A Very Brief Recent History of Business Technology Applications

In the late 1990’s technology soared. It was the era of the dot.com boom and subsequent bust. Many new software and hardware advances were adopted by large companies that began to integrate new technologies into their business processes.

Some of these technologies were on the ‘bleeding edge’ with buggy software, crashes, insufficient memory and so on. Online ‘cloud’ or web based applications were often not reliable and not user friendly.

For smaller companies without IT departments, being on the technology bleeding edge was the equivalent to living a nightmare.

Around 2003 the applications became more robust and bugs and crashes were less of a problem. Part of this progress was due to the dramatic drop in pricing for computer memory meaning that more robust programs could be run without crashing.

Also around this time many industries developed industry specific software to run businesses like car dealerships or bookstores. Called “management systems” this genre of software allowed smaller companies to combine all their processes under one program. This management software also did not require an onsite IT department to keep it running.

This vertical industry specific software was complemented by horizontal industry software such as bookkeeping and contact management software. This meant that a company could also run its books and keep track of prospects and customers in ways they were not able to do before.

Software and platform integrators stayed busy. The big drive during this period was to try to link and integrate software. For instance, management software would generate an invoice, note that it was paid and then route the data to the proper category in the general ledger through a linked accounting system.

It was clearly understood that the more integrated and “seamless” a software was, the more powerful and cost effective it could be. And since human error continued to be a major drawback to software applications, greater integration meant not only saving time and money but reducing errors.

As hardware and software improved it also became cheaper and more affordable to smaller companies. By 2005 and 2006 many of these applications became more mainstream and were used by smaller and smaller companies.

Perhaps the biggest advances during this time were web based applications. Companies could link all parts of their business online from sales and inventory to employee communications and human resources.

This shift also reduced costs from thousands of dollars for a software purchase to a monthly user’s fee making it much more affordable. These applications also eliminated a lot of paper.

By 2007 the second wave of technology upheaval had begun as smaller and smaller companies began using technology to manage and market.

Smaller companies began to sell more online and funnel new prospects to their sales department. These new technologies allowed companies to sell more by expanding their markets.

“In today’s marketplace if a retail or service business does not exploit all their potential markets then their competitors will,” says Eric Ressler of Zuniweb Creative Services, “it’s just not optional anymore.”

Across horizontal and vertical industries the key driver is strategy. Those companies with a solid strategy that is well executed are stronger competitors.

Technology is a critical component in almost all business strategies and in recent years technology has enabled businesses of all types to leverage their strengths in their respective markets.

As technology has become more user friendly it also has more users. Today one does not have to know html or coding to operate very sophisticated software and companies do not require a high level of technical expertise to run most software.

The big advantage is that the user can focus on business functions and not on user unfriendly software.

With these innovations has come a second wave revolution that is changing the way business operates today. As always, the issue is which companies take advantage of these opportunities and which do not.

As always the marketplace will ultimately decide which of these companies succeed.

Buying a Clinical Information Technology System

Buying a clinical information technology system challenges every organization’s senior management team. Unlike other administrative applications that help manage a facility, the clinical information technology system touches directly the lives of patients and the work flow of physicians, nurses, and other clinicians. Careers and entire organizations can be ruined by poor vendor choices and botched implementations (e.g., installation of the software and hardware) and deployments (e.g., introduction of applications to end users). Poorly chosen clinical information technology systems can drive physicians to competitor institutions, impact facility accreditation, and in some cases invite litigation due to unexpected morbidity or mortality.

As frightening as this task is, the best way to be successful is to be humble. Senior executives must accept the fact that full investigation of the features and functionality of clinical information technology systems before purchase is impossible. No individual or committee has the technical expertise and available time to effectively evaluate and fully review the capabilities of a comprehensive clinical information technology system. Therefore, organizations must base their decision to purchase systems on factors that function as surrogates for the usefulness and appropriateness of the systems in its institutions. These may include such items as the source of clinical content included with the system, list of organizations using the system, and perceived ease of use of the application.

Evaluate Live Systems

Although information technology vendors utilize demonstrations of their software to educate clients about their products, viewing working systems deployed in patient care areas offers the most valuable information. Unfortunately for both vendors and purchasers, the competitiveness of the healthcare information technology marketplace, couple with the complexity of these systems, encourages vendors to showcase software products during demonstrations that are either partially completed or are in beta version.

Therefore, often what is seen in these demonstrations does not accurately represent the features and functionality currently available. It is important to take vendors at their word when they declare that the demonstrated software is representative of features and functionality under development.

Focus on Deployed Working Systems Only

To increase the probability of purchasing a product that will satisfy the needs of an organization, institutions most focus on existing, working, deployed, and implemented versions of the applications being considered for purchase. The best way to evaluate current-state versions of applications is to visit current clients of each vendor and to witness the daily use of the various applications. Organizations must be patient and allocate adequate time to see the systems working under all conditions. This includes visiting multiple hospitals and various patient care areas throughout each hospital.

Forge Solid Vendor Relationships

For most organizations, it is more prudent to engage in relationships with vendors that have established working applications that can be immediately deployed and utilized. Although working, released software will have its inevitable share of problems, it is likely there will be fewer problems and solutions will be readily found.

In some cases, it may be advantageous to engage in relationships with vendors that are offering software that hast just been released or is under development. In these instances, organizations must enter the agreement recognizing the potential benefits from such arrangements but also the problems and delays in the software that may be associated with purchasing new, untested software. Organizations that do not have extensive information technology infrastructure and departments should be wary of entering into these types of arrangements.

The following sections outline a recommended process for choosing clinical information technology for an institution.

Review and Embrace Strategic Vision

The purchase of all clinical information technology tools must be driven by the clinical strategic vision of the organization. The strategic vision represents the views and aspirations of the board of directors, the medical staff, and other clinical professionals in the organization. Clearly, cost control is always a consideration, but the importance of patient safety and quality healthcare overwhelmingly drives decision making.

Broadly Explore Options

A high level of evaluation of your organization will quickly identify the potential suppliers of the application software required. In almost all cases, there will be a relatively small number of vendors who provide software that meets the needs of an organization. Identification of these vendors can be done through a request for information process ( RFI ), searching the Internet, and contacting colleagues at institutions similar to one’s own.

Understand the Vendor

As relationships with application vendors extend far beyond the implementation phase, a strong, open, and trusting relationship is necessary to be able to ensure that implemented software will deliver the expected results to an organization. Because problems will arise, a positive relationship is required to ensure that problems are resolved. A good relationship with a vendor, as exhibited by respectful an honest interactions with all representatives of the organization, unequivocally trumps perceived advantages in features and functionality that might be seen in other products.

Evaluate The Product

The best way to evaluate clinical information technology applications is to actually see them functioning in a real working environment. Unless an organization is working as a development partner with a vendor, various client organizations, comparable to the purchasing institution, should be available to be visited to observe the applications being used by clinical professionals.

Purchasing organizations must budget more than one day to visit these client organizations and see the applications being used at a variety of times during the day. Workloads vary, with morning physician rounds often presenting the greatest demands upon systems because of their high number of new patient orders and the need for patient care documentation. In addition, evening use represents a time when information technology staffing may be low or system maintenance may occur.

Organizations should request that their representatives be allowed to visit patient care areas unencumbered and be able to ask questions of the various users of the applications. The more institutions visited, the better the information that can be collected to evaluate the applications and the vendor.

Understand Pricing

Vendor pricing is greatly influenced by the level of ongoing maintenance payments, the strategic value of the organization to the vendor, and market forces. Therefore, in negotiating products with vendors, be sure to take a very broad and considered view of the products, services, and support being provided.

Cost of ownership includes not only the purchase price of the software but also the ongoing maintenance fee to the vendor and the cost of implementing, deploying, and maintaining the system during its life. Finally, the importance of the quality of the relationship with the vendor cannot be overemphasized, as it will have the greatest impact on the success of implementation and, eventually,clinician adoption.

Secure Adoption

Implementing clinical information technology without broad involvement and support by the clinical staff-requiring focus on all stakeholders, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other health professionals-all but guarantees a failed and wasteful deployment. Clinical information technology systems alone do not fix clinical problems, advance safety, or reduce costs by themselves. These systems provide tools that can be used by clinicians to change how they deliver care. Only with clinician creativity, insight, and experience molding the implementation can new processes deployed with these tools deliver acceptable work flows and generate good outcomes.

If deployment is poor and disruptive, clinicians will create work-arounds to these failing system processes, a development that guarantees medical errors and unacceptable waste. By securing adoption, organizations can be assured of usable systems that are embraced by clinicians and that are able to deliver expected and much-needed clinical and financial outcomes.

The Importance of Information Technology Training from a Management Perspective

Information technology training for IT managers and systems analysts may seem superfluous – these folks are usually well-learned in their areas of expertise. But, do they understand how a company’s technology fits into the bigger picture from a business perspective? That’s where management training becomes important. Every manager who plays a role in researching, selecting or implementing enterprise technology needs to have a firm grasp on the basics of emerging technologies, as well as how they serve a larger business purpose, to ensure that technology is being used to the company’s best strategic advantage.

Stay Current on Revolutionary, Emerging Technology Applications

A program of continual information technology training is crucial to the success of any IT team. Technology is constantly evolving, and it seems that there is a new application released every day that is meant to simplify doing business. This can be overwhelming if you do not stay current on the high-level trends of technology and their corresponding impact on business. With the Web 2.0 revolution in full swing, management training is a useful tool for managers to become familiar with the online trends such as blogs, wikis, podcasts and RSS feeds, as well as how the trends are going to change the ways we view the Internet and communicate with each other. It is estimated that these technologies will have significant business impact in the coming years, and companies everywhere have to consider directly how it affects their business strategies.

Information technology training can help managers determine the impact of new technologies and how to adapt their business processes. Trying to envision how Web 2.0 changes traditional business models is difficult when you have no knowledge of how these new technical applications are being used from a business perspective. First and foremost, managers must take it upon themselves to become proactive by keeping abreast of emerging trends and understanding them not only from a technical standpoint, but evaluating them from a higher-level, strategic standpoint. Management training courses on technology focus specifically on the ways that emerging technologies affect businesses on a high level. This is the type of knowledge needed to make conscious and informed decisions on what aspects of new technologies will affect your organization in the next few years and transition your thoughts into strategic action and implementation.

Collaboration and information sharing, within and outside of enterprises, are two areas that have made huge strides that management training can help your organization harness to improve business strategies. The advent of user-created content sharing has transformed the way that enterprises communicate. Enterprise-class blogs and wikis boost productivity and innovation by enabling ad hoc teams to participate in complex, collaborative problem solving, and then make the results available to the rest of the organization with ease. Information technology training gives managers the high-level information about these technologies that they need to bring them effectively into your organization.

Large companies will often struggle the most with adopting new business strategies based on emerging technologies due to organizational inertia and the lag that comes from changing any integrated system. Not only do the right people need to be convinced of the value of a new application, but the proper infrastructure often needs to be developed or tweaked to implement the technology. This is where the importance of management information technology training to understand the potential impact of technology from a business perspective comes into play.

Management Training for Appropriate Technology Selection and Recommendation

Management training courses typically deal with logistics and personnel management but fail to guide managers when it comes to making decisions about technology. As a manager in today’s world, what really matters isn’t just your ability to lead and maintain technology infrastructure – it’s your ability to deliver positive business outcomes. Cutting IT costs and managing infrastructure are only part of the equation. Technology must also reduce business risk and generate new opportunities and growth. Information technology training can help managers transition their views of technology as an isolated island off the coast of a business and look at it as one working part of the whole machine that is the organization.

Finding a cool application that has all the shiny bells and whistles you dreamed of and recommending implementation based on the technology’s sheer innovation is no longer enough to make a good business case. Before presenting a recommendation, you must understand every step involved with the successful implementation of the technology. A thorough study will need to be conducted to determine what departments, processes and functions will need to be modified in order to benefit from the new technology. Management training courses focusing on information technology gives managers the tools they need to make that determination.

If you are going to make an impact on the decision makers of a business, you have to get on their level. When it comes down to making a decision, for many business people it is all about the numbers. That is why it is essential to participate in information technology training courses that help you perform your due diligence and gather the data you need to compile hard numbers around your recommendation. What is the true return on investment that the company can expect to achieve by implementing the technology? It is much easier to convince an associate of the merits of your idea if you can show a real increase in profit based on proven research instead of attempting to sway them based on opinion only.

Conclusion

Technology is rapidly changing the way that businesses communicate and function every day. It is important for managers to take a proactive role in understanding emerging technology trends and how they may affect a company’s business model by investing in an ongoing program of information technology training for all levels of staff. Management training in particular is essential for ensuring the right technologies are pursued to ensure business success. Viewing technology as a direct influencer on the business as a whole ensures consistent alignment of goals throughout the enterprise.

The Future of Procurement Technology

Research has shown that leading companies today employ extensive use of procurement technology for purposes of driving high performance. Procurement masters do this in the following ways:

  • Provide heavy support to their source-to-pay process via a complete suite of integrated technology modules.
  • Achieve “one version of the truth” through the harmonization of master data across systems and consistent maintenance procedures.
  • Have access to highly visible data so as to enable full reporting.
  • Boast a full portfolio of supplier integration technology.

Today’s procurement masters therefore enjoy significant payoffs, delivering 2.5 times more value for every dollar spent in procurement, in comparison to average performers. But what lies ahead with regards to procurement technology benefits of the future? Take a look.

Innovative Technology

With the economy still in recovery, business focus has shifted to technology that is easy to deploy and which delivers a quick and tangible ROI. Granted, technology today typically focuses on the manufacturing element of the enterprise, which is where the money is made. Nevertheless, procurement remains at the heart of every organization; therefore innovation in technology can help boost procurement engagement ultimately leading to a reduction in costs and increase in savings.

Increased Connectivity

Procurement managers of the future will increasingly need to adapt to the convergence of work and play. Consumer-style expectations will persist in their migration into the workplace with access via the traditional PC/ browser-based platforms being superseded by apps. Procurement technology applications will shift their focus to engagement and usability so as to drive efficient processes and fantastic compliance. Additionally, as with the internet, technology is set to become even more connected over time.

Intelligent, Multi-Dimensional Data

Business procurement is set to resemble consumer procurement platforms such as eBay and Amazon. This will be achieved through technology that is more intelligent and which utilizes multiple dimensions of data to steer spending behavior towards the most attractive deals. In this way, procurement managers will be able to make purchasing decisions that are quick and better informed.

An efficient and integrated technology foundation is critical for achieving such results for the business of the future. This will also require thought leadership in procurement and sourcing, specialized skills for SAP procurement and global client experience to assist an organization in the maintenance of a reliable, high quality supply base while reducing costs. It is such a foundation that will provide your business with a procurement technology framework that will power high performance for years to come.