StarBridge Advisors provides interim management, advisory services, IT consulting, and executive coaching. Their approach is described as “practical unbiased, open, and plain speaking with frank and honest opinions offered based on real-world experience.” We had the opportunity to speak with Sue Schade, Principal, a year after StarBridge had formed, and while at the 2019 CHIME Fall Forum, David Muntz, Principal, graciously sat down to speak with us about how the firm has grown and evolved.
Our philosophy is that the best way to get future business is to do a great job and produce high quality work for the engagement and tasks that are in front of you.
Experience has taught me the importance of two concepts – patience and serendipity.
The role of healthcare CIO has evolved from a traditional one responsible for setting up network infrastructure and providing back-end support to a data-centric role more focused on information science
Campbell: Leading a firm of C-suite consultants likely comes with its fair share of challenges. Managing any consultancy must address utilization of staff, management of a bench and tending to the specialties, strengths, and fit of staff to engagements. How does StarBridge manage these potential challenges? How are you different from healthcare CIO placement firms?
Muntz: The company structure consists of three principals – Sue Schade, Russ Rudish, and me – and 30 interim CIOs operating as independent LLCs. In this model, we don’t have to worry about a bench as each advisor serves as its own subsidiary. Our philosophy is that the best way to get future business is to do a great job and produce high quality work for the engagement and tasks that are in front of you. If our staff had to also worry about their next engagement, and prospecting for new opportunities, they wouldn’t be able to devote their all to the task at hand. We encourage our folks not to look up, but look down, and focus on doing an outstanding job for the work that they are currently contracted to do. As they say, god bless the crooked road – best to live it more and plan less.
Campbell: Isn’t that a saying to live by! That is a great approach and we can appreciate the methods you’ve used to mitigate bench risk, but also to ensure your advisors are focused on providing a superior experience to the clients you partner with. Tell me more about how you leverage that experience to coach and mentor the next generation of CIOs and provide advice to your peers.
Muntz: Experience has taught me the importance of two concepts – patience and serendipity. I’ll share a story from my time as CIO at Presbyterian Healthcare System in Dallas. We hung a banner with “Patients First! Patience Always!” in the data center. The intent was to inform or remind everyone who entered where to focus and how to conduct themselves. We needed this anchor to help steady us in the turbulence that defines our workplace. Technology is a contributing factor and when we are stressed, we are not as cool as we want to be or should be. Along those same lines, I used to teach the CHIME boot camp and would impress upon candidates that serendipity, luck to some, opportunity to others exists in great quantity – most people are surrounded by it but can’t see it. The point is that nobody can read minds and unexpressed opinions are awful. When providing staff with career planning, it’s important to encourage expression of interest where it will be met, being direct, but respectful as well. Folks in IT tend to be introverted and shy. As a leader, we must pull it out of them to let them express themselves, but not be too judgmental in response. A question often serves better than a quick response, such as, why did you make that statement? A lot of strong leaders will ask why an employee came to a particular conclusion. This helps to protect the integrity of the individual and encourages everyone to be more open. Moreover, it’s important to know your audience and when it is appropriate to open decision making up to a group. The wisdom of the group often coincides with my thoughts and sometimes convinces me to seek a different path.
Campbell: This speaks to the culture you foster at StarBridge. Can you elaborate on how you ensure your staff has a sense of fulfillment with their work and how you go about assigning advisors to particular engagements?
Muntz: Honestly, I see our organization as a lifestyle company. There must be a good life-work balance. As such, the other principals and I play the role of matchmaker. We have to manage the profile of the organization when placing interims and advisors and identify where there would be good chemistry. Organizations should be very careful in picking their clients to make sure they are the right fit. We’ve been fortunate in getting the clients we work with. Not everyone you dance with is going to be the one you marry.
Campbell: As you manage a team of CIOs, how do you see the role changing going forward? How are you preparing your team to adapt to ensure they are best suited to meet the needs of the organizations you partner with?
Muntz: The role of healthcare CIO has evolved from a traditional one responsible for setting up network infrastructure and providing back-end support to a data-centric role more focused on information science and digital health. In addition, new titles are appearing in the C-suite: CAO (analytics), CDO (digital), CHIO (health). CIOs who evolve and collaborate will succeed. Those who cannot will be replaced or find themselves reporting to someone else in the C-Suite or to one of the titles that traditionally reported to them. As such, we underscore the importance of collaboration, coordination and communication to our advisors.
David Muntz is a Principal at StarBridge Advisors, LLC. David began his career as a biostatistician, then became CIO, and ultimately rose to the position of CEO at Wadley Research Institute and Blood Bank in Dallas, TX. He returned to health information technology at Texas Health Resources, where he functioned as SVP & CIO for 15 years. He then worked for 5 years as the SVP & CIO at Baylor Health Care System. In 2012, David accepted a White House appointment to serve as the first Principal Deputy National Coordinator at ONC (Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator) and was also Chief of Staff and CIO through 2013. David returned to the private sector as CIO of GetWellNetwork through 2015 where he served as a member of the Board of Directors until its sale in 2018. During his career, David has served on 22 other Boards.
In his career, David has led talented teams as large as 770 with budgets of more than $500M to author, acquire, and implement many forms of health information technologies including EHRs from all the major vendors. Under his leadership, his teams managed more than 180 project go-lives annually. Due to his teams’ efforts, he was honored as CHIME’s Innovator of the Year for his achievements with two different employers. His organizations were recognized nationally for innovation in information technology for more than 25 years in a row including his time in the federal government. In 2014, the CHIME Board presented him its CIO Legacy Award.
David has served on the SMU, TCU, UTD, Most Wired, and many other Advisory Councils and Boards. He is currently an Adjunct Professor in the Baylor University EMBA program. He has Fellow and Life status at CHIME where he served on the Board and led Advocacy efforts. He holds the CHCIO (Certified Healthcare CIO) credential from CHIME. He has also been active with HIMSS at all levels and enjoys Fellow status.
David received an MBA from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and an AB from Columbia College in New York City. David attributes his accomplishments to collaboration with incredibly talented people and strong support from his family.