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Category: IT Alignment - CIO to CEO--Get Value from IT

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Category: IT Alignment

12/31/10

Much as I suspect many of you have done for the past week, I have spent some time in the office closing out things for the end of the year. As I have cleaned out e-mails, thrown away old files, worked on year-end performance plans, and signed off on final purchases, I've had some good time to reflect on the last year.

Performance planning is a great time for reflection. While annual planning is good and necessary, the real value of performance planning comes if you make the time to talk with your employees more frequently--say, every quarter. Things change during the course of a year (if they don't, then you may want to stir things up a bit at your organization). Adjusting the plans to fit the "new realities" is important--it helps everyone stay focused on the things that bring value to the business.

Speaking of business value, it is critical to tie those performance plans back to corporate goals and objectives. This needs to happen at all levels of the organization and to be clearly linked. When you meet with employees, try to discuss the goals and objectives at a higher level so that everyone is working towards the same thing.

As the new year begins, spend some time making plans--but be ready to change those plans as the environment changes. Flexibility is important.

Happy New Year!!!


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11/14/10

A Vision, according to Webster, is "a thought, concept, or object formed by the imagination." Recently, I have participated in several visioning sessions that were designed to create end-goals for projects. Visions be developed at many levels--organizational, business unit, technical, operational. What is critical is that the visions be in alignment with each other.

How do you ensure that everyone is working towards the same vision? Early and frequent involvement is key--make sure that you cross-pollinate each visioning group with people who have participated in the development of the other visions. Have those people be wanderers--going around, gently keeping people within the bounds of the bigger vision while also listening for things that may have been missed in earlier visions.

Pictures are worth a thousand (or more) words. Try to draw a representation of your vision and share it with others. If done well, people will instantly "see" what you are trying to accomplish.

That alone is worth the time investment.


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09/07/10

How many times have you heard an IT person say "Oh yes, we can buy a thingamajig that will fix that problem for you." And how many times has the thingamajig actually fixed the problem?

If your answer is more than 0, then you've been fortunate to work in an organization where business forces likely came together to resolve a technology train wreck.

The simple fact of the matter is that technology rarely fixes business problems. Technology is an enabler--able to make business processes work better, but not actually fix a problem by itself. (Truth-in-Writing Disclaimer--There are a few cases where technology might fix a business problem by itself, but that is usually because the problem is defined much too narrowly.)

The CIO should be looking at business problems and working with the business units to see how technology can be part of the solution. It is a fine line sometimes--because many businesses want IT to help drive the business. And IT **can** do this--but it must be in the context of people and process changes.

I would love to hear your stories about times when technology failed to fix a business problem--and what may have been done to fix the problem later. Please share and I'll post the best stories to this blog.

-Don

ps. You may have noticed that I have not been posting as often. I hope to get back on a weekly schedule in November, but in the meantime, postings will be somewhat sporadic. Thanks for your patience.


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03/09/10

Many organizations consider outsourcing some function at one point or another. IT is often an area that is considered for outsourcing since it is not usually considered to be a core competency for the organization (the exceptions are companies in the technology sector). Headlines often blare out "Local Organization Signs Multi-million Dollar IT Outsourcing Deal". Then, a few years later, the headlines blare "Local Organization Cancels IT Outsourcing Deal". What went wrong??

In my experience and from talking to colleagues, there are two major reasons for an outsourcing arrangement not working: (1) The cultures of the two companies are vastly different and/or (2) the organization who outsources thinks they no longer have to manage or worry about the outsourced function. The culture issue is one which must be carefully evaluated during the selection and negotiation phase--having a third-party assist with this process can provide valuable insight and honesty.

The second issue is largely a result of lack of understanding of how outsourcing works and what outsourcing can truly accomplish. Outsourcing should be focused on the operational areas, not strategy or governance (although the company providing the outsourcing services will need to interface with both of these areas). The organization must commit the necessary resources to monitor and manage the relationship--this is not a once-a-month function but rather a daily function. Most outsourcing companies are not out to "get" you, but they do require regular feedback and management from the organization. If the organization is not willing to commit this resource, then the organization should not outsource.

Keep these points in mind when you are considering outsourcing--otherwise you may end up with a third headline, "Local Organization is Sued for Breach of Outsourcing Contract".


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07/29/09

Permalink 07:35:05 pm, Categories: Healthcare, IT Alignment

I have had a running e-mail conversation with a colleague over the past few weeks. He (we'll call him Joe) works in the financial services industry as a CIO. His wife is a caregiver in the healthcare industry (yes, yes, this is relevant--keep reading).

Joe has had the opportunity to visit the major medical organization where his wife works on several occasions. His comment to me was "If this was a financial institution I [as the CIO] would have been shown the door a long time ago." Joe's comment started me thinking about why two industries, both of which touch the lives of millions of people, have adopted information technology in such different ways.

I think part of the issue comes down to regulation. While both industries are heavily regulated, the regulations in the financial industry have actually encouraged the use of technology in order to allow the business to grow. Regulations in healthcare have discouraged technology because many people believe (perhaps mistakenly) that technology makes it more difficult to protect patient information. Add to this the normally conservative mindset of healthcare organizations, and it is pretty easy to see why technology has not been embraced as fully as in the financial world.

Two other factors, I believe, have also contributed significantly to the slow adoption of information technology in healthcare. One is related to the "fear of sharing". Healthcare organizations and individual providers have been hesitant to share information about patients for a number of reasons--liability, competitive advantage, and fear of peer review.

The second factor is a lack of interest on the part of consumers; but this is changing rapidly and healthcare organizations need to understand that consumers today want more control over THEIR healthcare records and access to THEIR information. Organizations who can leverage this are more likely to keep their customers longer.

Joe and I will continue our dialogue. Perhaps his background in the financial world can help a healthcare organization leapfrog their competition. In the meantime, I will continue to spread the information technology best practices of the financial world.


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Don shares his experience and ideas about how to get the most value from your IT function. Note: The views and opinions expressed here are those of Don and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of his clients or employers.

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