Most would agree that in order to be successful, CIOs need to have true partnerships with their vendors — where there is some dissent is what that actually entails. To Joey Sudomir, it means being providing constructive feedback while also being honest about what the organization can commit to. In this interview, he talks about his team’s strategy in rolling out Epic across the system, the population health partnership that could be a game-changer, and the principles that guide him in his role. Sudomir also discusses the challenge in knowing when to accelerate and when to brake — particularly when leading a large organization, and what qualities he values most in staff members.
- Pop health partnership with UT Southwestern — “We’re in it for the long haul.”
- IT as “a fundamental enabling piece.”
- Role of robust analytics in pop health
- Leading a large organization & “pushing the limits.”
- The fundamentals of transparency and communication — “We can’t send mixed messages.”
- Setting realistic goals
- Key qualities of future leaders
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I’m so impressed with the leadership of both organizations, because they had the long-term view of what we needed to do as an organization, and that’s allowed us to collaboratively travel down a little bit of a longer runway to figure out how we need to deliver these services in the best manner.
We’re pushing the limits with taking on the amount of organizational change we’re taking on, and we have a lot of strategies to help mitigate those risks. Ultimately I think one of my key responsibilities, to both the organization and our IT department, is to ensure we’re finding the right balance between the need to continue to progress, and what we can deliver effectively and efficiently.
Finding that balance is important, and as these initiatives spike up and down on activity, you have to vary the intensity that you monitor and manage those other aspects of delivery, because each person can only go in so many directions at one time.
We encourage them in their leadership roles to be transparent, to be data-driven, and to be collaborative. I think that’s so important, because we would not be effective if just myself or one of my leaders demonstrated those capabilities routinely; it really has to become the systemic model of how you operate.
Gamble: I’m sure there are some other pretty significant projects, and I would imagine population health is one of them.
Sudomir: It is. Along with the rest of the country, we’re in a multi-year journey to define what that means to us. There are obviously published definitions of what population health means and then that becomes tailored to each organization and their situation and their delivery capabilities.
In our case, that is now part of the partnership we’ve had for about a year with UT Southwestern. That partnership is called Southwestern Health Resources. One of the things we have done is create a population health services company that will eventually, as we grow our Managed Lives, service those types of population health needs. And so, we’ve spent the better part of 2016 and now into 2017 working with business leaders of that joint venture to determine what technology they need to support and enable their pop health endeavors.
Gamble: That involves representatives from both organizations?
Sudomir: It does. There are representatives from the non-IT side, and then we have a very strong and collaborative relationship with UT Southwestern’s IT department, who we work with now just as if we are extensions of each other.
Gamble: It really seems like it’s a deliberate approach, as you had alluded to before, and not just jumping into something because it’s an industry buzzword, but really looking at what are the issues that you’re trying to solve.
Sudomir: That’s correct. And Southwestern Health resources — which is the combination of the two organizations — when we formed this partnership, we consummated it for the long haul. So we’re taking a very measured approach to understanding what we can do together to help the people and the communities we serve. I’m so impressed with the leadership of both organizations, because they had the long-term view of what we needed to do as an organization, and that’s allowed us to collaboratively travel down a little bit of a longer runway to figure out how we need to deliver these services in the best manner. And obviously, data is so important to that, so IT becomes a fundamental enabling piece of being able to meet our goal.
Gamble: Is there something of a timeline at this point for when or how things will roll out?
Sudomir: Yes and no. We actually have a population of Managed Lives that started in 2017 that we’re doing together, and so we do have some specific things we’ve got to accomplish this year from an IT perspective around shared toolsets and shared analytics. I think the longer term vision is going to proceed in lockstep with our ability as a combined partnership to add Managed Lives to the portfolio.
Gamble: So part of that long term strategy includes using some of those analytics and getting the use out of the data that people have been looking forward to for years.
Sudomir: Yes, and the good news is both organizations have pretty robust analytical capabilities today. So the next opportunity for us is working toward figuring out how do we combine that set of analytics for the population that the population health services company is focused on. That’s what we’re working through now.
Gamble: In having these and other initiatives on your plate, is that one of the big challenges of being CIO of a large organization — just knowing where to devote your time and how much?
Sudomir: Most definitely. I take my role very seriously in ensuring that our resources have the best opportunity to be successful. Candidly, we’re pushing the limits with taking on the amount of organizational change we’re taking on, and we have a lot of strategies to help mitigate those risks. So yes, ultimately I think one of my key responsibilities, to both the organization and our IT department, is to ensure we’re finding the right balance between the need to continue to progress, and what we can deliver effectively and efficiently.
Gamble: You mentioned earlier the challenge of how to manage change when there is so much to do, and not overwhelming your people. I’m sure there’s not an easy fix, but is there anything you try to do to keep them engaged and not too overwhelmed?
Sudomir: I certainly wish we had a magical elixir that could solve that, but I think it goes back to some of the fundamentals we talked about. Myself and my direct leadership team are very transparent with our ITS department. We try to keep a pretty steady line of open communications. We invest a lot of time in making sure that as the organizational structure goes downstream with leadership, that they feel comfortable in speaking to us whenever there’s a safety concern, for sure, but also when we’ve got delivery concerns.
Then I think our other responsibility as leaders is we can’t send mixed messages. We just went through our departmental goal-setting exercise and we very easily could have listed way more than is consumable. That doesn’t mean we won’t work on those things, but it’s been important to us to make sure we don’t put out a list of goals that our department looks at and says, ‘This is nearly impossible to have all of these items as your top priority.’
It starts with focus by us, and then knowing when to push on operational performance and when you just have to manage operational performance to make sure we keep the lights on. Finding that balance is important, and as these initiatives spike up and down on activity, you have to vary the intensity that you monitor and manage those other aspects of delivery, because each person can only go in so many directions at one time.
Gamble: What about building trust? I’m sure it goes along those same lines, but how do you work to maintain that trust among the team?
Sudomir: Again, I just try to stick to those fundamentals I mentioned earlier. I’m a fairly open, honest and communicative person — at least I try to be. Myself and my leadership team never has an issue with letting the department know when we’ve made a mistake. We try very hard to be open with them about where we’re going and the reasons we’re doing things, and then just be present so that when that feeling of bubbles to levels that can hurt performance, people feel comfortable approaching us and having those discussions.
Now, that all sounds great but really what makes it work is we have an unbelievably supportive executive leadership team, as I mentioned. And so, when we do approach them with those conversations of or concerns about being able to deliver on everything that’s being asked of us right now, they’re incredibly supportive of re-evaluating what’s on our plate.
Gamble: That’s definitely important. In looking at your team, when you’re looking to identify people with potential to move up, are there specific qualities that you really value, or does it depend on the person?
Sudomir: I know I keep going back there, but it’s being true to those fundamentals. We look for people who are rooted in that same spirit — that’s kind of an entry for consideration. As people progress, we encourage them in their leadership roles — and as individual contributors — to be transparent, to be data-driven, and to be collaborative. I think that’s so important because we would not be effective if just myself or one of my leaders demonstrated those capabilities routinely; it really has to become the systemic model of how you operate, and part of the way you do that is to continue to advance and grow leaders that are in that same mold.
From my perspective, I tend to be attracted and look to advance people who, first and foremost, are organized in the way that they can go about their business, because to me that portrays that they have a command on what they’re responsible for and they have a solid approach to going about it. Now, that approach may or may not yield a positive result, and that’s okay because we can course-correct. But it’s really important to me to have people demonstrate the ability to see the end goal, develop a roadmap, and then works towards the execution. Then while you’re executing back to those fundamentals, if you can just be transparent, collaborative, and gain trust, we can work through any challenges that come along.