In partnership with CHIME, healthsystemCIO.com has developed a blogger series featuring insights from hospital and health system CIOs and other key IT leaders representing organizations from around the country. The blogs focus on the major issues affecting CIOs, including the health IT workforce shortage, data exchange, mobile device management, and federal regulations.
The healthcare industry today is making the compulsory transition to broader systems thinking and automation via information technology (IT) in order to achieve and sustain new levels of quality in patient care. For many organizations, technology has found its place as a critical pillar in their strategic business plans. Similarly, executive leadership has come to recognize that the CIO is a critical member of the C-suite.
Finding the right fit with the executive team is crucial to the organization’s ability to fully leverage IT to support overall business strategy. Understanding the significance of this role and its alignment can help us explain why many organizations are choosing to temporarily fill these positions with interim CIO resources while conducting an extensive search for just the right fit. The extra time and effort spent on this activity can make or break the entire investment.
Not too long ago while working with B.E. Smith, I had the chance to serve as interim CIO at a 600-bed academic medical center. I found this work both rewarding and refreshing. The greatest challenge and the greatest difference, in my experience, is relationship building. When you take on a permanent CIO position, you work hard to build long-term relationships within the organization. These are the relationships you come to depend on as you become a true member of the team at the top, and as you move the IT program forward by making changes and innovating. In the C-suite, the relationships you develop with your peers are critical; as an interim CIO, those relationships are important, but not nearly as important as understanding the relationships between the other members of the leadership team.
The relationship dynamic of the executive team impacts the culture of an organization. It determines, many times, what kind of support you will need to get a project moving or not and from whom. It directly reflects the engagement of the operational staff with the IT staff — an important dynamic as the interim CIO is charged with completing a project or series of projects.
As I sorted through the development of key relationships with my client, my focus was on really two areas: 1) the person who signed the contract (whom I reported to), and 2) the key project sponsors and organizational expectations for these projects. During this interim work, my leader changed several times, so I needed to keep everyone appropriately informed of my progress. Even as the reporting structure changed, I was tasked with completing several top-priority physician-sponsored and physician-lead projects, so I focused on building relationships with key members of the physician community and the CMO.
Along the way, the work I performed fostered many other relationships, some which transcended my time with that organization. As I stated earlier, interim CIO leadership can be extremely rewarding. The temporary nature of the work provides you with a degree of freedom to be candid and affect real change if you are thoughtful and constructive. In order to do so, however, you must remember that relationships are built on trust, honesty, and credibility. Carefully consider the relationships you need to foster to be successful.