Cardinal Health CIO drives digital innovation inside and outside the company

Cardinal Health is one of the largest companies in the world, with annual revenue of approximately $180 billion. 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 Greene. His tenure includes leading teams aligned across both segments, while also leading horizontal teams that cross them. The latter category includes a digital office and an organization called Fuse, which develops commercial technology. “The advantage I have is not only to focus internally, but also to focus externally,” Greene said. “Understand how we can leverage and find synergies between the technology platforms we implement [is also an area of focus].”

You could think of its organization as one that provides glue across the segments of activity that each might be Fortune 500 businesses based on revenue. “What we’re looking at now is how can we extend the entrepreneurial spirit to all of my leaders so that we’re not so siloed and single-minded,” Greene noted. When asked for examples, she said, “We’ve been working to try to centralize more of our data and analytics, all things digital, automation and our AI space. In these spaces, you may find that you need support from other teams. These topics become unifying and offer opportunities for great collaboration across traditional business silos.

The focus on business technology differentiates itself for a CIO, as Greene and his team focus on both sides of the profit equation: identifying opportunities for efficiency while generating new revenue opportunities. As an example of the first, she offered a description of a specialized solution called Decision Path. “It’s a first-of-its-kind solution integrated with electronic health records, providing real-time visibility into our patients’ spending,” Greene said. “It helps oncologists make high-quality treatment choices to reduce the burden of financial toxicity. It is a data-driven cost tracking tool that allows oncologists to accurately measure the cost of care at the start and during the care episode. As an example of the latter, Greene talked about the Outcomes Connected platform. “It’s a digital ecosystem that connects our pharmacists, our payers and our pharmaceutical companies to maximize clinical opportunities,” said Greene. “We are mitigating the challenges of medication non-adherence, a common and costly problem. Either way, we have a team: my Fuse team. They’re working on those solutions with the company, and it’s just a great opportunity for us to [solve] business issues with technology.

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 has been a great way to find people who may be away from the corporate headquarters in Columbus, Ohio and have no interest in moving. However, she does not take existing talent for granted and encourages ongoing engagement with them to “recruit” talented team members. “How can we continue to re-hire, re-recruit and ensure that we continue to engage the talent that we have? Greene asked rhetorically. “This is where you have to start. Our HR partners have worked with us to do things like ‘stayover interviews’ to understand why people stay, and if they’ve ever considered looking for other outside opportunities, what prompted this and how we can make adjustments as an organization [to lead more people to stay with Cardinal Health].”

Greene also noted that ambitious colleagues want to be sure their skills are growing, so providing them with the necessary training to allow them to feel that growth is paramount. Greene’s team has developed a training platform called “Digital U”. It offers courses and certifications to ensure the team develops the skills of tomorrow. “If we don’t take care of that talent and keep nurturing it and nurturing it, people will find other opportunities outside,” she acknowledged.

Greene is an executive woman of color and knows she’s part of an exclusive club, but she also recognizes that she has the opportunity to inspire others to achieve higher career goals. She highlights the leadership of Mike Kaufman, who was CEO when she joined Cardinal Health and Jason Hollar, who became CEO on September 1 of this year. Everyone stressed the need for greater diversity. Greene also noted that with the company looking for 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 initiate innovation? How can we just think outside the box? This is what brings true diversity.

When Greene reflected on his own rise, a growth mindset was key. This continues today, as she personally pays a coach to help her. When colleagues and peers seemed taken aback by this, she responded 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 things really matter, and if you’re serious about your career development and your development as a leader, you have to embrace that and be prepared to do that.

Greene is a remarkable role model for others to follow.

Peter High is President of Métis Strategy, a business and IT consulting firm. He has written three bestselling books, including his latest Getting to Nimble. It also moderates the Technovation podcast series and speaks at conferences around the world. Follow him on Twitter @PeterAHigh.

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