The push to CloudSuite Financials – how an Infor customer and partner passed their go-live test

SUMMARY:

This CloudSuite Financials use case tells the story of an Infor customer (Palos Health) and partner (Avaap consulting) that pulled off a high-pressure go-live. Together, they told me how they got it done.

From left – Russell and Goldstein at Inforum

Some clichés are the flat-out truth. Such as: “Your ERP project will only be as successful as your partner relationship.” That holds true even if we get fancy and start talking cloud ERP.

Despite that truth, it’s rare to score a frank sit down with the customer and partner.

But at Inforum 2017, I seized that chance, with CloudSuite customer Palos Health and implementation partner Avaap Consulting.

Given that CloudSuite is Infor’s go-to product line where the sexiest stuff will be happening (such as Coleman AI), we need to hear from customers.

Palos Health is now five weeks after their CloudSuite Financials and Supply Management go-live. Just like any go-live, issues came up, and relationships were put to the test. During my talk with Roger Russell,  VP of  Finance at Palos Health, and Adam Goldstein, VP Products and Services for Avaap Consulting, I learned the keys to their go-live success, and what they overcame along the way.

“A high percentage of hospitals have a negative bottom line”

Palos Health has provided inpatient and outpatient care to Chicago’s southwest suburbs since the early 1970s. I asked Russell: has the pace of change impacted Palos Health’s mission of “compassionate care”?

We’ve redesigned how we’re delivering care. We opened an imaging center that’s low cost, high quality. We take people out of the four walls of the hospital, where there’s a few thousand dollar MRI cost, and put them into a low-cost MRI setting, because that’s what patients are looking for now.

Yes, it’s the continual pursuit of efficiency. It’s also about bringing care closer to patients:

They’re looking for the storefront MRIs, and we’ve opened a site up just for that. So we’re trying to redesign how we’re delivering care away from the hospital setting.

Increased costs and decreased reimbursements have upped the pressure: “A high percentage of hospitals have a negative bottom line.” That was the driver behind Palos’ go-live on Epic hospital systems a year ago, and now with CloudSuite.

The financial software imperative – “we were doing everything on paper”

So why did Palos need a new financial system? Short answer: too much paper, and no automation.

We didn’t even have open enrollment online. We were doing everything on paper. We had no automation. We couldn’t produce reports quickly. We didn’t have accurate data. We couldn’t get discounts on paying invoices.

And why did CloudSuite Financials stand out from the pack? Ease of use was a big factor:

The look and feel made a huge impression… the ease of invoicing. You don’t have to really remember things. There’s a flow to it. On the left side, you can use your drop down, and what role do you want to be? An AP clerk can be an AP clerk, but someone who’s maybe a director has multiple roles. They might need to be an inventory person. They might need to be purchasing. They might need to be contracting. Infor has the roles that make it easier to follow.

Cloud was a consideration also, though Russell made clear this was separate than the software assessment:

I keep them separate. They’re very, very different. The cloud, for me, was the fact that we did not have to train people to support the system. That’s a huge thing. I’ve worked for entities where I’ve had IT report to me. I’ve had to have a DBA. I’ve had to worry about backups. I’ve had to worry about putting in fixes.

I’ve had to worry about doing upgrades. And we wanted it off our plate. We wanted the IT people to help us redefine processes and do improvements and not worry about applying the cumulative updates.

Bringing Avaap Consulting on board

At Inforum 2016, Russell’s team talked to a number of implementation partners. One of them was Avaap Consulting. Avaap’s aggressive investment in CloudSuite 11 expertise stood oout:

Going into this, I knew there weren’t a lot of places, if any, that had Version 11 experience yet. But we knew Avaap did.

Russell was determined to have the go-live done before this year’s Inforum:

I think we all felt the drive and the excitement. We wanted to be here a year later and be live on Version 11. That was the goal, and we did accomplish it.

They proved the skeptics wrong:

We had many, many people say, “You’re not going to do it. You’re not gonna make it.” It’s hard to get a new system put in. It’s hard to get a system in that’s been around and implemented other places, let alone something that has not been implemented. We were the first healthcare company to go live on Version 11.

Palos Health went live on CloudSuite on June 31. So how did they pull it off?

You can get this done in nine months – that’s my opinion. As long as you have a dedicated, focused team with the same outcome in mind, and everybody driving to the same mission.

Project lessons – clean  your data, and clean it again

Russell shared tips for other companies:

  • Go the extra mile to clean your data – “Even though we thought we cleaned our data, we still had duplicate items, and they came out after we went live.”
  • If you’re also implementing HR, don’t isolate the teams – “We selected Infor because it’s an integrated system. But we’ve set up our implementation teams to be kind of separate. That’s probably something I’d go back and rethink a little bit.” (Palos Health’s CloudSuite HCM project is ongoing).
  • Make change management easier with intuitive training – To get users up to speed, Russell’s team designed online training that mimicked something they know well: Amazon.com. “Everybody orders things online. That was the big differentiator – how we communicated it. And then when they saw it, it’s easy-to-do things. The templates, the punch outs, your preferences, they’re all there.”
  • Put extra thought into your workflow design – CloudSuite offers plenty of chances to automate workflows, but you should design them carefully. Working with Avaap, Russell’s team designed an approval structure with five different levels. They were careful not to bother employees with approval workflows unless the approvals couldn’t be automated. Russell: “They loved they could do it from their phones. You literally could click on it and say ‘approved’…  In all honesty, it’s gone real well.”

I asked Goldstein: from the partner side, any lessons to add? He cited these:

Plan for backfilling, and be adaptable – Russell did the so-called “best practice” – he put his best people on the project. That requires flexibility as these folks juggle roles. To handle this, Goldstein advises “upfront communication – otherwise timelines slip.” He also credits Palos Health’s “executive leadership buy-in” with expediting project decisions. Goldstein factors in vendor responsiveness: Infor turned help tickets around quickly, avoiding costly delays.

The wrap – putting relationships to the go-live test

Just like any go-live, pressure points put relationships to the test. Russell gave one deceptively simple – but stressful – example: they had an EDI glitch that temporarily baffled. Turns out the answer was a simple code change to address EDI processing windows. But fixing it meant all hands on deck until the culprit was found. Infor turned the fix around: “We went live on a Thursday, and we had the fix in on Friday.”

Russell and Goldstein both mentioned calling each other out, something they can laugh about in retrospect. Russell:

The open and honest dialogue is key. We talked at various times of the day and night and on the weekends. When we saw a problem, or something going down a different path, we’d talk about it. We’d make a change.

Russell knows that go-live is just the beginning:

We didn’t go into this with our eyes closed and being naive, thinking we would not have issues… This was a collaboration. It was sitting down at the table and prioritizing. We’re five weeks past go-live and even today, we are prioritizing our issues, and working together to solve them.

We will always have a list of items to work on. If we’re not, we’re not evolving.

It’s too soon after go-live for an ROI discussion – hopefully we can revisit that next year. For now, Russell is pleased Palos Health has been able to deliver the caliber of health care they are committed to – without systems interruption.

During the keynote, we learned that Avaap Consulting now has 50+ CloudSuite Financials deals in the pipeline. I asked Goldstein about this sales traction. He credits the flexibility of the new general ledger, and the “usability of the system across the board.”  Sounds like we’ll have more go-lives to dig into soon.

Image credit - photo of Russell and Goldstein by Jon Reed.

Disclosure - Infor is a diginomica premier partner. Infor covered the bulk of my travel expenses to attend Inforum 2017.