Valuable Lessons From A Health Tech Project Manager

David Zinman | October 7, 2021 | 3 Min Read

Even with a global pandemic raging, and the challenges stacked high, Macadamian Health-Tech Project Manager, David Zinman, led a global team to successfully update an Italian client’s cardiopulmonary-bypass (related to the heart and lung) device. Here’s what he learned.

I never thought I would be starting a health-tech project amid a global pandemic, but that is exactly what happened when our team worked with LivaNova.

LivaNova is a medical manufacturer that produces devices used for cardiac surgery and neuromodulation, which involves technology that directly acts on the nerves. While LivaNova mainly produces hardware devices, it had very little in-house software development at the time of this project. The company is based out of Italy, which was one of the hardest hit by the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

LivaNova is recognized globally as the number one cardiopulmonary-bypass devices company. Its cardiovascular technologies are used in more than half of all open-heart surgeries.

Our team’s assignment involved developing a larger perfusionist screen for one of LivaNova’s medical devices. It was a project that entailed working across many geographies at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Health-Tech Project Manager Challenges

We used the Agile Scrum methodology for project execution. LivaNova’s main business is hardware production and its processes are centered around this type of manufacturing. One of the key challenges you face as a health-tech project manager is that you’re given added tasks that aren’t initially a part of the project. This is what project managers refer to as an “unknown, unknown.”

Additionally, the pandemic surfaced in March 2020 with Italy taking the brunt of it at first. LivaNova shut down for two weeks as Italy went into lockdown. This was taxing mentally on all those involved in the project, however, an unexpected positive outcome came out of this. The challenging nature of the pandemic brought the global team closer together. We found ourselves leading with empathy as we continued to work on the project, recognizing that the pandemic was taking a heavy toll on many involved.

 

Software Development Methods

The initial screen design of the device was developed by another vendor. We studied and modified the design extensively. The design and requirements phase was scheduled for a full year but continued well into the active software development phase.

In order to start the project in a strong way, in-person meetings were scheduled. This involved a LivaNova visit to Canada in January 2020—ahead of the pandemic—for the project kickoff that exposed the LivaNova team to our company culture, and Canadian culture. Secondly, we held a project team workshop and kickoff in Cluj, Romania, where the team could get familiar with other members and participate in team building activities and exercises.

 

Project Success In The Time Of A Pandemic

Even with the challenges brought on by the pandemic, our project was a success, which is illustrated through LivaNova’s continued use of our processes and delivery model as their preferred choice going forward on future projects.

 

Final Thoughts

For health-tech project managers out there, one of the most valuable tips I would offer is to stay in constant contact with your client. And while you’re at it, put assumptions aside. Challenges do arise when you aim to deliver the best project within realistic timeframes.

Your client may want a new change amid the project that you hadn’t planned for. The best way to tackle this challenge is to remain proactive in your communication, that is, reinforce the idea that changes—even low impact changes—come with consequences to schedule, resources, budget, or all of the above.

Finally, define and engage an effective product owner who can contribute to the success of the project. When the project is not tracking as needed, regroup with the project team and brainstorm new solutions.

Ultimately, we were successful in helping LivaNova understand how to execute a large agile project, even amid the disruption caused by the pandemic.

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