You have made the decision to introduce Information Technology (IT) into your food and nutrition operation. Congratulations! This is an exciting time – you are embarking on a project that will lead to years of success for your business. However, the days, weeks, and months to your “go-live” date are critical. Choosing your IT implementation team is critical as well.
It may seem straight-forward. I need my inventory/procurement expert, my production manager/chef, my patient services manager, my clinical dietitian, my retail manager… the list could go on and on. And, while all of your talented people have the expertise to contribute to your operations’ success, there are other skills and attributes that are essential for successful software implementation. So, how should you choose your team?
To get started, you need to assemble a small, but focused, team of individuals who share your vision and commitment to introducing this technology into the organization. Essential team members are:
Team Leader or Project Manager – This dedicated person manages the team operations. They have an expert understanding of the project charter and scope. They lead and motivate the implementation team. They can manage the effects of change. The Project Manager also provides the support and resources to help the team meet its goals.
IT Contact from your facility – Your facility’s IT department must partner with you to provide expert advice and support for hardware purchases and repairs, server support (if needed), and interfaces with your hospital’s information system. Ask for a dedicated resource that will offer input into your project scope or schedule. It has been my experience that once an IT team member realizes the impact that technology will have on patient satisfaction, patient safety, and workflow improvements they buy-in to the opportunity wholeheartedly.
Software Vendor – Your software vendor is your partner for success and should be considered a member of your implementation team. They will look at your operation with fresh eyes and help your Project Manager build an implementation plan. Your vendor brings a wealth of knowledge to you so you can get the most from your software system. Ask questions about success stories they have witnessed and use that great information to your advantage.
Team Members – Team members are individuals that you and your Project Manager identify are, at a minimum computer-savvy with a good understanding of the food service department as well as knowledge about diet compliance. This is a starting point. You may also want to ask:
- Who will have an important role in making the needed changes to implement this software?
- Who can influence the success or failure of the software?
- Who has special skills that the implementation team may require?
Going a step further, I recommend considering two more important skills.
The first is to identify who excels in Systems Thinking. No food and nutrition operation runs as small separate departments. Procurement effects inventory levels which effects production and so on. We have all experienced a situation where what seemed like a small “tweak” rippled through our operation – ever growing – and ended up as an avalanche of change with unintended consequences. That’s why it is important to choose team members who understand and can identify how processes influence one another and work together. They may demonstrate this by how they approach problem-solving. Do they deconstruct a problem to understand all its parts and pieces? Then, seek to understand how they connect, relate, and influence one another? If so, this is someone you want on your team.
Second, it is said that the “Devil is in the Details”, well you should find someone who “Delights in the Details”. All of your operations’ information needs to be in your database. Imagine “go-live” day and you forgot to include alternative textures for dysphagia patients or the Turkey Tetrazzini recipe scaled beautifully except it was missing an ingredient – Turkey. Implementation team members should have the drive and the stamina to continuously ask questions, collect information, process it, and test it to measure performance. Your detail-oriented team member is someone you know pays attention and notices everything. They truly care about every dotted “I” and crossed “T”. They will insure that everything about your operation was included during your implementation.
Choosing your IT implementation team is an important step in driving this fun and exciting project to a successful “go-live”. Your team embraces your vision for the department and will drive its success for year to come. Team members need skills and attributes that may go beyond their job titles. I have described what I think are important questions to ask and important skills to consider when building your team. What has been your experience? What do you believe is essential for your IT implementation team?
by Donna Quirk, MBA RD LD, Clinical Nutrition Manager, Lexington Medical Center