South Shore Health: Embracing Agility for Effective Digital Transformation

An important part of the past year has been sharing learnings across our healthcare community for improving finance, human resources, and supply chain management functions. Cara Babachicos, CIO at South Shore Health, shares the organization’s deployment journey and how Workday is helping South Shore Health achieve its goals.

It continues to be an extraordinary time for healthcare organizations and healthcare professionals. They’ve faced numerous challenges during the many waves of the pandemic and have had to learn to operate in new ways. However, we’ve also witnessed remarkable innovation and resiliency

An important part of the past year has been sharing learnings across our healthcare community for improving finance, human resources, and supply chain management functions. We’ve had the privilege to host multiple conversations with Workday customer South Shore Health, the largest independent health system in Southeastern Massachusetts. 

Cara Babachicos, CIO at South Shore Health, recently agreed to talk in detail about South Shore Health’s deployment journey, how Workday is helping the organization achieve its strategic goals, and how the team at South Shore Health effectively spearheaded transformation efforts during the pandemic. Below are the highlights of what Babachicos shared. 

Can you walk us through your deployment planning process? 

In February 2020, after a year of planning, we were almost ready to bring the Workday system live with the support of KPMG, our deployment partner. Then COVID-19 hit, and across the industry everyone was preparing for a surge. Like many organizations, we had to shift to a virtual deployment plan—all while maintaining business continuity and adapting supply chain management to handle non-standard items amid widespread disruption. 

“Ultimately, the goals of transparency, mobile access, and empowering employees were too important to wait.”

Cara Babachicos Chief Information Officer South Shore Health

While planning our virtual deployment and transitioning staff to work remotely, we were managing throughput and capacity challenges, figuring out our hospital incident command system (HICS) structure, and standing up a tent for COVID-19 patients. Our supplies were coming in differently than typical inventory because of overall disruption to the global supply chain. We needed to accommodate additional PPE (personal protective equipment) vendors, manage donations, and deploy our people. We had the COVID-19 pressure and the normal work of deploying a new system, but with the added challenge of it largely being managed virtually. 

Did you consider postponing the deployment? What challenges did you need to overcome? 

Postponing was not an option. Our team thought, if not now, then when? While COVID-19 impacted our organization, our initial need to deploy Workday and digitally transform did not change. We needed to evolve, and deploying Workday was key for our innovation momentum. Ultimately, the goals of transparency, mobile access, and empowering employees were too important to wait. Especially during a crisis, we needed a unified system and could no longer toggle between multiple, disparate systems. 

In past deployments, we’ve been in the same physical space. There’s camaraderie that comes with that, but we had to embrace our new reality. We had no onsite command center, and many of our resources that would normally support a deployment like this had to focus on our COVID-19 response. For example, our supply chain management director was pulled out of the project to focus on personal protective equipment. We created a virtual command center with drop-in, help-desk-like call sessions and set up remote workers and telehealth capabilities, so we had to be creative in working the queue and prioritizing. But, through it all, we went live, everyone got paid, and all the other benefits of the system worked.

How did you integrate people, process, and technology into your digital transformation efforts? 

Having our people—employees and deployment partners—work together to leverage an effective process for deploying this technology was key. This experience showed what’s possible remotely and how much we can do in the cloud. Our processes were iterative, with adjustments made throughout go-live and beyond. Our team and partners provided the change management to embrace the new plan. We realized, if we could go live with Workday remotely, we could launch everything remotely. 

How did you define success when deploying this new technology?

With the system as a source of truth, we’ve created opportunities for process improvements and improved compliance and efficiency.

Change management, accountability, clear communication, and proper training are key to a successful and agile digital transformation initiative. We focused on not disrupting the business, recognizing that a new system is one piece of innovation in the overall digital transformation strategy. Our focus was on making life easier for people by planning, resourcing and optimizing functionality. 

Onboarding Workday touched other systems and exposed how employees use work arounds, so the change surfaced additional opportunities to eliminate manual work. For example, we used to walk around getting VP signage on approvals, and it would take days. Now, we've decommissioned these old systems and are capturing our savings. What I love about Workday is, whether processing expense reports or generally moving requests through the continuum, it's easier because it’s automated and not relying on paper.

Bottom line, our successful launch underscored the strategic value of technological innovation. 

What results are you seeing so far since deployment? 

Since deployment, we’ve seen how people adapt quickly when there’s an urgent need. As with telehealth, there’s no turning back. People are comfortable working remotely and using tools like Workday to get things done. We achieved most of our goals for finance, HR, and supply chain management.  

When it comes to finance, our expense report functionality has improved with no more manual checks or paper forms, and our W-2 process is automated.

With supply chain management, since going live with Workday, we had one of the cleanest inventory closes we’ve ever had. We eliminated paper requisitions; now we use handheld devices, which simplifies ordering and gives clinical staff automated reordering capability. The transparency into requisition and order status has allowed users to see where supplies are. 

And then with HR, we improved visibility into requisition status, enabling faster hiring. With application profiles and approvals managed in Workday, the hiring process has become more self-service for managers, freeing HR partners to take on other challenges. Process workarounds are also highlighted because of guardrails in the system.

Learn more about how Workday is supporting digital transformation in healthcare.

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