When a patient visits a medical facility, they’re likely unaware of the complicated spiderweb of human resources processes, staffing agencies, and scheduling tools employed to ensure enough doctors, nurses, lab technicians, and administrative staff are on-site to care for their needs.
Unlike most workplaces, in healthcare, there often isn’t a single entity responsible for the hiring, scheduling, and management of everyone there that day. Instead, it’s a complicated ballet of permanent staff, rotating personnel, and temporary employees donning their scrubs and attending to patients.
- Significant time savings and increased stakeholder alignment
- Allowed the team to clearly and quickly articulate the product vision
- Aligned teams and enhanced transparency across organization
- Shifted company culture to a more unified process with same approach to product development
AMN Healthcare sits at the nexus of all this, providing a broad array of staffing services and solutions. This runs the gamut from predictive analytics used to determine which staff member is needed for each shift to the telehealth technology that enables patients to be safely seen during a pandemic.
AMN built up this broad portfolio over the years via organic growth and many acquisitions. And while their wide variety of offerings is a significant selling point to healthcare organizations, it also created a complicated legacy of inherited processes, terminology, and artifacts impeding their opportunity to leverage that scale fully.
Even though all AMN’s divisions sit under the same roof, they weren’t speaking the same language or taking full advantage of their combined workforce and resources. Each area had its approach to product development, doing things their own way with no unified process.
As the organization grew and evolved, the lack of comprehensive product-oriented oversight resulted in a fractured, tunnel-vision approach to AMN’s products, with no visibility and alignment across teams. Courtney Freitag, a senior product manager in AMN’s IT Digital Solutions department, had a front-row seat to this dilemma.
She and her team were in the middle of building a brand-new, internal-facing application impacting 1,000 employees – including recruiters, account managers, and analysts. But many of her colleagues were concurrently working on external solutions sold as subscriptions to healthcare organizations and related businesses.
All these initiatives rolled up under the “2.0” banner in a concerted effort in place to rebuild from scratch internal software that was 10-20 years old in some cases, affecting up to 12 different departments.
“Everyone had their own idea, but they couldn’t be collapsed into a comprehensive view. We needed to show execs why and how those activities align.”
“We had a high level of understanding but no correlation across the teams,” Freitag said. “There were so many projects and teams solving similar problems.” Instead of proactive, top-down strategic execution, people tended to learn things after the fact via word of mouth. AMN tried holding internal, four-hour-long sessions where everyone presented their own roadmaps, but the results were disappointing. Each presenter used their style and terminology in inconsistently formatted PowerPoints, documents, and spreadsheets.
In February 2020, AMN Healthcare made a significant organizational change. Product-focused staff was pulled out of the various lines of business and joined forces to form an organized product team. For most, this was more than just a change in management or title. Many in the organization had no established culture of building product roadmaps or project plans.
The training and education for this new group started at the fundamentals, beginning with defining what “product” even means compared to their usual projects. The lack of a shared vocabulary was a common theme.
“Everyone had their own idea, but they couldn’t be collapsed into a comprehensive view. We needed to show execs why and how those activities align,” Freitag said. “We had many discussions around what’s considered a feature versus an epic versus a story versus an OKR (Objectives and Key Results).”
To facilitate this shift in product management, the staff also needed proper product tools.
Benefits: Saving time and creating consistency
Freitag led the charge to find a better product roadmapping solution.
“I like to be very organized, and I need to know what’s going on,” Freitag said. “I need an actual tool to go back and see these are the things we’re working on.”
After evaluating a few options, Freitag quickly zeroed in on ProductPlan as an ideal solution for their situation, citing the AzureDevOps and Jira integration as key selling points. “ProductPlan helped us realize how messy we were,” Freitag said. “It made me feel so much more organized, prepared, and ready.”
“It would probably take me five months to gather all the information to figure out which features and functionality we’re building that would impact a strategic goal, now it takes me seconds.”
She continued to drive ProductPlan adoption, getting buy-in and approval from stakeholders and bringing in the ProductPlan Customer Success team for an executive presentation. Now that product staff across the company use ProductPlan, they’re all seeing the positive effects of having a shared, purpose-built roadmapping solution.
“They’ve all found it very beneficial, and they’re using it as a tool for their teams, so they know everything else that’s going on in the company,” Freitag said. Instead of meeting after meeting to provide clarity, stakeholders can now quickly assess the situation and give approvals, “saving us countless hours in our day.” AMN’s product teams also now add more value in meetings and can respond to inquiries with precision.
“Our entire team is way more prepared to answer questions than they’ve ever been before,” Freitag said, adding that Jira integration with ProductPlan means she can instantly share how much progress has been made on individual items. “Now I can clearly say this epic is 68% done.”
Results: Marrying strategy with tactics
Like many organizations, AMN Healthcare had a well-constructed and thoughtful strategy for where it wanted to take its product portfolio. But translating that high-level plan into the hundreds of specific steps required to make it happen was a struggle.
“ProductPlan helped me get everything that’s in my head into a digestible and understandable visual,” Freitag said, adding that they could all now see it one place and identify areas where things might need to shift. “Strategy is doing the right thing in the right order, and ProductPlan has helped give us the visibility to do that.”
Freitag isn’t the only beneficiary either. She’s seeing her fellow product managers and their director and VP-level colleagues also get a much clearer understanding of things.
“It helps align your teams and enhances the transparency across everything, it lets you organize and structure your product roadmap for the next few years.”
“Everybody knew we needed to change. It just took a while for everyone to have that lightbulb moment,” Freitag said, adding that adopting ProductPlan forced the team to discuss product management fundamentals and all get on the same page. “Now they all know what everyone’s up to and the expected outcomes.”
Freitag says that creating five-year roadmaps used to take weeks using spreadsheets, and even then, the output wasn’t easily digestible for the stakeholders who wanted to see it.
“It would probably take me five months to gather all the information to figure out which features and functionality we’re building that would impact a strategic goal,” Freitag said. “Now it takes me seconds.”
Getting to the “why”
In larger organizations, momentum and routine can obscure the underlying rationale for the projects underway. AMN uses ProductPlan to spotlight the desired outcomes and rationale for this work, not just the tactics and execution.
“It gets everything in my brain out into a very digestible picture,” Freitag said. “Being able to articulate my vision and save my sanity makes me feel so much more organized, prepared, and ready.”
With this renewed focus on purpose and expectations, ProductPlan helps AMN connect the dots for each initiative to impact the overall strategy. This ensures everyone knows not only what they’re working on but why it matters.
“It helps align your teams and enhances the transparency across everything,” Freitag added. “It lets you organize and structure your product roadmap for the next few years.”
One recent example of how ProductPlan has transformed AMN’s product culture came at a monthly meeting with the entire product team, CIO, and other executives. They needed to answer a particular question for the CEO, so they used ProductPlan’s filtering to limit the roadmap’s contents to only the relevant information needed for a board-level conversation about how those items linked to their strategic goals.
“It was real information other than our gut feeling,” Freitag said.