Wanted: IT staffers with vertical industry chops

Fast-changing business processes and ever-mounting government and industry regulations are complicating day-to-day operations -- and making deep vertical industry expertise a must-have.

By , Computerworld |  Networking

Vendor management is one of the key areas where IT-plus credentials can yield a big payoff, according to Laurie Anne Buckenberger, assistant vice president of corporate IT and a nurse practitioner at Continuum Health Partners in New York.

For example, Continuum doesn't entertain canned sales pitches from software vendors. Instead, Buckenberger's team of clinicians in IT present vendors with very specific requirements, right down to the policies, regulations and individual workflows they need to have supported in automated systems used at Continuum's hospitals.

"All the software vendors have buttons to do X, Y and Z, but what we ask is if they can support our New York state regulations and the clinical outcomes we want to achieve," she says. "A clinical background helps tremendously."

This has been especially true in adhering to so-called "meaningful use" requirements set forth in federal regulations that funnel stimulus dollars to hospitals that comply with certain electronic health record standards.

Under the requirements, hospitals need to show not only that they are collecting patient information electronically, but also that they are using it in a meaningful way -- for example, by improving the ways in which they treat stroke patients. This requires the input of clinicians as well as IT professionals with deep clinical experience.

"It was truly a partnership between vendors, IT and clinical users, because you had to make the system useful to achieve the compliance goals," Buckenberger says. "It all adds up to millions of dollars."

- Julia King

"Our end-user community wants apps, and they want them fast and they don't care if they're well baked," Lamonica says. "In order to deliver what they need now, you need to know exactly what it is they're trying to do."

For example, a project manager will walk a construction site and plan the entire job with a mobile app. That information is automatically passed to a purchasing agent. "To build those kinds of mobile apps, you have to know intimately what they need and want," he says.

Pittsburgh-based Alcoa is a prime example of a company that relies heavily on IT-plus professionals.

"At its core, Alcoa is a manufacturing organization, and within the manufacturing processes, we win or lose against our competition," says CIO Nancy Wolk.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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