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The People, Process, Technology Philosophy: How a Spend Management Platform Can Help You Do More with Less

May 31, 2022

As of August 2021, the industry saw a reduced workforce of 3,300 dental hygienists, or 1.6 percent“COVID-19 and the Dental Hygienist”, ADA and ADHA

There’s been a lot of talk of the ‘great resignation,’ and the dental industry has been far from immune, suffering a mass exodus of dental hygienists. And according to Becker’s Dental, it doesn’t seem likely to abate anytime soon as even with significant pay raises, dental offices are still experiencing issues attracting hygiene staff.

Pre-Covid surveys showed one of the primary reasons dental hygienists chose to seek a new occupation was that they didn’t feel valued or respected. A high-stress office environment further contributed to the situation.

It comes as no surprise then that, as we saw at the ADSO summit, the industry is abuzz with talk of the ROI of culture and the need to increase efficiencies so practices can do more with less. Of course, of the employees that do remain, more is being asked of them as responsibilities continue to expand.

As the old saying goes, it’s time to work smarter, not harder. Practice owners must find solutions to alleviate the pressures, improve morale and lower costs.

As we’ve been known to do in the past, we thought it a good time to take a look at the philosophies and practices of neighboring industries to see how practitioners can remove any bottlenecks to increasing productivity so they can effectively function with fewer people.

People. Process. Technology.

Established sometime in the early 1960s, the People, Process, Technology (PPT) framework is used by manufacturers and businesses to improve employee and operational efficiencies. By analyzing and managing how the three elements interact and interplay, you can optimize outcomes by leveraging all three in a balanced manner.

Imagine a three-legged table. Too much or too little of any one leg throws the whole table off-kilter. Although all three—people, process, and technology—play a significant role in accomplishing work, when balanced correctly, together, they achieve more.

Despite technology being often touted as a savior, it is only as effective as the people and processes it is meant to enable. Let us explain.

People on their own are precious, capable, and knowledgeable. However, unlike technology, they are prone to human error and limited by physical capabilities. Without the right processes, employees’ actions can be ineffective. However, automating inefficient processes only serves to compound issues and fails to extract the value technology can bring.

When standardized, processes have the ability to improve the work of many, but if incorrectly designed, they can be overly cumbersome, adding cost and limiting outcomes. Thereby, when it comes to increasing productivity and improving efficiencies, there is no one true hero. The trick is in finding the right balance, using each to enable the effective use of the other.

People

Although we would like to suggest you ensure to have the right people in the positions that best fit their skills, at a time when human resources are scarce, you may have no option but to have people performing tasks they perhaps aren’t best suited for. This makes proper training and culture even more imperative.

Your people should carry the right attitudes and know-how to correctly perform the tasks as laid out by the process and, where possible, enabled by technology. This may require additional training and most certainly requires a supportive culture where employees aren’t resistant to change and lines of communication remain open. Employees should feel comfortable asking questions and requesting help or offering better ways of doing things.

Process

A process is a sequence of actions that produce a specific outcome. It is your “how”—your formula to success if you will. When structured correctly, it should allow you optimal utilization of your people and technology to produce business outcomes. When a process is standardized, meaning it is performed in the same manner by every employee, then, in theory, it should produce consistent results.

While we’re here, let’s take a moment to offer some clarity on how a standard process varies from a ‘best practice.’ A best practice is a widely accepted ‘rule of thumb’ that has proven to be the ‘best’ (safest) way of doing something. A best practice is generally considered to be such because it safeguards against things like fraud, and human propensities.

For example, the three-way match is a best practice where invoice data is validated prior to payment, ensuring you pay for items you ordered at the price you agreed upon and for the quantities you received in good working order.

For more examples of best practices and the benefits they can bring, see:

Now, back to processes. For a process to be effective and adhered to, your employees need to understand the entirety of the process, their role within it, and what they’re expected to achieve. When creating a new process, ensure to involve key stakeholders during the design and review stages—and listen to their feedback. Provide training and, if at all possible, documentation that can later be referred to.

Technology

The technology should enable people to streamline and, wherever possible, automate processes and best practices, eliminating redundancies and reducing opportunities for human error to deliver efficiency. Furthermore, today’s technology can empower data-driven decision-making by aggregating and analyzing large sets of data at a rate of speed humans simply can’t replicate.

It is tempting to look at technology as a fix-all. And in fact, technology does have the power to transform businesses. However, it must always remain in balance, driven by people (with esoteric knowledge, common sense, and experience that technology doesn’t hold) and enabling the right processes.

Simply stated, throwing tech at a problem isn’t necessarily going to fix it. Instead, technology should be seen as a tool, enabling the right people to follow the right processes and making light of heavy work. To ensure the adoption of new systems and optimal utilization, employees must understand the processes, the reasons for them, and what’s in it for them. So ensure to communicate how the tech will make their lives easier and how will it enable better outcomes.

For example, when it comes to buying dental supplies, a spend management program can help your front office staff manage the long list of dental supplies they need to stay on top of. By doing away with the mass of emails, phone calls, supplier websites, and portals they must deal with and streamlining the sourcing and buying process into one platform, you can drastically simplify the buying process and make life easier for all.

Method’s Amazon-like “shopping experience” provides all the information your staff needs at their fingertips, so they can make quicker, smarter buying decisions. With digitized inventory management, they’ll even know when it’s time to order—saving them time and hassle, and you, money. It’s a win/ win.

Communicate the benefits, get their buy-in, and let Method help you transform into a more efficient, well-run practice that employees want to work for and patients continue to trust.

Method, Helping You Transform Your Practice with People, Process, and the Right Technology

Method was developed by people in the industry for the industry. We understand the ins and outs of purchasing dental supplies and the realities of managing and working in a dental practice. We saw the opportunities and have done the leg work of taking a look at the entirety of the procurement lifecycle to see where and how technology could best be utilized to create a more efficient, effective process.

You’ll see the PPT principles evidenced throughout Method. They’re reflected in the dental inventory control methods and procurement analytics that allow you to lean out your inventory and improve your cash flow. The purchase order entry process minimizes time requirements and eases workflow throughout the Procure-to-Pay (P2P) cycle. And the ‘at your fingertips’ market pricing empowers employees to make better, more cost-effective decisions, while the digitized request for quote management process empowers your employees to create a more competitive environment so you can leverage your volumes and attract better pricing.

And because we understand the criticalness of the PPT philosophy and the need for pragmatic solutions, Method’s spend management platform has been designed for ultimate flexibility.

Robust enough for DSOs and flexible enough to suit a single practice, Method allows you to leverage technology in a way that makes sense for your business, so you can find just the right balance of people, process, and technology for ultimate cost savings and efficiency gains.

Ready to do more with less? Contact us to schedule a personalized demo that suits your dental practice’s needs.

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