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'IT is a people game'

Divina Paredes | April 15, 2014
Claire Govier, CIO at healthAllliance, talks about preparing the ICT team as the country's largest shared services organisation shifts focus from regional to national operations.

DHBs have such a massive challenge juggling their budgets and their priorities so it's a very finely tuned instrument when it comes to making decisions on where to invest and how to invest, she says. "And every year there's more and more demand.

And as technology, either in the clinical or IT world improves, there are new ways of doing things. But you have to invest first to get benefits, so there's the usual dilemma of where to invest."

At the same time, she is cognisant of the growing budget for public health. In New Zealand, she says the latest figure is around $14.6 billion annually. "If we don't change anything, with the aging population and requirements, we are going to need $17 billion very soon," she says. "As a country with our tax take and our population size, we can't afford that.

"So working smarter, finding ways to solve problems, finding ways to deliver healthcare differently to reduce cost and add value, is such a growth area."

From corporate to public health

Govier has been involved in business transformation programs through more than two decades of working in IT, but these were in the enterprise space, mainly in finance and telecommunications.

"It's a very different frame of reference from corporate life," says Govier of her move to healthAlliance.

"The way decisions are made is different from an organisation that has a strong risk association like financial services, with a very different attitude and a very different process for risk and for profit and bottom line."

"To some extent we're still maturing with the model that we've got," says Govier, whose previous employers included Vodafone, Westpac, AMP, Ernst & Young and UK Post.

At the moment, healthAlliance IT has around 280 members, plus about a dozen contractors.

In the past 12 months, the four DHBs also have each appointed a "CIO-type" role. Govier says this group -- composed of Linda Wakeling in Auckland, Sarah Thirlwall in Manukau, Darren Manley in Northland and Stuart Bloomfield at Waitemata -- meet every week.

"Between us, we have to balance out the priorities of the resources [for] what gets done, when. It's a shared resource pool, essentially. So the more regional things we can drive, we do once and everybody gets it.

"The goal is to be driving that convergence as hard as we can to drive out the duplication, to standardise, take the cost out. So [instead of] doing everything four times, we do it once for four organisations."

Nationally, the equivalent CIOs for the other regions (Midland, Central and South) meet every quarter.

"When you're trying to drive convergence, it is a case of shaping the jigsaw pieces so that you can lock them together. The thing I think is so critical is making sure that you've got the picture on the front of the jigsaw box," says Govier.

 

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