Merging with Business

 

Wendy Flavien
Chief Integration Officer of Bolton Clarke

Merging with Business

Wendy Flavien
Chief Integration Officer of Bolton Clarke

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the abbreviation ‘CIO’ stood for Career is Over. Though only in jest, it hit home the fact that if CIOs don’t reinvent themselves they are doomed.

Ask Wendy Flavien. As Chief Integration Officer of Bolton Clarke—yes, you read that right— Wendy should know. When the Aged Care company RSL Care merged two years ago with the Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS), Wendy’s role transitioned from Chief Information to Chief Integration Officer. Since then the merged organization is now known as Bolton Clarke.

“Bolton Clarke as an organization is keen to grow its footprint both organically and inorganically and my integration role enables me to support the embedding of acquisitions we make not only from a technology perspective but from an overall business perspective as well,” she says.

But this coming together of IT and business isn’t something new to Wendy. She was always one with the business. Take how she realized early on that CIOs were increasingly isolating themselves by being IT specialists and how that adversely impacted their relationship with business.

“I realised early that unless I immersed myself in the business and understood the key elements of how it operates regardless of the sector I was working in at the time, I would not be able to make a valued contribution as a CIO,” she says.

That was a significant turning point for her.

 

Caring for Business
It’s true that you’ve heard enough about speaking business language, understanding business objectives and being a true business partner. That’s a song that’s been echoing for eons.

But here’s the bitter truth: A majority of IT departments are still considered cost centres. If IT departments were truly business partners, they should no longer be reduced to cost centres. According to the State of the CIO survey conducted by CIO Magazine last year, half of IT leaders surveyed said their departments were seen primarily as cost centres.

That’s a label Wendy doesn’t like and has ensured it’s not a burden she has to carry. But how? By ensuring there is an IT strategy and a clear IT roadmap aligned with business objectives and that the investment in IT delivers integrated technologies that enable the business to operate effectively and efficiently.

This is important because it helps CIOs justify the required investment in IT. Linking IT investment to a roadmap that takes you from current state to desired state and explaining how the desired state delivers value to the business is critical to justifying your budget submission.

We all know how hard it can be to get IT budget approval. You can be the largest company, or the smallest company, the IT budget is always a bone of contention, but it does not have to be the case.

Building that bridge and creating that ability to be a trusted advisor, she says, enables CIOs to understand what business problem the organisation is trying to solve and then to work with key stakeholders to identify the information and technology touchpoints required to solve the problem. IT can then ensure the organisation invests in the right product with the required functionality or that it understands what the available products in the market can and cannot do. IT needs to guide decisions around the merit in customising products or staying true to the “vanilla” approach.

Injecting Technology into Business
In today’s world there is an abundance of technology in every form imaginable. From a little chip inserted just under the human skin to enterprise systems used by large scale organisations, technology is no longer the inhibitor. Digital disruption is at the forefront of almost every organisation’s strategic plan and if we are not careful we can invest millions in various technologies without understanding what value it creates for the business.

Embedded in these technologies is a vast amount of data which sometimes organisations do not even know they collect nor do they understand the value of connected data contained in multiple systems.

“I think the greatest benefit of digital disruption is the inter-operability of data. If you looked at the Healthcare sector alone, how fantastic would the world be from a patient’s perspective if all of their information was available digitally to every provider connected with their care across their entire life journey,” says Wendy.

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are clearly paving the way for organisations to understand their clients, build valuable insights, enable predictive analytics and drive decision making about products, services, markets etc.

The use of various forms of assistive technology used in the homes of elderly people can provide valuable insights in relation to key clinical indicators that allow clinical teams to make informed decisions about clinical care in the short, medium and long term.

Leveraging technology to help people live their lives in the best way they can is very much a reality today. Designing technology solutions with the customer at the heart of the design is the only way to ensure it supports them in their day to day life as well as ensuring that as an organization it is a feasible and viable product.

“It’s an interesting problem to have but it also gives us a wonderful opportunity to stay engaged and connected with our clients as we unpack our various customer journey maps with them and build connected technologies that integrate data that is useful to making a difference in their lives,” says Wendy.

A Cure for Organizational Change
Change is the only constant in business these days. Sometimes the quantum of change appears to be greater than the organisation’s ability to embrace it. Developing a heat map of all the changes planned across the organisation is a good way to determine the complexity and extent of the change. It helps you to re-order the priority of the changes being implemented to ensure the business can successfully absorb it without significant negative impact on resources.

Wendy believes CIOs should be conscious of the fact that if a project was to fail it is highly likely that it would happen during execution stage, especially technology implementations.

I would say to any CIO planning to implement technology changes to never attempt to manage it as a business as usual activity. This kind of change needs good governance, dedicated funding, business commitment and it must be supported by sound change management capability. So how I approach it is to actually establish a program of work if it involves multiple projects or run it as a single project.

According to Wendy, before CIOs start establishing technology projects, they need to ask five questions:

  • Does the need align with your strategy?
  • What customer/business problem is it going to solve?
  • Will the customer actually buy this?
  • Can you sustain this financially?
  • How feasible is it?

Once these questions are answered and supported by logical data and a thorough cost/benefit analysis has been completed, CIOs will be far better equipped to determine the value proposition of the investment and could then decide if a project should be established or not.

The methodology used within the project should also be assessed as part of the decision making. “Is it possible to run it using Agile methodology? Can we run it as a sprint where we only ask for seed funding to move from ideation to prototyping to stand up a minimum viable product that proves or disproves the idea or concept? If it fails, we have only spent a small amount of money and we have failed fast – much better than taking 18 months to deliver a solution only to find that the technology has advanced or the business need has changed since it was first identified,” says Wendy.

Getting the balance right between the use of multiple project methodologies, ensuring IT investments are right sized and planned ahead, and ensuring good governance and assurance of projects is key to ensuring a CIO acts in the best interests of the whole organization and not just in the interests of the department they lead.

“I would like to see CIOs have a seat at the executive table, be the trusted advisor to the CEO on current key issues such as cyber security and always striving to enable a digital capability within their business that improves the flow of information throughout the organization. Be the change you want to see,” she says.

CIO PROFILE
Wendy Flavien
Chief Integration Officer of Bolton Clarke

Wendy Flavien is the Chief Integration Officer at Bolton Clarke. Prior to this, she held the position of Chief Information Officer at Blue Care. Wendy has over a decade of experience in the health and aged-care sectors. Prior to these roles she has worked in the Education, Construction and Building sectors in roles encompassing technology and information.