)
- Don’t offer training or support throughout the lifecycle of the project
By following the above guidelines, your IT consulting team should be able to form a comprehensive strategy. Your solution provider should have a proven record in these areas listed. Don’t hesitate to ask for a portfolio identifying their past and current projects, so you can see consistency in growth-driven approaches first-hand. You’ll want to look for proof that those approaches have helped the client achieve all of their goals while streamlining operations across the board. After all, the best IT consulting firm for you will be one that works with your team at all levels of the organization.
About Kevin Torf
Kevin Torf, co-founder and managing partner of T2 Tech Group, has been a renowned innovator and thought leader in the technology industry for over 35 years, specializing in large-scale IT strategic planning, project design and implementation. Kevin brings decades of experience in complex application deployment, IT architecture, electrical engineering and data center construction, infrastructure and consolidation, particularly within the healthcare space.