Conquering Endpoint Security Challenges

Brian Thomas, CIO, Swope Health Services

Brian Thomas, CIO, Swope Health ServicesBrian Thomas, CIO, Swope Health Services

1) What do you see as a big challenge in technology to meet the challenges of your industry? If you were to write down a wish list, what solutions do you look forward to and your expectations from technology providers for the enterprise?

The big challenge in healthcare today is interoperability. Technology isn’t the barrier at all, in fact, there are some really cutting-edge technologies that could solve a lot of problems in the healthcare industry. Like any bureaucracy, typically the issue is around politics or financial barriers. While Interoperability has come a long way in recent years, it is still impeding quick, safe patient care.

2) Organizations have to integrate data across the enterprise to have a 360-degree view of the customer, but it’s not an easy thing to do. What are your thoughts on getting this act right?

It’s really important to build a strategy around every system or piece of data that touches your customer. What I found is it is important to move away from legacy systems and try your best to integrate as much of your technology as possible. One way this can be done is by developing an enterprise data mining strategy. Once you have developed your EDW, you should have a plan to give your users seamless access to this (their) data. There are several products out there to provide them easy access. One great product is Tableau. Tableau is a great visualization tool that has enough power yet easy for non-technical staff to use. It’s crucial to implement these types of tools so you can develop a strong self-service strategy. Most customers today would rather go out and access their data on their schedule and not have to wait on IT to provide them a report.

"The best thing a technology leader can do is ensure that the critical systems that support the business are given the attention and financial resources needed to keep the business running 24/7 without interruption"

3) What specific types of technology will give leaders/ players within your industry the competitive edge?

As we’ve all heard over the years we need to be better, cheaper, smarter, and faster when it comes to delivering technology. It’s time for all business leaders to grasp the idea of innovation and digital transformation. Likewise, it’s not the time to reinvent the wheel—it’s important to look at emerging technologies (and your competition) and leverage these technologies to gain the competitive edge. Specifically, looking at artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots to bolster turnaround times for your customers. With social media today, customers can be your toughest critic, and they can make or break your business.

4) Despite the advancement in technology and the availability of some cool technology solutions, there isn’t a day when we can say ‘all is fine.’ There are several pain points within the enterprise for which solutions do not exist yet. In your business environment, what are some of the solutions which are not available or not up to the mark and if available, would have made your job easier. Can you share 1-2 things on what keeps you awake at night?

For my entire career, my focus has been on developing the best customer service strategy. Of course, this involves more than technology. However, without technology, you will quickly move to the last place in the competition line. The best thing a technology leader can do is ensure that the critical systems that support the business are given the attention and financial resources needed to keep the business running 24/7 without interruption. Once you know that you have a solid infrastructure environment, you can focus on more strategic goals for innovation and customer service. Today the focus is on improving the service delivery to our customers in the most efficient and fastest time possible. One thing we are evaluating now is seeing how AI can improve our Service Desk resolution times, more specifically chatbots. While we currently offer many ways to get assistance from the Service Desk, we know that leveraging AI could improve first-contact resolution times, which frees up technical staff and improves our customer service.

5) There are several technology trends which you perhaps would be observing (big data, social media, mobile, cloud, IoT). Can you share with us 1-2 trends that will have a significant impact on your enterprise business environment and your industry?

Several trends that were mentioned here are all part or will be part of our strategy. Currently, the focus has been on our data mining strategy for improving our population’s health. However, there have been some efforts to engage our patients in their own healthcare by using our mobile app. Additionally, as we replace, upgrade, or integrate the various applications we support, there has been a shift to move some of these to the cloud. While all of this is important and certainly keeps the environment constantly moving and evolving, we always ensure that this work and these systems fall in line with our security strategy. With the advent of advanced malware and bots, we have had to be more aggressive and develop a multilayered security strategy that includes AI.

6) Can you illustrate how technology is revolutionizing than ever thought before in 1-2 business segments in your work environment and is so critical for your business to succeed?

I can recall not so long ago where hospitals, clinics, and medical providers were using paper charts to take care of their patients. While electronic medical records have been around for 20 years, it was just in the last seven years where you were seeing a noticeable impact on patient care. In my assessment, the Healthcare industry has always lagged behind in technology. However, I truly believe the next few years will prove enormous advancements for the Healthcare industry. We are seeing the effects of all of this digital “disruption” and the customers (patients) are fueling this by forcing businesses to change or lose market share.

7) How is the role of IT changing at your company, and, with it, your role as CIO/ CXO?

In the last five years, the role of a CIO has changed dramatically. In fact, if you still think like the typical CIO of days gone past, your business will succumb to your competition or could create a resume-generating event for you. CIOs have to be forward thinkers and find ways to help the business catapult their strategy. True innovators are now considered CDOs or Chief Digital Officers. I believe the title “CIO” may become a thing of the past.

8) What is the best example of IT’s new role at your company? Can you share on some of the things you have done in driving process transformation efforts–while tuning and elevating IT’s relationship with the business.

The big buzzwords around new IT roles in the industry are Chief Digital Officer or IT/Business Innovation Leader. These are becoming more prevalent and recognized across the technology industry. For us specifically, it was the development of a CSO/CISO due to the increased security threats and breaches that have been targeting Healthcare in the last couple of years. Additionally, we as a technology team consider ourselves as “Solution Providers”. As an example, our Service Desk is actually called the “Solutions Desk”. This empowers our team to think and acts like a true solution provider, and the name gives a positive spin to our customers.

9) When it comes to security, how significant is the role of a CIO/CXO or CISO as an ombudsman between IT and business? As security issues gradually start demanding full-time attention, do you think that it is time to hand over security completely to a CSO?

With the advent of more sophisticated and aggressive malware, viruses, bots, and fraud, the role of a CIO and CISO has become more significant, yet more scrutinized. In some instances or organizations, this role has changed somewhat and may, in fact,have to follow some governance or compliance protocols to truly ensure a clean or non-biased outcome for a particular security incident. Depending on the size, structure, and complexity of your organization security may completely be handed over to the CISO. However, with the introduction of some great SIEM tools, leveraging AI can truly allow more bandwidth for the CIO or CISO.

10) A final question, what’s your advice to a CIO/CXO starting out in your industry?

Learn your customers’ business like they know it, and eliminate their pain points. Building solid relationships from day one will help gain support for your technology initiatives down the road. Having the right relationships will allow you to select a strong ally and champion for these technology initiatives.

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