Jill Helenbrook, VP of the IT Business Office at Walgreens Boots Alliance, and Tina Esposito, VP of the Center for Health Information Services at Advocate Health Care, discussed how to achieve a successful relationship between IT and the business.
Esposito began her fireside chat with Helenbrook at the 2016 Chief Information Officer Leadership Forum held on September 20 in Chicago by asking the VP of Walgreens about moving her IT department to become more metrics- and value-driven.
“The company was changing its strategy, and IT had to change as well from being responsive to how the business came to us to taking responsibility and ownership of ensuring that what we were doing was aligned with the company strategy,” responded Helenbrook. “The relationship between IT and the business was one of order-taking, which worked really well when we were an assembly line of opening up stores.”
“The relationship between IT and the business was one of order-taking, which worked really well when we were an assembly line of opening up stores.”
“To start to make the pivot,” Helenbrook continued, “leadership instituted a horizontal function across all the IT departments; each IT department had previously focused on supporting the assets it ran as effectively and efficiently as possible. We needed something horizontal to start to look across everything and be sure we were making the best choices, informing our business partners, and asking for help. I was asked to lead this horizontal function, and this was an opportunity to introduce new and innovative practices, like DevOps, to digitize the core,” she explained. “We need platforms to bring people together, which can be in the form of governance or reporting or ensuring leadership alignment at the CIO’s table.”
Helenbrook continued, “One of my focuses was to institute a change proficiency into the organization—getting better and more specific at metrics and making sure the metrics we were capturing were relevant and guiding us toward this change proficiency. In addition, IT needed to make sure we were enhancing our credibility with the business, so messaging coherently and consistently to the business was important, and the horizontal function brought that all together.”
“IT needed to make sure we were enhancing our credibility with the business, so messaging coherently and consistently to the business was important, and the horizontal function brought that all together.”
Esposito asked, “Did you find the metrics helpful in terms of transparency and communicating to the business that value was being generated in IT?”
“It absolutely helped tell the story of IT and, more importantly, it helped us have honest conversations at the CIO’s table,” said Helenbrook.” We were all singing the same song. We all had the same understanding of where we started and where we were going.”
“It [metrics] absolutely helped tell the story of IT and, more importantly, it helped us have honest conversations at the CIO’s table.”
“It sounds like the main theme here is IT aligning with the business,” observed Esposito. “Do you see this as a different culture from your previous experience?”
“The alignment with business has to work,” stressed Helenbrook. “In some companies, the business takes more of a leadership role in demonstrating the value IT brings to the P&Ls, being more forward-thinking, and being more transparent about the money allocated to IT to build business capability and the value the business gets from this. Sometimes, it’s the other way around. I don’t think one is better than the other. What’s important is to understand the culture of your company and the relationship between IT and business.”
Esposito followed up with: “How do you engender innovation in the folks that work for you?”
“I start with me,” said Helenbrook. “I make sure I’m doing what I need to do to stay on top of what’s going on and encourage others to do the same. This, too, should be part of company culture.”
“When we’re focused on metrics, as we must be, how do we balance the short-term needs of the business with the long-term strategic focus required in innovation?” asked Esposito.
“When a business is in a transformation cycle, it tends to allow and budget for more innovative thinking than if it’s in a steady state or downsizing,” explained Helenbrook. “Every company struggles with this, especially public companies, and it becomes more difficult every day because the technology is changing so quickly.”
ABOUT TINA ESPOSITO:
Named as one of the Most Powerful Women in Healthcare IT by HealthData Management and featured on the January 2016 cover of their magazine as an “agent of change,” Tina Esposito is the vice president of the Center for Health Information Services at Advocate Health Care.
Tina joined Advocate in 1999 as a statistical data analyst at Lutheran General Hospital. She has served in various Advocate system roles including director of the Center for Health Information Services beginning in 2008 and was promoted to Vice President in 2012. Tina and her team are responsible for system measurement and analytics in support of improved patient outcomes and organizational performance.
Tina serves as the Advocate executive for strategic oversight of the Advocate-Cerner Collaborative (ACC), which has leveraged Cerner and Advocate resources to jointly create a population health management platform for Advocate. This platform includes a big data strategy, advanced analytical models, and deployment of these models into clinical workflow. Additional areas of responsibilities include data warehousing, HIM, and public data.
Tina has a Master in Business Administration degree from DePaul University, Chicago, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Information Management from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She also is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives and a certified Master Black Belt in Six Sigma.
ABOUT JILL HELENBROOK:
Jill Helenbrook currently serves as Vice President of the Office of the CIO at Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA). In this role, Jill is responsible for long-range planning, portfolio oversight and reporting, vendor management, and other capabilities ensuring enterprise integration across divisions. Prior to joining WBA, Jill spent ten years in various roles at JPMorgan Chase including product management, operations, risk, and client management. Jill’s career has centered around bringing together business and IT in alignment with strategy and tactics to ensure ROI is delivered.