Project Management Part I: What It Is
Healthcare information systems projects are complex and multifaceted and require detailed planning and project management. As the clinical informatics specialist, analysis or systems trainer you may find yourself unexpectedly thrown into the project manager role without benefit of previous experience or knowledge. As the nurse manager, supervisor, director or chief nursing officer you may be asked to take on the role of "project manager" for the implementation of a new information system or clinical application. If that is your current reality or potentiality, I hope you find this blog topic of interest.
Project Management Basics
A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) defines a project as "a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service." A project has a specific beginning and end as opposed to ongoing operations.
Ideally every project results in a "deliverable", a tangible product or service intended as the ultimate goal of the project. The "deliverable" could be the implementation of a Barcode Medication Administration System or the successful Go Live of a clinical documentation module. You may also hear "deliverables" plural, used to refer to tasks that someone is responsible for, as in: "The project consultant's deliverables are to 1) act as a subject matter expert and 2) ensure discipline specific domain knowledge is included in the project."
A project milestone differs from a deliverable in that a milestone marks a point in time (or a measurement) of progress toward a goal. In a healthcare information systems project the "milestone" could be the project plan was completed on January 21. The deliverable would be the actual project plan.
To be avoided at all costs and as insidious as a scabies infestation is scope creep. Many a project failure can be attributed to a project that extended outside its intended boundaries or "scope." With complex healthcare information systems projects that threaten not to achieve deliverables or meet milestones how can such risks as scope creep, running over budget or out of time, within the constraints of limited resources be avoided?
The Project Manager
Yes, much is placed on the shoulders of the person assuming the role of project manager. More than a manger of the numerous tasks that make up a complex healthcare information systems project, the Project Manager is a leader, a facilitator and frequently one of the keys to a successful project completion.
Next, Project Management, Part II - What Works