Will Conaway is CIO of Prime Healthcare, which has 40,000 employees, 45 hospitals, and healthcare facilities in 14 states, and a professor for Cornell University\u2019s Industry Labor Relations master\u2019s degree program. His courses include organizational strategy, change management, psychology of leadership, and healthcare certificate programs. Will\u2019s dual existence running IT and teaching has given him a unique perspective on what makes CIOs successful. Conaway has turned this perspective into a list of the \u201cFive Steps of IT Leadership.\u201d\nStep 1. Ask the right project definition questions\nCan you state with confidence that everyone on a project team understands the scope and target outcome of a project? If not, your project is likely to fail.\n\u201cWhenever we launch a new initiative, I go around the room and ask everyone to define the project,\u201d says Conaway. \u201cIf even one of the team members has a different understanding of the project than everyone else, we are not ready to start.\u201d\n[ Learn from your peers: Check out our State of the CIO 2018 report on the challenges and concerns of CIOs today. | Find out the 7 habits of highly effective digital leaders and the secrets of highly innovative CIOs. | Get weekly insights by signing up for our CIO Leader newsletter. ]\nAt one point in his career, Conaway and his team were asked by the Employee Health division of his company to build a customer help desk solution modeled after IT\u2019s own service desk. What the IT team heard was \u201cwe want you to replicate the tool,\u201d and that\u2019s what they delivered. But what Employee Health required was something quite different: a tool customized for their needs.\n\u201cBecause we did not drive for total clarity on the request, we did not get the solution right. There was the simple miss of asking what adds value for the customer,\u201d says Conaway.\nWhile Conaway\u2019s team was able to deliver the right solution, the experience reinforced to him the need for IT leaders to ask the right questions before moving forward. What\u2019s more, \u201cby asking the right questions, you encourage people to think analytically, to take ownership for a project, and to limit scope creep,\u201d he says.\nStep 2: Make metrics a part of your brand\nFor years, IT organizations have been tracking IT metrics such as mean time to recovery and uptime. While those metrics are important, they do not measure business outcomes, nor do they promote IT\u2019s potential for strategic impact.\n\u201cAs CIOs, we tend to get caught up in our own departmental metrics because that\u2019s what we have the most control over, and they are concrete and easy to define,\u201d says Conaway. \u201cBut until our IT metrics roll up to the larger organization\u2019s metrics, we will always be seen as a service department, not a strategic partner.\u201d\n Prime Healthcare\n\nWill Conaway, CIO, Prime Healthcare\n\n\nIn healthcare, for example, metrics around the patient experience and population healthcare are difficult to define, but when IT can show an uptick in those metrics, they develop a new level of credibility.\n\u201cThe IT organizations that I see struggling with relationships and influence are the ones that don\u2019t have the right metrics. They measure what makes them look good, but not what makes the organization better,\u201d Conaway says.\nWith IT\u2019s impact on business outcomes, \u201cIT\u2019s ability to track business metrics is no longer a luxury,\u201d says Conaway. \u201cBusiness metrics must be part of your IT communication plan.\u201d\nStep 3: Know your history\nCIOs are all about building a better future. What will our stakeholders value tomorrow? What new technology products are coming onto the market? What is the future of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and IoT?\n\u201cBut when you are so focused on the future that you don\u2019t look back in time, you are less able to lead,\u201d says Conaway. \u201cSuccessful CIOs know the history of their industry, company, regulatory evolution, and technology stack.\u201d\u00a0\nRecently Conaway was talking with IT leaders who were struggling with change management. Part of the problem, Conaway saw, was that they did not understand the history of their own organization.\n\u201cYou must establish a coalition to drive your agenda,\u201d he says. \u201cThat is difficult to do without a shared understanding of the evolution of the organization.\u201d\nStep 4: As a leader, resist solving the problem\nWhen your team is debating a strategic direction or solution, it seems reasonable that you, as CIO, will make the final decision.\n\u201cBut when CIOs provide a solution too early in the conversation,\u201d says Conaway, \u201cthey can reduce their team\u2019s ability to problem-solve.\u201d\nToday\u2019s heavy demands on IT only exacerbate the challenge, he says.\n\u201cIT needs to deliver fast, but if you can wait to let your team make key decisions, you will have better decision-makers on your team,\u201d says Conaway.\nTo facilitate his team\u2019s decision-making skills, Conaway uses decision matrices.\n\u201cDecision frameworks help you understand all the possibilities of an investment,\u201d he says. \u201cInvestments in AI, data analytics, or precision medicine may not provide immediate ROI, but they will be important in the future. Is that where you should spend your time and money?\u201d\nFor Conaway, decision frameworks let his team consider key factors and alternative paths to determine what is best for the entire organization. They also reduce decision-fatigue.\n\u201cWhen the demand on IT is so high, frameworks that help differentiate what is important from what is urgent can lower the stress on your team,\u201d he says.\nStep 5: Get creative about finding talent\nThe shortage of qualified IT people is only going to grow, as will the demand for that talent. It is no longer enough to say, "We\u2019ve got a great team, and we are hitting our goals.\u201d\n\u201cEvery IT department is competing for the best talent, so CIOs need to understand that their work in talent acquisition is never over,\u201d Conaway says.\nEvery IT department is competing for the best talent, so CIOs need to understand that their work in talent acquisition is never over."\nConaway partners with his HR colleagues to import talent from other industries, establish intern programs with top local colleges, and ensure that recruiting is a core competency of the organization.\n\u201cWe are improving our social media presence and promoting our mission, values, and vision\u201d he says. \u201cThrough these efforts, we are hiring people who are a good fit for the job and the organization.\u201d\n\u00a0About Will Conaway\nWill Conaway is CIO and vice president of IT for Prime Healthcare. Additionally, he is an Adjunct Professor for Cornell University. Previously, Conaway had been in leadership roles for Dignity Health, and Providence Health & Services. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, a Master of Arts degree in Organizational Management, and Executive Leadership. He is Chair Elect of the Kansas State University Psychology Alumni Council.\n\nMore on the CIO role today:\n\n Wanted: CIOs to master digital strategy at the vanguard of change \n How CIOs can last longer than 4.3 years \n The case against the 'business-minded CIO' \n CIO resumes: 6 best practices and 4 strong examples \n New CIO? 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