How to juggle competing priorities: 3 CIOs share best practices

CIOs' roles have expanded far beyond being simply the head of IT. CIOs are now an increasingly indispensible member of the C-suite, a leader relied upon to both lead hospitals' swelling IT departments as well as help their organizations find success in an increasingly technology-driven world.

With this expanded role comes an expanded lists of tasks and goals, necessitating a CIO be able to effectively manage competing priorities. Below, three CIOs share their best practices for balancing it all:

Gary Barnes. CIO of Medical Center Health System in Odessa, Texas: Make sure your priorities and IT's priorities are the organizations' priorities! This can only be done if you are monitoring your priorities daily. Use Covey's Four Quadrants for time management to keep your projects in alignment with the organizations' strategic priorities.

Ferdinand Feola. CIO of Pocono Health System (East Stroudsburg, Pa.): Using project portfolio management and a clear set of project management protocols can bring senior management and staff into alignment. This means looking at innovative support technologies that provide easy to navigate business, productivity and collaboration applications. From dashboards to discussion groups, projects can be managed in a collaborative way like never before that emulates the social media channels we have all adopted in our personal lives. In a few words: Don't be afraid to let go of the norm; embrace the innovative and simplify for success.

Dan Kinsella. Executive Vice President and CIO of Cadence Health (Winfield, Ill.): At Cadence Health we have implemented a modified portfolio management approach as part of our intake and IT governance process. Projects are classified at the top of the intake funnel as primarily one of four portfolio types: 1) Legal and Regulatory — typically not a surprise and we try to budget for these; 2) Lights on Doors Open — the longest line, typically prioritized by work groups prior to entering the intake process, generally first in/first out; 3) Strategic — a senior executive in the health system is driving a program that is an imperative for the organization; 4) Return on Investment — there is a solid business case, approved by our finance department making the project a "no brainer." In both categories 3 and 4 there is an understanding that if necessary, we would go outside for supplementary resources to get the work done in the prescribed time table.

On the capacity side, one of our biggest challenges is to keep our employees focused on the "big rocks" to which they have been assigned. Historically, well-intentioned folks in the operating areas reached out directly to people in IT to get something done quickly. We realize that employees in IT get the short-term gratification of getting a task done — along with the appreciation of the customer. However, each of these "off-script" tasks is a distraction to the project for which we have collectively made a commitment. This is a major cultural change and we continue to make progress in this area.  

We are working also with our customer groups to establish roadmaps covering a three-year window of time that outline the business-driven requirements for technology. By establishing a common understanding of the requirements over time, our annual budget will be more fact-based and we in IT will be able to reduce the number of urgent requests for large projects. IT will be positioned to bring insight, including solutions that address requirements of multiple clusters of customers.

More Articles on CIOs:

5 recent hospital CIO, CMIO moves
Healthcare CIOs: past, present and future
How I became a healthcare CIO: 10 CIOs, 10 different career paths


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