Shola Oyewole, CIO, United Therapeutics Corporation [NASDAQ:UTHR]
I am an information systems professional of 30 years, having worked in several industries including technology, education, non-profit, government, news media, and consulting. I currently serve as CIO for United Therapeutics (UT), a biotechnology company that is focused on the development of therapies for patients suffering from Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH), a life-threatening disease. Currently there is no cure for PAH, but UT has developed several drug therapies that treat the disease.
I joined UT in 2000, and have helped grow the company to over $1.4 billion in annual revenue and more than 700 employees. This has been an exciting journey, both as it relates to the success of the company and the evolution of technology.
Over the past 10 years, my focus has been on “keeping the lights on” through business process improvement: implementing ERP for finance and supply chain management, deploying solutions meeting good manufacturing practices to run UT’s manufacturing and regulatory processes, user training, distributed computing via virtualization, thin-apping, business continuity planning, collaboration solutions, and rapid Cloud adoption. This is not to mention, fully leveraging the capabilities of the Internet.
My role as CIO has evolved from Information Technology (IT) “beeps and clicks” to “Connecting, Informing, and Orchestrating”:
Connecting: There are two aspects to Connecting:
The first aspect of Connecting refers to physically implementing the conduit through which the organization communicates and computes; that is, infrastructure (connectivity, systems, availability and security).
The second aspect of Connecting refers to consulting: I partner with business unit leaders to help provide solutions that address business issues, thus enabling growth. Recently, my team collaborated with Human Resources to build a “social” Intranet. Our priorities for this new Intranet were to improve overall communication for a growing organization, but also to keep the company on track with best practices in building a unifying and collaborative community for our over 700 globally distributed staff.
At UT, business leaders are empowered to source and procure their own system solutions, particularly from the Cloud
In this process, we also moved the Intranet to a more efficient and flexible Cloud environment.
Informing: At UT, business leaders are empowered to source and procure their own system solutions, particularly from the Cloud. It is very clear that leaders know their business better than any IT department could. The expectation that IT can be the master and owner of all business applications of our very complex research-driven business is unsustainable. Not only would this approach be hard to achieve with limited resources, it is quite frankly, a more dated approach to solutions strategies. The entrepreneur headcount metric employed at UT keeps us small, efficient and focused. The onus is on the business leader to ensure they have the requisite knowledge to select and administer their systems, in-sourced or near-sourced from a trusted vendor partner. As CIO, my team helps the business leader with requirements gathering, vendor selection, system selection and sizing, data security, and data classification. I wear the informer hat, partnering with the vendor and the business unit. This also includes ensuring that the business unit leader understands the risks and the benefits of their chosen solution. This keeps UT’s entrepreneurship culture very nimble allowing leaders to make faster, safer, decisions. More importantly, this helps reduce the time-to-market of our drugs, thus increasing our ability to provide more therapies to our patients.
Orchestrating: I bring everything together by providing tie-backs to the corporate infrastructure. This might be any number of services such as application publishing in the Citrix environment for UT data center-hosted apps, implementing single-sign-on, and multi-factor authentication for Cloud solutions.
I recently renamed the IT department from Information Technology (IT) to Global Business Systems Group (GBSG). The emphasis is placed on business– and not on technology. We implement business solutions (albeit with the aid of technology). Our vision is to provide AnyExperience, AnyWhere, AnyTime from AnyDevice. All solutions must meet these criteria.
Case in point: UT launched the first-ever lung-perfusion facility in the U.S., which provides extended preservation and assessment of donor lungs prior to transplant. This is a highly automated, Internet-of-Things (IoT) facility architected by GBSG. The data generated by the equipment perfusing the lungs are electronically captured and collated into a custom-built Electronic Medical Records (EMR) solution we developed residing in the Cloud. In addition to this data, video streams which record the internal and external changes of the lungs are captured in the EMR. All lungs have a very detailed EMR describing the condition and work performed on the lungs prior to, during and after profusion. Transplant surgeons can remotely observe these procedures via high-speed real-time video streaming services we deployed as a part of the solution. This is an example where GBSG solved a business problem by increasing efficiencies and security through automation while also reducing travel costs, decreasing technician expenses, and helped UT create a new business.
In summary, my role has evolved from just “keeping the lights on” to that of a business partner providing business-enabling and business developing solutions that keep UT nimble and focused on developing the best medicines and therapies for our patients.