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GUEST BLOG: What Healthcare Executives Want When Hiring HIT Program/Project Managers

November 8, 2013
by Frank Myeroff
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Seven qualifications every PM candidate should have

Hiring a health information technology (HIT) program/project manager (PM) is a critical hire since this person will interface with healthcare executives, manage the project, see it through to completion, and be required to meet the deadlines.

As a result, Healthcare IT executive management looks for certain criteria and skills when hiring a PM. The depth of knowledge will depend on the level of position, but regardless of years of experience, they expect every candidate to be strong in these seven areas:

HIT Project Management Experience—The HIT PM that stands out is one who can demonstrate past success working on a similar project by using proven methodologies and effective tools to deliver the right results. It gives management confidence that they’ll hit the ground running; plus, if they have their PMP certification, all the better. This certification implies that they are committed to their craft and have the proper education in this specialty.

Leadership Abilities—Program/project management is all about producing results. A team relies on their PM to guide them, encourage productivity, meet timelines, communicate with executive management, and achieve project success. That said, the most effective and results oriented PMs possess these four leadership skills: Ability to provide structure and vision around the project, clearly communicate expectations, foster a positive environment to keep the team motivated, and be able to lead, convey to their sponsors about the direction of the project to obtain their buy-in.

People Person—PMs need polished people skills, including their social manners, how well they get along with others, their ability to communicate at all levels, etc. Hiring managers want to know that their PM is capable of handling their toughest client or one of their most difficult team members. If not, all their experience and talent no longer matters, because if they can’t work with, coach, motivate or get along with others, the project will be derailed from the start.  

Financial Management Skills—As a PM, financial focus is essential. They must be able to track their budget, forecast expenditures and know what is happening with the project from day one. It is their responsibility to ensure finances are not a last minute problem; therefore, to assess their financial skills, hiring managers will ask about past projects and if they were able to set measurable goals and objectives, accurately estimate and budget projects, and implement methods for tracking and reporting progress. A significant part of having business acumen is in understanding financial principles and organizational metrics.

Political Wherewithal—No project is immune to politics. Successful PMs acknowledge this and deal with organizational politics in a savvy manner. They keep themselves informed about what’s going on around them, create strategies to convert adversaries into allies, balance demands of executive management, stay humble, stay loyal and navigate the project to successful completion. Political wherewithal should never be minimized. 

Problem Solving Skills—PMs face challenges on every project. No exceptions. Therefore, hiring managers look for PMs who have a track record of being able to identify and deal with issues early in the project in order to prevent an organization’s exposure to risk. In addition, PMs who not only evaluate and analyze challenging situations but incorporate creativity along with common sense to resolve a situation are favored. This demonstrates not only problem solving skills but critical thinking skills as well.

Cultural Fit—Since not all projects are the same and healthcare organizations vary when it comes to HIT work environment and culture, it’s a must to check for the right cultural fit and skills. PM candidates must have interests and abilities that are aligned with the opportunity as well as the organization and the people there. Cultural fit is something that should also not be minimized.

Finding a great PM requires proper vetting. It’s imperative to match project needs with PM abilities and skills. Don’t take short cuts and don’t accept mediocrity. Remember, a PM is a critical hire and the success of your project, delivered on time and on budget, depends on them.

Frank Myeroff is managing partner of Direct Consulting Associates, Solon, Ohio.