Good governance helps Allina Health cut IT backlog

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One of the requirements of a healthcare chief information officer is to have a good understanding of the strategic directions of the organization and good governance processes for handling new needs as they arise, says Jonathan Shoemaker, CIO at Allina Health in Minneapolis. He spoke during an interview at HIMSS18 in Las Vegas.

Allina had a problem within the IT department and Shoemaker started looking for solutions. The department had a backlog of about 200 products and was taking an average of 125 days from a request to IT to getting the resources to tackle the request.

So, Shoemaker created clear structures and processes for how requests for business needs would be handled, which included the assignment of a business relationship manager to coordinate IT requests, along with insights from the use of Allina’s data analytics platform from Health Catalyst, and requiring those making requests for an IT project to spell out the problems and requirements more clearly.

Without adding technology or staff, Allina now usually has about 30 projects in the hopper at any time, with a time for a project to get assigned of 24 days—100 days earlier than previously.

Before the changes, when someone in the organization needed help from IT, they made the request and eventually go it. Now, they need to justify the request, spell out expected solutions from the project and demonstrate clear expectations of finding value. Requesters also have to demonstrate how a project will improve quality and return on investment in way that can actually be seen, so the IT department can better understand the request.

And Allina made another big decision to let the top business and clinical leaders decide what projects were most important and which were least important.

Lastly, the IT department speeded the workflow of requests, Shoemaker notes. “We empowered the staff to own and decide on products, but also challenged them to take on more work.”

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