New Fiscal Year, New Budget. Of the many technology applications your community could invest in, which ones will you choose? And how do you decide?

Often, individual departments submit a budget request for a technology they need, and you say “yay” or “nay.” Based on what? The cost? The pitch? The complaining? Politics? While these can play an important role, they are not the most reliable way to make a confident decision you’ll be comfortable with long term.

Most communities look at the dollars and a few bullet points about why the technology is needed, and the CFO decides if we can do it this year. Where is the strategy in that? David Eldred says it well, “Planning is not a strategy-making exercise; … one cannot develop an effective plan before doing the hard work involved in crafting your strategy.” Planning is comfortable; strategy is uncertain. Planning has an answer; strategy ventures into the unknown. Understanding the difference can be life or death for an organization looking to stay competitive.

“Execution is a specific set of behaviors and techniques that companies need to master in order to have competitive advantage. It’s a discipline of its own.”
—Bossidy, L. & Charan, R. (2002). Execution: the Discipline of Getting Things Done. Crown Business.

Here I’ll share some techniques you can use to ensure you’re investing in the right technology this year.

The right perspective: it’s not just dollars and cents

Chances are your budget requests look something like this:

The Clinical team is pushing for approval to implement the Point of Care modules of your existing EHR including mobile devices to improve resident care. They have completed a cost analysis and put together an impressive ROI argument. The Culinary team for the second year in a row is asking for budget to rollout tableside ordering in Independent Living and mobile room service ordering in Skilled Nursing. In addition, IT is adamant about the need to upgrade data lines throughout the campus, and the price tag is hefty.

Each department is asking for something different, and each has done their part to justify their need. But how does it affect the overall strategy of the organization? You won’t get the answer as long as you are only considering the dollars and cents.

Our initial inclination is often based on financial costs, internal politics, and perceived value. I encourage my clients to step back and make the decision to execute a strategy, not just a plan to spend the budget. Stop and ask the right questions. How does this project align with our strategic initiatives for this fiscal year? How does it affect our five-year goals? (Do you have five-year goals?) Are we in a position to achieve the success the team is touting will come of the project?

Expect your teams to provide a thorough answer to these questions. Successful organizations don’t just plan and budget. They execute a strategy, and they expect their employees to think about the community-wide strategy when asking to upgrade or purchase new applications. Consider these two techniques when investing in technology.

1. Alignment

Looking at each technology project through the proper lens begins to reveal how we align and prioritize these investments with our strategic vision. By taking a step back and aligning with the strategic plan, we create a comprehensive view of the impact of these decisions.

Consider rating the project’s positive impact on your organization’s initiatives including:

  • Financial Initiatives
  • Strategic Initiatives
  • Efficiency Initiatives
  • Compliance Initiatives

For example, if you have an initiative to gain efficiencies in clinical workflows to boost employee engagement and resident satisfaction, a successful Point of Care deployment could significantly impact your goal in a positive way. By measuring how well a project aligns with the organization’s key initiatives, you are executing a strategy, not just planning a budget.  For a more in-depth look at this idea, check out my previous article.

2. Achievability

Before giving your approval for the project, it’s critical you assess the achievability. Notice we said a “successful” Point of Care deployment will get us where we want to be.

The second technique for executing a strategy versus planning a budget is measuring achievability. Do we have the people, processes, information, and infrastructure in place to successfully deploy this new program?

  • People – How will roles change? What is the appetite for change?
  • Processes – How will processes and policies change? Are we prepared?
  • Information – Where is the system data coming from? Is it accurate and reliable?
  • Infrastructure – Do we have IT infrastructure in place to support it?

In our example, if you approve the Point of Care rollout with mobile tablets plus the Dining Services tableside ordering, but you decide to wait on the infrastructure upgrades until next year, you could be making a big mistake. If your staff experiences slow connectivity and poor data integrity, both projects will be a failure. Using these techniques to successfully execute a strategy may ensure success of future innovations as well as the ones you decide to invest in this year.

Strategy is more than the dollars and cents plus a few bullet points on the benefits of a new program. A team spends months of intense effort to deploy a new software program, and at go-live there are high-fives all around when the features and functions are performing as described in the sales presentation. No doubt, this is an honorable accomplishment achieved through blood, sweat, and tears. Too often, however, the excitement does not reach beyond the department that did the work. The application is functioning, but leadership is thinking, “So what? When do we get to see the results?”

The takeaway

Planning and budgeting are critical to an organization, but so is executing a strategic plan. Asking the right questions, aligning your investments with strategic goals, and making sure you have the necessary people and infrastructure in place for success will go further than simply evaluating important technology decisions on costs alone. Learn to utilize these techniques well, and your organization will remain competitive and thrive in the years ahead.

Do you have questions about which technology application deserves your investment? Reach out, I’d love to help you talk it out!