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Un-complicating Healthcare IT

Why The Healthcare IT Director Shouldn’t Be Your Project Manager

Mar 17, 2016 9:30:00 AM Posted by Darci Axmear | Project Management

Learn why hospital IT directors should support a project’s success instead of trying to manage it.A common mistake at healthcare organizations is to see projects involving electronics as primarily technology projects or IT projects, instead of viewing them as hospital projects that have an IT component.

If you’re implementing a healthcare IT solution, for example, the project should focus on the clinical and organizational goals, with IT supporting the project’s success from a technical standpoint. If you treat the implementation as an IT project and appoint the IT director as the project manager, there’s a risk of clinical goals taking a back seat to technical concerns.

Why Do IT Directors End Up Managing Projects?

In healthcare today, IT directors often serve as project managers because either a) they think it’s a good idea, or b) the CFO thinks it’s a good idea.

One reason an IT director would want to be the project manager is that it provides a measure of control. They want things managed their way. But in reality, having someone else manage the project doesn’t mean relinquishing control or being cut out of the loop. Done right, it puts the IT director in a better position to closely monitor the project’s IT issues.

Many CFOs assign IT directors as project managers because they see it as a way of saving money and keeping knowledge in house. Unfortunately, this approach often proves penny-wise and pound-foolish. With the IT director looped into the project as a whole, there’s no reason why knowledge should escape during the project. In fact, utilizing outside experts would effectively bring more knowledge into the organization.

3 Questions To Ask

Before designating your IT director as the project manager, try asking these three questions:

  1. Does Your IT Director Have The Time?

    Piling on more work just isn’t realistic. You might want to approach this question in terms of what the director plans to delegate in order to take on the additional project management duties. If the director has tasks that could be done by someone else, it might raise the question, “Why haven’t they been delegated already?”

  1. Does He Or She Have The Necessary Focus?

    Professional project management requires a different mindset and focus than the day-to-day management and maintenance that’s a big part of hospital IT. Consider whether the director has the routines and way of thinking to bring groups together and facilitate communication and collaboration.

  1. Does He Or She Have The Methodology And Tools To Be Effective?

    Project management requires a variety of skills, from managing the budget to identifying dependencies and scheduling. IT directors are familiar with budgeting, but they may not be used to giving bad news, such as when a project goes over budget or behind schedule. They need to be able to identify when a project is running late and decide whether to throw more resources at it, change the scope or figure out another schedule.

    Proactive scope management is critical to a successful project, and many IT directors don’t have this skill set. Scope and schedule are completely different animals than daily maintenance, which doesn’t have a beginning or end. Knowing when to change scope, when to stay on scope and how to manage and communicate scope are essential. A good project manager knows when and how to communicate the bigger picture, and this doesn’t often play well to the strengths of an IT director.

Instead of having your IT director take on additional project management duties, let them focus on their role as a core team member. The director gives an IT perspective on project scope, defining requirements, testing and building – a perspective that should support a project’s success instead of trying to manage it.

Ready to align your IT strategy and business objectives? Download our free whitepaper, Measuring IT Effectiveness: Your Small to Mid-Size Healthcare Organization's First Step To Operational Excellence.

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Darci Axmear | Project Management

Darci manages and leads projects of all varieties for healthcare providers. From EHR implementations and upgrades to regulatory requirement projects and more, Darci is a thorough and resourceful leader who motivates all stakeholders to have on-time, on-budget project results.