Successful Collaboration in Welfare and HealthTech Projects. - Sigma IT Successful Collaboration in Welfare and HealthTech Projects.
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Welfare AND HEALTHTECH Projects

Insights from Welfare and HealthTECH Experts on Creating Truly Needed Solutions

In today’s society, the public sector plays a pivotal role in providing a wide range of social services and healthcare. Designing, implementing, and maintaining solutions in these areas require high technical competence, a in-depth understanding of the beneficiaries’ needs, and strict adherence to regulations. This article examines the challenges and specific characteristics of working on projects within the welfare and healthtech sectors.

First-hand insights

We interviewed our Sigma IT Poland colleagues about their welfare industry experiences. Below, we present their observations to understand better what to focus on in such projects and what factors influence the innovation and engagement of the project team. It’s undoubtedly a mix of specific technical skills with flexibility, agility, and open communication. We spoke with individuals fulfilling various roles in the project, from Scrum Masters to Software Developers to Quality Assurance Testers. 

Agile: Always Feasible?

The development of technology and changing societal needs result in a constant demand for innovative solutions in healthcare and social care. However, working on projects in the public sector entails a unique set of challenges that must be considered at every implementation stage. From the specificity of medical standards to the need for close collaboration with the client, every aspect of projects related to welfare and healthcare requires special attention and dedication.

Challenges of Multistakeholder Projects in the Public Sector

By analyzing various aspects of work in the public sector, including norms and regulations, stakeholder communication, and solution adaptation in different markets, this article aims to familiarize the reader with the specifics and challenges of designing and implementing social services and healthcare in the public sector. In the following sections, we will present a detailed analysis of individual topics, conclusions, and future perspectives for professionals working in these areas.

Navigating Challenges in Welfare Projects

Projects in the welfare industry often entail collaboration with the public sector, presenting a unique set of challenges that demand careful navigation and adaptability. Compared to other industries, the public sector often operates at a different implementation pace, which can be less agile than private sector projects. 

Precise Documentation in Agile Environments

Precise documentation is a cornerstone requirement from the outset, with a strong emphasis on meeting specific standards and regulations. 

GRZEGORZ WIETRZYŃSKI — TEST AUTOMATION ENGINEER

Compared to other industries, projects in the welfare field differ mainly due to each country’s specific requirements and legal frameworks. For example, when working on a project for a Swedish client, we must operate according to Swedish law and ensure compliance with local standards of care. This can be challenging for individuals outside the country who must understand this social and legal context. Consultants from outside Sweden often need help to adapt to local norms and expectations, which come naturally to Swedish employees. Differences in terminology and the roles played by different individuals in the work process may be a matter of understanding for those outside the culture. (…)

Of course, everything is mainly based on Swedish law, which means that documentation and terminology are in Swedish. This poses an additional challenge for those unfamiliar with the language. Although translation tools are available, crossing this entry threshold and delving into the subject can take time and effort.

RAFAŁ CHRAMĘGA — SENIOR FULL-STACK DEVELOPER

Let’s say someone wanted to input a prescription and its dosage for a specific person into an application, but something went wrong, and it got recorded with errors. Later, when someone else notices this gap, it might be too late to provide proper assistance. This illustrates that precision and accuracy are crucial here. It’s about people’s health and lives; there’s no room for ambiguity. This is precisely what was said: Every industry is important, but here, we deal with something more direct that explicitly impacts human life and health. This becomes particularly evident towards the end of the process. 

Reliability and Security of Systems Come First

Quality assurance prioritizes the reliability and security of systems, which is particularly crucial when handling significant volumes of sensitive data. Workshops are often necessary to grasp the intricacies of the project scope and objectives thoroughly.

RAFAŁ CHRAMĘGA — SENIOR FULL-STACK DEVELOPER

In the case of welfare software, there’s sometimes a part of the system that requires special procedures. If we make any changes, we must conduct local tests to ensure everything works correctly. We also need to prepare appropriate documentation for this part of the system, which meets our internal requirements and the standards imposed by the state. After completing these steps, we must present our solution to the client. Together, we review the system, ensuring it meets all requirements and expectations. This is particularly important in the case of systems related to life and health, where even the smallest errors can have serious consequences.

Ensuring Effective Communication Among Multiple Stakeholders

The welfare industry projects often involve multiple stakeholders. Decision-making processes tend to be slower, and direct interaction with end clients is limited, necessitating effective communication channels with intermediaries.

SEBASTIAN STEFANIAK — SENIOR SOFTWARE ENGINEER

CERTAINLY, OPENNESS, COMMUNICATION, AND FLEXIBILITY IN ACTION ARE IMPORTANT. IN THIS PROJECT, WE ARE NOT RIGIDLY ASSIGNED TO SPECIFIC ROLES – WE CAN NOTICE A NEED AND SUPPORT AT EVERY PROJECT STAGE.

This gives us a sense that every contribution matters and that we can move forward together. Additionally, the work culture within our team is crucial. Ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to express their ideas and that we feel treated equally are elements that are particularly important to us. Despite all of us working remotely, each from a different location, we are quite close-knit and collaborate well. (…)
 
Everything falls into place when a team is well-matched, communicates effectively, and participates in explanatory workshops specific to the industry. Everyone knows what to do and fulfills their role. However, unresolved issues resonate more strongly when difficulties arise and problems become more visible. Therefore, it is important for everyone to have the opportunity to speak up and for us to feel treated fairly.

“IN THE HEALTHTECH SECTOR, YOU CAN’T JUST SOLVE PROBLEMS ALONE. EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION BETWEEN PRODUCTION, DEVELOPERS, AND TESTERS IS NECESSARY.”

TOMASZ GRZEGOLEC — SENIOR SOFTWARE ENGINEER
TOMASZ GRZEGOLEC — SENIOR SOFTWARE ENGINEER

In the healthtech sector, you can’t just solve problems alone. Effective communication between production, developers, and testers is necessary. It’s not about being a super hyper programmer who can write 300 lines of code in 10 minutes. What counts is openness and willingness to cooperate. These are some of the most important qualities. 
 
Simply sitting alone and writing code isn’t enough. Activity is crucial, especially in projects with clients from Sweden, where they appreciate collaboration. In the healthtech industry, you need help to solve problems because the process is complex and requires understanding both the technical and business aspects. It involves many questions and meetings before writing code and continuing discussions during this process. Openness and willingness to cooperate are crucial for success in this field.

ALICJA SZYMURA — TEST ENGINEER

Thanks to our well-coordinated team, we created a friendly work environment where everyone could feel comfortable, even those more introverted. No one must be afraid to express their ideas, which is crucial to avoid communication barriers and ensure effective collaboration. Our dedication to the project was evident to the client, allowing them to feel our passion and commitment to the work. Partnering with the client was crucial because they knew the end user’s needs best, enabling us to tailor the application to their expectations. This open communication enabled us to create an application that met the clients’ and end user’s expectations, which was crucial for an application dedicated to specific needs.

IN YOUR CASE, WHAT THREE FACTORS HAVE MOST HELPED IMPROVE COMMUNICATION WITH THE CLIENT ON WELFARE INDUSTRY PROJECTS?

Building trust: Consistently building a relationship based on trust with the client through transparency and regular project progress updates. Active participation in discussions: Not limiting oneself to performing tasks but actively participating in discussions, sharing opinions, and proposing innovative solutions. Proposing solutions and providing feedback: Being an initiator of ideas and suggestions that can bring value to the project, demonstrating initiative and engagement in the creation process.

PROJECT TEAM MEMBER

More Than Excellent Coding Skills

Our colleagues stand out not only for their coding, testing, and project management skills but also for their empathy and problem-solving abilities. Developers understand that our work isn’t just about writing lines of code; it’s about listening to the needs of our clients and finding solutions that truly make a difference in their lives. This empathetic approach allows us to navigate complex dependencies and collaborate effectively with stakeholders at every level, ensuring that our solutions address real-world needs with precision and compassion.

TOMASZ GRZEGOLEC — SENIOR SOFTWARE ENGINEER

People outside the project often have misconceptions about its nature. They think that coming here, they’ll only be programming, whereas the reality is quite different. While I do spend some time coding, discussions are equally important. Some people came in thinking they would immediately start coding, but instead, we spent three days discussing requirements. This is characteristic of these projects because understanding the business and processes is crucial. It’s not just about building an online store or an app, but also about understanding social aspects, such as application procedures and waiting for responses. Each stage is interconnected so that everything can be completed. That’s what creates this complex, interrelated system. (…)

I’ve learned here how to collaborate with people. Previously, I was an independent programmer. I’d get a task, chop, and do the task. But here, there’s a lot of communication with people. This is critical because you need to know how to work with them. And be open. Above all, you can’t just be the captain, crew, and vessel in these types of tasks because you can’t do it alone, unfortunately. 

“When you have truly well-matched teams, are well-led, and are participating in introductory workshops, everything starts to fall into place, and there are virtually no problems. Everyone knows what to do because they know their role and contribution to the project.”

Sebastian Stefaniak — Senior Software Engineer 

What aspects of our collaboration in this welfare project are worth transferring to other projects because they have proven highly effective?

Building trust: The foundation of any successful project is building solid trust with the client. This approach is worth transferring to other projects, as it is the basis for long-term and fruitful cooperation. Team integration and onsite meetings: Regular meetings and team integration in reality, not just virtually, significantly improve communication, understanding, and work efficiency. Such actions contribute to a better understanding of the client’s organization and its needs. Understanding the client’s organization as a whole: In addition to performing specific tasks, it’s important to understand the functioning of the client’s organization in a broader context, allowing for a transition from a subcontractor role to a business partner. Striving for Win-Win-Win situations, where benefits are derived by the client, their clients, and us as the provider, is a strategy that works well in various projects and industries.

PROJECT TEAM MEMBER

“If I were to point out a desirable trait of individuals working on such a project, it would be curiosity. It’s important to see the whole picture in each application fragment to understand dependencies and capture even the most specific cases and scenarios.”

Grzegorz Wietrzyński — Test Automation Engineer

Focus on Accessibility Standards

The stringent requirements for testing and detailed project documentation are complemented by a focus on accessibility standards, such as WCAG 2.1, ensuring digital inclusivity and compliance.

ALICJA SZYMURA — TEST ENGINEER

We were developing an application for people receiving social care. The application helped track the specialist’s visits for people needing assistance. The group of people who could benefit from this convenience could also be different in age terms, so we needed to keep that in mind and ensure that the application is user-friendly and inclusive. The accessibility aspect was crucial here. (…)  It was important for the application to be simple and clear, without excessive complexity. We consider whether the features were clear and whether the user could easily understand the purpose of each interface element, such as buttons. 

PATRYK ZARĘBA — SCRUM MASTER

Accessibility in the digital realm, particularly in the context of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), is not just about convenience but primarily about equal opportunity. It’s an approach that considers the diversity of users, including those with various needs, abilities, and limitations, such as visual impairments. Therefore, working to meet these requirements, whether through supporting voice commands or other available solutions, is incredibly important. Developing products to be accessible to all is a key step in building a more inclusive digital environment. While fully meeting these requirements is a process, it’s important that we strive for it and continually improve our products for all users.

Meeting Stringent Medical Standards

Adhering to stringent medical standards is paramount in developing healthcare applications and devices. As Grzegorz Wietrzyński — Test Automation Engineer, highlighted, even seemingly simple applications can fall under medical device class standards, triggering a cascade of rigorous regulations. These standards necessitate meticulous attention to detail in every development aspect, from initial design to testing phases. While a particular product may not be as complex as a surgical robot, the safety, efficacy, and reliability requirements remain just as stringent. Compliance with these standards ensures patients’ and healthcare professionals’ utmost quality and safety.

Currently, I am transforming an older part of the application, which is written in outdated technology. One of the modules related to medical care must meet medical standards. Although this is the lowest class, requirements must be met, necessitating a specific software development method. Releasing subsequent versions of the application into production requires steps different from other applications, where we often deal with fixes or adding new features. It may not be software for a surgical robot, but it is still subject to certain requirements. 

Grzegorz Wietrzyński — Test Automation Engineer

It was also important to ensure the security of personal data, so we implemented a token expiration mechanism that log out users after a specific time of inactivity to protect their privacy.

ALICJA SZYMURA —TEST ENGINEER

Data Security: Boundaries and Anonymization

Data security requirements are paramount in our work, often dictating strict limitations on employees’ physical locations. With regulations like GDPR in place, ensuring data confidentiality is non-negotiable, necessitating rigorous measures like anonymization during testing, given the sensitive nature of the information our system handles, including health and financial data.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT REQUIRING NUMEROUS NEGOTIATIONS IN CREATING SOFTWARE-SUPPORTING SOLUTIONS IN THE WELFARE INDUSTRY?

Implementing complex business processes: The greatest challenge is developing and implementing complex business processes specific to the welfare industry and local legal regulations. Ensuring data security and privacy: In the welfare industry, where sensitive data is often handled, ensuring its security and privacy is crucial and requires a careful approach.

WHAT SKILLS/TRAITS DO YOU CONSIDER ESSENTIAL FOR DEVELOPERS WORKING ON PROJECTS IN THE WELFARE INDUSTRY?

Advanced technical knowledge: Developers should have an in-depth understanding of technology to effectively implement solutions specific to the welfare industry, maintaining a high level of quality. This allows for creating solutions that, beyond meeting functional requirements, maintain proper performance and are less costly to maintain (higher quality in development = fewer production problems). Understanding of business processes and customer behavior: Analytical skills and adaptation to end-user behaviors are important, requiring knowledge of the specifics of the welfare industry. Open communication and language fluency: Developers must communicate effectively in an international environment, often requiring fluency in English to accurately clarify business needs.

PATRYK ZARĘBA — SCRUM MASTER

Data security requirements are typically very high. For example, there are restrictions on the physical location of employees – specifically, employees must be in Poland or Sweden. There have been cases where we had to end cooperation with valuable employees from other parts of the world who wanted to work remotely from outside those locations. 
 
A rigorous approach to data confidentiality, stemming from regulations like GDPR, means that data anonymization is required during tests conducted on client databases. This is important, especially since our system stores information regarding highly sensitive health data or financial information.

Balancing Rigidity and Adaptability

In public sector projects, the clash between rigid requirements and the need for flexibility is a constant challenge. Regulations and changes, often occurring at the turn of the year, demand swift adaptation. Whether it’s tax adjustments impacting calculations in applications or changes in support amounts, the ability to respond rapidly is essential. Balancing adherence to regulations with the agility to accommodate shifts ensures projects remain compliant and effective in serving their purpose.

RAFAŁ CHRAMĘGA — SENIOR FULL-STACK DEVELOPER 

In welfare projects, we deal with people’s lives and health. The state won’t regulate the specifics of delivering flowers from an online florist but will regulate systems to ensure citizens’ safety. Some parts of these systems must adhere to specific state standards. You can only offer services that meet these requirements. Otherwise, you may face penalties. Though it may sound absurd, it’s the reality. There are situations where failure to meet requirements can lead to serious consequences, including legal issues. 

GRZEGORZ WIETRZYŃSKI — TEST AUTOMATION ENGINEER

A part of the application we are working on calculates taxes, and these rules change every year. We need to update and test this part of the application at the end of the year when new rules come into effect to avoid errors in tax calculations. This is critical because errors can have serious financial consequences for users. We need to be ready to react quickly when official documents are published.

PATRYK ZARĘBA — SCRUM MASTER

Working in the public sector brings challenges different from those in the business sector. We’ve experienced challenges related to flexibility and speed of action. Public organizations must often operate according to established procedures and regulations, which can be more restrictive than the private sector. Adapting to changing conditions and technologies while complying with legal and procedural requirements is necessary.

Summary

Modern software projects in welfare/healthtech sector go far beyond just coding. They require understanding users’ needs deeply, which helps solve problems and ensures a strong sense of responsibility. Mistakes can have serious consequences, so precision is crucial. Our projects show the importance of teamwork and cooperation. Communicating openly and considering different viewpoints can create innovative solutions that truly help users.

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