Adapting to Remote Work: An Enterprise PMO Perspective
We've been hearing from many of our customers how best to make this transition and still maintain high-performing teams. We felt this was an important topic to facilitate and to hear how other leaders have successfully adapted their companies to remote workforces. One of those is Ken Cygan, Senior Director Enterprise PMO, American Hospital Association. Here is what Ken had to say at a recent round table webinar hosted by MATRIX. Watch the full webinar recording here.
How did the shift to 100 percent remote work impact to the business from an information technology readiness and security aspect?
Well, the one thing that comes to mind is our pre-pandemic approach. We focused on business continuity planning and performing further Microsoft Office 365 implementations. I’ve led similar projects in my career. And let's be honest, sometimes those projects are a little thankless. They're not the ones that are celebrated the most. They happen behind the scenes, but I think they deserve trophies and that a lot of the work was done pre-pandemic.
Leveraging Office 365, there was a training component and a best practice component that was important, but a lot of the business continuity planning was fresh and in people's minds so that helped us be a lot more ready than other organizations. It’s going to be part of our DNA moving forward, whether you're in IT or any other division in the business.
What other issues were raised by the business and how are you able to address those obstacles?
Our customers are hospitals and health systems. From my point of view, we didn't have that period to ease into remote working. In fact, we had to serve our members immediately. We've been in meetings with babies on our laps and kids home from college in the room, but it doesn't matter; our members need us. So, we've made it happen.
Throughout this pandemic, we’ve referred to things as “COVID times”. In other words, things that run very quickly. Members depend on us to convene learnings, to share best practices, to provide them with the right information at the right time. So, we've had to jump into things rather quickly. One thing I notice is our big focus on issue resolution; how the business has been bringing people together and collaborating around our member needs.
In a lot of cases, we've had a daily collaboration where we go through all of our different member needs and then break that into either projects or responses. We've had to adjust the portfolio. What are our top 15 projects we should be working on?
We've had to make major real-time adjustments on what should we do now, what should we accelerate, and where should we focus our resources during this time. We've taken on new projects. One of them is our 100 million masks project, which is around PPE and all the different supplies that hospitals need. That’s been a major endeavor with a lot of tech partnerships.
We've also been managing dynamic ventilator reserve working with FEMA, making sure that hospitals have access to ventilators as they need them.
From being on the frontlines as you are, you probably were anticipating this more than most of us. And how did that affect your planning and preventive measures?
I don't think anybody could have fully planned for this. I do think that a lot of the pre-work, for example effective cloud technology, has been critical. There’s been a technical foundation that has been built over the last couple years and there's been so many things moving to the cloud.
When I first started at the American Hospital Association, a lot of the users said, ‘Wow, this is a lot of change for us. There are always systems being migrated.’ My feedback to them is, ‘buckle up, you know this is this is going to be the pace for some time and we have to leverage new technologies and adapt.’ We're glad we went through all that because a lot of that foundational work set us up for success.
A big challenge for us has not been the technology; it's been the uses that haven't fully collaborated on the technology in the past that we've had to share with them. We conducted training and best practices to make them feel comfortable with turning that camera on and having those collaboration meetings which bring people together.
What other techniques have you employed to maintain morale and culture?
We looked at our values a little over a year ago and collaboration made the top of the list, which I was excited about. But putting it on the wall is one thing. Actually living out collaboration is another thing. I do feel that this has driven a new level of collaboration. Throughout the pandemic, our HR and internal comms have done a great job with a weekly town hall talking about key updates. It's been very honest; sometimes we don’t know the answer, but that's okay. It's also been a two-way street where employees can ask questions and be heard. And then we've been very adaptive. The leadership team has made changes to benefits and made changes to work from home experiences. I think this has played a key role in the culture of collaboration.
There's also the part about accountability. Have you found the right recipe for metrics to measure your team?
Interestingly enough, accountability is also one of the values that you see on the wall. It’s probably one of the least popular because who wants to raise their hand and say, ‘I want to be accountable.’
One thing I've noticed about metrics is that it hasn't been just IT metrics and it hasn't been HR metrics and finance metrics. You've seen a collaboration coming together. We have an almost daily meeting around working from home where our CFO or CIO brings people together to look at all the metrics and adjust them in real time.
We do the same thing from a member assistance point of view. We have well over 40 individuals coming together, which I know breaks some Agile rules of having too many people come together, but it's great to see all these different perspectives in real time.
How can we adjust to our members? What do they need from us right now? I've seen metrics be adjusted in real time. I've seen new metrics being requested. And I've seen more than one function understanding those metrics. So even technology has a view of what HR is measuring and HR has a view of what IT is looking at.
Since collaboration so important, I've kept an eye on Office 365. I want to see our SharePoint requests getting spun up quickly, reading the tickets and all the different questions that come, because that's an input for a future training session.
So, we've had not only training of here's how you use a tool, but we've really changed that into best practices training.
If utilizing third party vendors, what steps are you putting in place to make sure deliverables and SLAs are being met?
We've had an open dialogue with a lot of our existing solution providers. And considering all the changes we've had to make to support our members and hospitals, there's been a number of vendors that said, ‘If we can help in any way, we're here for you.’ And we've really appreciated that.
Then there's been new partnerships. There's been tech companies that have volunteered time and technology. We've considered how we bring them into the mix of supporting our hospital members.
We typically sponsor a lot of live events. So, we've worked with a new partner, quickly engaging them virtually to meet our needs, and we've been happy to have that partnership - but it's been completely new and quick. Normally we don't start a partnership in a matter of days. We have months to do an RFP and all that, but we we've really accelerated some of those business relationships with a mutual benefit of supporting our members.
Are you able to find a happy medium and prevent burnout? How is your pace?
I've challenged my team. If you need that sanity break, if you need to take a walk, if you need to relax. That's important. That needs to be part of it to make sure that we can sustain where we're at today and then move into that new world at sustainable pace. A lot of people are trying to balance a lot of things, but we don't want to forget about what makes sense for the individual.
What do you think the new normal will look like?
We talked about Agile a lot in our conversations. We're always going to be gathering information, thinking about what the next week or the next month looks like and adjusting along the way. The way you do that is by feedback from whoever your customer might be and provide feedback and adjust along the way. So the new normal will change, and it will adapt in the coming weeks and months.