Transforming the healthcare collaborative ecosystem

The “Catch 22” of focusing on cost reduction

We see thousands of ads everyday, the sheer number can be overwhelming. But this ad immediately grabbed my attention because it was so different.

At first I had to stop and take in what was happening.

I was initially reeled in by the play on words, “Lose Wait” – very clever. Was this a new way to lose weight? It wasn’t – but it was!!! Just a different kind.

Then the statistic hit me … 82% is pretty compelling, and what was even more compelling was what people were saving – time. Time spent waiting in a line, one of the most universally disliked time wasters.

But what really struck me was what LiveHealth Online had done. They had transformed a key part of the healthcare system as we know it. They did not just tweak it by automating a few things or adding new functionality, they changed the entire game.

Roy Schoenberg, President and CEO of American Well Systems stated, “In-home telehealth services and urgent care consultations are growing at a rapid pace and American Well is prepared to meet rising provider and patient needs for live, on-demand care.”

When I put what American Well did through my test of “The Five Guiding Principles for Accelerated Collaboration”, they hit a home run:

  1. Real time communication tools – ✔
  2. Built rich communication between people – ✔
  3. Targeted high ROI collaboration benefits – ✔
  4. Compressed timeframes – ✔
  5. Enabled small teams (of Healthcare workers) – ✔

The requirement for high quality, cost effective healthcare for all has been driving health care organizations to explore how technology can enable telehealth possibilities for many years.

Video conferencing has always been a key technology enabler for telehealth, which is currently undergoing a shift to software based video/collaboration solutions that run on people’s personal technology – PCs, Macs, tablets and mobile devices. This shift is enabling new possibilities and changing the landscape of how things are done with video.

American Well is not alone; I see the healthcare industry collaborative ecosystem being transformed in groundbreaking ways by many integrated healthcare delivery networks.

Other industries should take note of what can be done.

Cost cutting approach

The type of transformation that is happening in the healthcare industry cannot be achieved with a “cost saving” approach. The biggest mistake organizations make while enabling their ecosystem with better collaboration tools is to focus on cost avoidance.

Making changes with cost avoidance as the primary focus, e.g. the costs of the technology, is like focusing on the trees (costs) and not realizing that you are in the middle of a forest (the long term benefits).  The trees (costs) are in the way and are preventing you from seeing the bigger picture.

It’s not that the wise use of dollars isn’t important. It is, but if the five guiding principles mentioned above are used to affect transformational change, you will save a lot more money than can be realized by focusing largely on change driven by cost savings.

A cost savings approach often starts with a mandate from higher up in the organization for immediate cost reductions to improve the bottom line. This is an operational ROI approach – the low hanging fruit. Operational savings are when you either stop doing something you used to do, or do it differently, in a way that allows you to get a similar result with less cost.

Sometimes achieving an operational savings, can actually have compounded benefits with productivity gains, e.g. using video conferencing to avoid travel costs has an added and significant benefit in that it provides productivity benefits and can speed execution of business. But these are usually what I call “side effect” benefits or unplanned benefits.

Is cost cutting going to have a negative impact on the collaborative ecosystem?

Saving money in implementation often simply transfers the costs to the ongoing operation of the ecosystem. The dollars spent on the operation of the ecosystem which is sub-optimized, will far outweigh any saved implementation dollars. I don’t have an exact formula but it would be something like $1 cut in implementation will cost you $3-$6 in ongoing operation. And an ongoing operation like a collaborative ecosystem is meant to be in place for a very long time.

There are savings to be had with an operational approach, but by focusing on productivity and strategic ROI, an organization can perform 3-6 times better than it would otherwise.

If I look at what American Well is doing the operational, productivity and strategic benefits all compound to give you 3-6 times the performance compared to the old way of doing things. Here are some of the benefits:

Trying to save money by cutting costs when there is an opportunity to transform an ecosystem through greater collaboration is going to work against what is possible in transforming a business or industry. That is the “Catch 22″ of focusing on cost reduction. Using the 5 guiding principles of greater collaboration will help increase the velocity of collaboration and supercharge the performance of the ecosystem.

Transform the ecosystem in a way that works well and will get adopted; hearing better, seeing clearly, usability of the system, recording interactions, managing the real time interactions and recordings, enabling new ways of working.

Use the five principles to transform your collaborative ecosystem.

Invest in transforming your Collaborative ecosystem = Technology + Process enhancements + Training

The benefits of a truly transformative collaborative change will continue to ripple through your ecosystem in ways you cannot even imagine. Contact us at ET Group if you like to learn more about our strategies to implement technology to increase collaboration.

Moving the needle on collaboration in your organization

How to move from the 72% to the 28%

People understand from experience that when they collaborate, they can accomplish more.  And the numbers underscore that companies who collaborate better outperform their peers by 2 to 6 times.

Yet most companies or departments are in the 72% of organizations whose collaboration maturity is either, “Unsupported” or “Non-integrated”.

Whether I talk to a small businesses or a department in a large corporation, one thing is common, they all want to collaborate better.  They want to be able to do more from both an effective communication and collaboration point-of-view.  Even though they are doing some collaborative things, they know they can do more. But they aren’t sure what they should be doing next to collaborate better.  Even when we start talking about some of the things that they could be doing, they have a hard time imagining themselves using the new collaborative tools within their businesses or they can’t imagine spending any money on the tools they want to get better at collaboration.

There are many different things that you can do to build your organization’s collaborative muscle and accelerate your collaborative performance.  Here is a chart from SMART Technologies “Inspired Collaboration” initiative, which shows many of the levers which can be adjusted within your organization.

These levers are really good for a “top down” approach to collaboration within your organization, but they don’t help much when your company doesn’t have the resources to conduct a “top down” analysis.

Most organizations take a Crawl, Walk, Run (C-W-R) approach, which is a sound strategy, however, many never make it past the Crawl stage – the 72%

So how can you take the C-W-R approach and make sure you progress?

Step 1: The most important meeting

No matter how big or small your company is, let’s take the discussion down to a departmental level, to make this applicable to every businessperson,  Ask yourself – What is the most important meeting you attend that recurs at least once a month?

Chances are that whatever meeting you picked, it is some kind of an update or status meeting.  A meeting whose objective is to synchronize the activities of a team updating each other on what has happened since the last time you met.  This could be a weekly Sales meeting, Operations meeting, a Project meeting, etc. – you get the idea.

In the meeting, it is likely that the team is making adjustments to some kind of scorecard or project plan trying to monitor their progress since the last meeting and deciding where their attention needs to be directed too. Once you have identified that meeting, you should now answer these questions from a collaboration point-of-view:

Are the participants all local or are some remote?  If there are remote participants, are they all individuals or is there another meeting room somewhere that has a number of people that are joining the meeting (or both)?

What technologies are you using? How are you using them?

What is missing? How do you want everyone more engaged, more involved?

Depending on the answers to these questions you can start to incrementally make your “Most Important Meeting” better.  The first incremental improvements often don’t cost anything at all.  Why?  Because most people don’t know how to get the most out of the technology they are already using.  I sometimes sit through a customer’s “Most Important Meeting” and after the meeting is over, I point out 2 or 3 things that they can do to make the experience better for everyone just by making a few adjustments.

The next part of the crawl is to add a couple of pieces of technology that will further enhance the meeting.  These can be anywhere from a couple $100 to say $2,000.  Adding these pieces builds the quality of the meeting experience, e.g. making it easier to hear and be heard.

The next step is where we start to progress from the crawl to the walk.  Here is where we lay out how we can make the meeting better with technology, which makes collaboration easier for in-room participants, and for remote participants, makes them feel like they are in the room with the rest of the people.

This is where you have to spend more money on technology IF you want to get to this point.  The types of technology you would add:

Depending on the size of the room these technologies can add up.  Each one of them on their own can start at several thousand dollars and if you go big, 10s of thousands.  But if you have budget constraints, you can prioritize and implement them one at a time until you get to the collaborative experience that is optimal for your “Most Important Meeting”.

The “Most Important Meeting” tends to drive the priority of having room technology to accelerate collaboration and enhance communication, but from my experience it plays a secondary, but important role in an organization’s collaborative development.  You will get a much bigger payback if you can accelerate the collaboration of all the activities that take place between the “Most Important Meetings”.  If you can inject greater collaboration into the activities between the team members as they do their day-to-day jobs, you will go to a full collaborative Walk.

But how do you do that?

Step 2: team activities between the most important meetings

Stay tuned to this blog for Steps 2 to 4 on moving collaboration forward in your business or department.  But remember you can increase your collaborative muscle by:

  1. Taking small steps – some incremental things are foolproof and cost nothing
  2. Not being afraid of bigger steps
  3. Planning to learn from every step you take

And remember the goal, you can make your organization 2 to 6 times better by increasing your velocity of collaboration.

Top 4 Reasons to Formalize your Corporate Communications Framework

In my last blog I explained what a Corporate Communication Framework (CCF) is and what it should look like. In this blog I want to answer the question – Why bother formalizing the CCF at all?

After all, chances are no one is asking for your organization’s CCF.

But, there are a number of compelling reasons to spend the time to get this down on paper. Here are the top 4 reasons why a Corporate Communications Framework should be formalized:

#1. Competitive Advantage

Formalizing the CCF is the first step to getting your organization to becoming a more collaborative organization.  Firms that collaborate better perform better.

#2. Clarity

Clarity on which communication tools your organization uses enables greater collaboration by eliminating confusion.

The types of communication tools and the quantity of communications tools are constantly expanding. This expanded choice opens up possibilities.  But it can also cause confusion and disarray.  Sorting through the choices and the disarray is important.

The new technologies and feature creep within existing communication tools are blurring the lines of differentiation between the tools, which can in turn:

  1. Result in different parts of the organization using different tools for the same functional purpose.  This often leads to ineffective communication and supports siloing within the organization, not collaboration.
  2. Lead to duplicate licensing – paying more than once for the same communication tool capability.

#3. Focus

Wikipedia Excerpt
“If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.”

Having a good CCF in place means that the communications tools become enablers in the background infrastructure and your employees can focus on their jobs.

Time spent getting communications technologies working or sync’d means less time working on the job.  People might think they are accomplishing something by getting the technology working but this has a huge cost impact to the business.  Using work time to get communications tools working is another example of the Boiling Frog Syndrome (see Wikipedia excerpt) at work.148489993

Getting technology tools functioning should not be a part of your meeting time. A perfect example is Skype. Getting Skype to work in corporate meeting environments, which it isn’t designed for, often leads to spending up to half the meeting time getting the technology to work.  What you thought was a FREE communication tool is all of a sudden costing you a lot of money. But like the frog being slowly boiled, you may not be aware of this cost.

If the technology works without spending time getting it going, you can focus on the tasks at hand, and move your business forward.

#4.  Accelerating Your Corporate Culture

With a well thought out and optimized CCF, there are more options available for what content is created and how it can be communicated. The people responsible for the Corporate Communications Strategy in your organization will have greater communications capabilities available to them.  Having more choices and options on what content they communicate and how they communicate it means, they can communicate richer experiences with greater impact and can accelerate the messages that shape corporate culture.

We can make our organizations better at communicating by formalizing our Corporate Communication Framework. The CCF is a critical piece of a corporate collaborative ecosystem (CCE). Taking the first step of formalizing our CCF can be transformative.

Once your CCF has been formalized and optimized, make sure you review the CCF at least once a year. The rate of change is accelerating and communications tools are always evolving. The CCF should be a living strategy in your organization – like a movie, not a picture or snapshot in time.

The second step to transforming your organization is to move more of your organizations communications to Real Time.  This can have a profound impact on your business.  I will discuss this in more detail in a future blog.

If you need help sorting out the patchwork of communication tools in your organization and turning them into a tapestry, we can help. Contact us.

What is the difference between Communication and Communications?

Communication is a shared experience.

Communications is how that experience is shared.

It is not uncommon to see these two terms used interchangeably. Outside of the technology world, most wouldn’t even blink when they hear the term “communications” used in the wrong context. 

However, while in many contexts “communications” is assumed to be the plural of “communication,” in the business world it’s actually a term used to describe the network of technology tools an organization uses to communicate. When trying to map out how your business operates, this is an important distinction. 

Is your tongue all twisted up yet? 

Let’s really break it down. 

Different types of communication…

The first thing to keep in mind when it comes to communication is there are two different types: “real-time” communication and “iterative” communication. Also known as synchronous vs. asynchronous communication.

The easiest way to tell the difference is this: if you cut the connection and the collaboration session ends, it is real time (or synchronous), if it doesn’t end, it is iterative (or asynchronous).

When you are in a video meeting and you leave the session, then the conversation is over – this is real-time communication. If you want to continue the conversation verbally, you have to rejoin the meeting, or schedule another one.

If your coworker sends you an email at 7:00pm on Tuesday, but you don’t respond until 10:00am on Wednesday, this is an iterative communication. This is still a continuous conversation, but not all parties are required to be present at the same time to keep the information flowing.

…Require different communications tools

Communications tools that aid real-time communication can look very different depending on the type of work you do and where your employees are. In an increasingly hybrid world, many organizations are finding more and more of their team members working remotely. 

This means we not only need to be considering what tools and technologies are available in the office — such as ceiling microphones, life-like sized screens and high quality speakers — but also need to keep in mind what remote members have access to. 

This is why communications platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Webex are an important bridge. These platforms are extremely adaptable and accessible from anywhere on any device. Employees working remote and in- office can connect to the same environment and have a high quality experience without missing information or feeling disconnected.

Iterative communications tools can also range from instant messaging platforms, to digital whiteboarding apps, even websites for recording asynchronous video. 

The key to iterative communications is keeping things organized. Project management tools such as Trello and Asana are great for tracking progress, leaving update notes for your team and linking important documents.

Giving your people the power to work when they are most focused — without the pressure of trying to coordinate who is available and when — actually saves time and leads to higher quality work much faster.

Communication is the core of every interaction we have

The relative framing for different types of communication, enabled by different types of communications, gives us an insightful view into how we collaborate.

If we can help our organizations to be better at communicating, we unleash the abilities to prioritize our time better, perform better, and connect better. 

How can we be better at communicating? Here are two transformative things you can do:

Need help?

ET Group is here for you. Contact us to book a Discovery Call today, and find the communications tools you need to help your business thrive! 

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