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Resolutions for the New Year

December 31, 2009
by Tim Tolan
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For some people, a resolution is good enough - but CIOs need a plan

Resolutions for the New Year make us feel good. There is something about the practice of putting a “stake in the ground” and announcing to friends and family the resolutions we make every January. I've always felt that while New Year's resolutions sound good, for the most part they are simply a half-hearted annual ritual we create to convince ourselves that we can change and improve. But I do like the singular focus of a resolution. It's usually one key item we select that will make a big difference for us each New Year. The concept has good intentions as we seek our own once-a-year self-improvement plan.

This year is going to be different. As CIO of your organization, you will need more than resolutions to prepare for the massive changes in healthcare IT that are just around the corner. This is the time to step back and analyze where you are going as an organization, and how you plan to get there. You need more than a resolution - you need a plan; but before that can be done, you need to figure out where you are organizationally. What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? Conducting a SWOT analysis with your direct reports as we approach a new year allows you to get feedback and input from your team while giving you a better sense of what areas need improvement. I have used SWOT for decades. I believe, as leaders, we need to be in a constant state of improvement. So, what are your plans for 2010, and how will you track your progress? It all starts with the assessment.

Strengths - What are the strengths of your organization? This includes your greatest asset - your employees, along with their background, skill set, knowledge base and the unique attributes each brings to the table. This also includes the service levels you provide to your internal and external customers. The strengths of your organization capture the positive aspects of your value equation and help define your competitive advantage. What is your competitive advantage?

Weaknesses - Where are the gaps that detract from your competitive advantage? This is where you define weak areas that include all facets of the service you provide. Which factors within your control can you improve? Weaknesses detract from your value equation and need to be addressed on an ongoing basis. You and your team must be open and honest when discussing improvements that need to be addressed. Take nothing for granted and leave no stone unturned. The more accurately you define your weaknesses, the more likely you will be to make positive changes.

Opportunities - What are the key opportunities that give you the greatest leverage to deliver better results, improve overall service levels and enhance the experience for those that rely on your products and services every day? Think outside the box when you begin to consider the possibilities of what you would change, add or eliminate from the way you currently do business. What resources do you need to move your organization to the next level? Determine what your opportunities are and establish deadlines for each.

Threats - What factors give your organization the greatest exposure? Some may be under your control while others are not. How do you minimize the risk and the downside? Threats can put you in a difficult position and create all sorts of execution risks if they are not identified up front. List each threat based on the probability it will occur. Classify each item and discuss ways to proactively respond to each threat before it happens.

Begin to formulate a vision of what your department will look like on Dec. 31, 2010. What will be different? What new technology or service offerings will be in place? What will your service levels look like? How will your team change? What metrics will you use to track your progress? Themore details and metrics you identify, the greater chance you have to meet and exceed your objectives.

Welcome to 2010. Make it a great year!

Healthcare Informatics 2010 January;27(1):45