InClinix Operations: Using UX and Human Factors Principles to Transform Operations.
Pharmatech Solutions, which acquired my employer, Real Interface Expert Systems in 2006, was in a state of chaos. It suffered from a plague of ailments, leadership was overly permissive and short term gains were prized over ethical behavior. As the business analyst I was tasked with re-engineering our application for the call center environment. I began by interviewing employees at all levels in the organization, from the executive team, to sales, program management, and the hourly call center staff. That was followed by rapid ethnography: observations of the call center and program management staff as they conducted their daily activities. I also interviewed customers and visited several Investigator sites.
Within weeks I had a firm understanding of the companies business processes, pain points, and issues. As a member of the technical team I focused my findings on the re-engineering effort, but began to share some of the alarming operational “inconsistencies” with the CTO. As my understanding grew, I attempted to share my findings with leadership and began to maintain a list of non-technology improvements.
By 2007 the company was at a crisis point. Sales were down, contracts were being cancelled, and turnover was excessive. The Director of Operations was let go and the executive team approached me to take over. I was the only staff member who understood the business at all levels and who had a ready list of improvements- Thanks to UX and human factors principles and methods!
The methods and principles of UX and human factors extend beyond software, to human systems. They provide a method to understand the complex interactions between people, technology, and culture. Through study and analysis you can quickly absorb a business domain, identify connections, interrelationships and dependencies and formulate hypothetical solutions. Using iterative techniques you can prototype and implement those solutions, then test your hypotheses in the field with minimal investment or risk. Based on the outcomes, you can evolve and expand the solution, or make a course correction. Iterative experimentation (similar to the concepts behind Kaizen) leads to incremental change that can quickly transform an organization.
- Rescued & Restored Failing Operations. Stopped attrition and restructured clinical operations. Created an employee handbook for part time employees, instituted dress codes and standards of professional communication. Drafted professional development plans for each FT employee, updated job descriptions, and created a training budget. Refined workflow processes, defined standards for product deliverables, and clearly defined communication channels. Established a system of promotion from within and created cross-departmental hiring panels to evaluate new hires. Clear tasks and incentives created a system of accountability and pride. Hiring panels increased cooperation between departments and yielded well-vetted candidates. Improved communications & spirit of accountability increased output, removed redundant efforts, and encouraged innovative problem-solving and sound decision making.
- Successfully delivered $11.3 million in Project Revenue in 10 months, the highest in company history. Managed Clinical Operations, Medical Marketing, and Media, Telemedicine Contact Center, and Graphics departments. Directed the activities of 27 full-time, 40+ part time personnel to recruit patients for 28 clinical trials, and 3 medical marketing initiatives: lead generation for medical suppliers and an online pharmacy, and patient management for mail-order cancer screening.
- Leveraged Existing Resources, Technologies to Increase Clinical Recruitment rates by 20%. Established the utilization of disease prevalence mapping and market demography (an existing technology product) as a required first step for all clinical recruitment projects to provide market intelligence for media buying decisions. Improved ad placement increased patient volume. Instituted referral follow up calls as a standard service for all projects to prevent aging and increase enrollment.
- Reduced operational overhead by 15%. Instituted baselines for each product/service and created templates/instructional documentation for project execution reducing the need for custom technology development and subject matter expertise. Created dynamic work teams to increases utilization of experts. Cross trained PT call agents to offset project bottlenecks.
- In 10 months up-sold $4.5 million on existing contracts (3x the up-sell of the previous 12 months). Teamed with marketing and business development to document product standards and improve proposals. Created overall recruitment methodology for Clinical Operations staff, created library of products & services, created mentorship partnerships with long term employees, and created cross-functional teams for each project. Made project managers fluent and confident about product offerings and more likely to identify areas for up-selling. Up-selling comprised 20% of total sales for that period.
- Increased Technology Adoption, Promoted Corporate Communication, Cooperation. Created the company’s first intranet leveraging MediaWiki, free, open source software. The no-cost platform facilitated new employee training, reduced project errors, increased use of technology & empowered staff to make informed decisions.
- Procured Investment Capital, Developed Global Partnerships. Fully documented and presented the operational methodology to potential partners, investors. Presented strategy for operational expansion to potential investors, company received $10 million in funding. Established international relationship with A Plus (formerly NMCT) of Sweden, first joint project to commence in 2009.