Do you remember ‘Dug’? He’s the dog from the kids movie Up. Dug was easily distracted by squirrels, taking him off-conversation and off-course. We too can become distracted by the ‘squirrels’ in our lives; I know I’m prone to getting sidetracked unless I have a very clear plan and set guidelines for myself. I’ve also noticed that it is often the same for other busy people.

Red squirrel in autumn with text "Ignore those pesky squirrels!"

The aged care industry is very dynamic at the moment.

There always seems to be something new; a change to the funding structure, another survey that someone wants us to fill out, a new report that needs to be completed, and all this sits alongside the restructure of those policies and new processes that organisations are having to develop that ensures compliance with the new Aged Care Standards.

Yes, all this will eventually make for a better Aged Care sector and improved outcomes for the people who use our services, however the increasing complexity and requirements create a moving playing field for service providers. How can you make good business decisions around purchases or other investments in this situation? It can be difficult, and I’ve noticed that the rapid-fire changes and the uncertainty it brings often leads to ‘analysis paralysis’ and/or buyers remorse.

In the consultancy work that we do here at CDCS, we are often asked to assist with the decision process for purchasing new systems, such as electronic Client Management Systems or when the organisation needs to purchase expensive new equipment or undertake renovations. It’s not that the responsible person doesn’t know what they are doing, but they are often under the pump, trying to juggle a myriad of other competing priorities, and often want a second opinion in case there is something else that is better suited to their needs. What we try to do is not impose our ideas, but help managers to work through a process and a set of questions so that they are comfortable with their choice at the end of the day.

Take for example, the purchase of a new Client Management System. Many organisations have decided that they need to invest in an electronic Client Management System. After all, these can make reporting easier, as well as being more time effective. But which one to choose? There are a large number of them out there.

The answer is the one that suits your organisation best at the time of purchase.

But wading through all the specs, seeing if they meet your needs, considering the privacy issues, understanding the training required now and into the future, it’s a big job. So how do you approach any purchase like this and feel happy with your decision?

The first thing you’re going to need to do is work out exactly what you want from the investment and / or the path you are taking.

This is your ‘end goal’.

Let’s stick with the idea of deciding on the right Client Management System for your organisation.

Do you need to share information with other sites or ensure your information is backed-up offsite? You may want to consider a cloud based system.

Alternatively, are you more concerned about privacy issues? Maybe a standalone system would suit you better.

Then you need to consider the capacity and capability of your current staff. Are they computer literate or, if training is required, do you have the time and capacity to train them?

Where staff don’t have high literacy or you have high staff turnover, you may need to consider a less complex system. You know, sometimes simply staying with a good paper-based system could be the right choice for your particular organisation.

You also need to consider how many clients and/or staff your organisation has.

Again, sometimes, where the organisation is small, investment in a complex, or any electronic Client Management System may be an unnecessary expense. All purchases need to be justified. You can’t afford to be swayed by the bright shiny sales brochure. Is this investment going to make your life easier, more efficient or more effective?

What aspects of management do you want the system to cover?

There is such a wide range of programs out there from very complex programs that cover rostering, care planning, progress notes, gathering of statistical data and generating reports ready for uploading to Government portals or statements for consumers, but is this what you need? While great for larger organisations, I have found many smaller organisations are not using half the functionality of the expensive systems they have invested in. They were distracted by the bright shiny new ‘thing’ and didn’t consider whether they would need these additional features.

Alternatively, I think that sometimes we become so overwhelmed by the choices out there that we end up just picking one at random.

So be very clear about what you want out of any purchase and write it down!

One idea is to create a simple spreadsheet that lists all the features you need from an investment and all the options that are available to you. This is going to make it a lot easier to compare each system or item against one other. If your purchase is to replace an existing system or item, make sure you include what you currently have as well, after all, you want to know how well the new purchase will rate against that.

Once you’ve short listed from brochures or other research, develop your list of questions. These are the questions that you are going to put to every sales person who contacts you, the questions that you will ask of your colleagues in other services who have already invested in the system, or that you will be asking yourself as you review the features of each system.

When you follow a process, when you know that you have asked all the right questions and that you have reviewed the responses, there is less room for buyer remorse. Your decision will have been made based on all the known facts that were available to you at the time.

Now it’s time to get on and implement the system or put the purchase to work for you, and move on.

Don't get distracted by those pesky squirrels!

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