Career turning points: Keep IT all about the users

CIOs warn about engaging users in IT

A chance elective in college brought Jackie Lucas into IT, but a passion for people led her to become a CIO.

Now VP and CIO of Baptist Healthcare System, Lucas has always had a business perspective on technology. While she fell in love with computers during a freshman class, she had entered college on an accounting scholarship and couldn't abandon that field without leaving school. Determined not to give up her new dream, she took as many data processing classes as she could fit into her schedule over the next four years and sought out a job where she could apply both of her skills.

She ended up at a hospital in Tennessee, reporting to the vice president of nursing who had oversight of both financial and IT. There, she discovered a new passion--delivering service to patients, physicians and caregivers. Looking to move up and better serve that mission, she went back to school for her MBA. Even though she was still fascinated by technology and its potential for improving processes and service, she stayed in administration--in part because she couldn't imagine being part of the hospital's enterprise IT group, which was entirely focused on maintaining technology and had nothing to do with users.

Lucas's biggest fears about that disconnect were realized when the IT group brought a new hospital-wide system. The lack of interaction with the people who would be using the system led to almost immediate failure. Less than two weeks after the system went live, the VP of nursing and the hospital's chief operating officer asked Lucas to head up a team tasked with making it work.

After putting in many nights and weekends to get everything back on track for a solution that would serve and enable the front-line medical professionals, Lucas realized that IT leadership was in fact where she wanted to be. "I wanted to make sure the IT department, the technology folks and our vendors could understand that it's really about the patient and the caregivers, not IT," she says. "I wanted to know that I would never see anything like that system again or have anything to do with creating something like that."

Now as CIO at Baptist, Lucas has begun passing on this vision for leadership. Engaging with users is a top priority for her entire team, but she also places responsibility on herself for finding the right path for individuals. While every IT organization needs people focused on technology, she tries to weight her team with people who mirror her interest in managing people and finding solutions. They are the ones she believes have the best potential to become CIOs themselves, and they are what will keep IT a vital part of improving every hospital's ability to fulfill its mission of helping people.

Jacqueline Lucas is VP and CIO of Baptist Healthcare System and a member of the CIO Executive Council. The Council's Pathways Program was created by CIOs to build business and IT leadership skills in senior IT leaders through group mentoring with CIOs, 360-degree competencies assessment, targeted seminars and community forums. To learn more, visit council.cio.com/pathways.html.

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