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Enterprise System Assessments Interview
Robert Schechter
IT Business Analysis

With the ever changing healthcare payer market, I have found that a systems assessment, at an enterprise level, gives an organization the tools for sound strategic decisions.  These assessments are vital in the identification of the strong and week points in a corporation's systems architecture.  Therefore, enterprise system assessments will be critical for the impending 5010 and ICD10 federal mandates.

Q:What are the benefits of an enterprise system assessment?

A: The key benefits of an enterprise system assessment enable an organization to:

  1. Build the business architecture framework
  2. Identify and prioritize business opportunities
  3. Determine the optimum project investment path for the enterprise
  4. Indentify the strategic goals and objectives for an enterprise
  5. Determine the feasibility of a project before initiation, "go/no go" decision
  6. Identify an organization's failure points:
  • Negative business implications
  • Inter-project dependencies
  • Business exposures and risks

Q: Why don't all companies do enterprise system assessments?

A: Enterprise system assessments are strategic in nature which requires engagement of all the application areas within an organization.  Some organization's IT budgets are tactical in nature.  Therefore, strategic services are viewed as "like to haves" and are not viewed as a critical.

Q: How does a company plan for an enterprise system assessment?

A: An organization should allocate time and resources for an enterprise system assessment prior to the initiation of any major project such as 5010 ANSIX12, ICD10 and system migrations.  An enterprise system assessment should be run as a "pre-work" project prior to any project initiative.

Q: What are the essential qualities of a sound enterprise system assessment?

A: A sound enterprise system assessment will provide:

  1. A complete view of the business architecture
  2. Feasibility and viability of a project initiative
  3. A strategic approach to the project initiative
  4. Scope and a clear definition of the business opportunity
  5. A strategic alignment of how the project initiative fits within the organizational direction/mission
  6. Clear business objectives
  7. Major project milestones, funding requirements and limitations

Q: Are enterprise system assessments the same for every industry and type of company?

A: Enterprise system assessments will vary by:

  1. Size of the organization
  2. Data complexities
  3. Complexity of an organization's business architecture
  4. Regulatory and governance requirements of a particular industry

Q: What are challenges IT professionals will face with enterprise system assessments?

A: Some of the challenges IT professionals may face with enterprise system assessments are:

  1. Not enough time allocated to complete the assessment
  2. Required resources (stakeholders, SMEs, etc.) are not available for the assessment
  3. A consensus on the business architecture can not be agreed upon
  4. A decision on the approach to the project initiative can not be agreed upon
  5. Different objectives across the organization which cause the assessment to fail

Q: Are IT professionals required to have a specific skill set for enterprise system assessments?

A: The following skill set is necessary to conduct an enterprise system assessment:

  1. Business strategy
  2. Business process engineering
  3. Business modeling
  4. Business analysis
  5. Elicitation and facilitation skills
  6. Research and information analysis
  7. Technical writing skills

Q: What are some best practices/tips for IT professionals who are conducting an enterprise system assessment?

A:

  1. Conduct an enterprise system assessment before the start of a Project Charter which will minimize the duration of time to complete the project initiation phase
  2. Perform "reverse engineering" practices for system application that are not base-lined will ensure that all of the system functionalities are correctly assessed
  3. Gain consensus or "sign-off" from the business and IT for each of the application areas within the enterprise to ensure all boundary systems and extension points are identified (external databases, reporting, internal/external file transfers etc.)
 
 
 

The Future of Healthcare IT

Another early morning at the sunny and elegant Spangler Center at Harvard Business School finds over 100 leaders of industry preparing for HSBAB's Future of Health Care Lecture. First on the program was the well-known Ranch Kimball, President and CEO of Joslin Diabetes Center and former Secretary of Economic Development under Governor Mitt Romney.  Second was John Halamka the CIO of Harvard Medical School and one of the most sought-after thinkers and speakers in the world of health information technology ("HIT"). Although unclear at first why a CEO and CIO have been brought together, it soon becomes apparent.

Kimball's presentation was best summarized by Russ Vandenpool, board member of HBSAB and sponsor of the event: "Kimball takes a page directly from Michael Porter's book on competition by applying focus on quality and defect reduction to health care delivery." Even though Kimball has only been at Joslin Diabetes Center since 2007, he has retooled the center based on lessons from Toyota's famous revolution - focusing on quality of care delivery up front to significantly reduce cost and improve patient quality of life over time. Kimball shows us how tuning and focusing on eight specific service delivery points with patients early on reduces the need for dialysis and surgery later. Some pretty clear slides prove this, he explains, where the purple Joslin cost bar is clearly shorter than the green cost bar for all other providers, as everyone can plainly see for the microsecond it flashes on the screen. It's just long enough to make the point effectively. Complete economy of Kimball's message and our time.

Next up is Halamka, whom we look forward to from our acquaintance with his well-regarded daily blog, "Life as a Healthcare CIO." On this topic, electronic health records ("EHR") and electronic medical records ("EMR") are core concepts. Halamka apprises us how BIDMC coordinates with Joslin Diabetes Center by sharing medical records, a technical feat in the world of health care, as we come to understand. According to Kimball, Joslin Diabetes Center went to all-EMR seven years ago and was, he believes, the first Harvard hospital to do so. The disarming interchange between Kimball and Halamka informs us how closely these two coordinate professionally. Possibly an insight into a human success factor behind technical coordination?

Halamka's part of the program soon conveys how far from simple is his world of medical computing. Halamka's slides reflect a close watch on the Washington pulse, including a HIT Policy Committee, an HIT Standards Committee, and "Regional HIT extension centers." The first of these, the HIT Policy Committee, is apparently focused on "meaningful use," of electronic records, an elusive concept on which Capital Hill is still wandering in the wilderness. $19 billion in federal funds lie in the balance, it seems, available to spend and waiting for consensus on the best way to spend it. Only 2% of hospitals, we learn from Halamka, are currently on-line with EHR, and these funds are intended to encourage and allow the rest to get there as soon as possible. The government has announced it will divide the $19 billion among doctors, providing each with $44,000 to go into electronic records in 2011. Doctors can qualify for reimbursement if they show "meaningful use," whatever that is. As best as anyone can tell, this relates in some way to certification of the electronic method and software that doctors select against some technical standard. Guidance from HHS is expected to be available by the end of the year.

Because state law pre-empts HIPAA, Halamka notes there are, in effect, "50 privacy policies," in the sense that the patchwork of individual state policies effectively prevents information-sharing, quite apart from technical challenges. "Privacy has been protected differently in each locality," notes Halamka.

He hopes policymakers can do away with the current system whereby, after seeing a patient, the doctor calls a phone number on the patient's insurance card and "gets to argue with a high-school educated triage clerk about the appropriate diagnosis." Halamka's cynical humor conveys a deep-seated frustration with the current system, coexisting curiously along with what seems like good-natured optimism that we nevertheless can and should improve health care.

Halamka flashes a detailed slide on the data interoperability capability for all providers in Massachusetts, called the "MA-Share Appliance." Apparently this is opensource software, "built on a common messaging gateway," by which health care providers can communicate with each other to improve quality of patient care delivery.

He shares that he was the fourth human to have his genome mapped as a way of illustrating the rapid way the cost of such sequencing is coming down, from $350 million for the first human (which might include all sunk costs to that date. Or the special carrying case), to $100 million for the second, $100,000 for the third, and his cost only $10,000 for genome sequencing.

Halamka also shares that his annual budget is $30 million, which is 1.8% of revenue, always an interesting data point for IT professionals

Kimball, scheduled tightly, rushes off apologetically after Q&A, while Halamka lingers graciously a few minutes after the meeting ends as a crowd surrounds him, eager for every word with this oft-quoted, pace-setting CIO.

 
 
 

Ask Mark Vogt: There's a Big Future in Sharepoint.

Software development has a long history of change. Whatever the latest and greatest programming language and application development environment is today is sure to be obsolete within 2 years. When it comes to Enterprise Software there's been no more significant platform release in recent years than Microsoft Sharepoint. In April I sat down with Mark Vogt, a Senior IT Consultant and Sharepoint architect in the Chicago area to discuss Sharepoint, the future of knowledge sharing, and his experience working with Hudson as an IT contractor.

Q: So, Mark I got to know your work first hand as a software architect and developer on our Sharepoint Intranet project here at Hudson. How did you come into contact with Hudson?

A: My relationship with Hudson started in 2005 working as an IT contractor on an 8 month assignment with General Growth Partners. As is typical with good contract jobs, it became a permanent gig for me when my contract ended. After another full-time engagement at OfficeMax doing a highly involved Sharepoint implementation, I kept in good contact with Todd Harootyan, my Hudson recruiter. Todd knew that Hudson was embarking on a Sharepoint implementation internally and needed a senior consultant to get them over the hump. So, here I am today helping you guys build out YOUR Sharepoint Intranet.

Q: It's great having your expertise here Mark, believe me! I'm curious, how did you get so involved with Sharepoint?

A: I have always enjoyed large Enterprise implementations. I spent a few years as a Plumtree consultant going through some long and painful projects. When mid-2000 rolled around, I saw that Microsoft was dipping its toe into the Enterprise Portal space and I began to investigate Sharepoint. I began to see first hand that large and small organizations were embracing Sharepoint because of its low price tag (free at the time), and fast-developing feature set.

Q: What is the advantage that Sharepoint has over some legacy portal development platforms?

A: The BEST part of it is the high chance for success that a Sharepoint implementation has right out of the box. Sharepoint developers are highly satisfied because of how robust the software has become in a few short years. With some thoughtful configuration, the system meets 60-70% of an organization's needs right out of the box. Plus, the development, support, and third party control communities are hugely helpful whenever you hit a roadblock.

Q: Is Sharepoint the future of Microsoft?

A: Well, $1 Billion in revenue for Microsoft and 17,000 clients is a pretty impressive install base. I'm convinced it's the next generation platform that will be here for the long haul. As the enterprise has moved away from the PC client (Outlook) to the Web Browser as the center of the universe, Sharepoint is positioned perfectly. It is no surprise that we've heard Sharepoint mentioned as the centerpiece of Microsoft's Cloud Computing strategy.

Q: Do you have any advice for IT talent with regards to Sharepoint?

A: Hitch on to the Sharepoint wagon! This platform will provide excellent learning opportunities and job prospects for the foreseeable future. Once you conquer development become more of a consultant by moving your skillset up the value chain. Every Sharepoint team currently needs people who can help with needs assessment, requirements definition, systems architecture, and training to better map their Sharepoint solution to the needs of the business.

Stay tuned for our next entry where we'll give you a peek at the Sharepoint Intranet Mark helped Hudson to build.

 
 
 

Job Searching Via Social Networking

You don't need to have the following of a celebrity to get a job through social networking, but utilizing these channels to "be seen and heard" by strategically networking on these sites will help. Two of the largest and most used sites to network for job opportunities right now are LinkedIn and Twitter.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is not only a place to upload an online profile and resume, you can also engage and connect with other LinkedIn users through groups. Groups are formed around interests, industries, location, etc. Hudson has their own group, Hudson Network, with over 1,259 members ranging from clients, candidate and employees. If you were looking for a job at Hudson, or any company with a group, participating in a group discussion is an easy way to get your foot in the door. Once a group is formed it can update its users with tips, articles, and even job postings.  These groups can be essential for job seekers, as well as a means to keep oneself updated on the latest changes in technology. Some more technically related LinkedIn groups are:

  • LinkedIn: Java Developers is a place where Java Developers can share information, ideas, and grow professionally. Visit their website at http://javapgmr.net for discussion posting guidelines prior to posting discussion topics and java code puzzles. They are one of the fastest growing groups on LinkedIn.
  • LinkedIn: The IT Developer Network is group for professionals with an interest in IT development technologies (Java, J2EE, .NET, C, C#, C++, VC++, VB, ASP, Coldfusion, Sharepoint, HTML, PHP etc).
  • Linked .NET Users Group (LIDNUG) was formerly the "C# Professionals Group." This group is meant to be for professionals using or interested in the Microsoft .NET technologies and the C# language in particular.
  • LinkedIn: .NET People is the place to meet other.NET professionals around the world. Join this group to connect and share knowledge on .NET. Please post discussions on .NET Technologies.

These LinkedIn groups are all great for IT job seekers, but you never know where the opportunities may lie. I encourage you to join groups based around your interests, specifically your industry. To find a group pertinent to you, login in (you first have to have a LinkedIn profile!), select "Search Groups" and enter terms associated with your area of interest or expertise (i.e. Java, .Net, Oracle, SQL, Data Warehousing, Project Management, etc.) and join!  Can't find the group you're looking for, here is a directory. Still can't find it? Start your own!

Twitter

If you have been following our posts on ITHireWire  you may have read, ‘Building Your Network of Followers on Twitter' which explains that your success with Twitter depends on your following and how you engage them. Here are few Twitter users who post job listings. You might want to start following them to hear about the latest IT jobs out there:

Here are a few other informative people who can guide you on how to conduct your job search utilizing social media:

  • Job Searching: Allison Doyle is a great person to follow. The blogger for About.com's Job Search and Employment Guide tweets about just about everything you need to know from job searching at a party to writing a killer resume.
  • Personal Branding: With all of these social media sites, it's more important now than ever to strategically manage your personal brand. Dan Schawbel is an expert in personal branding, his Tweets are a gold mine of "how to's" and tips. To see how your personal brand measures up, figure out your Google Quotient.

Twitter is a great resource to find a job and have questions answered immediately. If you are following these people and Tweet a job related question, you can be sure they will answer you. Better yet, you can @ reply and DM (Direct Message) them! Of course there is always Hudson. If you are interested in a career in IT send me a Tweet, @toddharootyan!

Other Social Sites

Twitter and LinkedIn are both great ways to build and maintain your network. Here are a few other social sites that will enable you to properly showcase your work by harnessing the power of Web 2.0.

  • Jobster is a networking platform that connects you to hiring managers through jobs posted on the site. It allows you to create your profile, as all SM sites do, but Jobster also allows you to tag your skills. Once you apply for a job, the site allows you to connect with the person who posted it and add them to your network.
  • Visual CV can bring your static resume into Web 2.0 with a Visual CV. It is a site that allows you to create your own resume webpage using various forms of media to showcase your work samples such as video, audio, images, charts and graphs. You can send it to recruiters by downloading it into a PDF or linking to it. The site also has a job search feature that allows you to directly apply with your page.
  • JobFoxdeveloped a system that creates a suitability profile by learning about candidates through the skills, experiences, and goals they post on the site and then matches candidates with jobs that fit, similar to online dating.

As they say, job seeking is a full time job in itself, especially if you are managing all of these various social networks. While it may take sometime to get your "networks" optimized and built, eventually you just might find success and land yourself a job. Don't believe me? Twitter to Job is just one of many social media success stories that display the power of networking and personal branding online.

 
 
 

IT Career Spotlight - Bernadette Floyd

Bernadette Floyd
Instructional Design Consultant and Project Manager
Hudson IT Learning & Development Contractor

Q: Can your responsibilities make or break the success of an IT project?

A: Absolutely. If the end-users don't know how to use the system, how successful can the project be? My job is to ensure that the end-users know the correct and most efficient way to complete each task based on their job function.

Q: On a typical project, how do you collaborate with the IT world?

A: It all depends on the type and stage of the project. Often training is not involved at the very beginning of the project. Usually there is some document about the system. I try to read up on that before approaching anyone in IT so that I have a baseline level of knowledge. From there, there may be someone from IT assigned as your point person who will answer your questions. If there is a training database, I'll work with IT to get the data needed for hands-on practices loaded.

Q: How does someone in your role get up to speed on the various aspects of an IT project?
A: There's usually some documentation on the system, so the first thing is to review the documentation. From there, I try to get access to the system so that I can try out the functionality. Sometimes there are system walk-throughs that I'll participate in along with the technical developers.

Q: What was the most unusual IT project you have worked on? Why?

A: In over 10 years, I've worked on a lot of interesting projects, not just IT related. I don't know that I can pick just one and label it unusual. But if I had to, I would say a multi-year project (which many may say is unusual in itself) where I worked in a small room with 8 other consultants. The room was made of cinder blocks and in the back hallway (tornado shelter) of the building. I had the opportunity to develop training for a lot of different in-house systems as well as designing and developing an EPSS, orientations for new employees, and a web-based portal for the customer service group.

Q: How has off shoring effected your work?

A: I've had some clients who have opted to offshore. In most cases, the training development has been brought back local. I am happy to say that the quality of our work and our ability to react quickly to changing needs has proven our value to our clients. 

Q: What is the most important skill set in order to be a successful Instructional Designer in a systems related project?

A: I think the most important skill is to be flexible. On every project that I've worked on, priorities are ever changing. If you can't adjust then you aren't going to last long. As a consultant, you must be able to adapt your working style to that of the client and the rest of the team.

 
 
 
 
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