4/27/12 - Weird Math

If you take a look at a few key statistics around the role of IT within hospitals, and the role of Project Managers within IT, you could quickly think you're seeing some weird math.

What is it?

First, IT organizations are very large within hospitals.  According to data from DiscoverOrg, Christus Health System in Texas (28 hospitals) has over 25,000 employees in the system, of which 1,950 are IT staff.  That's 7.8% IT workers out of the total staff. 

Second, with some exceptions, Project Management teams in hospitals and health systems are typically very small.  According to data from HIMSS Analytics, a facility in the Christus System, Christus St. Vincent in Santa Fe, NM, has 46 IT staffers, of which there is 1 project manager.  That's 2% project managers out of the total staff.

It's foolish to use one statistic and put a theory around it, so this is deliberately a look at the example above.  If the IT staff should (or does) make up about 8% of the total staff in a hospital or health system, what does it mean if 2% of the IT staff run the hospital's projects?  Are they understaffed or overstaffed?  Staffed just right?

To balance these questions -- many large hospitals and health systems run projects outside of IT.  They often have an enterprise viewpoint of project management (in fact many will refer to it as program management because they rightly require repeatable methods and practices for all projects) and therefore that function doesn't sit inside of IT. It might partner with IT, it might complement IT, or it might have little to do with IT.

So the numbers above about Christus may only be representative of the true IT staff; meanwhile many PM's are making it happen there within a larger PMO organization.  I don't know.

My observation is simply that there appears to be an interestingly low percentage of PM's within hospital staffs.  And just when you think that, if you have access to some of the data on this such as HIMSS Analytics (which I pay for), you see hospitals with an unusually large percentage of PM's.  Usually that is when a transformational project like EMR is underway.

Statistics like those from baseball are reliable and therefore meaningful.  With enough data, it is indisputable what a batting average means.  But when you look at hospitals, both the ratios within IT and between IT and the overall organization, the staff ratios strike me as odd. 

I'm still thinking on what it all means, and whether it's fair to say the math is weird.

Posted by Jack Williams at 06:00


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