CIO’s In The Wild: A Field Report

CIO Lindsey Jarrell Was Observed Doing What CIOs Do
CIO Lindsey Jarrell Was Observed Doing What CIOs Do

One of life’s great mysteries is “just exactly what do CIOs do” I’m pretty sure that we all think that we know what they do, but do we REALLY know? In order to prepare you for your future job as a CIO, I have undertaken a dangerous field study in order to observe the wild CIO in their natural habitat and I’m now prepared to make my report back to you. Listen and learn.

The Subject

Our subject in this case was Mr. Lindsey Jarrell who is currently the CIO of BayCare Health System. BayCare is a community-based health care system in the Tampa Bay, Florida, area. They connect patients to a complete range of services through their not-for-profit hospitals, outpatient and imaging facilities, and other regional services that reach beyond the Bay area.

These observations were made as part of my attending a healthcare conference that was being held in the Tampa area. Lindsey had been invited to give a talk about how BayCare has been using IT as a part of its operations.

Overall Knowledge

In order to judge how a CIO is doing his job, you have to take a careful look at just what he says. This is truly a case where words may speak even louder than actions.

Lindsey showed that a CIO needs to know about more than just IT issues. The key to being a successful CIO appears to have a good understanding of where the company is trying to go and how the IT department can help it get there:

  • IT Vision: The goal of BayCare’s IT department is to understand how physicians think.
  • Relationships: The CIO has to have a good relationship with the Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO). This required Lindsey to get over his need to always be in control.
  • Extra Knowledge: Things that the BayCare CIO needs to know about that are not IT related include how doctors work and a lot about vendor contracts.
  • Who Owns Quality?: A company’s quality project is not an IT project, instead it is a company-wide transformation project.
  • Deep Knowledge: Lindsey was able to quote off the top of his head the incoming call volume that his help desk was currently fielding.

IT Projects

IT is all about projects: we start them, we run them, and hopefully the company is made better by them in the end. It was clear that Lindsey had spent a lot of time trying to find the best way to do IT projects and here’s what he had to say about that:

  • Where?: Lindsey was able to admit some of the functionality of the large-scale project did not have to be located in the IT department.
  • Keeping The Right Focus: He believes that his project teams needed to be out in the field in front of the doctors. One of the reasons for this is that inside of BayCare they have a completely different focus: they deal with an in-patient environment whereas doctors are focused on people who come to their offices (out-patient care).
  • Dates: He believes that for large IT projects you need to avoid announcing a “go live” date until AFTER you are either weeks or months into the project and have a good understanding of what it’s really going to take.
  • Project Management: The CIO came to understand that vendors really only care about getting to “live” (which is when they get paid). Realizing this, Lindsey hired his own project manager who is responsible for keeping track of the “big picture” for his projects.

What All Of This Means For You

This kind of observation of a real, live CIO is exactly the kind of information that you need to be considering as your career moves you closer and closer to the day that you’ll be named CIO. Hopefully my field notes have provided you with some insights into what a CIO really does.

Of special note should be the fact that Lindsey didn’t spend any time talking about servers, operating systems, development tools, networking, or security issues. These are all part-and-parcel of what an IT department deals with on a daily basis, but Lindsey realized that these are internal issues that nobody else cares about. CIO’s need to focus on what the rest of the business wants and keep the IT stuff inside the IT department.

Do you agree that IT vocabulary and IT specific issues should be kept inside of the IT department or should we share them with other departments?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When you become CIO, almost instantly everything that you know will quickly start to become out-of-date. Just to make things even worse, as the CIO one of your jobs is going to be to accurately predict the future. Just how are you going to go about doing this? It turns out that when you need insights into what the future of IT is going to look like, it helps to sit down and have a talk with the guys who are busy creating it