By: Neal Reizer, VP, Product Development (New Products)
Software development requires collaboration with users if we expect to develop effective solutions. Notice I didn’t say with customers. As the story about selling dog food goes, there is a difference between the customer and the user. Most customers of dog food are not also users.
Why is collaboration a challenge?
First, users are busy: busy taking care of patients; busy processing claims and keeping cash flowing; busy trying to reduce stress without adding more tasks like explaining their jobs to strangers. Secondly, those of us on development teams are afraid that we might have to really listen and understand the users’ world. Afraid that our “great ideas” won’t survive real use.
Well, that was motivating, huh? There is hope, however. Here are a couple of steps that drive collaboration:
Software customers can help drive collaboration by allowing vendors access to real users in real situations doing real work. You can provide input when vendors request it. In a world as complex as healthcare, the only people who truly understand how work gets done are those who do it. For software vendors to provide useful, safe and effective systems, we need access to these people. Any productivity lost to collaboration will be recouped in better system design for future use.
If we as vendors want true collaboration, we must understand that users’ time is precious. We must prepare design concepts that provide viable system ideas. We also need to involve users early enough to allow the feedback to influence the development process. I’ve collaborated with user groups when design concepts were nothing more than sketches on paper.
Collaboration at these early stages builds confidence that the vendor is listening and that the solution will work in real use. In the coming months, look for additional posts describing how HMS development processes are evolving to ensure collaboration with users.
Frank Newlands, M.D.