Healthcare’s future is called data-driven agile software development

Over the last decade, most healthcare organizations have experienced major change and transformation, involving everything from technology, digital behavior, data, organization and political decisions to budgets, laws, and regulations. As a result, it’s common that the development projects meet new conditions continuously and at a rapid pace. But, when it comes to development models, the less iterative and flexible variants – such as the waterfall model – are still the most frequently used even though they have a hard time keeping up. Many of these models presume that a large part of the preconditions for development work are known well in advance of the start of the project. This has often proved to be an incorrect assumption.

Time to scrap the waterfall model?
As in all industries, healthcare needs to be constantly updated and developed. When running development projects, the so-called waterfall model has been the most common project model for the healthcare industry. The waterfall model is basically a breakdown of project activities into linear sequential phases. Each and every phase depends on the deliverables of the previous one and corresponds to a specialization of tasks. The model tends to be among the less iterative and flexible ones, as progress flows in largely one direction – downward. Hence the name waterfall model.

The reason for why the waterfall model has been the most common project model is not that strange. As most healthcare projects take place after procurements, where a lot of things must be decided in advance, the waterfall model has been the go-to model. The Swedish Public Procurement Act is of course positive from many points of views, such as a free competition and fairness perspective.

But there are two sides to the coin – large public procurements with mega waterfall projects tend to be very difficult and often leads to Big Design Up Front (BDUF). In that software development approach, the program’s design must be completed and perfected even before that program’s implementation has started. And as you probably are aware of, in those kinds of projects, most people want to include as much as possible from the beginning. Which, in the end, can make the project’s success difficult and outdated even before the project has been launched. Instead of betting (and guessing) everything on a “BDUF” launch, the project model trends are moving in another direction where an agile team delivers work in small, yet consumable, steps. Which can be constantly developed and changed as the outside world demands it.

Bringing flexibility to the table
One way to meet the future needs, where new information and updated necessities come in a steady stream, is to find a more innovative way of working with your digital projects. And this is where Agile software development comes in. You may have heard of this before, and most likely you live by it in your everyday life without even thinking about it. In short, this is a methodology that accepts that the conditions are completely or partially unknown. The agile methodologists acknowledge that conditions are changing and developing and support an adaptive planning and evolutionary development.

In a work environment this methodology enables you to work more on a weekly basis and instead deliver frequent updates. For example, every week you can add something new of value that you later (but not too far away) evaluate the success of. This could for instance be updating the project with a new data category, that you realize can support the end result with additional services. Based on how the same new set of data manages to merge with the previous logic, you can see if you are going in the right direction or need to find a new path. In other words, you accept unknown factors and build a development model that works well together with an unknown reality.

10X the innovation within your projects
Working in an agile landscape invites room for innovation and for identifying new solutions or services. And for those who want to 10X the agility and innovational mindset within projects the trend is to boost the projects with a hackathon burst. A hackathon is a design sprint-like event, in which developers, solution architects, data scientists, designers and others involved in software development collaborate intensively on innovative software solutions. The current transition from using former models to agile software development, with occasional additional hackathons, is taking place in many industries­ – and healthcare may very well be one of the most important ones. By using this model your teams deliver value faster and with less headaches. Besides, for the industry of healthcare, which is a world in constant change, this can merely be seen as the only way forward.

Strategic conditions for success
In order for healthcare to succeed in conducting agile software development and administration, several different conditions need to be in place. Let’s go through a couple of the most important ones:

  • People and organization – First and foremost, the organization’s teams must have the right skills and the right conditions need to be in place when it comes to staffing, competence, recruitment, onboarding & coaching.
  • Processes and methods ­­– But also, that there are support processes that enable the team’s skills to be maintained and developed over a longer period. The nature of projects and assignments changes all the time.
  • Development and management – That means that both the team’s competence profile, staffing, work processes and use of technology also needs to be adapted and developed over time. The ability to conduct further development at a high pace combined with responsibility for the ongoing management work and operations is important.
  • Technology – The use of future-proof architectures and platforms that enable new innovative solutions with very high security is an important step forward for healthcare. For new developed technology promotes innovation.
  • Innovation – Healthcare needs the opportunity to be able to work with and drive innovation issues since it’s the key that can move the healthcare forward with the help of technological development and data-driven agile software development.

Boost your current projects
Knowing that there are many possibilities for a greater healthcare is inspiring, yet it can also feel overwhelming. However, the idea of being able to create true impact within people’s lives drives many of us. And the sooner we start trying our ideas out, the sooner the results will come.

If you are ready to see how technology and innovation can boost the solution process of your projects and challenges, you are welcome to sign up for the chance to get an exclusive seat at the 2022 edition of Stratiteq Hack. A hackathon where our developers, business consultants and analytics innovate on your unique real-life challenges, at no cost for you (!). Our sign up period has stopped for now, but follow us on LinkedIn and read here to see when there will be a new opportunity. Good luck!