What the IT executive needs to do differently in 2021

Chero Goswami - CIO, The University of Wisconsin Health System

CITI sits down with Chero Goswami, Chief Information Officer, at the University of Wisconsin Health System, to discuss team development, motivation, what the IT executive needs to do differently in 2021, and more.

Interviewed by

Bill Carter - Regional Director, CITI Healthcare

Elena Bradley - Sales Executive, CITI Healthcare

Elena: What is the current environment for you like and what are the specific demands that have been placed upon it, and how is that really affected you.

Chero: When I first became a manager moving from a technology track, I was given a very important lesson by a mentor that taught me that there are three types of resources any leader gets to manage its material resources, supplies, whatever in the world of technology, it's our drivers or servers or assets, as in devices, projects, etc. financial resources, which is obviously dollars, or better known as budgets. And the last one is human resources, which is our teams. And as we've gone through our last year, we as always have done a phenomenal job as an industry in stepping up and managing despite the financial challenges. And despite some of the technology issues, we got pretty creative in meeting the needs of the country and providing alternative ways of providing care to those who need it. So, when I think of a challenge going into the year 2021, I would use the word opportunity is to focus on that third leg of that stool called Human Resources. While always important, IT became even more important for us to understand, appreciate, nurture, respect, and reward, that third leg of the stool. Human Resources are what I call our talent, that we all have a privilege to lead and serve every day.

Bill: On the topic of alignment with your mission and, margin and mission; I'd love to get your thoughts on motivation and alignment.

Chero: The phrase I tend to use is, technology becomes the bridge between margin and mission, or, from margin to mission. Because it's it sends a different perspective and is speaking of my style is one of empowerment. So this morning, I had all staff, and it was a simple reminder, as we were going through our 2020 accomplishments, it was like, look how we did this. When we did x, we provided additional throughout, which meant additional patients were seen, which means a better community. So you have a margin and mission. It's not either or, and without technology today, without technology today, it is almost close to impossible for an encounter between a patient and a health system. Whether you are putting in a record, or writing a prescription or collecting revenue, every one of them has some form of technology in between those two actors. So that's why I use the word bridge from margin to mission. In terms of my personal style, it's all about visibility, even more so during challenging times right now. You will never find me in my office. I'm always walking the floor as I'm always roaming the hallways, even pre-COVID I had a headset on, and I would walk in and make myself visible and I would build time during the day to have that conversation with folks in the rooms or in the breakout rooms and things. And it's challenging during these times. So in the spirit of being creative now I keep open hours, where people can text or call anytime. So you make the time, you never say you don't have the time. And the third aspect, is transparent, be transparent. As we head into the new year, as we are talking about our remote workforce, people ask me quite a few questions that are direct and controversial. You don't know, don't make up an answer. Tell them you don't know. Tell them when you can come back with an answer. And if it's the bad news, actually state it upfront, they may not like it, but they will respect you for it, because it's one less thing they have to guess. So again, transparency, availability, those are the simple things in life that we were raised with that we need to practice during these times.

Elena: What else do you think the IT executive needs to do differently this year? 2020 was a year of overcoming obstacles, unfortunately. So what can they do differently this year to become better and ultimately stay better?

Chero: First, the IT executive needs to understand is you’re first an executive or you’re first a leader. And then by the nature of your job, you happen to be taking care of assets that are technical that makes you an IT leader. Every IT leader is a business leader first. Understand that. The second aspect of that is challenge status quo. In many organizations, it is seen as an order taker. On a good day, on a Friday, you're told about, “oh, I bought the system, it's going live on Monday”, on a bad day on Tuesday, you're told “Oh, I turn the switch on Monday, it doesn't work and you build me an interface.” That's an order taker mindset. As an IT leader, force being a business leader and talking to business counterparts. The question, or the opportunity, to the individual is how do you move from an order taker to a value enabler? And that goes back to my outcomes proposition. That requires actually beyond technology knowledge, that requires managerial courage, or a term that I've learned over the last few months, intellectual bravery; that means not to be threatening to others. Being the partner in asking the question, what's the problem you're trying to solve? And it doesn't go away by buying another system, we already own seven of those, let's try to understand how we work together. But challenging status quo is change management. I think the role of an IT leader is to be the change agent, that champion and do so more, because, right, wrong, or otherwise, technology leaders are seen as the ones that can do this. So don't wait for permission to be told to do this. Take it upon yourselves, you will be welcomed.

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