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Wanted: IT staffers with vertical industry chops

Julia King | April 23, 2013
Fast-changing business processes, tight deadlines, customization demands and ever-growing regulations are complicating day-to-day operations. What's needed now is 'IT-plus' -- a combination of technical skills and business knowledge, plus deep industry expertise.

In one of these projects, IT built a prototype that let Grange sales agents represent various policy alternatives in a single quote system. Agents could change key parameters such as deductible amounts, driver type and risk levels so customers could customize their own policies.

IT Plus

The New Face of IT

Laurie Anne Buckenberger, a veteran healthcare professional with a graduate nursing degree from Columbia University, has worked as a staff nurse, a nurse manager and a nurse practitioner. She got her start in IT as a so-called super user.

"Because I had worked [as a nurse] at NYU, where they had an electronic medical record, I got put on the EMR search committee at Beth Israel Hospital," she recalls. "I was very vocal about end-user workflow and what end users needed."

At the time, she was still treating patients. Today, Buckenberger is an assistant vice president of corporate IT and an active IT recruiter for Continuum Health. Her target hires are other nurses, pharmacists and lab technicians. She advertises in nursing journals.

"I'm actually looking for clinical people to teach them the technical side," she says.

"There have been a few technical people who have been successful in embedding themselves in the clinical workflow and understanding it, but a lot of technical people are really challenged because [healthcare] is a highly variable field," she says. "What you do for one patient you don't do for another. If an interface goes down at 7 in the morning, it's a crisis because it's rounds at the hospital. If it happens at 2 a.m., it has a completely different impact. Clinical people know this."

- Julia King

"Knowing our business, we could take a single quote and represent it in different ways," Fergang explains.

In another project, IT created a series of transaction-driven alerts for agents. The alerts notify agents about events that affect their customers and/or their sales performances. For example, an agent might be immediately alerted if a customer called the insurance carrier, rather than the agent, to make a change to his policy.

"We created the first six alerts knowing what the business needed," Fergang notes. Since then, there have been more than two dozen ideas for additional alerts.

"If you understand the business and the business strategy, I really do believe IT is in a unique position in that it can bring business solutions to the business that the business can't even imagine," Fergang says. But you have to have the right business aptitude, he adds. "My managers are better businessmen than technologists," he says.

Valuable Time in the Field

In the increasingly complex construction business, Rosendin's Lamonica says engineers and others from the field are much better qualified than IT specialists when it comes to building and supporting software applications and other automated tools used on job sites. They know about workflows, contractor scheduling and overall construction project management, he says.


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