Neil Kaufman, CIO, Drayer Physical Therapy Institute
1. How would you describe the role of a CIO today?
The role of the CIO can vary from organization to organization. However, where IT is valued (which should be everywhere), the CIO is a multi-pronged central figure that gets involved at every level of growing the business. He or she is on the executive team, reporting to the CEO and an acknowledged leader in the company. Innovation and business enablement cannot occur in the 21st century without technology. And in that sense, the CIO can be the creative leader, or at least part of the creative team in solving the biggest business problems. At the same time, he or she is the champion of process, best practices and operational frameworks that yield predictable results. He or she is also the project management champion, the go-to person when it comes to the discipline of defining, executing and managing mission-critical project portfolios while ensuring that expected results and outcomes are achieved. In short, he or she is “visionary”, “operational efficiency expert”, “business optimizer” and “project finisher”.
2. How can the CIOs make their business counterparts think differently about the importance of IT?
Proving value is the best way to get business leaders to take note and engage. It may start with some information or data that supports the value that IT can bring to business transformation. Meet with business leaders and work your way down the chain to uncover areas of opportunity. Gain agreement to get started on something modest, but valuable and achievable. And then, achieve it. Everyone has heard stories of implementation failures and projects run amuck. Make sure that doesn’t happen. Make sure you have your People-Process-Technology act together first. Make sure you have a project management framework in place, and a process that factors in the ongoing maintenance of what’s been built. Gain buys in on what defines “success” for the project. In short, make sure it ends in a “Win”. Put a handful of Wins together, and you will get their attention on the potential value of IT.
"The opportunities are just enormous, like at the very beginning of the industrial revolution"
3. As the technology sphere evolves with each passing day, what are some of the latest trends that are gripping your mind?
• Without a doubt, Cloud Migration has left the station of “possibility” and arrived on the scene of “production-ready”. Its promise is substantial, and leaves the physical data center as a relic of the 20th century gone by. Done right, it makes sense financially, operationally and elastically.
• Information Security continues to be a top growth trend in IT. The threats keep coming. Factor in the new technologies such as IoT and their interactions with enterprise architecture, infrastructure and applications, and a tightening regulatory environment in most industries, and you have potential vulnerabilities and liabilities increasing exponentially. And attention to those issues will be critical.
• Artificial Intelligence, a trendy topic discussed since the 1970’s, is finally at a place as a practical technology offering where it can really have an impact in people’s day to day lives. Consider smart devices, smart homes, smart offices, cars that drive themselves, etc.
• Everything as a Service, for which cloud migration plays a part, basically says that you need not build, house or own anything. You just lease it, and focus on your business whatever that may be. Combined with computing on demand, you have a scenario not unlike the power industry of old: You plug it in and turn it on, and it’s there, and it works. And when I don’t need it, I turn it off, and I thereby stop paying for it, until I need it again. Game changing stuff!
4. Which growing or future technology innovation are you personally excited about?
True “Utility Computing” is the most exciting concept I know of, a concept that is now becoming a reality. Nicholas Carr’s book entitled “The Big Switch” does a great job of describing this, except I think we’ve arrived. Carr goes through the progression of the power industry, how it started, how it evolved, where it is now. And he draws parallels to where we are with technology. And I believe that he’s hit the mark on this one. To power your factory, you no longer need to own your own power company, or even a power generator. You pay a utility to deliver power to you, you pay for what you use, and you use it by plugging things into a receptacle in the wall. So why not technology? Why not applications? Plug in the device, and “service” is delivered, it’s metered and you are charged based on what you use. No other knowledge of the inner workings is needed. The foundational pieces of this are really coming together now. And it potentially is another revolution, on a scale of the industrial revolution.
5. How can the evolving technologies help Drayer Physical Therapy Institute overcome the challenges?
Like most companies, Drayer has gone through an evolution in terms of its adoption of technology. I often point out that if we were going to start over and rebuild the company from zero that much would be different. We currently have multiple physical data centers in which we co-locate our various systems. I would never build a data center up today, because the cloud is ready. The cloud has answered the legitimate questions that have been previously posed around security, system performance and availability. And the price point is right. Critical applications are available in the cloud, they are secure and available. Procure the services you need relative to applications and data security, redundancy and latency, and have the elasticity to be able to meet high demand seasonality easily, and scale down seamlessly. The Cloud brings business the flexibility, efficiency and strategic value to meet the coming challenges–because the Cloud isn’t any one thing. A health care company should not need to be in the data center business. Those resources are much better spent doing what Drayer does best–treating its patient customers. IT still has a high value, as we can focus on how best to provide the tools to our health care experts who provide the care. But let the technology experts worry about the data centers, securing the physical host equipment and operating systems, even develop and maintain the applications that we run. And that last part, the applications, is where the IT industry is now positioned to see extremely high growth. The opportunities are just enormous, like at the very beginning of the industrial revolution.