BH TIG Week: Collaboration on a Budget by Elizabeth Oyer

 Elizabeth Oyer
Elizabeth Oyer

Hello! I am Elizabeth Oyer, President of EvalSolutions, Inc. (www.evalsolutions.com) where I provide consulting services for personalized operations support as well as program evaluation.  I would like to share some lessons I’ve learned about working collaboratively with my clients to manage our shared projects more efficiently, securely, and productively in a virtual space.

As an independent evaluator, I have learned through the years how to operate as leanly as possible. Large investments are difficult for organizations on a tight budget. In the behavioral health field, we are often working on contracts with small margins while keeping administrative overhead low.

Lessons Learned:

For working collaboratively in a virtual environment:

1) Keep it simple – our partners may become “battle weary” if they need to add and/or learn a lot of new technologies. Let’s face it – our behavioral health partners may become frustrated if the tools we use cause too much friction in the process.

2) Leverage licenses wisely – remember, the priority is to manage costs while producing value. Consider whether your partners need a full license (which cost money and are limited in quantity) versus guest licenses (which are usually free and unlimited).

3) Security, security, security – people we and our partner organizations serve deserve the utmost attention to keeping their information safe and used only as they have been informed. Security encompasses technology, policies, and people. Don’t neglect this important component of collaborating!

Rad Resource:

A key resource I’ve used as the technical hub of my collaboration is found in the Microsoft 365 Business Standard.  For about $150 per year, I have access to several essentials for collaborating across organizations. Here are just a few highlights of tools that I have used pervasively:

  • Data Collection using Forms or Excel
  • File Sharing through SharePoint
  • Industry-specific security compliance supported by free Microsoft Business Associates Agreements (BAA)
  • Business Intelligence reporting via Power BI with live feeds from Forms, Excel, and/or other data sources using Microsoft Flows

These apps are well integrated with many resources for building your skills! They have become cornerstones for my collaborative projects and services.

Hot Tips:

I have found that many of my clients and partners have their own Microsoft accounts that can sometimes create conflicts when they try to log into a SharePoint site that I have created for our project. No worries! Simply using the incognito browser window helps avoid the issues of these browser cookies.

I was amazed by how many different compliance standards there are! For behavioral health, HIPAA compliance is key, addressed for the covered entity using a BAA with Microsoft. Here is a handy list of standards.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Behavioral Health (BH) TIG Week with our colleagues in Behavioral Health Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our BH TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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