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CIOs boost their careers doing double duty

Julia King | Sept. 1, 2015
Many CIOs find it exhilarating to take on business functions outside of IT. But CIO-plus roles require a new mindset and trusted deputies.

And while other companies have vice presidents of business applications, Chopra created a new title, vice president of business partnering, to focus attention not on the technologies, but on the people in the business units who use technology. “Business partnering is about how we use applications to do something. It’s about accomplishing something with [software] applications. These people think more like account managers,” he explains.

Another new title at Jefferson is vice president of enterprise analytics and chief data scientist. “This role focuses on taking disparate data assets for student affairs, clinical trials, financial systems, quality systems and more, and creating an enterprise center for health information management that provides actionable insights,” Chopra says.

Chopra says he didn’t hire people for the vice president positions based primarily on technical expertise. Instead, he hired with an eye toward making every one of them a CIO someday.

“The way I hire people is unique. I hire them to be leaders first and functional experts second,” he says. “I’m hiring a person who can be a future CIO. I’m looking at these people as future leaders.”

Chopra meets with this team of eight once a week for two hours. At these gatherings, he says, “we spend less time on day-to-day business issues and more time on priorities, leadership, communication and engagement, and creating high-performance teams.” The idea is to have his deputies lead their own groups without Chopra micromanaging them.

“I’m more about people, strategy and exception management,” he explains. “It frees up my time for the executive cabinet, creating new business models, and [figuring out] how to create a degree program or certification for telehealth and other healthcare technologies.”

Jefferson’s telehealth initiative is one of the first tangible results of this leadership style, which encourages innovation and the move toward a patient-centric model. The hospital is investing about $20 million to open multiple urgent-care centers and develop the telehealth program, called Jeff Connect, which includes video consultations so patients can receive care in their homes.

In late June, Jefferson began offering more than 17,000 employees and their families a mobile app they can use to schedule 15-minute video-based physician appointments, which, according to Chopra, are “secure and HIPAA-compliant.” While the app is currently just for Jefferson employees, he says “we plan to sell this product to customers like Bank of America and Comcast and others.”

Start With a ‘Beginner’s Mind’
As CIOs move into expanded roles, they find that adapting their leadership styles to effectively collaborate with the new array of professionals they encounter is a major challenge.

CIO-plus executives “need to make sure that they are humble enough,” says High, of Metis Strategy. “Even if they have been intricately involved in the new function, they need to approach their new set of responsibilities with humility. Everything that worked in IT won’t translate to HR or supply chain or other functions. It’s important to have a ‘beginner’s mind’ of sorts,” he says, referring to the mindset of people who are open to learning about new topics, without preconceptions.


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