Cardinal Health’s CIO drives digital innovation inside and outside the company

Cardinal Health is among the largest companies in the world, earning approximately $180 billion in annual revenue. The company has two main segments in its business: a pharmaceutical distribution segment and a medical products segment. The company’s executive vice president, chief information officer and head of Global Business Services is Michelle Green. Her remit includes leading teams aligned to both segments while leading horizontal teams that cross them. The latter category includes a digital office and an organization called Fuse that develops commercial technology. “The advantage I have is not only being internally focused, but being externally focused,” Green said. “Figuring out how we can leverage and find synergies between the technology platforms we deploy [is also an area of focus].”

One might think of its organization as a bridge between the business segments that each can be Condition 500 businesses based on their revenue. “What we’re looking at now is how can we expand the corporate mindset across all of my leaders so that we’re not so isolated and focused on one,” Green noted. When asked for examples, she said: “We’ve been working to try to centralize more of our data and analytics, everything digital, automation and our AI space. In these spaces, you may find that you need support from other teams.” These themes become unifying and offer opportunities for great collaboration across traditional business silos.

The focus on commercial technology is distinctive for CIOs, as Green and her team focus on both sides of the profit equation: identifying efficiency opportunities while driving new revenue opportunities. As an example of the former, she offered a description of a particular decision called a Decision Path. “This is a first-of-its-kind solution built into electronic health records, providing real-time visibility to our patients out of pocket costs,” Green said. “This helps oncologists make high-quality treatment choices to reduce the burden of financial toxicity.” It’s a data-driven cost tracking tool that allows oncologists to accurately measure the cost of care at the beginning and throughout the episode of care.” As an example of the latter, Green talked about the Outcomes Connected platform. “It’s a digital ecosystem and it connects our pharmacists, our payers and our pharmaceutical companies to maximize clinical opportunities,” Green said. “We are mitigating the challenges of medication non-adherence, a common and costly problem. We have a team for both: my Fuse team. They are working on these solutions together with the business and it’s just a great opportunity for us [solve] business issues with technology.”

In order to innovate at the scale needed to grow such a large company, Greene must find creative ways to recruit great talent. Like many other companies, increasing the flexibility of who works where is a great way to find people who may be far from the company’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, who aren’t interested in relocating. However, she does not take existing talent for granted and continuously engages with them to ‘re-recruit’ talented team members. “How do we continue to re-engage, re-recruit and make sure we continue to re-engage the talent that we have?” Green asked rhetorically. “This is where you have to start. Our HR partners work with us to do things like ‘retention interviews’ to understand why people stay and if they’ve ever considered looking for other outside opportunities, what led to this and how we can make adjustments as an organization [to lead more people to stay with Cardinal Health].”

Green also noted that aspiring colleagues want to make sure their skills are growing, so providing them with the training they need to experience that growth is paramount. Green’s team has developed a learning platform called “Digital U.” It provides courses and certifications to ensure the team is building the skill set of tomorrow. “If we don’t take care of that talent and continue to feed and nurture that talent, then people will find other opportunities outside,” she admitted.

Green is an executive of color and knows he’s part of an exclusive club, but he also recognizes that he has the opportunity to inspire others to achieve higher goals in their careers. She points to the leadership of Mike Kaufman, who was CEO when she arrived at Cardinal Health, and Jason Hollar, who became CEO on Sept. 1 of this year. Each emphasized the need for greater levels of diversity. Green also noted that as the company seeks a more diverse workforce, diversity of thought should also be considered an important factor. “We have to make sure it’s about diversity of thought,” she said. “How do we do things differently? How to engage innovation? How do we just do something out of the box thinking? This is what brings true diversity.

When Green reflected on his own rise, a growth mindset was key. It continues today as she personally pays for a trainer to help her. When co-workers and co-workers look surprised by this, she responds by saying, “We’ll pay for a trainer when we want to lose weight. We’ll pay someone to do your hair or a stylist to find you the right outfits to wear. We have to make sure that things that are really important, and if you’re serious about your career development and your development as a leader, you have to accept that and be willing to do it.”

Green serves as an outstanding role model for others to follow.

Peter High is president of Métis strategy, a business and IT consulting firm. He has written three bestsellers, including his latest Getting to Nimble. He also moderates Technology podcast series and speaking at conferences around the world. Follow him on Twitter @PeterAHigh.

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