By Daniel Herman, Founder and Managing Principal, Aspen Advisors, Guy Scalzi, Principal, Aspen Advisors, and Roger Kropf, Professor in the Health Policy and Management Program, New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
IT governance has been topic of interest for many years, and even though the concept has been embraced within the healthcare industry, the reality is that it’s still not operationally working well within most healthcare organizations. According to the 22nd Annual HIMSS Leadership Survey released in March 2011, the metrics regarding IT governance look strong. The majority of respondents (87 percent) reported that there is a strong level of integration between the IT strategic plan and the organization’s overall strategic plan. In addition, nearly three-quarters of senior IT executives reported that they sit on the executive committee at their organization.
Respondents were asked to what extent IT is integrated into their organization’s strategic operating, clinical, and capital plans. The majority of respondents (87 percent) indicated that there is a strong level of integration between IT strategies and overall organizational strategy. Specifically, more than half of respondents (51 percent) noted that the IT plan is a component of the organization’s overall strategic plan. In addition, nearly three-quarters of senior IT respondents (72 percent) noted that they are a member of their organization’s executive committee, which is defined in this research as the leadership team that drives overall organization strategy and direction. This is consistent with the 70 percent of respondents who reported this to be the case in the 2010 survey.
However, this information doesn’t show the entire picture that we are seeing among the clients of Aspen Advisors. In the past three years Aspen Advisors has assisted over 30 clients with their IT strategic planning efforts. In 80 percent of the cases, enhancing existing IT governance, decision-making, executive sponsorship, and project prioritization processes have been a key focus of the planning effort. In fact, in the case of one academic medical center, an executive governance process surrounding overall organizational capital and operating budgeting and prioritization was totally absent.
IT governance remains one of the biggest challenges in healthcare IS. Organizations continue to battle with the dilemma of having much more demand for IS services than supply and budget to service. Requests for new projects arrive with typically no effective mechanism to control how projects get prioritized, funded, and resources allocated. IS then gets put in the position where they’re overwhelmed, under-budgeted, and under-delivering.
There is a finite set of variables to control: funding, resources, and scope. It’s important to focus on a limited set of projects that support the organization’s strategic goals. Appropriate alignment of IS resources ensures that IS is spending the organization’s money prudently, and effective IT governance is essential to making that a reality.
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