Staff Augmentation Versus Managed Services? No need to pick a side.

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By Zack Tisch, VP Strategic Growth, Pivot Point Consulting

Today the staff augmentation versus managed services question is no longer an either/or decision. Organizations no longer have to pick a side. It is about understanding the organization’s strategy and aligning IT resources to enable it. It is also about the work – are you interested in driving down costs, 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 to get the most value from consulting resources ensures you are paying for utilization and outcomes rather than unused overhead.

Know Your Needs

Bringing in a new employee with a specific skill set 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. Organizations can radically accelerate the ramp-up with staff augmentation and managed services partners who can bring the exact expertise needed – usually in a week or less, leveraging a proven team of talent. 

Staff augmentation is typically focused on a specific resource, whereas managed services often provide a dynamic team of resources. This team may evolve with the project timeline or market pressures such as the COVID-19 pandemic, where organizations needed to quickly address the scheduling, patient portal and telemedicine impacts in the EHR. 

Typical staff augmentation and managed services profiles and organizational value definitions:

Staff Augmentation:

  • The organization is good at supporting the enterprise HIT products, but struggles with bringing in specialized talent for discrete projects
  • In many cases, it is not about hiring someone to only do the job, but to teach internal teams as a “player/coach” 
  • Ideal when a named resource is desired, often someone with a specific skillset
  • Typically higher cost, but often resources can be converted to employees (try before you buy), lowering the overall hiring risk profile for the organization. 

Managed Services:

  • The organization is looking for flexibility to free up their team for higher value activities
  • Ideal for technical, repetitive tasks (e.g. help desk)
  • Enables staffing in real time
  • Provides speed and timing to fill gaps in skillsets – specific expertise not readily available in local markets
  • Provides a shared pool of specialized resources that can flex with needs (fractional versus full-time)
  • Access specialists without incurring the cost of hiring additional employees who might not even be needed at the completion of a project
  • Typically a remote resourcing model with flexible pricing that should include shared savings back to the health system, with needs scoped and rebalanced monthly or quarterly

Find a Solution That Fits

While staff augmentation is the more traditional model, managed services is newer, with innovative approaches to the model emerging daily; it is viewed as less of a product and more of a strategy. Managed services is no longer an unidentified pool of resources doing low-level tasks but a critical operational plan to free up resources, tackle backlogs, or stalled projects. Regardless of the reasoning, it is essential to find the model that fits an organization and delivers results. 

Identify What’s Working

For nearly all healthcare organizations, COVID-19 was a gamechanger. Many had robust pipelines of projects planned for 2020, but when COVID-19 hit, the priorities shifted, but the work still needed to move forward in non-COVID-related projects. 

Organizations tackled the shifts differently depending on the strengths of the IT team. Some shifted focus to finish existing initiatives and respond to COVID-19, partnering with third-party organizations to architect a managed services solution for ongoing initiatives, which allowed teams to stay heads-down on mission-critical work and be more strategic. 

On the flip side, other IT teams may excel at core IT work but are not as strong in newer, innovative technologies, advanced analytics and AI. In this situation, staff augmentation proves to be a great fit to stand up a team of dedicated experts who could serve as players/coaches handing work off to the internal team after establishing a solid project foundation.

Re-imagine Resourcing

COVID-19 has increased comfort and trust in new, often remote, resourcing models. As the pandemic forced almost everyone to work from home, healthcare IT leaders embraced remote work across large swaths of their teams, including FTEs and consultants, reducing on-site activities to those maintaining physical hardware and clinical devices.

Resourcing models need to be re-imagined, fitting today’s dynamic needs and evolving skillsets. If the industry can take any positive learnings away from the pandemic, an important one is that healthcare IT can sustain and benefit from new ideas in how teams are resourced, 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.

Start Small, Big Results

Staff augmentation and managed services do not need to be big, expensive or disruptive. It is essential to have a measured, intentional approach that identifies a problem you want to solve and starts with a pilot or limited deployment. This approach lowers risk and creates the opportunity to manage change, performance and overall cultural fit.

Zack 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.

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