Implementation is key to value creation
Digitisation often involves the introduction of one or more new tools that employees must relate to and ideally utilise in a meaningful way. In many cases this takes place in line with an organisational process aimed at improving quality, optimising operations or a third anchor for initiating the digital change. If this is the case, there are a number of considerations that can be made. We will look at some of these here, where implementation goes hand in hand with value creation and meeting the organisational goals of “going digital”.
A key objective of the digitisation we experience in social care is often to simplify administrative processes and make the working day of care staff more focused. However, this rarely makes a profit and the new tools naturally result in changes of practice that are rarely without risk. In some cases, there will even be some resistance or technophobia from employees. Changes to everyday procedures should therefore be accompanied by a strategic description of the benefits and disadvantages for those involved. At the same time this is also a necessary communicative challenge and provides management with an opportunity to engage employees in reflection on current practice and how this can be improved to benefit everyone involved.
Measure twice, cut once
Experience from 100 care home implementations has taught us the importance of not selling a "project" which management or a consultancy team primarily owns. It is important to stand side by side with operations to generate the necessary backing for digitisation, especially if the goal is to successfully move the change from project stage to day-to-day working practice. Here, the saying "measure twice and cut once" comes to mind. Joined-up implementation processes with local superusers, administrators and managers leading the way play a key role in succeeding. What was it we wanted to achieve? The entire team needs to be able to answer this question. And the "why" suddenly becomes more important than the "how". When the benefits eventually start to show, you will have a larger team acting as agents or ambassadors for change, which provides another anchor and numerous accelerators for going forward with the implementation.
Implementation is also management
Management within and of an implementation process is just as natural as it is necessary, but is not always given adequate attention. If management wishes to generate support for digitisation, it will require the involvement of employees before, during and after the implementation itself. It requires a number of processes that set down requirements concerning time and focus.
Clear reconciliation of expectations
At the risk of stating the obvious, reconciliation of expectations is key to ensuring direction and goals across the organisation. It is not a given that everyone will be working towards the same goals, as there are always several levels of "what's in it for me?". For this reason, digitisation requires well-defined criteria for success depending on the different roles of employees, and these must be clearly formulated so that they can act as a focal point within the organisation. Creating a common base is a tactic which has had noteworthy consequences in each of the previous Sekoia implementations, both negative and positive. This is where the difference between success and failure lies.
Superusers build cathedrals
During the actual implementation, we find that it is necessary to train superusers who can be at the forefront and manage everyday change and be responsible for decisions that often affect others besides just themselves. If employees understand and believe in the change resulting from digitisation, this will influence their colleagues. This knowledge can be used by superusers to start building cathedrals. Superusers are also often those who ensure that the use of the new tool across departments, locations and roles, takes place with reference to the common focal point. And numerous examples show that the superusers are those who strive for and create common digital expertise both in letter and in spirit.
Maintaining new procedures pays off
Undoubtedly, plenty of resources have already been allocated for planning and subsequent execution of the implementation. And it therefore hurts the most when the project drags on and is not put into operation. The risk indicators will now be flashing. Uncertain digitisation projects tend to start and end with a bang. This is not what operational implementations look for. It is therefore crucial to prioritise everyday procedures. It can be extremely hard to maintain new usage patterns and agreements in a busy working day. When you start to deviate a little you can be sure that the implementation will be at risk of failing.
Here, management and superusers are once more key. It is a case of maintaining the change without creating unintended uncertainty or imbalance. The path towards the desired value creation is paved with good intentions, but, during this phase, the important thing will be to maintain the strategy and make sure that it is clear to all involved parties. Just because the implementation phase is now complete, it does not mean that you are done learning and developing your practice - with the support of a digital tool.
It is still important to monitor and evaluate the new workflow with an eye on the effect that is generated. Here, there is also a possibility to “market” the change again. If you create results, it becomes difficult to debate the value. And if employees are part of this, which they should be, then the organisation's digital self-awareness and value creation will be almost unstoppable.