closeup of hands using a digital tablet for a report
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A few years ago, United Methodist Communities embarked on a digital transformation to improve productivity, drive innovation and improve resident and employee experiences.

Although staff members initially greeted the project with trepidation and fears that technology would replace them, they soon learned that automating mundane tasks left more time with residents and opportunities to pursue their own passions, Chief Information Officer Travis Gleinig explained Wednesday during a LeadingAge membership.

Digital transformation, Gleinig said, is the integration of digital technology throughout an organization. UMC, a New Jersey-based nonprofit, started with a business process analysis and found patterns ripe for process automation and artificial intelligence. The company found a partner to sit down with frontline staff and go through every business process, map out tasks and establish strategies around how to automate and bring the biggest value to the organization.

“No process will be 100% automated, but we want to minimize the amount of human interaction we can where we can, mainly so people can spend more time on the things they love and more time with the residents and higher level things,” Gleinig said. 

Through the business process study, UMC found its medical records software wasn’t going to meet the needs of its digital transformation. As a result, the organization changed its system, which involved transferring almost 100,000 documents and attachments from one system to another. 

The UMC team built a robot to accomplish that task and completed the document transfer within two weeks as opposed to the estimated 30 weeks a manual document transfer process would have taken.

To tackle a digital transformation project, Gleinig said, staff communication and education is key. UMC spent much time informing leadership and staff members working on the project on the technology, its effects, the history of the technology and examples of how it helped other organizations. 

Senior living and care is a human business, he reminded attendees, so using computers to do repetitive, mundane work was good for creating more time for employees to do more important work.

“They are the ones that have the best understanding of workflow and processes,” Gleinig said. “If they understand what’s possible, they’re able to better collaborate and bring ideas to the table.”

Before embarking on a digital transformation project, Gleinig recommended that companies understand the state of their organization, applications, data and core business processes. He also said that it is important to define what an organization is looking to accomplish — whether it’s streamlining business processes, scaling and growing, or cutting costs.

He also said it is important to set realistic expectations and goals.

“There’s no silver bullet,” he observed, adding that sometimes it is necessary to stop and seek additional feedback to reach a breakthrough. “Persistence is also necessary, and trusting the process of going through it.”

He added that a digital transformation project requires a significant investment of both money and time. Some smaller communities might consider a pilot project to determine whether a plan is feasible for an organization to pursue and therefore provide the opportunity to build a business case for the investment.