Healthcare Vision Blog

  • Best Practices: Making a Major Upgrade a Non-Event

    "My mission is to provide world class delivery to our customers integrated across consulting, hosting, application services and business process outsourcing around TriZetto software. In this monthly forum,  The New Healthcare C-Suite: Emerging Models in Best Practices , I'll be highlighting best practices adopted by health plans and other payers as our healthcare industry continues its evolution. We'll look at how today's C-Suite is taking a more active role in technology strategies and discover why some of these healthcare leaders are achieving results that exceed industry norms."  

    By: Cem Tanyel | Aug 02, 2016

    Executives from New West Health Services, a Montana-based Medicare plan, recently met with me to talk about their extraordinarily smooth execution of the “full swing” upgrade of their core administration software, hardware and operating system. We discussed what made this major upgrade successful – and uneventful.

    “As I spoke with Angela Huschka, CEO; D.J. Howell, director of IT; and Holly Williams, systems coordinator, they noted the importance of open, honest communications and a true partnership among everyone involved in the upgrade; the need for a highly supportive CEO to provide access to required resources; and the value of well-defined test plans and departmental support to help with the testing process and provide feedback—all key practices previously discussed in this best practices series and with which most project managers should be very familiar.

    But this team also faced significant challenges that required them to develop additional unique methodologies in order to succeed:

    1.The upgrade project was similar in scope to a brand new system implementation.

    The team mentioned that New West’s initial implementation was somewhat rocky. They needed to ensure that this project went more smoothly and that meant sweating the details. “Something that I’ve done between upgrades is to archive all of the documentation to use as artifacts for the next version. I keep building upon this archival store with each additional upgrade,” Holly noted. “Because I had ready access to all of this information, I was able to catch a number of key items that were inadvertently left out of the original statement of work provided.” D.J. added, “Holly paid attention to all of the details and had the full support of the TriZetto team to ensure everything was considered and addressed prior to going live with the upgrade. We have built a relationship with TriZetto where we trust each other to work through any issues that may arise. The project upgrade and hosting staff was exceptional.”

    2.The Medicare plan operates in a hosted environment with minimal New West systems and IT staff.

    D.J. noted the depth and breadth of experience required of their small in-house team. “As a hosted client, we have to deal with areas that are outside of our control and also be able to troubleshoot any issues that may arise. This means that Holly and I have to have a wider scope of knowledge and skills to support our team here. While TriZetto handles the vast majority of situations that may arise, we have to be able to handle things on our end with the few systems people we have onsite. Holly addresses system issues, while I handle the technology side.”

    3.Ensuring a “non-event” in the midst of aggressive objectives and a great deal of skepticism.

    “As CEO, my goal is that every system upgrade be a non-event,” stated Angela. “The system is too important to our business to allow disruption. While most of the company will never know the blood, sweat and tears that go into a system upgrade, I am well aware of the challenges our small technical support team faces.” Angela informed me that visiting representatives from New West’s parent company were highly skeptical and did not believe that this upgrade could be accomplished in a weekend. She had faith in the team; however, giving them the support they needed to ensure the major upgrade was accomplished smoothly, on time and without incident. “It was very rewarding to come to work on Monday and see that, for those not involved in the project, it appeared that nothing had changed,” she added.

    Accountability and Skill vs. Size

    Both Angela and D.J. noted that Holly was key to the upgrade’s overall success. As project manager, she conducted the symphony—a clear point person who had accountability, authority and support from executive management. Angela noted, “Having a solid project manager on both sides of the relationship was important. Holly and D.J. were always open and honest as they worked through the project. When our team says they will do something, they follow through and do it—and that responsibility and accountability is reciprocated by TriZetto.”

    I was really impressed with the people at New West Services. From CEO Angela to IT leader D.J. and their project manager, Holly, this team shows that a small group of the right people with the right strategy and the right support from their associates and business partners can accomplish what others may view as impossible.

    New West Health Services is a TriZetto client utilizing the QNXT Enterprise Core Administration System in a hosted environment to support their 15,000-member Medicare plan. New West recently worked with the TriZetto Hosting Services team to successfully upgrade their hardware, software and operating system over a single weekend without disrupting day-to-day operations.

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    Written by: Cem Tanyel
    Chief Services Officer, Senior Vice President, Consulting and Delivery


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