A few weeks back, WittKieffer hosted an online focus group of some 20 healthcare industry CIOs, organized in conjunction with the virtual CHIME20 Fall CIO Forum. For more than an hour, my colleagues and I discussed current health IT challenges with the group, as well as the goals and ambitions these CIOs have for their organizations.
Interestingly, all of the CIOs noted that the Covid-19 pandemic had elevated their status among their leadership teams. “We have become essential business consultants,” one participant said. “We’re no longer just technology purveyors but leading partners in what the right thing to do is, and how best to do it. It’s refreshing, to be quite honest.”
The distinguished group had plenty of advice for other CIOs to thrive during the COVID era. Their key tips are summarized here:
- Continue to accelerate your digital strategy. Although Covid-19 presents many challenges for healthcare organizations, it has been a boon to key IT initiatives, especially telehealth. The CIOs we spoke with noted that their organizations had made huge leaps in progress in regards to telehealth, and big steps forward in regard to robotic process automation and AI — pushing them years into the future. Moving forward, CIOs must continue to advance important projects while they have the attention of their CEOs, boards and top leaders. The idea is to create value at a high speed. “We’ve got to stay on the throttle,” said one CIO.
- Pay careful attention to your team; stay connected. The CIOs with whom we conversed were all leading their teams remotely, as most IT staff are now working from home. This makes it critically important to stay in touch with colleagues as often as possible, whether it is morning coffee check-ins by Zoom or more casual virtual happy hours after the work day is done. Some CIOs said their teams were actually more productive working remotely, and that they will continue the virtual team-building in the future. “We’ll keep doing our morning huddles on Microsoft Teams even when we go back to in-person work,” one said. The CIOs agreed, however, that they have to be conscious of burnout when working remotely and continuously work to foster work-life balance.
- Hone your COVID-era leadership skills. We asked CIOs what skills they found to be most essential to lead during the COVID era. The top skills included teamwork, communication, adaptability, and the ability to change rapidly. “Communication has been the most important skill,” said one CIO. “I’ve stepped up communication radically during this pandemic, and I will not change that even after it has passed. We’ve stayed so closely connected. Our teams are remote and working away but we haven’t missed a beat.”
- See the future as the “art of the possible.” In the CIO’s new role as an enabler and strategic business partner, it will be more important than ever for the head of IT to have a vision for the future. “The role of CIO as innovator has heightened,” one participant said. “There is more appetite for things that can be automated, and so we need to strike while the iron’s hot. While we need to hold off on spending money, we still need to plan for what’s next.”
This piece was written by Nicholas Giannas, a consultant in the IT Practice at WittKieffer.