Technology is a powerful tool. If used properly, it holds the promise of creating efficiencies and delivering exciting and new capabilities for your organization. We all know that technology exists to serve us and to meet the objectives of our organization, but in many cases, this isn’t reality. It is actually the other way around.
Our software, hardware, and IT vendors are implicitly dictating to us how our businesses must operate because of our technologies’ imposed structures and limitations. Although not limited to, this is especially true in the healthcare space with the mass implementation of electronic health record systems.
The Trouble With Technology
The trouble with technology is that it is intangible and it intimidates many of us. By intangible, I mean that you can’t really see how it works. It is hidden in code and in databases, and there is a foreign lexicon used when it is discussed. Yes, you can see the user interface, but we all intuitively know that behind the scenes, there is a whole lot of something going on, and we don’t know what it is or how it works.
This intangible “unknown” with technology is a problem. It creates a gap between operations and IT. Because technology seems too “technical” for us, we become afraid and we tend to shy away from trying to understand it.
Because it feels confusing, we don’t know what we are paying for. We don’t know if we have the right systems, if those systems are configured correctly for our business, and what our options truly are. We don’t even know what questions to ask. Instead, we feel forced to outsource to IT departments and IT vendors, leaving it in the hands of others.
But our systems directly impact how our organizations work. They dictate what we can and can not do. They determine our efficiency, productivity, and speed at which we operate. They are a big part of our processes, our customer/employee satisfaction, and they are a bigger part of if and how we can compete and innovate.
By giving up responsibility and control of these decisions, we in effect are putting IT in the driving seat of our organization.
The Agenda of IT
I do not believe that IT organizations have an evil plan to take over and control your business. They are often as uncomfortable with understanding the nuances of operations as you are with technology. They prefer to stay in the domain of running systems, maintaining systems, scaling infrastructures and planning for business continuity.
But all IT organizations have agendas. They want to continue to have jobs and continue to have work to do. They want their systems to be optimal and they want the budgets to do this successfully. They want to be important and often use the confusion of technology-speak to this end.
This is understandable, but someone needs to be asking the question: How does the business want to operate, and how can we align our IT to make this happen?
Alignment is about regaining control of IT and putting the horse in front of the cart. Alignment starts by having a clear vision – a destination to drive towards, asking some well-purposed, fact-finding questions, and then making key decisions to drive you to where you want to be. Alignment of IT takes focus and it takes leadership. It won’t happen by itself. It has to be created and managed, not hoped for. Proactive, not reactive.
If you are a healthcare executive, ask yourself are you driving your IT or is it driving you? Do you know what you are paying for and how your IT budget is serving the purpose and goals of your organization? If not, what would it take for you to find out?