New health IT leader? New CIO? Advice on learning the ropes

For starters, be a sponge and ask a lot of questions.
By Sue Schade
02:31 PM
CIO learn the ropes

Are you in your first CIO position?  Have you just been promoted by executives at your organization who see what you are capable of? Or have you been tapped by another organization to step into your first ever CIO role? Or maybe you find yourself serving as the internal interim CIO during the search for a permanent CIO.

In any of these scenarios you may wonder where to turn for help and advice. Every day there will be situations that you do not feel fully prepared for.

If you’re fortunate, you have already attended the CHIME CIO Boot Camp. It’s a three-and-a-half-day immersion into the breadth of what a CIO needs to know taught by experienced CIOs. Over 1,400 CIOs and future CIOs have graduated from the program over the past 13 years. If you haven’t yet attended, you should consider it.

If your organization has memberships with health care focused services such as Advisory Board, or broader research services like Gartner, be sure to take advantage of those resources. And make them available to your entire IT leadership team.

Be a sponge. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find people who are ahead of you and can share their experience.

I’m currently working with someone who is serving as the internal senior IT leader while his organization searches for a permanent CIO. His boss recognized that he could use support and advice from a seasoned CIO during this period. Each week, we cover a range of topics as he faces situations new to him.

It happens in many organizations. The CIO leaves and someone on the IT leadership team is tapped to step in for the duration of the search. The individual may or may not be a candidate for the position. They have to balance running the day to day with introducing changes and improvements. They have to lead people who have been their peers. And they are probably still responsible for their own area as well.

I’ve also worked with new CIOs. An organization often has high expectations for up and coming leaders. But you may feel that you have a very short time to prove yourself. You have to develop relationships with your executive colleagues; you have to deal with day to day issues; you have to assess your IT leadership team; you need to keep major projects on track (or get them back on track), and, you have to plan for the future. It can be overwhelming at first. A more seasoned CIO can help you take apart and break down the issues. You are not the first CIO to face any particular issue.

There are nearly two thousand current CHIME members and they range in age from 26 to 75 years old. Only 10 percent of members are under 40 but of this age group, 22 percent are Boot Camp alumni. On the other end of the spectrum, 15 percent of CHIME members are over 60. And 18 percent of CHIME members have been in the healthcare IT industry for more than 30 years. Clearly, there is a group of very seasoned and experienced health care CIOs to learn from.

As my next chapter continues to unfold, I hope to do a lot more work with interim and new CIOs. I want to be available to provide insight, experience, and advice as they encounter new situations and issues. And I want to help them navigate as the CIO role continues to change and evolve. What better way to help develop the next generation of IT leaders?  

This post was first published on Sue Schade's Health IT Connect blog.