I am not an IT guy and don’t play one on TV, but the hotel where I stayed last night had better pillows than the Holiday Inn Express, so I have that going for me. Fortunately, I have a bunch of smart IT people on my team and am quick to punt the heavy lifting to them.
Invariably though, IT issues come up in strategy or business partner conversations and we non-technical executives don’t always have the luxury of phoning a pocket protector friend. ‘Fake it til you make it’ might have been the past strategy, but Elizabeth Holmes killed that idea.
I am here to help. From three different conversations this week alone, here are three things to keep handy when the conversation turns to big IT spending decisions.
First, a national retail primary care practice (big money behind it…you’d know the name) let the prior CIO make decisions with his ego and he decided to build a home-grown PM and EMR. That drove them into a cul de sac that could not scale. Hobbled the business. He is gone and now they are staring at an expensive proposition to back out and start over.
Lesson: Never start the planning and decision-making with IT hand-waving and hocus pocus. Business strategy drives IT. The smart folks here knew how big this was going to get given the money being invested. A flying DeLorean might be cool, but large companies don’t run on gadgets.
Second, a medium-sized practice – about two-three years on their platform – was evaluating alternatives because the docs hated the EMR, and the finance people thought the PM was trash. They were very close to signing a replacement deal when someone was bold enough to ask how the new one would be better since they had done nothing to address the problem of having no one in the practice to help manage implementation and ongoing optimization.
Lesson: The software may suck – many are bad. But more often than not, the frustrations are more due to all the poor work that must be done around the software. Writing checks to the vendors is the easy part.
Third, a dinner discussion got deep into the weeds about providing data to physicians – ‘business intelligence’ we call it to sound intelligent about business. Charts and graphs, self-service reporting, mobile apps, real-time or periodic data…it was a robust discussion. Then the air went out of the room when people began to confess of building great tools that the users never used (so why are they called ‘users’ and is it ironic that we have the same word for partakers of EMRs and illicit drugs?). Then the truth came out. ‘They still just ask someone their question.’
Lesson: Just because the technology ‘can’ doesn’t mean the users ‘will.’ Solutions go better when the users pull than when the IT folks push.
Three good hacks to keep handy when your IT wizards start asking for a lot of money.
And having a good pillow helps, too.