I have some broken/stuck record tendencies so I'm sure those closer to me have heard me wax a little lyrically about this one scene from the Devil's Advocate. Forgive me if I get it a little wrong but Al Pacino says to Keanu Reeves: "the problem with you is that you're too slick, people see you coming from a mile away and they know what to expect, but look at me on the other hand". The reason that I like it is because it has elements of going in under the radar.
Now to the purpose of this blog. It has become the way of the world that you do everything with a big bang, lots of fanfare, streamers, media coverage and the obligatory social media barrage. I think that this approach has lots of merit if you're in the private sector. You're first to market (I now hate this phrase) and you want to shout it from the roof tops and point out how much better you are than your competitors. Also you want to create the awareness necessary to create some momentum that you can then maintain when you're in full campaign mode. But what if you're not in the private sector?
Traditional wisdom will have you take the same route, but that is where I want to differ. My problems with the big bang approach are the scale and also the fact that it puts you firmly on the nation’s radar. That way if you drop the ball, everyone has a grandstand seat.
First lets have a look at the scale. It makes sense to tackle the whole country at one go since there are a number of economies of scale that make the argument for you. The problem is that its, just so big and the site variables make it very, very difficult to manage. You have to make sure that each site with its different dynamics is ready to work, perfect and then go live with a particular solution. Managing multiple sites with different skills sets, infrastructure, leadership and of course politics can prove to be a very hairy experience. Take the enatus example of allowing booking for learners and drivers licenses on-line. The system was launched amidst lots of pomp and ceremony and it crashes more times than Julius Malema is in the news. Gauteng on-line which was designed to allow learners access to the internet from schools should change the name to Gauteng off-line since there are very few venues if any where it is operational. It too was a big bang operation, looking to achieve too much to quickly and with the incorrect scale.
Second, when everyone is aware, especially in a politically driven environment, when you fail it gives everyone ammunition to crucify you. I know I’m sounding dramatic but its for a reason, when you fail in this case because of the scale and related big budget spend the fail will be epic. “Hundreds of millions of tax payers money wasted and still we don’t have a working revenue collection system”, sound familiar City of Johannesburg?
This is my solution to the problem, design and plan big but implement small. When I say design and plan big, I mean design the entire solution and plan the roll out to finally cover the entire country. But, UNDER THE RADAR start to roll out, test and debug the system. Test spectacularly by running simulations that mimic full roll out and then once you have it working in pockets, allow it to grow embryonically until it covers the whole nation. So for e-health or IT driven facility and patient management systems, start small to create a group or network that you can manage and then start to plug in additional facilities, regions and then provinces. Everything about the IT environment is about portability and plug and play, we need to take a look at this for national rollouts of any kind.
We’re busy with a project at the moment where we’re piloting a patient management system. We’re starting really small, one facility, and then the aim is to roll it out to the rest of the facilities that fall under this chains portfolio. We’ve found that managing the smaller scale is easier and because we planned for the up-scaling initially it won’t (fingers crossed) throw us any curveballs later. Even though the system that we’re using here won’t have the volumes that the rolled out version will, all testing protocols are designed to allow us to simulate implementation as closely as possible.
This blog has given me a bit of head ache, so I’m going to take two panados and call myself in the morning.