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February 3, 2010
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The Robert E. Nolan Company is an operations and technology consulting firm specializing in the health care industry. For 35 years, we have helped clients redesign processes and apply technology to improve service, quality, productivity, and costs.

Our staff members are all senior industry experts with 15+ years in the industry. Visit www.renolan.com to for health care articles, white papers, and client success stories.


A New Breed of CIO

Craig Loughrige
Senior Consultant

The short history of information technology has seen a couple generations of leaders. Is a third generation now emerging? First-generation CIOs—often called the "Director of Data Processing"—were the unquestioned rulers of their domains who knew technology well but little about business. Business leaders acquiesced to IT demands because they were in unfamiliar territory. This era faded around 1980 with the advent of the more technically-savvy customers and executives. The '80s saw the rise of the CIO who as "order taker" was expected to both understand business and serve up scoops of enabling technology; much like Baskin- Robbins scoops up ice cream—and just as quickly, if you please. The job tenure of that CIO averaged three years as they failed to satisfy the demands of their customer base.

One of Nolan Company's recent client's IT shop is run by a new breed of CIO who is on the cusp of the third generation. First, his shop is CMMI Level 3 compliant, with some areas at Level 4. He has all the components you see in most big IT shops, but their charge is different. The architecture group's charge is maintainability, not the next newest technology to bet on. He has an emerging technology group that must deliver production applications today for the real complex problems, not report on how good it will be when the technology matures. His PMO manages [runs] projects instead of just managing the project plan. He also has a business liaison group where project planning is done with the charge of scope control. He also has a vendor management group that has implemented the "vendor stable" concept which limits the number of vendors and controls costs.

The real strength of this highly-disciplined IT shop is that alongside mainstream development and maintenance resides a "skunk works" which prototypes applications at the intersection of business needs and technology capabilities. With the CIO as leader, these prototypes are shared with the business community who provides feedback, resulting in moving ahead or discarding the applications. One recent call center upgrade cost less than $2 million, while another (which was not as good) cost more than $20 million.

Isn't this new breed of CIO great?


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