By Peter High, published on Forbes
When Cerner Chief Information Officer Bill Graff joined the company in 2005, he was attracted to the fact that it felt like an entrepreneurial company. The company’s growth since that would certainly back up that assumption. in 2005, Cerner earned roughly $1 billion in revenue. Today, the company is a $5 billion revenue company. In that same period, associate count has grown from roughly 6,000 to over 25,000, and Graff’s team has grown from 35 people to over 1,500.
Graff has run the company’s hosting business for a number of years, growing that part of the business from 30 to 40 clients to over 500 clients today. His CIO responsibilities were added to his hosting responsibilities a year and a half ago, and he has brought that same revenue-centricity and customer focus to IT, as he highlights in this interview, among other topics we covered.
Peter High: Bill, you joined Cerner in 2005 as a senior manager of Infrastructure Operations. You have been the Chief Information Officer of Cerner for about a year and a half. Can you describe your thirteen-year journey, rising through the ranks, to become CIO?
Bill Graff: Prior to coming to Cerner, I held different roles in IT ranging from software engineering to operational responsibilities like running datacenters. When I joined Cerner, I took over the datacenter infrastructure for the hosting site. As we dramatically grew that business from a small startup business inside of Cerner, to a large-scale business across the board, my responsibilities expanded as well. As Cerner grew, it made sense to combine the infrastructure organization and the corporate IT organization. In 2010, many of the infrastructure components from corporate IT, things like the networks and server storage platforms, came into my organization. Soon after that, it also made sense, from operating and cost modeling perspectives, to pull some of the applications into my organization. This was because on the hosting side, we had built processes for a lot of tools, things like automation, ticket tracking, and support services. That was about a three-year process. For the past three years, I have had responsibility for corporate IT, as well as on the hosting side responsibility for all of the global datacenter operations and infrastructure. I have spent a lot of time, both globally and working in the trenches, leveraging technology to enable our associates to be more productive, to deliver great service to our clients, and to help build Cerner.
High: How has the business grown in the time that you have been with Cerner?
Graff: When I joined Cerner, in early 2005, revenue was right around $1 billion dollars. Today, we are a nearly $5 billion revenue company. In 2005, our associate count was around 6,000. Now we are at a little over 25,000 people, worldwide. One of the reasons I came to Cerner was because I had spent a lot of time working at startups, and Cerner felt like a startup company. You were expected to be entrepreneurial and to deliver results. The exciting thing about Cerner was we had good business leaders and the funding to do entrepreneurial things. Through US legislation and hard work on our part to deliver, the company has grown dramatically. I have had a great career over the last 13 years.
High: Can you describe your purview as CIO?