Over my past 11 years blogging on healthcare IT, I’ve seen a dramatic shift in the role a CIO plays in healthcare organizations. This was highlighted really well to me in a recent interview I did with Steve Prather, CEO of Dizzion. He commented that hospital CIOs are now mostly vendor management organizations.
I thought this was the perfect way to describe the shift. One challenge with this shift is that many hospital CEOs haven’t realized that this is what’s happening. In many hospital executives minds, the CIO is still generating code, implementing servers, network switches, rolling out desktops, and cabling. In most cases, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, the CIO still has to make sure there’s a high quality network, servers, and desktops, but that does little to describe the work a CIO actually does.
Instead of getting into the nitty gritty, most CIOs have become professional vendor managers. This has become the reality as most of what people think of IT (servers, desktop, networks, email, etc) have become commodity services. There’s very little strategic advantage to do these things in-house. They’ve become such commodity services that it costs much less to outsource many of these services to an outside vendor.
What does this mean for the CIO? Instead of being Microsoft or Cisco certified, they need to be well versed in relationship management. That’s a big shift in philosophy and a very different skill set. In fact, most people who have those type of tech skills and certification are people that can struggle with relationships. There are exceptions, but that’s generally the case. CIOs that can’t handle relationships are going to suffer going forward.
Lest we think that this is a change that’s specific to healthcare, it’s not. This shifting CIO role is happening across every industry. In fact, it highlights why it’s not a bad idea to consider CIOs from outside of healthcare. If you can’t find a CIO who has healthcare experience, you could still find a great CIO from outside healthcare as long as they have the right relationship management skills.