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With revenue at stake, companies seek business-savvy tech workers

Fred O'Connor | April 25, 2013
IT workers increasingly need to have business acumen, in addition to staying up to date with tech skills, as companies watch the bottom line

IT departments are smart to place the business' needs first given that most CIOs report to the CEO or COO, Cullen says.

"If you look at where technology is in the pecking order it's very wise that people have the mindset that we can't lead with technology," he says. "We have to lead with the understanding of the business issue, provide a business solution and show how IT can enable that."

Mercy, whose 32 hospitals treat more than 3 million patients annually, hired Gil Hoffman as CIO in October to better align the organization's IT with its business needs.

"When they recruited me, there was a real interest in trying to get more business knowledge instead of just technology knowledge into the IT organization," says Hoffman, who previously handled that task as the CIO of a marketing services company.

Mercy views its IT department as a potential source of revenue as it looks to sell its IT services to other medical care providers, Hoffman says.

IT still retains its role as an internal service organization, but is now more proactive and discusses how technology can remove work obstacles.

Desktop upgrade conversations -- a "so what" talk with workers asking how this benefited them, Hoffman says -- have been replaced with discussions about a mobile plan that will lead to greater productive and user satisfaction.

"We're much less focused on the technology but more focused on what kinds of problems are we trying to solve," he says. "Those types of discussions have been more productive because the business seems to relate to IT more."

With IT more business focused, tech staff are aware about what departments expect from technology and what vendors they're considering to meet those needs. This allows IT to be involved at the start of these conversations and possibly save money.

"As the business gets enamored with some vendor very often they make decisions before they've done any due diligence on if we already have a product or service like that or is there another more cost-effective solution," Hoffman says.


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