10 questions for your CIO

Stephanie Reel explains how to evaluate if your IT lead is building a strategic team

Stephanie Reel CIO & Vice Provost of IT Company: Johns Hopkins University & Johns Hopkins Health System Location: Baltimore, MD Career Advice: “We all need to remember that it’s crucial to remain on the edge of what we do. We have to keep leading and innovating. I read as much as I can and always look for ways to learn from my colleagues and others in the industry.”

1. How are you building a diverse team?

As Reel grew throughout the early stages of her career, once working in the judicial system, she saw the potential technology has to impact many fields. A former boss gave Reel some advice that sticks with her even today. “He suggested that I get experience in as many departments and on as many projects as possible,” she says. CIOs who employ the same strategy will build eclectic teams comprised of thoughtful workers able to contribute in a more full way.

2. What can we do to enrich and improve safety through IT?

Examining this question is a very real necessity in today’s modern world, and Reel says no CEO or CIO can afford to ignore the task. Information technology should play a major role. At Johns Hopkins, the IT team has formed a safety committee that meets every two weeks to focus on anything that could cause harm to the patient through technology.

3. What are the best ways your function can enhance our mission?

Although Reel works for two huge organizations, everyone on her management team knows the 6 goals of the medical side and the 10 goals of the university. “No CIO can truly be relevant without understanding what the organization is doing and where it is going,” she says. With that information in hand, IT leaders can discover how tech can contribute in a real way. For Reel, the answer lies in easing regulatory demands and helping address ongoing fiscal issues.

4. How can you help us address the challenges we expect to face in 2020?

The leadership team needs to know how the IT team can help the enterprise navigate the unknown, and thinking long term will make sure the pieces are in place when they are needed. “I need to make sure our IT team is involved, aware, and doing everything possible to predict all we can,” Reel says. A CIO should ask if he or she is using data in the best ways and consider whether the right data are available. If so, the IT team can design systems to capture what the business really needs.

5. How should we prepare for changes coming with the ACA rollout?

The implementation of the Affordable Care Act has touched many businesses and organizations in significant ways. Reel says a CIO should focus on the nuts and bolts. “You have to drill down and really make sure you know how to respond in terms of what to collect and how to manage data to do whatever your company or group has set out to do,” she explains. At Johns Hopkins, she’s working to empower patients to be a partner in the health-care experience.

6. How should we reconcile key IT initiatives with the balance sheet?

Every day, IT is invited to the table to solve problems, address issues, and answer questions—but the resources are finite and often scarce. The real issue is governance. Presidents and CEOs need to know that they are investing in projects that make a difference and trust that their leaders will defer initiatives that don’t.

7. What tools or criteria should we use to evaluate a potential technology? 

Reel often instructs her team to look at each new proposal with a long-term lens. The process, she’s found, helps her determine the true return associated with deploying something new. A cost-benefit analysis that looks at an investment and its benefit will give a CIO solid insight. At Johns Hopkins, the IT team is most interested in whether a new piece of technology will make something safer or more efficient.

8. What trends must we be aware of, and what are others doing?

By knowing the best practices in the nation, what top colleagues are doing, and what challenges others face, an IT leader can operate at the highest level. That leader needs to communicate findings to the CEO to uncover more information. “As the CEO evaluates trends, managers and executives start to see where the organization is going and are able to determine how well they are positioned and what they need to do,” Reel says.

9. How can our tools promote greater collaboration?

While every business function shares in the responsibility, IT has a unique opportunity to enhance collaboration across an entire organization. CEOs and CIOs, then, can always find new ways to create online spaces and environments for collaboration. The key to this, Reel says, is in providing secure access and meaningful data.

10. What can we do to better support those who work in our organization?

While it’s easy to get lost in infrastructure, people, and projects, an IT team needs to remember that it exists to support a bigger business or group. A CEO needs to know that a CIO is truly dedicated to supporting the overall mission of an organization by supporting the people within.