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MedicAlert EBS implementation helped by 'PUMA' system

MedicAlert set forth a PUMA -- short for Phenomenal Undertaking at MedicAlert -- system to speed along its EBS implementation and get employee buy-in.

MedicAlert Foundation is a nonprofit medical information and identification company and was looking to lift its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system out of the 20th century. In this Q&A with MedicAlert Chief Operating Officer Karen Lamoree, read about MedicAlert's E-Business Suite (EBS) implementation, how it was able to speed deployment and why employees were quoting Tom Hanks and the Seven Dwarfs during the project.

PUMA logo

Can you spell out what your problem was with your legacy platform?

Karen Lamoree: To put it succinctly, the system we had before was created for Y2K, so it had a date on it of 1999. It was a custom-built solution for CRM and it connected to a [Microsoft] Great Plains ERP backend. The integration of those two was actually an 18-hour process. It was comical. You could either cry or laugh. Now we can laugh about it. We had this custom CRM application and we had a call center and would take orders, but when it needed to get into the ERP, it would be an overnight process. It would kick in at 7 p.m. each night and wouldn't finish until 1 or 2 in the afternoon the next day. So that was one of the main objectives was to have a fully integrated front and backend.

What vendors did you look at for your upgrade, and why did you end up choosing Oracle?

Lamoree: We had no preconceived notions and did an extensive, four-month analysis. We looked at more than 30 vendors and had a finals list that included Oracle, SAP, Microsoft and Blackbaud. Oracle Siebel was what we chose for CRM and E-Business Suite for ERP. Siebel could do the traditional CRM for call center and marketing but could also handle the donor management piece for us. We did demoing, we looked at hybrid, integrated, best-of-breed, single vendor, all combinations. We picked Oracle because it's not just ERP, it's CRM as well, and we also got (Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition), and we had a (master data management) component as well.

What challenges did you run into internally in getting this project off the ground and going? From leadership? From employees?

Lamoree: We were changing something where 100% of people here had only known that one system, so yes, there was resistance. They would recognize the faults and lack of capability of the current system but they were reticent about change, just like any organization.  So one of the things we built into the process was cultural change management. There were a couple key things we committed to at the outset and I think it helped make it successful. We made a commitment to communicate -- we had communications plan, a full training plan and also a comprehensive testing plan. The idea was that everyone was involved and communicated with. It wasn't this project off to the side.

We also created what we called PUMA, for Phenomenal Undertaking at MedicAlert. We had a logo and all kinds of tchotchkes for employees. We had a huge timeline board. We have an atrium location in our building where people go in and have lunch, and there was an entire wall with a timeline and milestones that was up there. And we had PUMA sayings. People would take famous sayings and PUMAfy them. We had a picture of Tom Hanks saying, "There's no crying in PUMA!" There was another with the Seven Dwarfs singing, "Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to PUMA we go." So it was all about creating that involvement and making sure everyone knew what was going on.

You used Oracle Business Accelerators to speed up your deployment. What aspects of it did you use, and how exactly did it make it faster?

Lamoree: The Business Accelerators were spearheaded by our platinum partners, which were DAZ Systems and eVerge. DAZ had the ERP side of it and eVerge had the Siebel side of it. The accelerators are used mostly on the ERP side. We had a prescribed program where we did formation activities, and then, during the design stage, we had questionnaires. We did a gap analysis and formed data conversion strategies. This was before anyone did any development at all. Once we did that, the partners took the answers to the questionnaires and ran the setup tool. What the accelerator tool does is based on the answers. They're able to set up the configuration, and that way it was basically a quick start to this.

What's on your wish list for EBS down the road?

Lamoree: We're still having a lot of fun getting in and saying, "Oh, we can do this." We had so many disparate systems, it's just really cool to have everything all integrated. We're just beginning to tap all of the global stuff. There is probably going to be more along those lines, where we can do something that's more integrated.

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What was the timeframe?

We started the four-month analysis in 2011. We kicked off the project in March 2012 and went live in October.

How has it been going since October?

Lamoree: The old system is a distant memory, from the perspective of all the things we weren't able to do. We now have new membership offerings and can get new things into the system quickly. With the old system we had a choice of one service to offer. Now we have five or six. We used to have one membership type what they started with back in 1956 -- the Advantage Membership. Now we have memberships specifically tailored to different needs. We have an essential service for everyone that keeps critical medical information. We have a registry service -- around the world, there is no single location where someone can register if you have a certain disease type or an implant of some kind, and now we can do that and we offer that.

What goals and projects do you have for the rest of 2013 and maybe into 2014?

Lamoree: We have a lot of things planned. Basically one of the other key objectives we wanted to achieve was to expand our global reach and offer a global ID. We have this system that can offer the emergency information and services globally, so we're going to be launching that. We also have new products coming that will integrate with a GPS locator. It's transforming MedicAlert.

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