Time for Spring Cleaning
A Thorough Analysis Can Help You Leverage IT as an Advantage
By GREG PELLERIN
I was walking the aisles at my local grocery store last weekend when that all- too-familiar phrase was heard over the PA system. I smiled and thought how cliché it had become.
‘Can’t wait for a good spring cleaning’ is another one that always makes me chuckle, but for a different reason. What’s so special about the spring that precludes us from doing that much-needed cleanup right now?
And so it goes with your IT network. More than ever before, an organization’s success is tied to technology. The challenge for many, however, is that data requirements have outgrown current infrastructure, and the perceived cost and complexity to upgrade is daunting, and therefore postponed until it’s too late.
Here’s the true story of a company that got moving just in time.
OAL Was Going AWOL
“We felt like we were spending too much time saying, ‘how much will this cost?’ not ‘how will this make us better?’” said Bill Weik, CEO of Orthopedic Associates of Lancaster, Pa. Founded in 1972, OAL is one of the most respected medical practices in Central Pennsylvania. The organization went paperless in 2003, one of the first in the country to do so, and the technology challenges began emerging soon after that.
“We’re one of those companies where we’re big enough to need IT support, but we don’t think it should be that difficult,” said Weik. He noted that OAL had already installed a practice-management system and e-mail, which met the practice’s needs back then. “When it came to tech support, we had an outsourced company that would come in a couple of days a week. But when we installed a PACS system in 2006, we decided we wanted an internal resource.”
The Best-laid Plans
“Our guy was trying to be the network engineer, the desktop manager, and more,” Weik said.
“He fixed things and did things that proved to be detrimental over time to our existing systems. It was like putting a bandage on a serious infection.”
In short, it was time for spring cleaning. OAL sought advice from a business partner, the chief information officer for the hospital with whom it was aligned. He recommended a well-respected IT and networking consultant with ties to the local healthcare community. As the hospital’s IT networking partner, it not only understood the complexities of current healthcare-technology needs, but could project five and 10 years into the future. The consultant recommended, then implemented, the following:
• A complete site assessment to define operational goals and identify current technology gaps;
• A networking, switching, routing, and security review to evaluate against best practices and create a road map to leverage IT as a competitive advantage; and
• A PC, server, and user-device inventory that included assessment of hardware condition, expandability, life expectancy, and replacement cost.
“They submitted a proposal to overhaul every server and every PC — everything except the cat-5 wire,” said Weik. The assessment also included a maintenance and replacement schedule as well as an outsourced monitoring and support plan. “The consultant made IT work for us, instead of us working for the IT department. Since we’re so technology-dependent, we got beyond the frustrations. Now, we’re running our business, and IT is there to support it.”
Where Do I Begin?
Technology-refresh decisions can be daunting, so start with an assessment. Bring in an outside consultant with a fresh perspective.
Through on-site analysis and interviews with key organizational stakeholders, the consultant’s report should define IT operational goals and identify current technology gaps. An in-depth review of all of your critical technology areas should include an evaluation against best practices and provide a road map to better leverage IT as a competitive advantage. A complete cataloguing of organizational hardware, including an assessment of condition, expandability, life expectancy, and replacement cost, should also be performed. Then, and only then, can a good cleaning process begin.
What Time Is It? Where You Work?
Here in the northeast, nine feet of snow is finally gone, trees are budding, and healthcare and business IT professionals are awakening from their winter slumber to assess and refresh.
Spring is time for taking a fresh look around and fighting through that urge to push off today what you can do tomorrow. It’s also a time for that cleanup in aisle 4, before someone slips and can’t get up.
Greg Pellerin is a 15-year veteran of the telecommunications and IT industries and a co-founder of VertitechIT, a Holyoke-based business and healthcare IT networking and consulting firm; (413) 268-1605; [email protected]