Seeking the characteristics of good CIOs, successful IT planning

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A look at 32 large service companies shows that they have quite a few similarities when it comes to their IT, said Judith Kirby, president of Snelling Executive Search in Altamonte Spring, Fla. Kirby discussed the research she conducted during “CIO: Dynamics of the Future” on Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) in San Diego.
   
Successful companies have a single governing board which translates into companies built for action, said Scott Johnson of Senatar Health Systems in Norfolk, Va. They don’t have internal pricing or charging between divisions which prevents wasted work. They have one customer point-person rather than multiple contacts which cuts down on wasted resources. These companies do not have a high rate of turnover at the senior level. The average healthcare CEO is in his or her position for three years. Such rapid turnover prevents consistency of leaders and their vision. The organizations have a versatile senior executive team, leading to disciplined, well balanced leadership. The CEO values technology and includes the CIO in his or her management team. The board recognizes the CIO’s name and the companies are willing to pay a premium for first mover advantage by using technology.
   
Most importantly, said Johnson, “it’s not enough for IT to successfully install something. Anyone can do an install. They have to add value.”
   
In researching the views CEOs have of CIOs, Kirby said that only 32 of 423 mentioned strategic vision. Despite that, the CEOs said they want their CIO to have strong business knowledge as well as understand that “their down time risks lives,” she said. The CEOs named the following desirable characteristics of a good CIO:

  • Strategic thinker
  • Strong leader
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Team player
  • Strong technology competency
  • Understands the clinical side of healthcare IT

Johnson then reviewed the characteristics of high-performing IT organizations. These include operating and capital budgets that trend upward, IT budgets that are developed and maintained at a corporate level, and return on investment is viewed as the holy grail. They also don’t have IT plans independent of overall strategic and business plans. They have zero tolerance for down time. Staff retention is high, but they always look at outside candidates before hiring from within to ensure new blood.
   
Overall, Johnson said, the recipe for good IT and a successful CIO is infrastructure plus integration for innovation.