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Technology Revolution and the Changing Role of CIOs

By Michael T. McManamon, CIO, Cleveland Sight Center


Michael T. McManamon, CIO, Cleveland Sight Center

The Next Generation Technological Revolution

One of the biggest challenges we face as an organization is the continuation and expansion of the ‘shadow it’ department. Technology has become not just accepted in the workplace but has taken a significant role in the daily lives of most staff. People are now bringing to the business IT department demands for the newest and most up to date tech, regardless of the value (or lack of) that it provides the organization. Managing this demand and directing it to alignment along the strategic path to achieve business goals and productivity is a new and growing challenge one which we are still learning how to best manage. BYOD has forced its way into the workplace regardless of policies and planning; a situation we must not deal with head on. There are many additional complications of the consumerization of technology that we face. Information security threats have many more attack vectors and willing hands opening the doors wide for them. The average staff/consumer is not cognizant of the risks or the value of the data and systems that we must safeguard from the very same people that we must provide access to.

Integrating Data for 360 Degree View of Customer

In a healthcare organization like the Sight Center, we focus on the customer and their big picture goals in life. We strive to get to know them, their needs and craft a service plan around the holistic picture of whom they are and where they want to be. We have been attempting to achieve the 360-degree view for many years which has generated an overabundance of data elements. We feed the data into an analytic engine to produce the summary information that can help us guide the customer along the path they need to achieve their goals.

Increasing Competitive Advantage using Technology

Today, new technology has a direct impact on our client. From wearable devices to monitor biological functions to assistive technology being built into smart phones and watches the new technologies being created today are reshaping the world as we and our client know it. Advanced microminiaturization has led to the development of a retinal prosthesis (bionic eye), a step towards curing blindness. Embracing the emerging tech, steering its development and understanding how it can impact our patients, directly or indirectly, is critical to maintain our leadership role providing services to those who are blind or visually impaired.

“We focus today almost exclusively on the business value that technology brings to the table and how we align it with the business strategy to achieve big picture goals”

Managing Security and Data Integrity

Two aspects of my job that keep me awake at night are data/ systems integrity and information security. Overzealous IT admins, meaning well, are the ones most likely to bypass procedure and policy to get their job done and ‘make things better.’ Laying down the law on using the change management process as well as keeping a CMDB up to date are important to the operations of any IT department. Measuring KPIs provides good direction and guidance but also the added stress of making sure that those KPIs are met or exceeded.

Even with the best input validation, foreign key integrity and restricted selections, we still manage to get bad data into our system. This seems to be an issue that no technical solution can solve and no amount of training helps. An external QA and audit process has been my solution to this issue, but even these roles do not solve all of the data issues.

Utilizing Latest Technological Trends

The Internet of Things has the potential to help us make our clients more independent, achieving their goals and our mission. As more devices, homes and control systems become accessible and connected, people with blindness or low vision have more options available to them other than supported living. When wearable tech can monitor biometrics and even location and position it frees a patient from some of the physical bonds that kept them from achieving freedom and independence.

Changing role of IT and CIOs

The role of IT has changed significantly in the past few years. We no longer ‘own’ technology; people are bringing tech with them to the workplace and expecting us to be the enabler and maintenance resource for them. Because of this, more attention needs to be placed on governance, policy and especially expectations.

The role of the CIO has become that of a business strategist and leader rather than a technology innovator. We focus today almost exclusively on the business value that technology brings to the table and how we align it with the business strategy to achieve big picture goals. There is no ombudsman necessary because the CIO, with the executive leadership team and board, leads the company in strategy and direction.

Linking IT with Business

Information security is always a challenge because it does involve a price and inconvenience with no obvious value. Trying to prove the value of an incident that didn’t happen is a very hard task. It is the misfortune of others that drives home the need to invest in security. As a small non-profit constantly being pressured to reduce our administrative costs bringing on a CSO is only a dream. I strongly feel that security should be in its own vertical rather than under the CIO because although they both deal with tech and can be seen as two sides of the same coin, they have different and often conflicting missions.

Guidance for New CIOs

My advice to a new CIO would be to never stop learning, build strong networks and relationships and listen as hard as you can. You focus must be on the business; they probably do not know what they need but they will tell you and it is your job to interpret the need into a solution.

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