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Chief influencing officer

Helen Beckett | April 12, 2013
As we head deeper into 2013, the signs that this year will be unforgiving for napping CIOs are there, lit up in glaring neon. The second week of January saw the collapse of three retail empires - HMV, Blockbuster and Jessops - a demise that many critics attribute to myopia around the business impacts of the internet.

When Priestman started in the job three years ago, the AUH was poised to spend £15 million on a brand new paper medical records library. Now instead it has a state-of-the-art endoscopy suite. Going paperless has saved 30% of floor space resulting in a £13.5 million estate benefit, while the £1.5 million capital outlay of the project of was recouped in year one.

Professor Mike Pearson, consultant physician, praises the thoroughness of the new system. "Some trusts have just scanned the whole patient record, which is useless as doctors are presented with thousands of PDF pages and accessing information is almost impossible. The innovative indexing developed for our solution means we can find many results as quickly, or faster, than using paper," he says.

To build the paperless system, a senior clinician was seconded to Ward's team who worked for him two days a week.

The involvement of a senior clinician meant that not only were the user requirements spot on but that the project carried credibility. As Ward concedes, the technology was the easy bit - the people was the hard part. "Clinicians carry a level of credibility that I just don't have."

How does the day job work?

Ward Priestman, director of informatics, Aintree University Hospital NHS Trust

"Pretty much along the lines of the chief infrastructure, innovation and integration officer set out in the Leading Resolutions thesis. I manage my time and allocate staff. Currently I work two days a week for Informatics Merseyside where I run their innovation department (this also provides services to the AUH).

"The remaining three days are divvied between management of the organisation, which includes being on call out of hours, and I spend the two remaining days with my team, with roughly half a day on infrastructure and nearly a day on systems implementation.

"I find most organisations have a lot of fires to put out, and initially I spent a lot of time ensuring there were no problems with the systems. Now I can be more future-facing."

The idea of chief influencing officer sums it up for Priestman. "The NHS is a very political organisation. Politicians use us as a football by setting targets and exercising central control. This filters down and stakeholders play politics at the board table. You have to navigate the IT function through all that and still deliver."

IT and measured entrepreneurialism

PZ Cussons, global developer of brands for emerging markets, has as its heartbeat an ethos of 'measured entrepreneurialism'. Richard Steward, its former CIO, explains that anyone running IT in such a melting pot of innovation must have their feet firmly on the ground.

"The starting point is that everything in IT has to be done for a business reason. You have to ask the basic questions: What are we doing for the business? Where is it going? What are its key markets? What business capabilities do we have to develop?" he says.


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