The "Outside-In" View of IT: The CIO Interview with David Evans, Quest Diagnostics
What is the most valuable project, program or innovation your IT organization has delivered in the last 12 months?
We developed an application called Gazelle, which is our first application targeted directly for the patient. Gazelle is a mobile health application (gazelleapp.com), which runs on any Android, Blackberry or iPhone. It allows patients to store and share their health information, including their lab results. We are a diagnostics testing company, so we are often called by patients seeking copies of their lab results. Now, they can receive their results electronically, carry their results with them securely, and even email and share those results with their health providers. Gazelle also allows patients to carry the necessary information for their emergency contact providers and immunization information for their children. The application is enjoying high adoption rates and is providing Quest Diagnostics with more opportunities to forge relationships directly with our patients.
We are a large Fortune 500 company, so it took a very entrepreneurial approach to quickly develop Gazelle. We did not use internal resources to build the solution. Instead, we sourced coding teams from Canada and India for the user interface and back end database, and we partnered with a yet another company in India for the security component. We also partnered with a marketing organization for copywriting and design. Our IT department was able to establish seven or eight new relationships as a result of this project.
What does your IT organization do best?
At Quest Diagnostics, a major focus of our IT organization is operational excellence. As a large healthcare provider with tight turnaround times, when we deliver, it is usually on a very large scale. Excellence in project management is a strong focus as we continue to excel in delivering the best service for our colleagues, customers, and our patients.
"We need to remember that our function can’t be all things to all people. I see a lot of people in our field swinging at everything, but there aren’t resources for that. "
Does your IT organization have a motto or mantra?
“It’s about outcomes, not outputs.” I find that sometimes when a project is heading off course, the IT team has been laser-focused on delivery of project requirements, on technology objectives. Our team is driven by the understanding that “I wrote beautiful code” only solves half the problem. Our overall aim is to deliver technology that enables the desired impact for the business.
Another phrase I like is, “outside in.” Soon after I took the CIO role here, I gathered all of the IT leaders together and saw that we had a tendency to measure everything from the data center outward. For example, we had a very important application that schedules appointments for patients. It was about ten years old and needed to be scrapped, but the team wanted to look at the problem by starting with the code and iterating on what they already had. I got involved to show them the “outside in” view – to look at what the business problem required, not at what they already had. Coders tend to fall in love with their baby, but that won’t get you the result.
What is some career advice you can offer to readers?
Focus. You have to choose what you will champion. In IT, the needs and opportunities are so vast that there will always be a need not met. We need to remember that our function can’t be all things to all people. I see a lot of people in our field swinging at everything, but there aren’t resources for that. As an IT leader, you’re better off focusing on “the critical few” that deliver exceptionally on the business need.
What is an interview question you ask candidates you are considering for senior level roles?
Tell me about your business outcomes through IT? What have you done that is above and beyond your role in IT?
Tell me about the most innovative things you have done and why you are proud of them.
What technology excites you right now? (I need business leaders, but I want technologists too.)
What technology innovation or business trend are you most excited about?
I am still very excited about the apps store. I think that we will look back in five years, and it won’t be about the iPad or the iPhone, but about the distribution model. Now, we have this platform that a million people can develop to. And of all companies, it was Apple, the most constraining company you can think of, that perfected the crowd-sourced model. Everyone has an applications store now; it was a stroke of genius. People will look back and say, the applications store was the tipping point.
If you were not a CIO, what other profession would you have pursued?
I am one of seven children, and five of them own their own business. That entrepreneurial spirit is a part of my DNA. If I weren’t a CIO, I would likely lead a startup.
The CIO Paradox is a set of contradictions (IT “and” the business, for example) that can prevent CIOs from delivering maximum business value. How do you know when you have broken the Paradox?
When I became CIO in 2008, the CEO asked IT to drive innovation. So, I created a four quadrant diagram to represent our innovation stance, where the X axis represents business impact and the Y axis business value. The lower left quadrant represents IT optimization and the lower right business optimization. In the upper left, I put market differentiation, and in the upper right, new products and services. The difference between the upper two and the lower two quadrants I think of as the difference between top line growth and bottom line savings. I plotted our current project portfolio on the top of the grid and found that we did most of our work in business optimization, but almost nothing in new products and services. Now, we have Gazelle in that box. I know we will have broken the paradox when we continue to have a better distribution of IT projects in all quadrants.
About David Evans
David Evans is Vice President of Information Tehnology at Quest Diagnostics, Inc. He joined Quest in 2001 as the Director of Laboratory Operation Systems. David has a broad technical background with a BS in Applied Physics, 18 years of general IT experience including 15 years in the health care industry.
Prior to joining Quest Diagnostics, David worked in the highly regulated blood banking industry as Chief Technology Officer for the American Red Cross, and in the pharmaceutical industry supporting clinical trials for Merck. David is currently based out of Lyndhurst, New Jersey.
About Quest Diagnostics
Quest Diagnostics is the world's leading provider of diagnostic testing, information and services that doctors and patients need to make better healthcare decisions. We are pioneers in developing innovative diagnostic tests and advanced healthcare information technology solutions that help improve patient care.
At a Glance:
- Fortune 500 company
- Revenues: $7.5 billion in 2011
- Ownership: common stock traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: DGX). More in Investor Relations
- Employees: approximately 42,000
- Medical & scientific staff: approximately 900 MDs and PhDs available for consultation