When Mr. H started making his vacation plans, he determined only an elite group of HIT superstars could fill his shoes. Or, perhaps he concluded only a few people would want to contribute to an obscure blog. In any case, Mr. H asked but a handful of experts to provide guest columns in his absence. Partners HealthCare Systems VP and CIO John Glaser was definitely on his short list.
Mr. H and I were thrilled he agreed to participate because he is a funny guy. And, John’s credentials are certainly pretty stout as well. He is the former IS VP at Brigham and Women’s, was CHIME’s founding chair, and was a past HIMSS president. Additionally, he is a PhD, a HIMSS, CHIME, and American College of Medical Informatics fellow. Plus now a published HIStalk Guest Writer. Enjoy!
I have been a CIO for a really, really long time – over 20 years. And while I wasn’t sure about the role at first, after a while it kind of grew on me.
I was asked – what are the top 10 cool things about being a CIO? There are 10 things that I like but I could only remember 7 (this job does nothing for your memory or intelligence).
You get to go to lots of meetings. I realize that most meetings are pretty boring. But they can hardly be called hard work or dangerous work. All you have to do is be able to sit for long periods of time, avoid dozing off and be able to make up facts should a question come your way.
How hard can this be? You don’t have to actually do anything substantive like write code, support users or write documentation – you just have to show up at the right meeting at the right time and keep your eyes open.
You get to go to lots of conferences and events. In order to “stay on top of the industry,” “develop a valuable network of colleagues” and “engage in meaningful dialogue with vendors and consultants” you have to go to multiple conferences and events. Usually these are held in nice places, give you time to play golf, result in your being fed well and provide you the opportunity to wear a badge with colored ribbons.
Your staff are back at the ranch slaving away while it is snowing outside. You, on the other hand, are advancing the organization’s strategic IT agenda as you toss down a couple of cold ones with industry movers and shakers – pool side.
You get to give lots of presentations. The board wants to know the IT strategy. The organization’s leadership wants to understand that projects for next year. Your staff want to hear about efforts to improve the effectiveness of the IT department. As a result, you will need to give lots of presentations. Presentations give you opportunities to show really cool moving bullets, present graphs that build, play video clips, listen to audio clips and, if you’re really good, leverage a hologram or two.
Don’t worry about substance. That isn’t the point of presentations. Entertainment and high tech wizardry are the point.
You get free publications. To get free industry publications all you have to do is fill out the qualification card that says that you approve every IT decision in the organization and that you have installed every technology ever made and that your organization is going to be engaged in major buying decisions in the next year. You may not know what some of this equipment does. You may not know if you really have this hardware or that operating system installed. And you may not have a clue what the IT purchasing plans are in the year ahead.
This doesn’t matter. The publication doesn’t really care whether your responses are accurate or not. They just want to show advertisers that they have important readers so that they can charge top dollar for a full page ad. Once you get the publications you don’t have to read them other than to scan them to see if there is a picture of someone you know. You should however keep big stacks of these publications in your office. This helps to create the aura that you are well informed – see next section on pronouncements.
You get to issue official pronouncements. Every now and then you are expected to make important decisions. Which vendor should we choose? Should we participate in a RHIO or not? Where should we make budget cuts?
You might be worried about the pressure to make the right decision. Relax. All you have to do is decide. You don’t have to be right or wrong – you just have to decide, announce your decision and deliver that decision with a tone of voice and a body posture that indicates that this decision is well considered.
If you want help in deciding you can use the Magic Eight Ball or Rock-Scissors-Paper. Don’t let the rest of the organization see you do this – it has a way of diminishing the appearance of the decision being well considered.
And if someone points out “That decision you made last year didn’t work out so well. What happened?” All you have to say is, “Overcome by events.”
You get a nice office. Being a CIO generally means that the organization gives you an office in the same area as the other muckety-mucks. This office is usually large, has plush carpeting, is appointed with a big desk and a mini-conference table and has a really big screen to go with your ultra-fast computer. Plus there is free coffee nearby.
You may wonder – why do I need all of this space? And why do I need the space to be this luxurious? You need the luxury so that you can appear important. It is important that you appear important when you make official pronouncements. The key part of the space is to have enough room, on the carpet, to lie down and take a nap. Being a CIO can be tiring.
You get free doo-dads and trinkets. Conference exhibit halls (particularly HIMSS) have dozens of opportunities to stock up on pens, key chains, little flashlights, coffee mugs, note pads, bags and lots of other quality merchandise. Vendors, in an effort to grab your attention, will mail you golf balls, radio controlled cars without the radio controls, umbrellas, kaleidoscopes, back scratchers and shirts. And you get all of this because you are top of the IT heap (and you filled out your qualification card as I instructed above).
You have family presents for all of the major holidays and life events for the rest of your life. You can use the shelves in your spacious office to exhibit your loot. While you have meetings in your office you can invite the attendees to play with the doo-dad of their choice helping you to avoid a conversation that you’d rather not have.
These doo-dads and trinkets show you that, while the rest of the organization thinks you should be shot, your vendors and consultants care enough about you to send you presents.
My CHIME colleagues may not admit it. But the above reasons are the real reasons that we are all glad to be healthcare CIOs.