HealthAlliance's slow and steady rollout kept under the radar

HealthAlliance's slow and steady rollout kept under the radar

A massive IT project is being quietly rolled out across Waitemata and Auckland DHBs. A combination of a phased implementation, executive buy-in and effective communication has proved to be a winning recipe.

The implementation of an electronic rostering system that affects a total of 16,000 staff started early this year at Waitemata DHB, while Auckland DHB is planned to go live in June 2012. The “roster-to-pay” solution takes information from the roster, stores it electronically and amends it, based on for example sick leave or extra shifts, and sends that through to payroll.

The solution, Workforce Central from US company Kronos, required no customisation, meaning the DHBs could implement on a common database, and that employees and managers have the same functionality across multiple companies.

“That’s good for us as a region,” say Ian Wells, project director, healthAlliance, the shared services organisation for the non-clinical offices of the Northern Region district health boards. “And another DHB could likewise deploy on exactly the same platform.”

The web-based system – which is expected to deliver savings of $1.2 million a year by reducing “leave leakage” and payment error – provides nursing managers with better data about their workforce, says Wells.

It provides managers with the cost of the workforce ahead of time, which they never had before. In the past, they would have to wait until the payroll had been processed.

Previously, all employees were paid based on paper timesheets. “It was a manual process,” Wells says, adding with a smile: “It was criminal in this day and age that we were still doing that.”

Interestingly, finding a solution that met the requirements of the three DHBs — Waitemata, Auckland and Counties

Manukau — wasn’t a challenge at all, he says. The selection team had representatives across the disciplines from each DHB and from healthAlliance.

“We had a common set of requirements which the three DHBs signed off on.”

The phased rollout deploys around 400 staff on the system each time, with go-live groups called clusters. There are seven go-live months per year — the remaining months give the team a bit of flexibility in the rollout, says Wells.

“If one cluster drops behind, it doesn’t affect other clusters.”

The DHBs have adopted a four-month methodology, he explains. The first month is focused on planning and the second on training. The third month holds parallel runs with the current manual process.

“At the end of that we go live and have a month of post-implementation support.”

The main challenge of the project is actually “completing the race”, Wells says. To mitigate that risk his team is actively working to keep the DHB general managers engaged. The first part of engagement was to get all GMs to sign off on a solution description document. Each GM was also asked to provide a ‘go-to’ person, called a service co-ordinator.

“We work with them to define the groups of people that will go live, and how to sequence that.”

Wells reports on the progress of the rollout to the Waitemata executive team on a monthly basis.

“The GMs are really pleased with the project. They see that it’s maintaining momentum. It’s not costing them a lot and doesn’t impact them significantly.”

The cluster model means that no single service, such as mental health, is ever over-burdened with consecutive go-live months.

What also helps reach the end of implementation successfully is using communications managers who work with each cluster before, during and after rollout, and capture lessons learned, says Wells.

“We are rolling out a project that is impacting every employee in the organisation and it’s going smoothly,” he says. “By year end, 2000 employees will be deployed on the solution and nobody is complaining about it.”

The DHBs were a bit anxious about being a smaller-size client in New Zealand while Kronos is a large US-based company. But Kronos’ support model provides “phenomenal support” from Australia, says Wells.

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