Enterprise Software

CIO Journal: Open doors keep ideas flowing

A CRM project and staff management duties again top the agenda for one VP of IS, who concludes her workweek journal with some insight on best practices in staff and professional management.


Throughout this entire week, Michelle Miller, VP of IS at MedSolutions, Inc., a Nashville, TN, radiology management products provider, has been continually juggling crucial efforts such as a CRM project, meeting with internal clients on application and user issues, and planning a much-needed Web site enhancement.

Her jam-packed week ends essentially as it began—with CRM front and center and management issues and internal client solutions wedged in throughout the day.

Friday, 9 A.M.-12 P.M.: A late jump on the day
The morning is consumed with personal appointments, advancing my workday start quite a bit.

1 P.M.: Deciding where to reach out for CRM help
My boss (the CEO) meets me at the door to discuss a reporting need. Because we now have the ability to report on each step of our call-center process, we are all hungry for that information. We are drilling into the ROI of our CRM investment and into a detailed cost analysis of our overall call-center process.

As we continue to look at our business processes during our task-force meetings, we have more and more questions about exactly where our time delays are and how we can optimize each step of the transaction. We discuss how to approach the next major release of CRM and how to involve our PeopleSoft consulting partners. Because our business, our industry, really, is so new, we have found that it is difficult for outside resources to quickly get up to speed and provide valuable design help.

We decide what will probably be most helpful is additional PeopleSoft CRM functional expertise that we can pair with our own design skill sets, resulting in a team which can build a detailed spec to then hand off to skilled programmers. The difference in this release is that we will remain more committed to our design requirements and challenge our technical staff to find a way to meet those. In our first release, I think the compromises were the other way around. We allowed technical constraints to change our design too much. Our internal development staff has come up to speed very quickly, so we may or may not have to outsource the development.

 


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.


2 P.M.: Cancelled meeting, a time to catch up
I decide to cancel my IS staff meeting as several are out for the Good Friday holiday. I’ve wavered on how often to have staff meetings, as they seem to grow longer with every gathering, and they are often not equally beneficial to the attendees. My group is small enough that most communication is handled well enough in the halls or over cubicle walls. It’s easy to deceive yourself, though, into thinking that everyone is on the same page. I almost always find that gathering the group for a detailed review of current projects results in a discovery of a disconnect between groups.

I am very fortunate to have the team I do. Most members have been with me two years or more, and they have a good understanding of one another's work patterns. My organization is very flat—all but one report directly to me. This is a model that can work very well when most of the team members work well on their own and are comfortable trading leadership project by project.

3:30 P.M.–5 P.M.: One on one with the boss
Another discussion with my boss, and this time, it’s my biweekly one-on-one meeting with him. The agenda is set by both my boss and his direct report at the beginning of the meeting. These are casual sessions, providing some structure around an "open door" policy. I have implemented this approach with my staff as well and have found the sessions to be time well spent. It is easy to get into a space where you assume people know what they need to be working on and assume they are doing well as long as you’re not hearing anything different—from them or from your users. However, by carving out time in my calendar and dedicating that to each individual, they are more inclined to open up and discuss situations or challenges for which they may not otherwise interrupt me. My one-on-one session this week ranges in topic from bonuses to power HTML. He is a very technically astute CEO, which is good news and bad news. The bad news is that he is often drilling into the details of what I do—challenging my decisions, asking hard questions, and often making me spend extra time defending my position. The good news is that he is on target with his hard questions, he is a believer in making technology core to our company’s strategy, and he is willing to back that up with resource commitment. This attention and investment has made me better at what I do.

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

 

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox