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The 2013 IT Leadership Awards: Honoring effective leadership styles

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Tactical and strategic health care CIO drives through industry turmoil

Deanna Wise is a model blend of a tactical and strategic CIO, delivering top-notch services and leading a $2 billion EHR implementation.

Our SearchCIO 2013 IT Leadership Awards recognize the contributions and innovations of IT professionals within enterprise companies. We put out a call for nominations for individuals who have excelled in six categories: cultural innovation, technological advancement, business value, green IT, IT engagement and customer experience.

Finalist Deanna Wise is CIO and executive vice president at San Francisco-based Dignity Health, the nation's fifth largest health system with 40 acute care hospitals and more than 150 ancillary care sites. A model example of a tactical and strategic CIO, she has led IT and Dignity Health through a period of rapid change by striking an impressive balance between delivering consistent, reliable IT services and breaking new technology ground.

To ensure Dignity Health's 10,000 physicians and 55,000 employees receive the technology required to succeed in their jobs, she recruited an internal leadership team of highly experienced managers. She also insourcedemail support, data security, storage management and field support, beefing up the expertise of her 1,125-member IT team to meet the health care organization's increasing technical needs.

Deanna WiseDeanna Wise

That's just the "keeping the lights on" part. She also leads Dignity Health's $2 billion electronic health record (EHR) software implementation. And, veteran IT leader that she is, Wise overlaid the implementation with the appropriate governance structures and high internal standards required to make EHR improve health outcomes. The result? Dignity Health has achieved an industry-leading physician adoption rate of over 80% in the first eight hospitals to go live. That's good IT and good medicine.

Read more about Wise, a finalist in both the technological advancement and business value categories, and her tactical and strategic approach to IT in this SearchCIO Q&A.

Number of years in IT: 22

Company: Dignity Health

Revenue: $10.5 billion

Number of employees in the company: 56,000

Number of employees in IT: 1,125

Educational background: Computer science degree from Danville College, Danville, Ill.; Project Management Professional (PMP) certified member from the Professional Management Institute.

From the judges

A wonderful example of an IT leader who has a vision -- and the talent to clearly articulate that vision -- in a way that inspires others to action. The ability to think strategically and act tactically (and succeed at both levels) is fairly rare, and when you find it, make sure to honor and respect it.

First job: At the age of 15, I was a carhop at an ice cream stand in the Midwest. The job taught me at an early age that providing excellent service is everything.

LinkedIn: Deanna Wise

What's the best advice you've ever received? IT is a service business. Without people, you have nothing. Hire great people, and you can do great things.

In the movie of your life, who would play your character? Probably Meg Ryan. I like that she plays roles that are funny, cute and smart.

If you could have just one superpower, what would it be and why? The ability to cure disease. I could help remove so much pain in the world, especially for children.

What's your favorite app on your smartphone or tablet device? Cisco Jabber. The app allows me to stay connected while I travel, which is quite often. I can IM, share my desktop and participate in voice and video conferencing.

Where do you fall in the iPhone versus Android debate? I prefer the iPhone because of the integration [capabilities] with my iPad and its reliability.

From the nomination

Deanna has an incredible way of always hitting the target between overall business goals and IT goals. She is highly respected throughout the IT organization and Dignity Health for her ability to see the long-term healthcare vision, and she understands how to leverage IT for business success. Deanna represents the highest standards of leadership in health IT.

Describe the best technology decision you ever made. I led the implementation of a standard electronic health system in 2001 to drive patient safety and improve quality of care across hospitals. This occurred well before the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Was there ever a technology that you thought was a gimmick but now couldn't live without? LinkedIn. I thought this might be [just] another social media tool. Turns out, I use it for recruiting, engaging in different business communities and keeping in touch with colleagues.

What's the biggest challenge you face in IT today? Competition for staff [and] hiring and retaining quality IT staff and leaders.

Which role/internal partner do you rely upon the most? Marvin O'Quinn, the COO [chief operating officer] at Dignity Health. We work well together to align business objectives with innovative solutions. He helps enable our IT success with a supportive partnership.

What's your prediction for the next big technology? Google's Project Glass. These smart glasses will go beyond a digital camera and a mobile phone. This is a new device category, and we are just beginning to understand its many hands-free, first-person applications.

What's your favorite non-monetary benefit or perk of your job? Working for a company that is doing something good in the world. Providing quality care to all is something that makes me feel good every day.

What is the biggest problem you see with corporate cultures today? Not keeping a focus on individuals and enabling them to make a difference in a nimble environment where bureaucracy can be a barrier. We can't lose sight of the contributions of the individual while we implement large solutions.

What are "rookie mistakes" you see in up-and-coming IT leaders? Over-committing and under-performing. New leaders need to be sure they learn how to quickly manage expectations and deliver on the promises and deliverables while providing excellent service.

Describe your leadership style. I create a positive work environment where the staff feels valued and their opinions are respected. I enable and empower at all levels within the organization and have them focus on outcomes while delivering exceptional customer service. I align with business objectives and create successful partnerships that exceed the objectives. I thrive on innovation and execution.

This was first published in May 2013

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Essential Guide

The 2013 IT Leadership Awards: Honoring effective leadership styles
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