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CIO Unplugged 9/22/10

September 22, 2010 Ed Marx 6 Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.

Tool Time

9-22-2010 5-50-47 PM

This is a picture of my home workbench. I think you can tell from it that I’m not a productive handyman. I learned some time ago that power tools were not my thing. I leave that work to those who have a passion and talent for it.

What does stoke my fire is leveraging IT to enable improved clinical and business outcomes. Thus, I have a much greater interest in my career “workbench.”

What follows is what works for me. Perhaps it will inspire some new ideas for you. Either way, share what works for you in the Comments section.

A common thread throughout my life is the principle of simplicity. Hardware, software, or systems that are robust, yet easy to use,are my tools of choice.


Texas Health is a Microsoft strategic partner and my applications largely reflect this. I use the Office suite exclusively, including OneNote. Everything is integrated and I can easily move in and out of these apps without any format or compatibility challenges.

I use Office Communication Server (video, voice, IM) as my communications tool for all of the aforementioned reasons. It is very simple and easy to have all of my primary business applications on the same platform.

Two exceptions include Yammer and Mindjet Manager Pro. Yammer is our internal collaboration software, often referred to as “Twitter for Business.” The use of Yammer has helped our enterprise in some incredible ways, including responding to emergencies (H1N1, power disruptions) and leveraging the wisdom of the crowds.

9-22-2010 5-54-46 PM

Mindjet is a tool to help me organize my thoughts for presentations, meetings, and yes, my blogs.


Texas Health is also a HP strategic partner and my device is my office, so I currently have a ProBook 5310. I love that my video and communications devices are all built in. No air cards, phones, or cameras to mess with. It’s all included and very lightweight for travel. Because I like to mess with people’s minds, I have an Apple logo affixed to the black casing, which causes people to scratch their heads.


I’ve had a BlackBerry for years and do not plan to change anytime soon (sorry, partners). I upgrade each year and currently have the Storm2. On more than one occasion, I have gone without my ProBook and just leveraged my BlackBerry. I am trending this direction as a permanent solution, albeit I think we are a couple of years out.

What I absolutely will not carry around is a laptop and a mobile and something akin to an iPad. This is way too many devices. I know people who function like this and in some cases, add a pager and/or office phone to boot. That’s just plain silly and gives IT a bad vibe. If you use more than two devices, your life is unnecessarily complicated.


Since I operate within a virtual office, another key tool is my leather briefcase. People make fun of my soft-sided manbag because it is worn and weathered. Well, there’s good reason for its scuffed look — I’m always on the go, visiting my team and my customers. It is practical and durable.


The least tangible but most important of all the tools is what I call “systems.” A system is a well-established routine that you no longer have to think about that enables your highest level of productivity. You can have the greatest tools in the world, but you hamper your effectiveness by not automating manual and routine processes. Sound familiar? Think EHR/CPOE.

One of my “systems” is to have everything I need for the next day’s adventure ready and updated the evening before. When I wake up, I am out the door and driving to the gym in five minutes. Manbag included.

What about you? What’s on your workbench? What tools work best for you?

Update 9/27/10

Thank you for your comments and input on tools that work for you. There is no single perfect tool for everyone, but it is critical that you find one that works best for you.

There were some great suggestions on HIStalk for mind mapping-like software. You should certainly give one of these a try and see if it helps you organize your thoughts and work.

As for “where’s the beef?” as one reader asked, I have posted on more technical subjects like cloud computing, mobility, and virtualization, but I tend to focus more on leadership oriented topics. In my journey, I have found plenty of great technical expertise in our industry, but believe what is lacking to make us more strategic is fundamental leadership.

My focus is on leadership, service, partnerships, and strategy. I will sprinkle in a few thoughts on the more technical side, so stay tuned and keep letting me know what you would like to see.

Ed Marx is a CIO currently working for a large integrated health system. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. Add a comment by clicking the link at the bottom of this post. You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook, and you can follow him via Twitter – User Name “marxists.”

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Currently there are "6 comments" on this Article:

  1. Where’s the beef? What is your take on virtualization especially of the desktop? How far do you feel comfortable taking your infrastructure into the cloud? Do you have an opinion on off shoring? Seriously, glad to hear you like leather bags.

  2. Hi Ed,
    Right there with you on so many of the items especiallly Mindmanager mapping. The one thing I would add is “GRID IT” by cocoon- the perfect tool for your manbag!.

  3. “What about you? What’s on your workbench? What tools work best for you?”

    Doctors’ workbench and tool box is their brain. The devices that are being produced to assist more efficient thought processes are paradoxically disrupting the workbench and tool box.

    If doctors must search the electronic silos for patient and disease critical information amidst the lines of clinically irrelevant print, the system begins to resemble your real work bench.

  4. Hi Ed,
    I agree, MS OCS rocks and provides a simple integrated communications platform. I do wish I looked better on camera though. Would love to hear your thoughts/experience on virtualizing the desktop.

  5. To “Not tired of suzy rn” –

    That is the HUGE problem with healthcare today – clinicians that think they only need to rely on their own brain. How vain. How arrogant. How ridiculous. In today’s age, information changes on a second by second basis. Those that think that practicing medicine with only their own brain’s horsepower are dangerous – and, I might add, will not be “practiciing” on me.

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