By Giancarlo Di Vece
McDonald’s probably isn’t the first company health care leaders look to for inspiration, but the company’s new tech approach is one that warrants a closer look. The fast food chain, which recently purchased a machine learning startup to bring new software development capabilities in-house, is prioritizing innovation within its own business rather than relying on off-the-shelf technology to deliver the solutions it needs.
It’s an approach mirrored by Dick’s Sporting Goods, which announced that it too will be building out its internal technology leadership and engineering teams to develop customized platforms. The company sees it as a way to innovate and deliver new capabilities that are adapted to the needs of its customers and employees.
What these companies have realized is that a focus on customized, internally developed software platforms can create a competitive advantage in an industry experiencing disruption. It’s no longer about burgers and soccer cleats; today, technology is the key to driving transformation.
Bringing development in-house is a strategy that offers promise for health care as well. In the rapidly changing health care environment, off-the-shelf technology isn’t always the best fit when it can’t respond to changes in the health care market quickly enough or solve the evolving problems organizations face.
Highly customized internal software offers health care organizations the potential to realize new revenue streams, remove processes prone to compliance issues and solve the unique problems their organizations face. Among many applications, this strategy can be used by a hospital to deliver new remote care solutions, by a provider to speed delivery of testing results or by a vendor to develop a unique new product offering.
Bringing development in-house isn’t the right move for every need – there are some good off-the-shelf products that ease data management and compliance, for example – but customized solutions offer far greater capabilities than the early-stage implementations most health care organizations currently have. With predictive analytics, for example, there are plenty of off-the-shelf programs available, but leveraging predictive analytics to examine potential patient health outcomes will require you to have a strong internal development team able to deliver custom software.
In-house software development can create a multiplier effect for health care organizations, but it’s not an easy undertaking. In the U.S., businesses across nearly all verticals struggle to attract the highly skilled talent needed for software development – 83% of CIOs report difficulties in filling technology roles, according to Gartner. To borrow the strategies used by McDonald’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods, health care leaders will need to bridge this talent gap in order to be able to develop tech solutions able to drive transformation.
If you’re considering bringing software development in-house, here’s how you can do it well:
Get clear on requirements.
Look at every aspect of your custom software with outcomes in mind. You need a clear vision and understanding of how you’ll get there, not just a definition. While it’s common for an initiative to be focused around the need for a specific technology—for example, the need for an artificial intelligence chatbot – you need to take a close look at how the software will affect revenue, solve customer or employee pain points and serve patients or members. Essentially, you need to ask yourself and your team, “How does this transform how we do business?” Your end goal isn’t the technology that your software engineering team creates; rather, it’s the business opportunity that the technology creates.
Right-source your team.
Right-sourcing means finding the most cost-effective staffing structure that maintains quality, performance, and cultural-cohesion standards – whether offshore, onshore, local contractors or FTEs – for each software project. Right-sourcing helps healthcare organizations find the “sweet spot” of internal and outsourced talent and helps bridge the talent gap they might otherwise experience.
Take a hard look at the capabilities and limitations of your team. Consider whether you have the right expertise internally, whether you need to hire additional team members and who you will need to bring onboard long-term. It’s pretty typical for a small, short project to become a big, 1- to 3-year project as the vision evolves and additional stakeholder needs are identified. Do you have the talent to support your project as it scales? If you have the talent on staff already, FTEs may be the best fit – if not, consider onboarding partners that align with your company’s culture and support your engineering needs.
Get everyone on board.
Once you’re armed with a clear understanding of the software’s potential impact, and the talent you’ll use to develop it, you can use that information to create internal momentum. If you are outsourcing any portion of your team, ensure that it’s operating as a full partner whose remote workforce is playing on the same field as yours, interacting and contributing on a daily basis. Together, the team will be able to communicate the goals and impact of your software project to the rest of the business and identify internal partners who can act as sponsors for your vision. These sponsors will become the key players in your journey to implementation and launch.
Health care companies don’t need to purchase a startup to drive innovation internally. By borrowing from McDonald’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods’ strategies and building their own customized software with the right talent in place, health care organizations can drive competitive advantage and better meet the needs of their internal teams and customers.
Giancarlo Di Vece has an eye for innovation and is tenacious in achieving transformational visions for both his company and clients. As CEO of Unosquare, Giancarlo leads a revolutionary distributed agile software development company renowned for its technical implementations and aptitude to deliver powerful engineering and IT solutions for financial services and life sciences clients.