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Healthcare and technology: How J&J Pharma CIO keeps them in sync

Georgia Papathomas' job as CIO of Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals begins and ends with business strategy. She is "privileged" to be a member of a healthcare and technology team that oversees business operations at the pharma giant and, in turn, she says works hard to ensure IT supports and enhances those operations. In this first part of a two-part CIO Innovators Profile video shot at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium event in Cambridge, Mass., Papathomas shares with Tech Target's Christina Torode how technology is creating new products and services for J&J Pharma and how IT must earn the right to be a trusted partner to the business. In the second video, Papathomas dishes on the technologies she believes will revolutionize business as we know it.

You were on the panel at this event called the "Successful CIO: Driving Innovation and Managing Expectations." How do you manage expectations and prioritize goals when your role crosses so many divisions and requests?

Georgia Papathomas: We start always with the business strategy. We are looking at the long-term as well as the short-term strategy, and we create a road map that pretty much is a map that follows what needs to be done to make the business strategy a success. That is being used to drive our short- and long-term requirements.

A combination of technology and our medication aid in our goal to improve outcomes … we see technology being a part of the product and part of the solutions that we bring to the market.

Then basically our projects are being defined based on new capabilities, and our operation efforts are being defined based on the SLAs that the business requires to operate. It's a very clear approach, and it's being cascaded all the way from my level to everyone within the organization, so all executives are connected. And we're able to have visibility and also to be able to have a holistic view of all the different types of work that we need to do in the year.

During the panel you also mentioned making technology part of the products that are produced. How do you do that, and can you give me an example of that?

Papathomas: In healthcare there's a huge transformation of the whole industry because of technology.

We have one case in schizophrenia, where there's a game that when it's used in tandem with the medicine it actually improves cognition. So, here's technology that aids the outcome. And then we also have applications that either aid in the integrated healthcare delivery or are purely applications that aid in adhering to the therapy. And so, with most of those, some are with a genetic platform, some are very customized platforms that we wrap around a product.

Our goal within J&J, is not just to sell products, it's really to maximize best outcomes. And we're seeing a combination of technology and our medication aid in our goal to improve outcomes. And that's a way we see now much more technology as being a part of the product and part of the solutions that we bring to the market, not only just being operational, or with process automation and collaboration, but in the traditional technology that IT brings to the business.

Is that something that you introduced?

Papathomas: It was a combination between the business and IT. I have the privilege of being a member of the operating committee for the pharmaceuticals. So, I'm part of the team that oversees all the functions of pharma. So, I have direct information on the priorities and the challenges within every function, whether it's R&D, whether it's supply chain or sales or any of the functions. That makes me much more connected to what the business is doing. It also gives me a voice, so that I can communicate and I can influence a little bit more based on the [tech] solutions that I see as bringing possibilities to the business.

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We know now that most of our business colleagues are becoming very familiar with technology. So it's almost a two-way street. There's a lot of ideas being originated by the business. They see mostly how technology can aid the business and how technology can be used to aid the business. We have the privilege of seeing both how technology can aid the business, but we also have a deep understanding of how technology actually works.

That's the value that we bring to the business, because the business could easily go to a vendor. They know what technology can do for the business. They go to a vendor, and they can buy the technology. The value that we bring as an integral part of the business, as a colleague, as a partner, is the fact that we bring objective evaluation of the technology itself. And that is how this partnership becomes very strong.

But again, it requires that there's knowledge and expertise within IT to gain that credibility. It doesn't happen just because you tell the business, 'Trust me.' You have to show that you're the standard technology. And then you become pretty much the right arm, as we jointly make decisions on where we need to invest and what we need to bring in, whether it goes on the operations layer or the product itself and the solutions that we bring to the market.

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