5 Keys to implementing new technology in EMS

Solving a clear challenge, identifying champions and following these implementation steps will make change easier

By Guillermo Fuentes, MBA, Senior Partner at Fitch & Associates LLC

As a consultant, I am often asked what the keys are to implementing new technologies. The answer often surprises clients because the keys come from answering these five questions:

  1. What are you trying to solve with the technology?
  2. Who will champion the technology?
  3. How will you implement the technology?
  4. How will you ensure that the implementation is going to succeed?
  5. What will define success?
Almost all change has some version of technology in it, and you should look at implementing new technology like you look at change in general.
Almost all change has some version of technology in it, and you should look at implementing new technology like you look at change in general. (Photo/USAF)

It naturally follows that these five elemental questions represent a change process. This is quite normal as there has been a strong convergence between technology and all change. Almost all change has some version of technology in it, and you should look at implementing new technology like you look at change in general.

Thus, the hardest question is what are you trying to solve? Surprisingly, with so much technology available, it becomes much harder to answer this key question. This question is often answered inversely to what the question intends. Clients want to talk about what the new technology does. Features of a program do not define need.

1. Identifying a goal. Think about what you are trying to solve by creating an inventory of needs list. The inventory of needs will define the vision. As people supply the different elements of what is not working in the current system, a clear inventory of common issues will emerge. That inventory of common issues will create a vision that the champions of the new technology will rally around.

Like with all things, choosing a new technology centered on this inventory of needs will be a balancing act based on the preponderance of what best fits the vision and what you can afford.

2. Finding champions. The champions of the new technology have to be well vested in the process because no one technology can fix a system. Being able to explain the nexus between what you are trying to fix and the technology chosen is key. Arm the champion well. More information is better. Remember that in today’s era, everyone is a technology expert and everyone has a preference.

3. Implementation. There are no shortcuts to implementation. Many vendors undersell the level of effort needed to properly implement new technology. No matter what technology you are implementing, there are key steps.

Set up the hardware in a beta environment. This is not a test environment per se, but rather is where you are making sure that the configuration of the new technology works with all the other technologies you have. In short, you are looking for unintended consequences.

The next step is the test phase. Be purposeful and create scenarios. Try to find what will break the new technology. The next step is training. The more you train, the better you are, so don’t be afraid to invest in training. Finally, announce the changeover to the new technology and ensure you have a backup strategy if the new technology fails.

4. Ensuring success. So now you have this new technology in the center, how will you ensure it will succeed? Remember that at least half your staff will be somewhat against the change, to fully against the change. Implementing new technology is not ensuring success.

Again, working the mass to your side is key. Never forget that success breeds success. Start with the champions, the super users, the floor coaches, the best of the week and the star of the day. Instill a hierarchy of success that breeds a level of competition and comradery in implementation.

The change has to be subtle, unforced and, most importantly, non-punitive. Remember that half your staff did not want to change and did not want the new technology, and might even have had a different technology in mind.

5. Defining success. Like all steps in implementing new technology, a purposeful approach is key to defining success. Thus having a review of the technology against the inventory of needs that you defined early in the process will allow you to define if you are successful or not.

Success must be shared, so be inclusive with staff in the evaluation. Have people on the evaluation committee who were not early adopters. Be balanced and transparent about the new technology with staff. Finally, celebrate the success and learnings with staff because they have had the heavy lift.

About the author

Guillermo Fuentes, MBA, is a senior partner at Fitch & Associates. He supervises statistical and operational analysis, computer modeling and the development of deployment plans as well as major technology purchases and communications center installations for clients. He previously served as the chief administrative officer of the Niagara Regional Police Agency, in Ontario, Canada, and associate director of EMS for the Niagara Region. He can be contacted directly at gfuentes@fitchassoc.com.

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