The Secrets to Avoiding EMR Project Phase Overlap

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The Secrets to Avoiding EMR Project Phase Overlap
January 15, 2019

Let’s Talk About EMR Project Phases.

Typical EMR project plans might include the following phases: planning, design, build, testing, training, and activation.

Of course, there is no one size fits all rule for determining project phases.

Some Project Managers will add additional phases as needed, such as “Equipment” or “Technical,” and that is perfectly normal. Each PM can choose to organize his/her project according to phases that make sense for that project and that PM. As long as each phase enables you to keep your project better organized and running smoothly, we say go for it!

But What Happens When Phases Begin to Overlap?

Unfortunately, “phase overlap” can become a problem in many EMR projects. Phase overlap occurs when you rush to start a new phase even though the prior phase is still incomplete. For example, imagine if you fell behind during the Build phase, but decided to start the Testing phase. Would you really want to test a system that isn’t fully built? Some PMs feel pressured to do just that!

Why Do Phase Overlaps Occur?

Some of the causes of phase overlap are:

– A Project Manager neglects to incorporate slack time into the plan
– A vendor delays delivery of certain software or a bug fix is needed
– More issues occur than expected

How to Handle Phase Overlap.

Having some practical methods for dealing with phase overlap can spare you from unforeseen problems and allow you the flexibility you need to comfortably navigate through unexpected issues. Use these tips and tricks for eliminating complications from phase overlapping.

1. AVOID ANNOUNCING THE ACTIVATION DATE TOO EARLY. Don’t publicize your go-live date to the entire community when you kick off the project. Instead, announce that you’ll go live in the summer of 2020, or the fourth quarter of 2021. You and your executive team should avoid announcing an exact date until you are absolutely sure you can deliver on that date.

2. MAKE ROOM FOR BUFFER AND PRODUCTIVE TIME. Build in a buffer for each phase by budgeting people at 32 hours of productive work per week instead of expecting a pace of 40-50 hours.

3. DEFINE PHASE COMPLETIONS. Clearly define what constitutes the end of each particular phase and don’t deviate. For example, it isn’t good enough to simply say that the design phase ends on November 15. You need to clarify that the design phase is over when 100% of all design documents have been signed off.

4. PHASE CELEBRATIONS. Schedule a celebration at the end of each phase to acknowledge the milestone. This lets your entire team know that their hard work is appreciated and can keep momentum strong for reaching future goals on time.

5. THINK TWICE ABOUT OVERLAP. Think very carefully before you decide to start a phase prior to a former phase reaching completion. Why would anyone want to start building when the design hasn’t finished? Or start testing when the building is still going on? The answer is, you don’t – but even the most well-intentioned leaders will convince themselves that they have no choice in order to stay on target. Don’t fall into this trap. We’re not saying that it should never happen—but it can put a lot of pressure on your team to play catch up. So, think carefully before moving full speed ahead.

We know that most of these may seem like simple suggestions. Keep in mind, however, that many projects get away from even the best Project Managers. Atlanticon approaches each client and project uniquely—we try to build in safeguards to help keep projects on track. While nothing ever guarantees perfect success, these simple tips can make a big difference in the long run.

Even if you have a skilled Project Manager leading your important project, Atlanticon offers Project Oversight to help you hedge your bet. With Project Oversight, we assign a highly skilled PM to your organization. We help your Project Manager strategize about every phase, provide guidance and tools to help you succeed, visit periodically to ensure an unbiased set of eyes helps monitor progress, and we’re available for phone calls as your sounding board.

If you would like to discuss Phase Overlap in greater detail or need an experienced Project Manager for your EMR project, please reach out to us at

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