Handover CIO

First published in CIO Magazine, November 2017.

In 1797 George Washington instigated the first handover period for the presidency of the USA, he handed his responsibilities to John Adams. Since the 1960s a 72 to 78 day handover period has featured in every transition of the presidential role, and yet in almost all other public sector and civil servant role changes a handover period simply doesn’t happen, in all the CIO roles I have had I have never had the opportunity to conduct a proper handover one that means you hit the ground running, rather than running to catch up.

In a few days time I will leave Ireland for Leeds after three years working in a country with a passion for what digital can do for healthcare. When I resigned from my post my boss, the director general of the health service here in Ireland could see that there was a need to have a careful, considered and informed handover process to maintain the pace of change that we have been working to. In a break from what would have been the easy decision it was decided to look outside of the Office of the CIO for an interim person to hold onto the digital healthcare business and to receive a handover. Appointing a progressive, digital business leader to the role of interim CIO eight weeks before my departure has meant we have been able to work through a handover of the business, we have been able to agree priorities for 2018 and at this time in the Irish political calendar we have needed to agree how the budget for next year should be spent.

CIOs need to get better at succession planning, I would suggest one of the reasons we have not been seen to be great at this so far is that we have very much an individual stamp on the businesses we run as CIOs. Our styles and how we work with the ‘business’ to achieve digital goals is one of our core values, handing that to another is always difficult.

With an interim CIO appointed we began to plan the handover, we broke the content down into areas that would make the most impact the quickest, what this did was highlight a prioritisation process for the work of the team and the office.

There were five themed areas that we agreed would be our area of focus:

1 – Delivery of Person Centred Care

2 – Trust and the Protection of the health systems assets

3 – Value add services – Patient focused innovation and proving the digital capability.

4 – Create Insight and Intelligence through data that is already collected.

5 – Connect the Care Delivery Network

The digital strategy has been in place since 2015 and the delivery plan for this was agreed in 2016. This means the interim CIO can move into the continued delivery of this, however what does need to be refreshed is a new operating model for the Digital team, an operating model that reflects changes in how service is delivered and how engagement can be brought from a digital responsibility to an organisational scalable way of working. This now becomes a priority for the new CIO, not always ideal, making changes in the early stages of taking on a new role but a necessity to continue to enable the evolution of the team.

Being able to instigate a proper handover has given the organisation the opportunity to really consider the way the team works as one function. In a recent Gartner presentation the idea of four digital accelerators was raised and how these are now being applied to the future of team working. These areas are; Digital Dexterity; Talent, Diversity, Skills and Goals; Network Effect Technologies and the Industrialised Digital Platform. The handover process with these as core values as to where and what is done next has helped hugely as we strive to put in place a robust way forward that continues to drive a new pace to digital in healthcare.

The handover process has included not just a new ownership of the digital agenda but a new face of the change being brought to healthcare through digital. Therefore involving the new interim CIO in all engagement events has been part of the process and one that has seen the new CIO move into the public eye. The handover has also been delivered in the public domain using social media as the platform to enable the team and our partners to see the process and to meet the new CIO in a virtual way. The #HandoverCIO has been used as a way for stakeholders to see the activities that are underway. The culmination of the handover process was a meeting of all partners to an open interview with me and the new interim CIO, the design of the session was to make it part of one of the quarterly Eco-System meetings but also to ensure that the partners could see that they were going to be able to continue to evolve the relationship they have from a traditional vendor relationship to one that continues to be described as a partnership.

The transition from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush in 2001 was a fraught process best epitomized by the Clinton prank of the removal of all of the ‘W’ keys from keyboards throughout the Whitehouse. The transition from CIO to CIO often does end up with a lack of knowledge of where ‘the bodies are buried’, a phrase used when I came to Ireland in 2015. A colleague offered his services on my first day to help me avoid digging up the bodies that had been carefully hid. By working on a handover process and a proper transition there can be no ‘buried bodies’, no surprises and no need to re-learn what has gone before.

Handover has been great, but now its time to let go as the quote suggests below…

Make yourself available for advice if they want it, but only if they ask for it – don’t stand in the shadows trying to hang on to something you’ve decided to stop doing. Professor Graham Moon

Giving up your ‘baby’ is hard to do but as a CIO in transition to a new role it has to be done smoothly and the new CIO empowered. As handover comes to an end please support a new CIO with advice and guidance, Jane Carolan is a digital leader that is now a CIO, she is excited to be in the role and can’t wait to engage with the wider CIO community, tweet Jane @janemcarolan

  • Stefan Buttigieg

    Excellent post Richard. Totally agree that within the Civil Service we need to work harder to ensure that Succession Planning is consistently there, especially within the field of Healthcare IT. Thank you!