Peter Lijnse: Welcome to BRM Cafe, episode 9. In this episode, I talk to Stephanie Walsh about her career path from being a business analyst to becoming a business relationship manager to, now, being a business leader. We talked about CIOs, the challenges, customer experience and what is fun and rewarding in the raw.
Stephanie, welcome to the podcast. Let's start with an introduction of who you are and what you've done in your career?
Stephanie Walsh: Hi! I'm Stephanie Walsh and I currently work in the healthcare industry. I've been with my current employer for over 14 years in various roles with the last two to eight really years really being in the more strategic IT type roles. I've spent the last six in a relationship management capacity with the relationship management title managing internal business unit portfolios of about six individual billion dollar companies. The last two years have been really driving on product strategy, product commercialization and driving into more of the customer user experience side of using IT software.
Peter: So, that's some significant change, basically, that from being BRM where you're more representing IT to more setting within a business units and more looking at how technology is going to be used. Is that correct?
Stephanie: Correct and the business unit that I moved into in the last two years creates software for oncology offices and practices to run their business. So, we are actually a software service instead of being an internalized service from an Enterprise IT type of perspective. So, much more to learn on the commercialization side because there's actual cell cycles with software. etcetera, that I've been exposed to in the last two years.
Peter: So, you originally come from a more and business analysis, business relationship management role. Let's talk a little bit about your career about squeeze through this. If I read correctly, basically, in your profile about is you started as a business analyst. Is that correct?
Stephanie: I did! I loved every minute of it!
Peter: How much of that is still of skill-set etcetera suitable for you. I mean, are you still using that?
Stephanie: I think what makes a business analyst really successful is their curiosity and their ability to drive to the actual need to bring a solution to life and I think that is key in driving any strategic approach is to really understand what it is that the business is trying to accomplish and instead of driving more of a tactical solution or a point solution as a business analyst. Now, what I'm doing is really driving a more strategic solution or strategic answer to that same type of business problem. So, I absolutely believe it was part of the journey to get here.
Peter: And that BRM role, I mean that's the-- you eventually went in there you've been the leader in the business relationship management team. Again, that same thing, it looks like you slowly went from more operational tactical focus to becoming the business leader, basically, around technology and how things are moving forward. What were some of your challenges you've had along the way?
Stephanie: Probably, can think of many, but the first thing that comes to my mind was really making that that Evolution change within myself from being a BA and it was all about what I knew and what I could bring to the table for the products that I represented to making the switch to really be in that business relationship manager and owning the whole entire portfolio. There was no way that I was going to personally have all the answers to meet the business' questions, problems, scenarios. So, it was really taking on that responsibility of still digging in and really understanding what the business wanted in being that representative for them and sitting at that table. But working with that whole network of IT knowledge and people to really drive to the right solution and it was an evolution and some respects humbling evolution where you realize you're not going to be the person that has all the answers anymore, but you're going to be the person that can orchestrate bringing the right people to the table and suggest the right business outcomes.
Peter: So, you're changed from being an elite for BRM team to business leader, basically? I mean you're doing the product management etcetera in your organization. I mean how do you get to that change? Because that was change in your career, basically, if I look at that.
Stephanie: It was and it's been a very big benefit to me to be able to work in an organization that's made up of very distinct business departments or business units and working across them. I've had the chance to work with many presidents of different business units where they felt comfortable taking a chance with me and so there was an opportunity to-- in one of the business units where there was some unmet business names that were happening in these oncology practices and they didn't have anyone to really go vent out how we were going to position and fill those needs. So, I had the unique opportunity to go and do that and it's been really fascinating to be able to work really on that business side working with the external customers and how different their needs are and being able to pull all that together to drive to a solution.
Peter: If you look at change, you're way more closer to the customers, as you say, and not about some people actually call internal customers which we're trying to actually get rid of with business partners, etcetera. But, you're actually really looking at a customer's of your organization that are using your technology basically. I mean that's very close to getting to a cell's function or function basically that helps your health care, basically, to move forward. So, did you see yourself in more of an cells row at this moment or support for sales?
Stephanie: Absolutely! As support for sales function as we put on quarterly customer meetings we have a meeting Series in the phone in the spring and have been on somewhat of a Roadshow going out and talking to them about our potential Solutions, what's coming down the path. It's definitely a little bit different from sitting in the BRM role and talking about roadmaps and the future plans for an internal business partner, but I think it's all-- it's very similar, it's knowing your audience it's being prepared, it's knowing the things that you're doing well, the questions that you still might have that need to be answered to develop the full solution the approach is still very much the same
Peter: Do you feel that over time that your behavior has changed towards how IT is being used
Stephanie: I think everyone's behavior has to change based on where we are, just as a society and where technology has evolved and so I believe that we could do more with technology Healthcare is generally very much behind the evolution curve of technology and so I see that there's a great need there's solutions that can be driven with technology and I'm very much a technology first believer, if there's not a break down somewhere else in the process, but if there's a new need or we need to drive efficiency, there's usually a technology first way to approach that problem.
Peter: But that's not that much different as in the BRM role where you're doing that as well?
Peter: So, question. I just-- comes up for me is immediately, of course. Do you have a BRM now that actually is helping you?
Stephanie: We do have a BRM that works with the business unit that I'm in.
Peter: So how is it to be on the other side?
Stephanie: I mean it's great and he's great. I mean he was part of my former team. So, of course, I think he's great, but it's really a partnership. I mean we've been moving-- this past year we've been moving our solutions into the cloud which is not something that's been done in enterprise IT today. So, she's been a great liaison in helping us stay lockstep with Enterprise IT because we don't want to do anything. We're not rogue or shadow IT, so he's really helping us partner along this journey.
Peter: That's great to hear. So, at least that continuation basically of that relationship was still there. That's good!
Peter: So, we talk a little bit about behavior change and looking at the different things etcetera. How important was for you the business relationship modern Institute in your whole career, basically, since you've been in the BRM etcetera?
Stephanie: Well, it's a great question. I was just talking to someone the other day about how I feel in my career I have done things in my roles and then all of a sudden it became a thing. This was the first time I was put in a role and there was the thing out there in the marketplace right at the right time to actually help me grow and develop some credibility to what I was trying to do at that time. So, this is the first time I've actually been put in a role and had Market support and support from an Institute that helps substantiate the things that I was trying to accomplish and bring into the organization in my role. So, I can't imagine some of that success that I achieved without having that foundation and that support team from the BRMI behind me. It was fantastic and still is.
Peter: And so, you still use it?
Stephanie: I still use the relationships that I've made within that organization and I think the fundamentals that were taught in the training sessions are fundamental ways to approach relationships.
Peter: That's a good point but the role you have right now and I think eventually the BRM Institute will have to support that role as well because it's the market is slowly moving there a lot of be around is actually a fun to look at "Okay, how can I get more becoming a business leader. So, what do you see as things that you say, "Hey, that's where we need more help to become step off there BRMI to become the business leader etcetera. So, what are some of the things you were looking for at this moment?
Stephanie: That's an interesting question because when I was put in my BRM role, part of that description was you're really the CIO for this business unit and you have the ability to drive the strategy, make technology choices. If we don't have the technology in our portfolio today, you need to help us learn what we need to bring into the portfolio. So, it was very much more of a CIO role than a business leader role. We have some really good representation within the BRMI of CIOs that follow that same BRM approach to the way they manage their job on a daily basis. So, is that the path or are we talking about really becoming a C-level executive as a COO or even a CEO. I haven't had that exposure as much as working with CIOs. So, that's something I think the BRMIs are going to need to really spend some time thinking through and helping drive those career paths.
Peter: I mean if you look at it you are more now into the business role, but the same skill sets as a BRM. I mean, there is career part there as well. And then I was actually thinking about, "Okay, what is the next step?" because we always need to look for next steps and that's one of the things that I'm very interested indeed. Is it C- level? Because you're not that CIO any more at this moment?
Stephanie: No, I'm not. I took it you know I took a kind of a left turn and went for an opportunity to learn more on the commercialization side of software so, but there still is-- because our investors are internal business units, they're still very much that BRM component of making sure that they understand and have visibility into the things that we're doing, what we're accomplishing and is it meeting their business objectives. So, from that perspective, it's still very much like the internal BRM roles that I've had in the past.
Peter: But I mean-- you calling at the left turn, but then, on the other hand, it says maybe a side step to actually get a different skill sets and there's always a challenge that eventually you come back as a CIO because of the experience you have by some of the stuff. There so many different career path, that is very much interesting.
Stephanie: I personally am one of those people that as long as the opportunity in front of me allows me to learn something, then, I'm usually going to take it. My path might weave and wander a little bit instead of being a direct line.
Peter: I don't think anyone actually has a direct line and to be honest that also creates and diversity from people etcetera as well. I remember my son saying that he's doing electrical engineering and one of the brain surgeons he was working with said, "Okay, you should actually go into medical degree and have something like." "Why?" And he said, "Well, they're looking for people from different backgrounds" and that's always the nice thing, basically, and from a doctor's perspective influence. So, it's fun to see people from different backgrounds actually coming into the similar roles and then doing that. Talking about CIOs, one of the things and I wrote this down when I heard it and I never had the chance actually to ask you the questions. You'd be around connect conference in Washington?
Peter: You made a statement that Joe Topinka, who's the CIO, is the example and I never actually investigated that, but I wanted to ask you now basically. Can you explain what you meant by that? You mean he's a CIO so and you basically said he is the example for all the CIOS. What did you mean by that?
Stephanie: Well, there were a few at the conference in Washington. So, Joe and then Laverne Council who's been a CIO that actually had some of the greatest discussions, I think, from the stage while we were there that truly brought out the essence of what business relationship management is. And I think as a CIO or any role in IT, we our success is really based on how well we can partner with those around us. Generally speaking, we’re a cost center, we're not producing any revenue. So, our ability to understand how to support and drive value into our businesses to then create that revenue and sustain growth is very important. And they bring those components of everything that we were taught within the training in business relationship management to life in their CIO roles on a daily basis.
Peter: Okay, good. I was hoping you would say something like that. I needed to ask that, but yeah, it's great to actually see some CIOs actually being really exciting about this. This is so much so, that's good. Let me ask you if you look back on your career what was the most fun things you did in your career for the things around-- I don't remember at all or even now in your current role. What are the most fun things to do?
Stephanie: The most rewarding things to do are probably the hardest things to do. So,-
Peter: So, rewarding meaning it's fun automatically?
Stephanie: No. It's not fun. I don't think it's fun while you're doing it. I think it's kind of like running, it's not fun why you do it, but then when you're done I feel great. So, for me, I've had a couple of rewarding and I would say then that was fun. Things that have happened in my career, I think, I had the opportunity to take on a team within our enterprise IT organization that was made up a really great individuals that were not being able to live up to their full potential for many reasons and being able to come into that and put some discipline process shape around those individuals and watch them flourish and watch the business that they supported flourish was a fantastic experience. Of course, it was probably painful on a daily basis, but being able to reach milestones of achievement was very much fun. And then in the past couple of years, really finding an unmet need, going out in the market, doing research to find vendor partners driving that RFP process, working with our customers to gain feedback and really pulling together the strategy around a new offering has been really-- that actually has been fun, more fun on a daily basis than turning a bad situation around to a good situation. But, both equally as important and rewarding because doing what I do there's patients on the end of what we do from a technology perspective and that's always rewarding.
Peter: Do you work directly with patients basically in your capacity sometimes or not? Or you still?
Stephanie: No. In my current role, we work with oncology practices that deal with patients. So, we're one degree of separation from a patient. In the past, I've been supporting the specialty pharmacy so our shipments go to patients and our customer service agents will talk to patients, but as an IT organization, I'm not dealing with patients directly. But the importance of the systems and the reliability of our systems, those things were very important because we knew that there were patients with chronic diseases on the end of what we were delivering.
Peter: Yeah and that understanding-- I mean that's a business understanding where you understand what priorities are, what impact is of anything that actually fell from the technology perspective. That's absolutely not. I'm just going to do the opposite. Do you have any specific questions for me?
Peter: And I'm not sure if I'm going to answer them.
Stephanie: So, in my current role, the big buzz words now are all about user experience, customer experience where customer experience could mean anything around systems and technology usage to how well a process works for you as the consumer of the process. I see these rules are popping up people vying for the strategic space. It may not just be customer experience experts, there's product directors that vying for strategic space, relationship managers that are you know deemed with that role of strategic business partner. How do you see all of this congestion shaping up and people vying for strategic position?
Peter: My first reaction to this, this sounds like we're still in a very much silo-based organizations where each different group has, "Okay, I need to do this. I need to do that." And I think this is one of the challenges we see with a lot of organizations that the different groups are indeed vying for the same attention from the same people the same things they want to do and it's part of from them where we getting to role clarity issues and all those kind of things. I think that the newer organizations and when you look at friends and I mean the prime examples like Amazon and Google and Facebook and all those kind of things, they have way more team-based approach and I see that friends and one of them, the things I've seen from a big bank from ING where they actually say, "You know what? We started from a business perspective starting to look at okay what our new organizational structures that can actually solve this." So, they started to look at "Can we build teams?" "Can we build what they call tribes and squalds, etcetera" and they have different name for it. But the thing is, is that a team for instance needs to have people from different backgrounds and they all need to work as a team to accomplish something. So, your case will be an oncology team that has skillsets from different groups. At that moment, the team will decide, "Okay, who is taking the leading to what?" And I think that is a different approach. The problem is if you still have those individual groups, they all have some like Well, I need to do strategy" and we are the ones that actually to start working with that and we are the ones that should own the strategy or own the relationship, etcetera. But I think that's part of some of the current organizational structures and I think when you're getting a better team approach, you will start to see the team bring skillsets to the table and together you actually start figuring it out. But that is for some organizations still a long way basically based on the fact is that there is not enough drive to actually sometimes change the different approaches, but I've seen some really good changes in organization. So, where that is happening. So, does that answer your question?
Stephanie: It does. It's an interesting thought because it just highlights the need, I think, in my mind of the importance of your organizational design and the messages it sends as those things are getting created and we're going through a lot of restructuring in my organization as we speak. And so I think those things have to be thawed out and the importance of them is not just about getting a name in a box on an org chart it's about getting the name in the box on the org chart and understanding how those boxes work together and how to pull that synergy together which I think is so important and being deliberate about it. I also think it's very interesting as the market and industries continue to evolve in these new titles come out and it's like the shiny new thing how to bring those things in to your point and not have it where they're vying for strategic space, but making sure that the focus or the intent is met.
Peter: Yeah. That means quite often that the team you can have certain teams basically that are looking at okay totally new different way of doing mortgages or totally new different way from a business perspective of handling friends as patients etcetera that would mean that you need to have people from different backgrounds basically coming together in the team and working in that. But I still think the moment you get more to commodity services and commodity products that are being offered to be quite often actually go back to the more standard organizational structures because sometimes that is more an efficient way of doing it instead of the more. But the teams quite often start becoming more agile etcetera, but other things, commodities, etcetera, quite often need to be very structured and very efficient and that means that for different types of products, different types of services you automatically require a different way of approaching. And I think that's where a lot of organization still very much a challenge and that's where I think, I mean, if I look at the before there's Gartner that are talking about customer experience or user experience etcetera, that is coming through. We do see the need for a more flexible approach to managing different things or so. It's an interesting thing actually.
Peter: Then we're at we're at the end so that would be some. So, thank you very much for appearing on the podcast and it's fun to always talk to people. And I learn every single time something from this and so thank you very much, Stephanie.
Stephanie: Absolutely my pleasure! Thank you for having me