Lessons From The Board-Level Businesswoman With The Biggest IT Job In Healthcare
As the chief information officer of a $101 billion colossus Cardinal Health, Patty Morrison has the biggest IT role in healthcare. This is fitting for an executive who has been a successful CIO at five major corporations. She was so successful in her CIO role, in fact, that she now also serves as executive vice president of customer shared services for the company, focusing increasingly on top-line as well as bottom line opportunities for the company through the creative use of technology. Morrison has also served on the board of two companies, Splunk and JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts.
As she notes in my interview with her below, the role of CIO is ideal for the executive who wishes to understand how a business truly works, and it increasingly is a role that is becoming customer-centric, as customers in all industries are becoming more technology savvy. Lastly, she notes that the CIO’s perspective should be one that more companies seek on their boards. With this in mind, Morrison advises CIOs to weave themselves more solidly into the fabric of the businesses that they are a part of, learning how value is created, and the role that technology can play in achieving value faster.
(To listen to an unabridged podcast version of this conversation, please click this link. This is the fifth article in Board Level CIO series. To read the other articles in the series, including an interviews with the CIOs of FedEx and Lincoln Trust, please click this link. To read future articles in the series, including interviews with the CIOs of Intel and BDP International, please click the “Follow” link above.)
Peter High: You have an interesting “CIO-plus” role. In addition to being the chief information officer for Cardinal Health, you are also the head of Customer Care Shared Services. Please describe each of these roles.
Patty Morrison: I have been global CIO for Cardinal Health for five years. I have responsibility from a systems standpoint for all of the infrastructure and applications that run our enterprises around the world. We operate in China, Puerto Rico, Canada and the US. Primarily, our commercial business is in the US but we also manufacture in Thailand and Mexico. I’m also responsible for the commercial technology platforms: the technologies that are embedded in many of our healthcare services that are actually deployed to our external customers, so I have a Chief Technology Officer that also reports to me. As head of Customer Care Shared Services, I have the responsibility for our call center operations that support our retail and our acute and ambulatory customers, and I also have the responsibility for our contract and pricing administration back offices.
Additional topics covered in the article include:
- Before joining Cardinal Health as CIO, you were CIO at Motorola, at Office Depot, at Quaker Oats, and you were a business unit CIO at General Electric. What was it about your role as CIO or your past experiences as CIO that lent itself nicely to these additional responsibilities that you’ve taken on?
- Can you offer a perspective about the changing role of the average IT person or IT executive in terms of their ability and the need to be much more cognizant of the needs of customers?
- Are there special ways in which you ensure that members of your team have logical customer touch points to draw inferences from, such as how technology would make their lives easier and help them choose the right products, or help them save money?
- In an organization of your size – in excess of a hundred billion dollars of revenue –what is the reporting relationship with the divisional CIOs into their own business versus to you, and how do you foster collaboration across the divisional CIO group?
- Having spoken with a great number of people like yourself who have CIO responsibilities and the additional ones like you do, I’ve come to recognize that it is so important to have a strong team as the executive naturally is pulled in multiple directions depending upon priorities in each of those areas of responsibility. As you planned to take on the additional responsibilities as the head of Customer Care Shared Services, how did you think about the team you needed?
- You are also a representative of a CIO trend that, while relatively new, seems to be increasing, which is you have served on the board of multiple companies. For example you are on the board of the SPSS which was acquired by IBM back in 2009. You are currently a board member of Splunk and I believe that you are the only CIO on the board. I’d love to understand what you gain from your experience in joining corporate boards and also what you bring to the boards from your experiences as a CIO?
- For those current CIOs or aspiring CIOs who wish to follow in your foot steps to become a director or board member in a company, what advice would you give them?
- You mentioned that some companies are reluctant to bring CIOs on boards because while they have the IT acumen naturally, they don’t necessarily have the reputation historically for the business acumen. By extension, Patty, does that mean that one of the early steps a CIO who aspires to be on a board must take is to think about running IT like a business?
- I want to ask you a bit more about analytics which you brought up a couple of times as one of those areas where IT can add value. How have you thought about the process of building analytic skills and acumen within Cardinal Health, to what extent is this an opportunity to partner with multiple parts of the organization, and who comes to mind when you are thinking about analytics?
- Are there other trends in business and IT that are tech centric but business impactful that you are thinking about for the next two years?