Working towards redundancy
- 09 June, 2010 08:10
Two years ago, Radius Health Group CIO Steven Mayo-Smith began a restructuring that would successfully eliminate the need for his own role. It was an unusual situation, though he did not find it awkward. "I was working towards my own redundancy and that may seem a bit strange, but at the time I was working to reach the company's goals," he says when we meet him at a café across the road from Auckland's Parnell Rose Gardens.Radius Health Group today consists of Radius Medical, which has 19 medical centres, and Radius Pharmacy with 40 locations nationwide.Four years ago, the picture was quite different. Then, the Radius' strategy was to be an integrated health care company. In addition to the pharmacies and medical centres, it owned rest homes and had shares in a home handyman company. The overarching philosophy was that Radius would take care of all its clients' needs. If you got sick -- patients would go to a Radius doctor and then go next door to a Radius pharmacy. Clients would be taken care of in one of the company's rest homes, or if they needed assistance with home maintenance, a Radius handyman would come and do the job. To pull all that together, the company needed an integrated IT solution and four years ago, that is just what Mayo-Smith came onboard to manage. Under his leadership, all Radius business units came together in one centralised, thin client environment, hosted in a TelstraClear datacentre. However, two years after he joined, there was a fundamental change in philosophy. Radius morphed into a profit-focused investment vehicle and the ability to quickly carve off or add business units became a priority.
"From an IT perspective, that changed the whole strategy," says Mayo-Smith.As such, the centralised environment had to go. Over the past year Mayo-Smith moved the business from the integrated model, to a system where all groups were self-standing. At the same time, the company sold off all its non-medical aspects, such as the security division and the handyman business. "As a result, there is less of a need for an overall perspective on the group -- you don't actually need a CIO anymore."Through the whole process building up to his redundancy, he never felt in an awkward position. "When you are an employee of a company, you are working to achieve that company's goals, so logically, apart from the emotional side, that is what you should be doing," he says. "It is not about protecting your job, it's about doing your job well -- understanding the business requirements, create an IT strategy and implement it." "But it made for an interesting journey," he adds with a twinkle in his eyes. His advice to other CIOs who might find themselves in a similar situation is to remain focused on the business strategy. But at the same time, don't rely on the 'tried and true'; be open-minded to new opportunities. "Technology timeframes are shortening rapidly. With new technologies coming out, for example the iPad, so how do you apply that to your business? You have to play with new technologies and gadgets to understand them and explore how you can use them to drive the business strategy forward." Since restructuring himself out of Radius early this year, Mayo-Smith is "sitting back and taking a breather", he says, having worked as a CIO since 1998. Before Radius, he steered IT at the Auckland District Health Board and the Health Funding Authority. He says the break has given him more time to enjoy his big passion --mountain and road biking. "I haven't worn my suit in a while," says Mayo-Smith with a smile. "It is gathering dust." But he doesn't seem too sad about it. Besides his bike riding, he is involved in the HIMSS Asia-Pacific (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society), where he is on the organising committee. He is also "looking at some options". Sidebar: Look to the east for inspirationSteven Mayo-Smith sees enormous future scope for new devices, online medical communities and electronic medical records. "There is so much new technology, bringing huge opportunities, especially in health." New Zealand has a lot to learn from overseas health sectors, says Mayo-Smith."It is unfortunate that New Zealand often looks towards the US, the UK, Australia and Canada -- English-speaking countries -- to pick up trends and learn, and not enough towards Asia. There are amazing things happening in the health sector in China, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong." Asia was way ahead of New Zealand in implementing laptops into the wards, he says. Singapore has about the same population as New Zealand and that geographic unit can realistically support one liver transplant team, says Mayo-Smith. But by engaging in medical travel, or medical tourism, with thousands of medical visits every year, Singapore supports a number of liver transplant teams. When Mayo-Smith visited three years ago, there were four teams in operation, paid for by people travelling to Singapore for medical services. This way, Singapore can afford to provide superior health services to its citizens. "It is not to say this is the right model for New Zealand, but it is thinking outside the square to be able to provide the best health services."