Philip Fasano, executive vice president and CIO of Kaiser Permanente, the giant Oakland, CA-based integrated health system, presided over the delivery of a multi-billion dollar electronic medical records initiative. I talked with Fasano about how new technologies will advance that effort, and what he’s learned about successfully delivering big, bet-the-company projects.
Expect to Be Wrong
Don’t go into a transformational project believing that you’ve completely nailed the costs, scope and timetable. “The reality is you go into these projects knowing probably about between 30 percent and 60 percent of what you need to know,” Fasano said. “If you go into a large project as a company leader and don’t expect to spend more than you’ve initially budgeted, you’re probably not exhibiting great leadership and foresight in terms of planning.”
Large projects may be cancelled when they hit cost and schedule obstacles. Another reason projects fail, Fasano said, is because companies don’t commit “their absolute best people” to execute them, or they don’t realize that even their best people don’t know how to lead massive change. “Learning this at scale costs you a lot of money,” he said.
Delight the Customer
Electronic medical records are helping clinicians improve patient care, but Fasano also aims to make it easier–and thus more delightful–for Kaiser Permanente members to interact with the company. “No one wants to deal with illness, with the other aspects of healthcare — appointment making, getting a pharmaceutical, dealing with your claim,” Fasano said. “Those are experiences that we can actually improve through technology.” For example, Kaiser Permanente members can use a mobile app to look up claims, ask questions, even check in for an appointment automatically while they’re parking their cars.
Technology leaders must have informed opinions about where their company is headed, and how to execute those plans, in order to be seen as a partner to other leaders on the executive team. That includes being able to connect the challenges and opportunities the company is facing with the challenges and opportunities of the IT industry. “At my level, you have to be able to approach the CEO of any technology company and engage in a direct and straightforward conversation with them as a peer,” Fasano said. “They’re critically important to your success and the success of your organization. You have to be able to have a conversation with them and you have to be able to influence them.”