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CIOs take advantage of the digital opportunity

Phil Weinzimer has noticed a trend that will no doubt resonate with CIOs: These days, there are a lot more senior IT leaders out there. As companies realize technology is a core part of the business, they’re turning to technology experts like CIOs to lead a digital transformation. In some cases, CIOs aren’t waiting around for permission.

Weinzimer, author and IT consultant, ticked off several examples of CIOs who are proactively taking on the digital opportunity — from those who work with emergency rooms to the CIO of a candy company. They are examples of CIOs acting like business people, as they look for opportunities to integrate technology into customer-facing applications and change how the business interacts with its customers.

Digital opportunity in the ER

Emergency rooms are hammered for their inefficiencies. Patients are shuffled through a hurry-up-and-wait process, undergoing tests and seeing multiple healthcare professionals to get treated, Weinzimer said. The nurses who manage ERs often have limited insight into what’s happening. “The nurse doesn’t know, for example, how long a patient has been in a room without seeing a doctor. They don’t know when they need a certain piece of equipment,” he said. “So managing an emergency room is a very reactive process, although they use technology to manage all of the scripts and the medical tests that need to be done.”

That changed for a hospital in northeast, Pa., when Steve Heilenman, CIO at Computer Aid Inc., developed a solution to rid the ER of inefficiencies. Upon check in, patients are given a pin, a small digital device that records their movements and where they are at any given time. The healthcare professionals also wear the digital device. “Now when a patient gets into a room, the charge nurse knows how long they’ve been there without seeing a doctor,” said Weinzimer, who asked that the name of the hospital not be named.

The hospital uses a set of metrics based on the medical issue that a patient has, and they are triaged accordingly. It also uses a set of standards to ensure patients receive care in a timely manner based on their diagnosis.

The new process, developed by the CIO and his staff, has been in place for a few months, and the ER has found that “patients are being seen more often, that there’s been a significant improvement in the care that’s being provided, and patient satisfaction is going up,” Weinzimer said.

Digital opportunity in tomatoes

Digital transformation of an ER was inevitable. But CIOs are also having an impact at other kinds of companies. Peter Forte, CIO at Analog Devices Inc., a company that makes integrated circuits, has given new meaning to the term IoT: For one Analog project, IoT is the Internet of Tomatoes.

“The way you determine that a tomato has ripened to the right chemical composition is that you’ve got to cut into it,” Weinzimer said. Analog Devices is working with tomato farmers to build a digital platform that tracks the environmental conditions tomatoes are grown in, which affects the quality of the tomato. The platform will provide real-time updates to farmers, informing them if they need to, say, water the plant more or less to ensure optimal growing conditions. “Here’s a CIO who is really coming up with new ways to integrate technology in their products,” Weinzimer said.

Even the candy company Just Born, best known for its marshmallow confections called Peeps, is turning to digitization. “They’re basically a manufacturer, but they’re now starting to want to engage with their customers,” Weinzimer said. In fact, Just Born has just hired a new CIO, Rachel Hayden, whom he describes as “ambitious, smart as a whip, very business focused.” The maker of Peeps may be looking at big changes ahead. On her LinkedIn profile, Hayden, who has an MBA, describes herself as a “transformation IT executive” with proven experience of “shifting the operating model and culture of IT organizations from cost centers to proactive enablers of business growth.”