For most healthcare providers, the pandemic\u2019s early days stretched the limits of their capabilities for care, with many struggling with staffing strategies in response to COVID-19. But for Northwell Health, a major healthcare provider in and around New York City, those initial weeks also stress-tested an ongoing HR system migration, resulting in innovative features the provider hadn\u2019t planned for before the pandemic hit.\nNorthwell\u2019s HR transformation began in early 2018, when the provider sought to replace the PeopleSoft system it used to manage its 74,000 staff providing care in Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens and nearby Westchester.\n\u201cPeopleSoft felt like an end-of-life product that was not meeting our business objectives,\u201d says Elina Petrillo, Northwell\u2019s assistant vice president for HR technology. Among those objectives: to provide a better, self-service experience for staff and management, replete with up-to-date dashboards, extensive and efficient, and capable of providing access to the data it held, making it not just a system of record but a tool for analysis and improvement, she says.\n\u201cWe had brought in another vendor to do an overlay on PeopleSoft to make it more friendly, and made a couple of transactions mobile-aware, but it was still very limited in the number of transactions that you could perform and in the experience itself,\u201d Petrillo says, adding that there also were issues integrating Northwell\u2019s recruitment platform, Taleo, with PeopleSoft.\nDespite the difficulties Northwell was experiencing with PeopleSoft and Taleo, both Oracle products, Northwell chose Oracle\u2019s HCM Cloud as their replacement.\nPetrillo, who has been leading the project, says Northwell\u2019s HR technology team of more than 30 members has partnered with Deloitte to not merely shift existing systems into the cloud, but to transform them.\nDeloitte, which brought in a PMO, IT development, and functional consultants, supplied some change management support in the early months of the project, but as things progressed from mobilization to implementation, Northwell took over that function, as well as representing the business process owners as decisions were made on design. That left Deloitte with a more technical role, and providing additional resources for security, Petrillo says.\nAn early COVID test\nWhen the first wave of the pandemic hit New York in March 2020, hospitals were flooded with COVID cases. Care workers weren\u2019t immune, making it challenging for nursing leadership to understand how many staff were available, and where they were needed.\n Northwell Health\n\nElina Petrillo, assistant vice president for HR technology, Northwell Health\n\n\nNorthwell was basing its staffing decisions on spreadsheets built with numbers pulled from personnel and patient databases. By that time, though, Petrillo\u2019s team already had Oracle Analytics Cloud up and running in a test environment, and it became clear that they could use it to deliver a live dashboard for staff scheduling within a month or so.\nTo do that, they pulled in data from two applications they had not planned to integrate into the main rollout: their Kronos time and attendance system and, for patient numbers, their clinical system.\n\u201cWe said, \u2018Here is the census for each hospital within the health system, and here\u2019s the staffing matrix based on different units, and here\u2019s the number of consultations you have,\u2019\u201d she says.\nThe resulting dashboard identifies staffing shortages. \u201cIt helps our nursing leadership to direct augmented forces that we brought in from the agency and from our internal agency, to send them to the right hospitals for the right shifts.\u201d\nThat project within a project was an early victory for the move to the cloud, at a time when business resources were being drawn away from the migration and back to day-to-day operations in the hospitals, but ultimately the project went live a week or so before the second wave of the pandemic reached its peak in New York.\n\u201cIt\u2019s a tremendous achievement especially for Northwell\u2019s team, but for Deloitte\u2019s and for Oracle\u2019s team as well,\u201d says Petrillo.\nThe value of teamwork\nWorking with your software suppliers is a key element for success, Petrillo says. \u201cWe definitely had moments where we had an expectation that software is going to behave a certain way and it didn\u2019t,\u201d and there were also gaps between what the software could do and what the business needed, especially in Oracle Recruitment Cloud, she says.\nCIOs faced with similar gaps should leverage their partnership with the vendor to bring in not only technical resources but also influencers of the product to discuss the roadmap and brainstorm together how to make the application better, she says.\n\u201cHealth is a unique market. We have sophisticated needs, and so we ended up spending a lot of time showing and teaching Oracle why the application needed to behave certain ways or why this is important to us,\u201d she says.\nAnother important element is helping future users of the system adapt to the change: Do as much of that as you can, says Petrillo.\nThere\u2019s also the past to think of: Predictive analytics systems can\u2019t work without historical data. On that score, she says, \u201cWe definitely underestimated the amount of resources that needed to be backfilled for the project. It\u2019s a huge transformation initiative.\u201d\nIf she had to run the project again, Petrillo would change one thing: \u201cI would definitely not do it in the middle of a pandemic.\u201d\nThat\u2019s not necessarily something that IT leaders can choose, but \u2014 as with Northwell\u2019s swift repurposing of its cloud analytics test environment \u2014 they can at least make sure they have the tools on hand to succeed and seize the opportunities that are offered.