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MTS Blog: Successful Implementation - It’s All About the Prep

Identifying a software system that will solve complex business challenges is not easy.  The effort requires input from stakeholders, significant research, and the gathering of financial resources.  In the medical device world, other factors also come into play, such as quality concerns and Federal Drug Administration compliance.  If settling on a software solution is so time-consuming and difficult, why do many medical device companies spend so little time preparing for a successful implementation process?

From the Trenches: Implementation Horror Stories

There are too many examples of implementation gone wrong.  One orthopedic company, doing $30 million of business in the US, began an integration two years ago and the project remains unfinished.  In addition to dedicating too few resources to the project, the company refused to change legacy processes and wanted the software company to build functionality around the issues that followed.  System requirements continue to change and goal lines keep moving.  At this rate, the project might never be done. 

Another medical device company completed a smooth launch of a new inventory management system.  But, soon after the launch, the company produced a long list of additional features that were far beyond the original scope of work.  Then the company scuttled the project, reverted back to the old system, and lost upwards of $300,000 as well as all that time and effort.  To make matters worse, the company is still using a system that is not comprehensive and does not meet their needs. 

Five Tips for a Successful Implementation

First, prep by cleaning up data.  Eliminate duplicate entries, legacy or out-of-date information, information not entered the way it should be, and poor or inaccurate information.  Ensure consistency in how records are entered and used.

Second, carefully identify what works in the current system and what is needed in the new one.  Pull in experts from all important function areas, such as information technology, operations, quality, sales, and other end users.  Build consensus among stakeholders on what to keep, what to scrap, and what to add. 

Third, listen to the software vendor.  Work with the vendor to establish project goals and develop a detailed system roadmap.  Pay attention to deadlines.  Understand, in no uncertain terms, that changes beyond certain points will cost more time and money.  In fact, consider incentivizing people involved in the project with bonuses if implementation is completed on time and the new system is successfully launched.      

Fourth, remember practice makes perfect.  Take the time to use the system and get to know how it works as the project unfolds.  Encourage others to practice so they learn the new work flows and nomenclature.  Any vendor will agree that an implementation project requires consistent and substantial participation from the client.

Finally, recognize that change is painful.  There were many reasons that the old system needed an overhaul.  Try not to lose sight of all the positives a robust, comprehensive, and modern software system will bring to the company.  Change is hard, but forward movement is impossible without it.

Rare is the person who enjoys switching from one way of getting things to another, even as that method becomes antiquated and cumbersome.  But, the real danger in refusing to embrace new technology is the stagnation of growth.  So, become a change maker.  Just remember to do the prep work required to make the implementation of a new system as painless as possible.  Any groundwork done up front will result in savings of time, money, and sanity.