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ASCM Insights

Health Care System Navigates COVID with a Project Management Office

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The past two years have delivered a plethora of disruption. If there ever was a time for supply chain organizations to launch an SOS, it would be now. Fortunately, the necessary support is available in the form of project management offices (PMOs). According to CIO, a PMO is a group — internal or external to a company — that sets, maintains and ensures standards for project management across that organization. They’re the keepers of best practices, project status and direction. And they’re invaluable during challenging times.

A balancing and reprioritizing act

Wisconsin-based ProHealth Care, a community-based system with 4,700 employees and nearly 1,000 doctors, successfully used its PMO as an antidote for the many project management challenges during the pandemic. First among them was handling a diverse set of projects. Matt Harris, director of information technology operations, says it is important for all of ProHealth Care’s projects to “look and smell the same.” ProHealth Care’s PMO has enabled the firm to examine projects with different dialects and refine them so the processes of intake, discovery, planning, execution and closure all have the same types of standard deliverables.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 forced a new variable into project management. The immediate issues caused by the pandemic forced the organization to reprioritize initiatives. Even in such peculiar times, the PMO never lost sight of its strengths. Harris reaffirms ProHealth Care’s PMO’s ability to maintain composure even when work was flowing at the rate of whitewater rapids. “We had to prioritize COVID activities and ensure resource availability,” he explains. “This often meant that some projects were cancelled or paused to ensure that other prioritized initiatives could rise to the top of the list.”

ProHealth Care’s PMO helped the organization to refocus its objectives — in this case, providing frontline clinical staff with the necessary tools and strategies — while not overwhelming the system.

Effective change management

The company also had to deal with new health and safety guidelines, which changed routines and social practices, as well as remote employment that completely changed the way people work. In response, ProHealth broadened its scope. The PMO took on new roles, including managing the logistics for setting up COVID-19 units, tracking enhancements to the electronic health record system and keeping up with the ever-changing COVID-19 guidelines. “Other than re-prioritizing initiatives to ensure resource availability, we didn’t have to make a lot of adjustments,” Harris notes.

By investing in an effective PMO early on, ProHealth Care was able to save time and money because it did not need to scramble for new plans while adjusting to these changes. Instead, the PMO enabled a smoother transition amid radical changes.

Knowledge for the future

A typical challenge after project completion is retaining and passing on the lessons learned. The PMO’s advantage of being a central hub enables the transference of strategies. “At any time, for any length of time, your business can be turned upside down,” Harris says. “With a clear understanding of the elements, ProHealth Care’s PMO has and will maintain preparedness for future uncertainties. The office has specialized reports and dashboards showing all work and can be used to justify the need for more staff or external augmentation. These tools are critical to ensure that each department is set up for success.”

About the Author

Matthew Wojnowski

Matthew Wojnowski is a student studying logistics, materials and supply chain management at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He may be contacted at wojnowskMJ12@uww.edu.

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