Staff Augmentation Versus Managed Services? It’s Not an Either / Or Decision.

In the cult classic movie “Office Space” Peter and his fellow Innitech employees are subjected to one-on-one meetings with consultants brought in to surely fire everyone who wasn’t productive.
“They’re going to downsize Innitech. How do I know? They’re bringing in a consultant, that’s how I know.”
In meetings with said consultants, employees defensively attempt to prove their worth and viability within the company and “interview for their own jobs.” After trying to uncover exactly what one employee does, one consultant asks “What would you say … you do here?”
Peter, who sees right through the consultant smokescreen, famously delivers the perfectly flippant line: “Good luck with your layoffs. I hope your firings go really well.”
In a real-world setting, terms like staff augmentation and managed services once had a similar “Office Space” connotation.
Now, in many cases, these partner-based, flexible models are becoming a near-perfect solution for many healthcare IT departments who were overworked and understaffed before COVID-19 and all its unexpected curveballs became part of the equation. The perception of managed services has shifted and is now viewed as staff empowerment which can free employees up from low-level, less strategic work that, while important, does not deliver the job satisfaction and career growth enterprising HIT professionals crave. Staff augmentation is now an important lever to deliver professionals who can function as “players/coaches” for teams too, in an environment where healthcare IT departments need broader expertise across more competencies than ever.
While staff augmentation is the more traditional model, managed services is newer, with innovative approaches to the model emerging; it is viewed as less of a product and more of a strategy. It is no longer an unidentified pool of resources doing low level tasks, but a critical resourcing strategy to free up resources or tackle backlogs/projects that have stalled.
Today the staff augmentation versus managed services question is no longer an either/or decision. It is about understanding the organization’s strategy and aligning  IT resourcing to enable it. It is also about the work – are you interested in driving down costs and filling a gap in your core competencies – or looking for a specific skill set? Once you have defined your core competencies, you can identify the best resourcing solutions for your needs. Picking the right model also helps ensure value from high-dollar consulting resources, paying for utilization and outcomes, rather than unused overhead.
Know Your Needs
Bringing in a new employee with a specific skillset can be a 6-to-9-month effort – from the interview process to onboarding and training. Competency and mastery can often take months or years more. Organizations can radically accelerate the ramp-up with staff augmentation and managed services partners who can bring the exact expertise needed – often in a week or less, leveraging a proven team of talent that can be fractionally shared across clients as needed.
Staff augmentation is typically focused on a specific resource, whereas, managed services often provides for a dynamic team of resources, that may evolve with the project timeline or market pressures such as the COVID-19 pandemic, where a team was needed to address the scheduling, patient portal, and telemedicine impacts in the EMR.
Typical staff augmentation and managed services profiles and organizational value definitions:


·       The organization is good at supporting the enterprise HIT products, but struggles with bringing in specialized talent for discrete projects such as new modules, integration, or advanced configuration
·       The organization is looking for flexibility to free up their team for higher value activities rather than “keep the lights on” work like monthly updates and help desk support

·       Ideal when a named resource is desired, often someone with a specific skillset
·       In many cases, it is not about hiring someone to only do the job, but to teach internal teams as a “player/coach” too

·       Ideal for technical, repetitive tasks (e.g., help desk)
·       Enables staffing in real time
·       Provides speed and timing to fill gaps in skillsets – specific expertise not readily available in local markets
·       Provides a shared pool of specialized resources that can flex with needs (fractional versus full time)
·       Access specialists without incurring the cost of hiring additional employees who might not even be needed at the completion of a project

·       Typically higher cost, but often  resources can be converted employees (try before you buy),  lowering the overall hiring risk profile for the organization
·       Typically a remote resourcing model with flexible pricing that should include shared savings back to the health system, with needs scoped and rebalanced monthly or quarterly

What’s Working
One Pivot Point Consulting client had a robust pipeline of projects planned for 2020, but when COVID-19 hit, they shifted focus to finish existing initiatives and respond to COVID-19. They sought to keep their internal team on COVID-19 efforts, so they partnered with Pivot Point Consulting to architect a managed services solution for ongoing initiatives which allowed their team to stay heads-down on mission critical work and be more strategic. With a small financial investment, and minimal impact on their day-to-day team, they were able to significant expand the capability of their HIT team in a challenging pandemic environment.
Another IT department, excelled at core IT work, but was not as strong in newer, innovative technologies, advanced analytics and AI.  Staff augmentation proved to be a great fit.  Within just a few weeks, Pivot Point Consulting, provided a team of dedicated experts who servd as players/coaches and, ultimately, handed work off to the internal team after establishing a solid project foundation.
For another organization, we tracked utilization to project demand. We were able to calibrate and pass along resource savings to our client – shifting resources around and sharing an expensive labor pool as part of a managed services solution – to enable them to get access to the right resources they needed when they needed them most which offers an efficient alternative to “hire + fire.” It also ensures value back to the client through resource rebalancing and shared savings contractual arrangements.
Start Small, Big Results
Staff augmentation and managed services do not need to be big, expensive or disruptive. It is important to have a measured, intentional approach that begins with identifying a problem you want to solve and starting with a pilot or limited deployment. This approach is lower risk and provides for managing change, performance and overall cultural fit.
One client sought Pivot Point Consulting resources to focus on optimization requests. We provided a team of highly-qualified analysts who delivered a massive and rapid (30-60 day) return on their investment, which lead to broadening of the resourcing partnership. Another organization initially sought managed services resourcing talent from to resolve a backlog of 400+ requests. After demonstrating immediate value, they expanded managed services to include strategy and leadership work, driving enhanced value through outcomes attainment and process improvement.
Re-imagine Resourcing
COVID-19 has increased comfort and trust in new, often remote, resourcing models. As the pandemic forced most everyone to work from home, healthcare IT leaders embraced remote work across large swaths of their teams, both FTE and consultant, reducing on-site activities to those maintaining physical hardware and clinical devices.
Resourcing models need to be re-imagined to fit today’s dynamic needs and evolving skillsets. If the industry can take any positive learnings away from the pandemic, one is that healthcare IT can sustain, and in fact benefit from, new ideas in how we resource teams, address an ever-escalating demand for expert knowledge, and continue to provide safe and effective platforms for patient care. Managed services, in particular, is well-positioned to rise to this challenge and evolve the healthcare IT resourcing market for the better.
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