Magazine article Policy & Practice

How to Keep Your Non-Techie Boss Happy

Magazine article Policy & Practice

How to Keep Your Non-Techie Boss Happy

Article excerpt

Many human service agency CEOs I have met think of technology in two ways; (1) a necessary evil and/or (2) drain on their budget. That is if they think of IT at all. Many don't until something goes wrong with benefit delivery or there is a need for an immediate change to the system. This is understandable. After all, CEOs of human service agencies have a lot on their plates, operational efficiencies of multi-dimensional delivery systems, increasing caseloads and the corresponding escalating cost of benefits, changing policy concerns, legislative inquiries, public relations nightmares, advocate concerns and belt-tightening demands from their elected political bosses. They would prefer that their IT shop perform as their automobiles do. They start up in morning, get them to work, and need minimal maintenance once or twice a year.

I guess that, in a perfect world, IT shops would work like automobiles. But then, again, maybe they do. Despite owning cars with high-performance records, I have, on occasion, been stranded next to the highway when my car decided that it didn't want to work anymore. And the cost of the repairs has seemed unreasonably high. Also, despite feeling that my car should be able to run forever, I've had to replace it sooner than I was prepared to financially.

If you are the chief information officer of a human service agency or project director of an eligibility system, a case management or a payment system, how do you reconcile the fact that eventually you are going to have to face the music and bring had news to your CEO? You will have to tell them that the previously very dependable IT system now needs some major modifications or even replacement. There are many CEOs who are very enlightened and know that your request is warranted, but even these individuals are often not prepared for the sticker shock or the length of time it will take to make a significatn change.

So what do you do? The CEO is the boss and, if you aim to please, how do you keep her or him happy and still get your job done? I have no foolproof answers, just a few commonsense practices. These will no doubt seem familiar but it can't hurt to revisit them They might help to smooth your way.

The first practice, and this is a no-brainer, is to constantly keep your CEO informed on what is happening in your world of IT and how this affects agency operations. If your agency has a governance structure that includes the CEO as the head of the Executive Committee, this task is obviously easier, but is still no guarantee that the message gets through clearly. …

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