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Think of It As... CIO "Decision Support"

April 15, 2008
by Mark Hagland
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In last week’s blog, I talked about how CIOs are finding it increasingly necessary to communicate regularly with their organizations’ boards of directors about current strategy, processes, and plans. At the same time, CIOs are also finding it more and more important to work down and across with regard to planning and implementations in their organizations. As they affirmed in this month’s “The Art of the Project” feature (pp. 48-53), they are finding that project management is becoming an essential tool in helping them get things done. In a sense, CIOs might want to think of project management structures and mechanisms as a kind of organizational “decision support” for IT implementation.

David Muntz, the senior vice-president of information services and CIO at the 14-hospital Baylor Healthcare System in the Dallas metro area, says frankly that he and his team would not be able to function effectively these days without project management. Baylor has an office of portfolio management (a term the Baylor folks consider a broader term encompassing the concept of project management as well), led ably by Nayan Patel. In fact, says, Muntz, the very success that CIOs have had internally in convincing all the internal stakeholder groups of the need to power up efficiency, quality of care, and other important goals with automation, has spurred the development of project and portfolio management, as the demand for rapid implementation for myriad projects intensifies the pressures on CIOs and their teams to deliver. Fortunately, Muntz reports, “We took something that was complicated and made it simpler.” What’s more, the success of the project/portfolio management concept in IT has now begun to spread across the entire Baylor organization, helping everyone in the system to better organize initiatives and channel resources.

And lest anyone come away with the impression that only the largest hospitals and health systems need project/portfolio management tools, William Johnson, vice-president and CIO at the 140-bed Ephrata Community Hospital, emphasizes that smaller hospitals may need project/portfolio management even more, given the smaller sizes of the IT staffs they’ve got to carry out implementations. “This has been one of the best things I’ve done, ever,” Johnson says of the decision to create a portfolio management office. “Number one, it tells us what our workload is. When we presented the portfolio management system to executive management as a proposal, they had no idea that we have well over 100 projects going at any one time.”

What is not only valuable in all this, but indeed seems to be a precious commodity for CIOs, is two things. Not only can project/portfolio management give CIOs and their teams an objective sense of what they’re working on and where everything is at any given moment; it also gives the entire executive management team an objective set of indicators for activity and priorities. So, just as the physician who gets alerts and clinical information guiding her or him through the ordering, prescribing and documentation process, so, too, can the CIO needing to sort through his or her organization’s IT projects and prioritize activity and resources turn to project/portfolio management for support.

Given how all work in hospital organizations, whether clinical or operational, is becoming more organized and systematized, it only makes sense that CIOs, like everyone else, can now turn to tools to optimize their work and that of their teams.

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