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The Strategic CIO

In order to be successful in healthcare, it is essential to restore strategy and technology as a priority and empower the CIO.

The role of a CIO (Chief Information Officer) is a rather new position, being used only in the most recent decades. Despite its newness, the role of a CIO is a core role for healthcare operations. Employing a CIO places someone in the C-suite who remains focused on the long-term strategy and future of the technology advancement.

Though the CIO role is gaining attention, it is not currently being used to its fullest potential when organizations are looking at their strategies. This suggests that companies with CIOs must take time to re-examine the use of the position and the way it adds value to the company. Along with re-examining the way the position is used, companies should also take a close look at the way technology strategy is viewed within the organization. Healthcare organizations are experiencing rapid change and the need for great adaptability. This should be reflected in the way companies view their technology investments.

When companies use CIOs and strategy appropriately, it can be highly effective. While companies using them correctly are in the minority, CIOs offer insights that can be applied to help the company improve.

The Problem

The primary problem identified by CIOs is in the gap between where the position reports to and how it is being utilized in the company. Essentially, most CIOs are not a priority in the company because the majority still do not report to the CEO. As a result, CIOs are stretched quite thin because they are getting pulled in many different areas without alignment to the CEO. This prevents them from being able to focus on a particular aspect of the business and manage it effectively. It also prevents CIOs from being able to develop and drive an effective long-term strategy for the company, since their attention is so divided.

Many CIOs feel they are not being included in the important strategic discussions. When they are involved in these discussions, they are not the kind of conversations that CIOs can use to drive long-term strategy. Instead, they focus on short-term goals or financial planning without addressing major strategic issues that should be addressed before short-term solutions can be implemented. While this may be because CIOs are not utilized appropriately in businesses, it may also be that CIOs must be more vocal about their abilities to add value through strategy to the company.

Utilizing the Full Potential of CIOs

There are a number of ways that companies can utilize CIOs to their fullest potential. Three major methods are:

1. Make digital and technology strategy a priority in executive discussions. By making digital a priority in the business, CIOs will have a front seat at the table. This allows CIOs to voice their opinions and concerns and help guide the organization and decisions in the right direction to facilitate successful long-term strategies for the business. A CIO can get executives thinking in the right direction by getting them to think about what would happen if a new competitor entered the industry and how can the organization uses the technology portfolio as a competitive advantage.

2. Make strategic planning an inclusive process with the CIO. The majority of processes in place in most companies focus on short- and medium-term strategies and goals. However, long-term strategy is overlooked or not dealt with appropriately. To manage this, there are things CIOs can do:

  • Remember that everything company is a digital company. When developing a strategy, take it apart and look at how the components work independently. Then ensure that the components can then be put back together to form the full strategy with the integration of technology.

  • Assist with ideas and solutions to narrow the scope of the strategy to address a few key issues or questions so it doesn't become overwhelming for the organization to handle.

  • Be inclusive and active in the strategy by building solutions to assist a wider range of stakeholders.

  • Use engagement and communication to make strategy part of the culture of the business rather than an exercise that addresses IT issues.

  • Assist with project management by setting milestones that can be achieved and measured to hold the organization accountable for its progress. The CIO is well equipped and experienced with managing large scale implementation. This is a valuable asset for the organization.

3. Be clear about the CIO's responsibilities and priorities. This will ensure that the CIO knows exactly what is expected and can achieve it successfully. Within these responsibilities, a CIO will find multiple roles that must be played. These roles are:

  • Challenger, which presents ideas that might not otherwise be considered

  • Change agent, which pushes the organization to be dynamic and to support change

  • Advantage guardian, which helps differentiate the organization from its competitors with the use of technology

  • Facilitator, which provides guidance in implementing strategy

  • Outsource provider, which ensures that the work gets done and problems are solved

The CIO is a position that is not currently being used to its fullest potential. However, if companies recognize the value CIOs can add, and allow them to do the work needed, companies can excel and exceed organizational goals and objectives.




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