Enterprise Software

CIO Journal: IT is the core of business strategies

While CRM continues to dominate the IT project to-do list, it's clearly not the only priority requiring attention, and a lot of time, for one VP of IS. In her fourth journal entry, she discusses how IT plays a critical role in achieving business goals.


Michelle Miller is VP of IS at MedSolutions, Inc., a Nashville, TN, radiology management products provider. Her IT staff is focused on a variety of tech projects, including a critical CRM application integration effort that demands much of the tech leader's time on a daily basis. Yet as her weekly journal installments detail, CRM is just one of the of the numerous critical business strategies in which the IT department is involved.

Thursday, 8:30 A.M.: Realigning a manager's responsibilities
My first meeting of the day is a discussion with my application manager about his current workload and some shifting of responsibilities. He has been very focused on the CRM application to date, driving the testing and implementation from the IS perspective. However, it is time for him to revisit the other applications we have in-house to get those back on track. I’ve also added oversight responsibility for applications he has not owned in the past. He is concerned about being overwhelmed, and I coach him that this is not a directive that he must personally solve all problems associated with these applications, but he does have accountability for ensuring that issues are resolved—an important difference. It is a growth opportunity for him to learn about delegation and vendor management.

9 A.M.: Web site issues crop up again
I have an impromptu meeting with the VP of operations to discuss the results of the CRM User Group meeting. His impressions were very positive overall, and he has enjoyed the opportunity to dig into the details of the system. An additional discussion focuses on the disconnect on the part of the account managers concerning Web site functionality—an issue which is causing us to miss a client commitment. I am frustrated at the gradual movement of this issue to an IS "problem" as opposed to a problem with over-commitment and lack of communication. We will be able to make some adjustments to meet the commitment, but the solution will not be ideal.

This discussion, and those preceding it, drives home the point that it is time we revisit our Web site. The site has not received much attention since its initial release, and our requirements have changed since then. We have yet to integrate our Web pre-cert submissions with CRM real time. That is, when a user submits a request to us online, we run it through a separate process from a standard request. When our online activity was low, this was not a concern. However, a disconnect is beginning to cause reporting and process problems. I am looking forward to an overall revisitation of the site and am considering a complete graphical redesign as well. I will consult with our marketing rep, as it is important to align the look and feel of our extranet with what marketing is doing with our public site.

10 A.M.: Working on a collaborative data-analysis approach
I meet with finance and medical informatics about the way our departments work together to perform data analysis for prospects. There are many handoffs during the process, and it is easy for details to be missed and projects to be delayed. This is a killer when our sales cycle is already very long. Unfortunately, we determine that we probably don’t have all the right people at the meeting to get the right decisions made, so we postpone until next week.


Michelle Miller

Miller’s first IT gig was an IBM internship as a hardware test engineer on the then-new RS600. The 33-year-old says she most enjoys the variety and pace of her job, as it's never boring. Yet there are inherent drawbacks as well, as it’s nearly impossible to become an expert in any one initiative, she admits. Miller advises wanna-be CIOs not to underestimate the amount of leadership, people-management, and time-management skills needed to serve as an effective CIO. “Knowing the technology bit is not enough,” she said.


1 P.M.: CRM evaluation continues
I attend another Service Task Force meeting. During this meeting, I have an opportunity to practice active listening. It is a difficult meeting because generally, the topic is “what is wrong with CRM.” The challenge for me, and for other members of the team who feel a strong sense of ownership for the project, is to not hear the critical comments as ways we missed the mark or failed, but to simply interpret the need and execute on it. The good news is that we have control over this product and can deliver on customized requirements. One of the best lessons learned from the first release, though, is that it is important to continue to probe past initial surface requirements. For example, the medical department may have designed the clinical screens a certain way, and we gave them ultimate signoff. However, our customer service department also uses those screens, and the layout is very inefficient for them. The next major release of the system will have this experience behind it and will benefit a great deal from what we've learned.

4:30 P.M.: Excited about growth and new plans
I leave early to meet the director of operations for an after-work meeting. We talk through some training and implementation plans. We also talk through the challenges we each face in positioning our departments to handle the growth we see in the coming months. It’s a great thing to be worried about, particularly in the difficult economic climate we’ve seen lately. I’m reminded during this conversation of how fortunate my team and I are to be in an environment where there is such strong alignment between the business and IT strategies. We (IS) are core to the strategy of the business, core to the success of it. And while a good deal of pressure comes with that, the rewards are great…when it works!

Missed Michelle's earlier journal entries?
Catch up with Michelle Miller’s five-day journal by reading Monday’s, Tuesday’s, and Wednesday's journal installments.

 

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