Insight Before Spend: How to Properly Align Your 2020 Health IT Initiatives

The following is a guest article by Peyman Zand, Vice President, Advisory Services, CereCore.

Nothing is more inefficient than activity without insight. This is especially true for healthcare provider organizations where dollars are tight and human resources remain in short supply. Healthcare IT resources are a particular area of leadership concern with increasing demands and a highly competitive market for specialized skills, like recruiting and retaining skilled workers.

Because IT touches just about every corner of your hospital operations, the alignment and prioritization of health IT initiatives across the organization is one of the biggest opportunities and challenges for healthcare’s senior leadership. Three key questions must be asked prior to the onset of any health IT initiative.

  • How does this health IT initiative align with our strategic vision and mission?
  • What is the optimal governance framework to achieve proper execution and adoption for this IT investment?
  • How can leadership ensure this IT initiative generates business value and more agile business processes?

From industry standards such as the COBIT framework (Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology created by the ISACA (Information Systems Audit and Control Association)) to project management best practices, this article details important strategies to better align your 2020 IT priorities and the spend associated with them.

Begin with the Mission in Mind

During my tenure as health system CIO and as consultant to healthcare leaders, one of the biggest challenges to prioritize IT initiatives within the health system is alignment with the mission. It is human nature to become invested into projects that have taken hours and years of dedicated work. However, when these projects are multiplied across a health network which may have grown or changed through merger, acquisition, numerous departments and disciplines…IT governance is easier said than done.

Leaders must agree on organizational priorities. For example, if an organization states three top priorities, such as business expansion, physician satisfaction and population health management, they should drive alignment to those priorities. Three questions to ask include:

  • Is there an agreement on which one is the higher priority?
  • How are the projects selected supporting these priorities?
  • Can the organization excute each of these priorities from skillset to existing enterprise assets?

Keeping the mission in mind helps leadership perform best practices in successful governance and planning, including working with stakeholders at the right time, communication transparency and maintaining agreement on business objectives. It is generally recommended to bring external resources to manage the important initiatives. Internal resources normally have multiple priorities and may or may not have the skillset or the objectivity of an external professional to tackle these critical endeavors.

Determine Your IT Governance Framework

It is important to have an overarching framework for IT governance. It is critical to determining impact on outcomes. The COBIT framework mentioned earlier in this article is one of the industry standard frameworks, along with PMI’s (Project Management Institute’s) recommended linkage of project governance to corporate governance. Regardless of the framework selected, it should provide a common language to communicate goals, objectives and expected results to all stakeholders.

The framework integrates industry standards and best practices in strategic alignment, value delivery of services, risk management, resource management and performance measurement. It is beneficial for health systems in all stages of business, but is especially critical in merger and acquisition (M&A) scenarios where the prioritization, planning and interdependency mapping are critical.

Drive Better Results

We’ve all seen projects riddled with delays, signifant cost increases and scope modifications. Solid IT governance avoids these issues and drives better results. There are four main governance stages. All are applicable in any major activity:

  • Capital Budgeting
  • Project Prioritization
  • Project Planning
  • Resource Management

Within these stages, an executive steering team performs governance planning annually or applies the process to address a large change scenario such as M&A. The governance planning process begins with business needs identification, followed by business unit prioritization, mapping interdependencies, cross-functional prioritization, annual investment planning, administrative process planning, and project execution.

As the saying goes, what you can’t measure you can’t change. Governance planning activities are driven by identifying common attributes, and designing priorities by category and weights. And therefore the information from this common understanding is essential to making key IT decisions on architecture, infrastructure, business applications and new investments.

According to Project Management Institute (PMI), “Poor governance can put the organization at risk of commercial failure, pecuniary and regulatory problems, or allow the organization to lose sight of its objectives and responsibilities to its stakeholder, who benefit from its success.” A strong understanding and application of available tools maximizes organizational results, reduces waste and lines up with your organization’s strategic objectives.

About Peyman Zand

Peyman Zand is a health IT veteran having previously served as a vice president at Community Health Systems and regional CIO for Tenet Healthcare. Peyman currently leads the advisory services division of CereCore where he works with hospital and health system leaders to deliver specific and measurable results through a methodical approach to strategic planning and project execution. Peyman can be reached at: