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Drive Innovation January 08, 2018

Here’s What Healthcare’s New ‘Agility CIO’ Looks Like

Partner, Health & Life Sciences, Oliver Wyman

CIOs are rejecting the status quo as the healthcare industry shifts toward a consumerism and value. As part of an ongoing series on what it now takes for today’s CIO to succeed amidst a new regulatory landscape of disruption, this piece explores yet another archetype – the role of the Agile CIO.

Change is Here, So Be Prepared for It

Major changes in healthcare will not cease: regulation continues to morph, consumers demand more intimacy, and innovators continue to pressure incumbents. In order to survive this pace of change effectively and efficiently, leaders must get ahead of the game with advancing their current technical and operational infrastructure. 

So what is the key to keeping pace? Agility. An agile leader or agile CIO champions new ways of working cross-functionally to reduce unnecessary roadblocks that cause delays when new products or changes to existing products need to be delivered to end consumers quickly. This agility comes from transferring traditional agile software development practices inside information techology (IT) across the entire enterprise. Using similar thinking will allow companies to reduce product development timelines by over 25 percent and respond to consumer demands faster.

The Typical Experience

Today’s consumer experiences are the opposite of nimble and adaptable in healthcare, and that is because healthcare organizations internally are the opposite of nimble and adaptable. Cumbersome internal procedures, processes, and rules slow decisions, inhibit rapid response, and waste money. For example, one client tried to bring in a new analytics vendor that would support an important customer-oriented project, was willing to make an investment to prove itself, and required minimal internal technology support. Business leaders were excited about what this vendor could do; however, the ensuing contracting and security review approval processes took over six months. Project deadlines were blown and customer experience improvements were shelved – the exact opposite of nimble and adaptable.

Because many healthcare organizations struggle to move forward digitally on their own, many look to Silicon Valley innovators as examples of best practices. They look to these companies as the examples of the nimble, fast, and agile operations their organizations lack.

Lessons From the Agile Leader

The agile leader reorients the organization to apply the lessons learned from agile software delivery across the enterprise, where applicable. It is more than simple agile software development processes to make customer-focused applications like websites or mobile applications more efficient. It is a set of cultural concepts, values, and norms that scale across an entire organization so agility and nimbleness becomes the norm. In the process, the customer is at the center of all decisions, product delivery is more efficient, and product quality improves.

This journey generally happens across four stages:

  • Experimentation – IT champions and pilots pilot agile ways of software development using methods that bring small teams of technology and business resources closer together.
  • Codify – successful pilots are championed and an official agile software development methodology is created for the organization to use. Agile becomes an official, approved way to develop new technology. At many healthcare organizations, Chief Information Officers and Chief Digital Officers / Chief Marketing Officers have piloted agile software development successfully and they now believe it is time to scale.
  • Expand – leaders find the experimentation with agile has provided value and seeks to expand the improvements across the entire enterprise to develop products across the enterprise much faster. Dedicated resources, space, and focus is placed on making agile the norm across the organization instead of the domain of IT software development.
  • Scale – leaders have transitioned the culture and ethos of the organization so funding, planning, and delivery for products are now agile across all areas of the organization. Impediments that used to cause delays bringing products to market are substantially reduced.

Transforming the Journey

It is possible for incumbents to transform their culture to a bias of nimbleness, efficiency, flexibility, and agility. By taking an approach to scale agile ways of working across the entire enterprise, incumbents can eradicate the phase “legacy baggage” and be just as nimble and agile as Silicon Valley upstarts. In fact, the 25 percent reduction in product development timelines mentioned previously is a conservative estimate by our experience!

Are you an agile leader? Does your organization need one? Where are you in your journey and where do you need to go?

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