Season 2 Episode 3 - "How do I choose & enable my partners?" with Tom Andriola, Vice Chancellor of IT at UC Irvine
Andrew: Hey, it's Andrew and you're listening to season two of Network Disrupted where I help technology leaders trade notes on navigating disruption in our space. Today, we're hearing from Tom Andriola, Vice Chancellor of Information Technology and Data at the University of California, Irvine. On this episode, we explore Tom's unique role as someone focused on enabling partnerships that promote UC Irvine's ambitious data strategy. We talk about what's important for organizations at the scale of UC Irvine when joining business strategy and technology, and get to hear some really interesting emerging thoughts on what's coming in healthcare and higher ed. To set some context, remember that UC Irvine is in the business of higher education, public research, and also healthcare. Before we get into it, and since we do talk a bit about partnerships at a very large scale, I want to call out a community where I see partnerships on a one- to- one level. For the IT practitioners listening, especially those who touch network infrastructure, I'm part of the Network VIP community, which is a free, open, and vendor agnostic group to help you and your peers connect, share best practices, and just generally learn from one another. You can join at Bitly/ networkVIP. I'll be happy to see you there. Message me if you're a listener and say hi. Let me know what you thought of today's discussion. You can tweet me at Network Disrupted, leave a review on Spotify or Apple podcasts. Actually, please do that. Or email me at andrew @ networkdisrupted. com.
Recording: Maybe you can give me a sense of the complexity. We love the inaudible concept approach. Influences everything. It influences the human experience. There were several failures along the way. We want to be early and often customers. You are handling sensitive information. That's where [inaudible 00:01:36].
Andrew: All right. So let's get started. Tom, thank you very much for joining us. I appreciate it.
Tom: Thank you very much for having me today.
Andrew: When we talked before, one of the things I found super interesting is you joined as the CIO for the entire University of California system. And some year or two ago, you took a much more focused role specifically at Irvine. Can you talk to me about what led to that transition and what the change of focus was?
Tom: Yeah, I think there's twofold aspects of it. The first is in the university system, that the University of California is, being at the Office of the President gives you a perspective. It's kind of like a balcony view, but you have to go to a campus or to a med center to be in the dance, I like to call it. Coming down and working at Irvine is part of just diversifying my understanding of the university by seeing it from a different perspective. In terms of why Irvine, it really had to do with the kind of an advisory role I was playing to their leadership when I was at Office of the President, where they were struggling with feeling like they weren't taking advantage strategically of how technology was reshaping the way that a university campus, a research enterprise, and a health system were going to evolve in the 21st century. That advisory role I was playing to them became then the creation of the role that I ultimately stepped into, which was not to be a day- to- day CIO and be responsible for a lot of operational responsibility, which is full time jobs for our CIO on the health system side and the campus side, but to really operate at the cabinet level, sitting with the chancellor, with the provost, with our deans, with our CEO of the health system. And I actually say, let's talk about data and technology enablement and the way that's reshaping the way we think about how we're going to do things in the future. And when we're going to build, for example, a new medical campus, how do we start with technology's role being in the middle of the conversation from the get- go?
Andrew: Right. It sounds like it was much more focused on the business or the university itself, but in terms of partnering and becoming part of the product, for lack of better words.
Tom: Exactly. And I think that's what you're seeing in more mature organizations. One of the things we have in healthcare now is let's stop talking about telehealth. It's just healthcare. The fact that we're using technology to enable the interaction between the doctor and the patient or the patient and self service, it's just the way we do healthcare now. It's not some separate category of thing anymore.
Andrew: Let's stick with the health system then. Can you give me a sense of some of the strategies that you've launched and some of the work you're doing?
Tom: Sure, absolutely. Let me give you a real quick story on a perspective that makes it a lot of fun and it leads into the answer to your question, which is I got an email from the CEO of the health system earlier this week. It was sent to a subset of his executive team. We're really think forward- looking in terms of how we might do things differently tomorrow. He was listening to a presentation and he took a screenshot of the slides. And basically, the summary of the slide he sent to us was talking about changing customer expectations. How do you think about your enterprise being as clever as Google, as personalized as Amazon, as social as Facebook? And it just gives you a sense of where he's coming from in terms of saying," Here are the ideas that we need to have on the table for discussion in terms of where we're going." Why did I come to Irvine? It's because that type of leadership is in place today. The types of things that are leading us into the future... And I'll use two examples. How do we start thinking about technology enablement and using data in ways that are more intelligent. For example, chronic geriatric patients who make a lot of visits into clinic. Instead of the pandemic turning that into," Well, we can't bring you into clinic because you're a high risk of catching a disease if you come into the facility, so we're going to interact with you at home." Instead of that being the exception, how do we think about post pandemic devices that we send home with the patient, with the training, with the ability to collect and analyze data and connect it to their formal health record? And how does the standard of care change to we take care of you at home, and the exception is us bringing you into clinic when we can't care for you appropriately out of your home and through the use of technology? There's one example of how we're really thinking about flipping the model from technology enabled healthcare being the exception, to that being the norm and the exception of making Mrs. Johnson have to drive in for a visit to the clinic, with all the stress of driving in Orange County traffic, parking, et cetera, et cetera. The second one is, again with the accelerated through the pandemic but certainly not a new concept, is the concept of hospital at home. How do you think of a hospital bed not only being in a hospital, but more and more thinking about a general ward bed being set up in someone's home? What the pandemic has pushed us to is to look at that more aggressively because these surges have the ability to overwhelm the formal health system and the facilities. So, how do we continue to expand our capacity without having to build another brick and mortar hospital, which is millions of dollars per bed to bill? Hospital at home has become a program that we've been investigating very, very closely in terms of what does that look like, and really understanding the difference between hospital at home and traditional home- based care models. Because the acuity level of the patients in hospital at home, you're taking care of higher acuity patients. So, it's a combination of things that you send them home with, ways that you connect with them, ways you analyze the data, but also services of people to go into their home, which brings us back into a more medical professionals visiting the home. But for what types of services are we going to do that for? Those are two of I would say the big things that are top of our strategic plan that myself and our health system CIO are really driving on behalf of the executive team at UCI Health.
Andrew: That's amazing. This is going to sound off topic, but you'll hear where it comes back. Years ago, like 10 years ago maybe, when I was CTO of this big public software company, I went to some conference on commercial vehicles and listened to somebody from John Deere speak. And he put up this slide that sort of blew me away that said," We don't sell tractors. We sell high- tech farming solutions. We're selling crop yield." In their large commercial farms no longer selling the product, which was a tractor combine harvest or whatever... In fact, you don't even need to pay for those things. And you only use them a few days a week. The rest of the time, they're in the barn, and pay us on the result, which is crop yield. And they're collecting all sorts of data and the challenges they had in terms of extending their network to... They continue to own these assets. These assets are now out in the market. They're collecting data. They're certainly doing things like proactive service and understanding the behavior of these things. They're actually working and then pulling off a lot of interesting data around soil quality and maybe pulling in additional data like crop subsidies, whatever the case might be, in order to help basically figure out what to plant, where to plant it, to drive as much yield and profit. And that was the overall goal there. And the amount of changes just that different way of thinking required was pretty nuts. It occurs to me, great, hospital at home. There's the hospital bed. There's monitors. There's equipment that people aren't used to maintaining or using at home. I would imagine there's... I don't know if the analogy makes sense or not, but extending the hospital there is way more than that first bucket you were talking about, which is telehealth. You're actually creating a quasi hospital at home, and that requires secure networking devices, for instance, a bed or whatever else, I'm assuming. Does that make sense to you sort of where I've trying to go with this?
Tom: Absolutely. I'll protect the innocent, but one of the categories you just named, I was talking to a company earlier this week, and one of my questions to the leadership that we were talking to was around how are you thinking differently about your value proposition and your pricing models and partnering with your customers? Because again, we're getting more and more into relationships. We're at financial risks with the patients we're caring for. So, we have to be able to do these types of models in a way that we don't lose our shirt as a health system. I was asking them, how are you thinking differently about your pricing models associated with getting out of the business of just providing me a thing and being a component in a service that we're offering. And I went through that at Phillips. They've, now, I think completely made the transition. But when I was there, we were very much in the throws, like in your John Deere example, of understanding that the value we were creating in healthcare is helping doctors make good decisions, create good patient outcomes. How do we start talking about enabling that solution versus selling you another$ 2 million MRI? And that's an incredible transition that affects everything from rewiring the way your salespeople talk to customers, to the way that you bring your products to market, to the way that you represent your financials between a capital purchase item and some type of recurring revenue stream that comes along with a service.
Andrew: For sure, which many companies want to do because of the expectation that that sort of recurring revenue or subscription model is looked kindly upon by investors and others versus some traditional models, certainly in the software and technology world. The real kicker there is what you said. You need to be able to align that with value. There's a servitization of your business model. You're selling some sort of outcome that is value, that is enabled via some software or hardware or combination of both, but ultimately your customer's paying for value, which is where most technology companies should want to be. That's sort of the nirvana, at least the way I think about the world. There's a problem. You have a solution. The solution creates value, and that value customers willing to pay for is a great place to be. Are you finding when you speak to potential partners or vendors that they're launching said strategies, or do you think you're a couple steps ahead of them in some cases?
Tom: Yeah, I think because of my experiences, they all say they're there. They're all saying," We're a digital company now." Right?" We're transforming ourselves into a digital company." I think what's important to really understand from my perspective, looking at what kind of partners we want to work with as we roll out these models, is where are they in that journey? Because I've been through it. There is saying it. There's talking to the street about it. And then there's does your organization really behave that way, or does the first time that we talk about bringing your equipment into our new facility, are you going to talk about how many of those things am I going to buy? For me, I delve deeper into where are you on this transformation. And if it's early, then we want to be one of those early adopter customers that you want to invest in to prove to your CFO that there is a return going in this direction, because I've been through that, how challenging is to work with a CFO who's steeped in capital equipment purchases, and you have to do so many deals every quarter versus, hey, the book of business is 90% delivered because it's a recurring revenue stream every month because they're signed up as a service. We've already got 90% of the revenue for the quarter. I've been through that transition. And so, I can assess with our partners kind of where they are along that continuum.
Andrew: Yeah, you got it. And the other side of that, which some companies don't like, I think is critical as part of a service you deliver, is on the old model, you sized a number of things. They bought the number of things. When you deliver those things, it's now the buyer's problem. And yeah. Their support, number to call, buy some services, get the stuff installed. But the end of the day, you bought it. Transaction done, versus more of a subscription approach where there must be a much higher focus on customer success, because if you're not using them, if you're not generating whatever metric is used in order to demonstrate utilization or value, or however the pricing is done, then the company you're buying this from isn't making money. It's on them now to make sure that you're successful, and that transition of whose responsibility it is, you both have skin in the game, I guess, is what I'm trying to say, which I think is important as partnerships are created between entities.
Tom: Yeah. You said it perfectly. Absolutely.
Andrew: Certainly in our core business, there's still that hesitation. Sometimes it's CFO, CapEx type stuff, and sometimes it's just our purchasing process requires us to compare two to three vendors, and therefore we need to compare apples to apples. And therefore, please give us your per thing price. You're almost drilled down to that because the process hasn't evolved at the buyer yet in order to support any other type of business model. You mentioned way early on the utilization importance of data as part of these solutions. You mentioned a few cases in measuring outcomes and other sorts of things, but sort of curious of the data strategy around this future strategy in general in the health system.
Tom: Yeah, for us being a health system and academic medical center, so that means we're connected to schools of medicine, schools of nursing, pharmalogical sciences, et cetera, and then also having these incredible capabilities of the school of engineering. We have a school of computer science, not just a department. So, we think about the role and the opportunity around data as a multi- dimensional opportunity for us. Clearly like any health system, there is how do we use our assets to deliver better care and focus more on outcomes and do all of that. But having clinical science expertise and be able to connect data science expertise, we have this whole opportunity to really build a pipeline of using our data in a research setting to develop predictive algorithms that then we can bring to the point of care. Great example of something that just got published from some of our really, really innovative faculty in radiology at RSNA is the development of algorithms that basically show vulnerable patients who exhibited in the COVID space, vulnerable patients who might find their way into the ICU, and predictive measures looking not just at lab values, but we actually looked at lab values as one way of training the algorithm. But, we also looked at medical images and subtleties around pneumonia in images around predicting if those patients were headed to the ICU. The fact that we could go from the development environment of bringing the data together, developing with subject matter experts how, and train up that algorithm, and then bring it to the point of care and start using it is kind of a unique pipeline. With my role, my job is to say, is that a unique pipeline that we're just going to keep internally, or are we going to somehow try to externalize that beyond the borders of UC Irvine? Is that just to our other colleagues in the UC system? Is it something we want to go the open source route? Do we want to think about taking this to the venture community to see if there's any buyers? Is it a tech transfer possibility? There's a lot of opportunity there.
Andrew: What I really love, by the way, which it goes back to why you took this focused role at Irvine, is when you're talking about utilizing the power of the university, and the school of engineering, and the school of computer science, along with the health system, so that this is a cross- discipline activity. But, it sounds like you're building full products that are, to some extent, ready for commercialization, at least ready for partnership and collaboration with other universities.
Tom: We are. We're also trying to stay true to the things that we're good at and not try to extend ourselves too much into things that we tend not to be good at. To become catalysts, but understand where we need to hand things off. I had this conversation this week with a potential partner. We were in the healthcare space. We were talking about some of these enablement of taking care of patients at home. We think we're really good at the research lab environment. We have a capability because we have something called applied innovation that operates kind of like an incubator and kind of an early market validation that I want to build like alpha customer capability into, where alpha will likely be us, where we want to eat our own dog food. When you go then from alpha customer, and now you want to scale it, that's not our business, as a university or as a health system.
Andrew: That's fantastic. And that's sort of the partners to scale, or to productize, or whatever the case might be. In terms of what partners you work with when you're actually building the solution, it sounds like from a couple of comments you made that you, in some cases, may be bringing a partner along or teaching them a bit on how you want to do business. Is there a criteria that you look for when you're looking for suppliers that are helping you or technology providers that are helping you build these solutions?
Tom: I don't know that I could put it into hard criteria, but I think there's willingness to invest. It's about aligning in terms of the goals and incentives. And I'll give you just kind of two scenarios. There's one where we've got an idea of something that we think has market possibility, but there's some things we can bring to the table, but we need these other pieces. And the question is, is the partner we talking to, are they interested in co- developing that solution to be part of their portfolio going forward, or are they just interested in ultimately getting a purchase order from us to buy 10 of their things?
Tom: It takes a while to do the dance until you figure out if it's the right partners. And then for us being a platform and an ecosystem center, how many of those partners can you have? If you get too much overlap in terms of what partners bring, then you get unhappy partners because like," Well, wait a minute. I thought we were going to work on the systems integration part." You try to assemble a set of partners where everybody can feel like they're getting enough of the pie in what they're getting out of it for what they're putting into it. And we're still trying to figure out where that is. And of course, I think healthcare has got a bunch of spaces you can think about building those type of partnership models. I've got the research environment and the educational environment where I could build similar type of ecosystems. And we've got a concept called the collaboratory, which is kind of a... It's a collaboratory for data where data is the foundation by which we bring the partners and our subject matter experts in that we're building into different, let's just call them domains, and replicating that as a repeatable model for different types of domains, and then figuring out if we can continue to define domains where we can do that.
Andrew: That's super interesting. You're facilitating partner innovation in those cases.
Tom: Absolutely. One of the things when I was in my last role off to the president, probably the thing I'll be most proud of in that role, is I launched a leadership academy for IT professionals across our entire university, the University of California in its entirety. We have 8, 000 IT professionals. It's bigger than a lot of companies. And we didn't have any concept of building leadership bench, preparing leaders for the future, becoming more strategic to the conversations of the respective campus health systems. I went to Berkeley Haas Business School, and we put together a leadership academy program, and then we started building cohorts who came together from all the different campuses and health systems. And we put them through basically almost like an MBA bootcamp. Teach them how to talk about value propositions. Then, have you do business model innovation, and all those types of things. The faculty advisor we had, he said," Universities," and this has always stuck with me and I always come back to this," Universities really have two roles. We create knowledge and we disseminate knowledge." Fundamentally, that's what we do. And I'm like," Okay, that actually makes a lot of sense." It keeps it really simple. But when we talk about disseminating knowledge, that's not creating new businesses. Our job is to disseminate the knowledge by creating models of which the knowledge gets out of the academy and out into the world to create positive impact. We do that in educating a student and sending her out with a degree to then go build a life and build a career, et cetera. We do that in terms of IP that then somebody takes to tech transfer and goes out and starts a company and grows it. That's all good. We don't have to be in this business of starting new businesses. We have to be in the business of disseminating knowledge. And so, my job is to try to figure out how many innovative ways can we figure out a way to disseminate knowledge out into the rest of the world. That's kind of how my mindset is going out in terms of how do we create these new mechanisms where all of that knowledge and expertise has been stuck inside the academy. Is there a way that we can get it out and everything else will then start to take care of itself?
Andrew: That's fantastic. You mentioned Berkeley. You've got another Nobel Laureate in the UC system now.
Tom: It's amazing. We actually had a really good week from that perspective. We also had one from UCLA, and then someone who did their undergraduate education at Davis. So, we had a particularly good week at the University of California.
Andrew: These strategies you have, which are fascinating, how far down do they permeate into the organizations responsible for deploying certain technologies, even networking technologies like WiFi or something? Do these sort of boil down into the reasons we're going to pick certain types of solutions over others? Like for instance, they're going to be able to deliver the data we need or whatever the case, or is there business as usual, we need a connected campus, and then also we've got these other strategies on the side there to drive different acquisitions of technology?
Tom: Yeah, I would say it's more of the latter. Andrew, if I'm honest, my job is to try to get it more towards the former. We had an interesting moment today. The Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, we were talking about something around how we're managing COVID and virus spread across our community. We brought about 7, 000 students back on campus this fall. Everyone's remote instruction, but we have 7, 000 students living in campus sponsored housing. He made the point that, well, if we had a OneCard program, because he and I had been championing the concept that we need a single smart card that is swiped for everything that our students do, from buying something in the convenience store to using the library to logging into their dorm. We're not there yet.
Andrew: Yeah. Utilizing public transportation, for instance.
Tom: Right. We're getting there. Look, the whole world is now being captured in these digital fingerprints and footprints. And my job is to try to help people understand that we need to harness that data and find ways to integrate it, and then start to figure out how do we generate insights from it. It doesn't permeate all the way through, but COVID has really brought to the forefront how important technology enablement is on many, many different fronts to be able to help manage the environment. Today, we had a conversation. It was about trying to find a way, an aspect, that we think is right now under- managed in terms of potential virus spread. And it really got down to a couple of things that we don't know how we can identify this subpopulation with high levels of confidence.
Andrew: Right. Otherwise, all this data that you're trying to utilize for strategic and other local uses is flowing to global uses for those that are monetizing it through advertising and everything else anyway. There's obviously the privacy side of it, but all of this data usually goes over the top to somebody else to aggregate and utilize how they want to. We had a customer years ago that was using something as trivial as DHCP lease history to understand office space utilization, because there was no commonality between entry cards and phone systems. And this was the one common thing that pretty accurately tells you how many people are in the office. And that's all they cared about. Didn't matter who was there. Just how many people are coming in here on a daily basis, and how long are they staying for? It was interesting. They ended up saving, I don't know how many millions of dollars, on rightsizing offices. We're like, huh, too bad we can't bottle that and sell that. The antithesis of what you're talking about is, sometimes from my perspective, I end up in a conversation with a prospective customer, and we're talking about they've taken their broad requirements or what they're actually trying to accomplish, and they've already done the work to sort of architect that into different pieces of technology, and have already determined what the requirements for those technologies are. So, you get these out of context questions. Can you do A, B, C, D, and there's a list of 93 things. And you don't know why. It's always frustrating because whether or not we can do that, maybe. Are we the best place to do that? What would be super interesting is to understand what you're trying to accomplish. And sometimes if potential buyers aren't interested in having that conversation, you can frustrate them, because it sounds like, look, we know what we want. Do you have it or not? It can go wrong if it's not handled appropriately, but it's always the conversation that I want to be in for sure, is what are you trying to accomplish so we can figure out if we are the best partner, and potentially leads to different ideas, or you've determined something where partners haven't been involved and there's better patterns out there that we might want to talk about. I love that passion you have for bringing in partners to be part of the solution across these different areas.
Tom: It is. One of the things that, because I've been on that side of the world as well, with the true partners we have, I try to explain to them," Look, you have to almost think of me as being that engagement manager within your organization. If you sit down and you need to talk to me about where you're interacting with our enterprise, I'll let you know whether the ground is fertile for the seed to be planted and for the plant to grow, or for one reason or another, if it might not be the right time." Because sometimes, to your point, you're only going to get their attention on this one thing, not the bigger picture. And if you try to push the bigger picture now, and at this point in time with this individual, you're not going to get the opportunity. Take what's available, but then let's strategize about how we grow from that one point and then expand laterally to get it implemented in more aspects of the enterprise, or turn it from a point solution into a platform play. You can't do that with every player that you work with. With the ones that you're thinking about strategically, because what they bring in terms of the total portfolio, or from an overall organizational perspective, you can kind of talk with them about almost being an extension of their sales team, if they're willing to engage and share with you. Sometimes sales people will do that, and sometimes sales people are just too much independent cats and they like to just do their own, and it depends on the individual.
Andrew: For sure. Tom, it's been fascinating talking to you. Really appreciated the conversation, and wish you continued luck at Irvine.
Tom: Thank you, Andrew. I thank you for giving me an opportunity to share a little bit about what we're doing. Big fan of the podcast, and look forward to talk to Peter later.
Today, I’m speaking with Tom Andriola, the Vice Chancellor of Information, Technology, and Data over at the University of California, Irvine - an inovation hub for higher education, public research, and healthcare. On this episode, we explore Tom's unique take on enabling partnerships to promote UC Irvine’s ambitious data strategy, discuss the keys to merging technology and business strategy at organizations at the scale of UC Irvine, and investigate emerging thoughts on what’s to come in healthcare and higher ed.
Tom is a brilliant technology leader and a true advocate for innovation. His ambitious strategic approach is reason enough to take notes - enjoy!
PS - Let me know what you thought of today’s discussion! You can tweet me at @netwkdisrupted + @awertkin, leave a review on Spotify or Apple Podcasts, or email me at email@example.com.
Read more about Tom on our blog.