Walgreens CTO: What keeps me up at night and why partnerships are critical to digital transformation

Mike Maresca, World CTO for Walgreens Boots Alliance, talks about what retains him up at evening and why constructing inner and exterior partnerships is vital for digital transformation success.

How does IT assist healthcare corporations innovate rapidly, whereas additionally balancing affected person privateness and knowledge safety? On this episode of TechRepublic’s
Dynamic Developer

, I am joined by Mike Maresca, World Chief Expertise Officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance, to seek out out.

Readers within the UK and US will seemingly acknowledge the Walgreens and Boots names, however WBA can be dwelling to manufacturers like No7, NICE!, Cleaning soap & Glory, and Liz Earle. Mike and I had the possibility to speak about WBA’s digital transformation journey, knowledge analytics, well being knowledge privateness, and what retains him up at evening.

The next is a transcript of the interview, edited for readability. You may hearken to the podcast utilizing the participant embedded beneath, watch the video above or learn a transcript of the interview beneath, edited for readability.

Digital transformation journey: Walgreens Boots Alliance

Invoice Detwiler: So we’re right here to speak about digital transformation, and I do not suppose during the last yr there’s any business that is needed to cope with digital transformation greater than healthcare, given the pandemic and every part that is been occurring on account of that. I do know you have been new to Walgreens Boots Alliance and you’ve got a tech background at Accenture. So, I am actually involved in your tackle digital transformation in an previous business, being accelerated final yr. I am actually trying ahead to our dialog. And possibly a terrific place to begin is since you have been just a little little bit of an outsider with a tech background coming in to the healthcare business is…while you joined, the place was WBA of their digital transformation course of? Had they been doing it for a decade? Was it ongoing? The place have been they while you got here on board?

Mike Maresca, Global Chief Technology Officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance

Mike Maresca, World Chief Expertise Officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance

Picture: Walgreens Boots Alliance

Mike Maresca: Properly, Invoice, thanks for having me. It should simply…type of elaborate in your query about the place is WBA at within the digital transformation. However after I joined, it was in the midst of the pandemic, so much had modified about our enterprise, however what hadn’t modified is our ardour for being actually the main associate to our communities, our sufferers, our clients, and attempting to reimagine what healthcare appears to be like like and wellbeing general.

We launched in regards to the time that I joined, a brand new customer-centric healthcare technique and we proceed to reimagine that. You’d’ve heard that introduced earlier this month, as a part of our investor day to drive sustainable long run type of worth, and to be buyer obsessed as we digitalize our providers throughout retail pharmacy, and a rising enterprise inside well being providers. It’s kind of of a brand new focus on the time, but it surely very a lot maps again to what we’re obsessed about. And we’ve been obsessed about throughout each Walgreens, in addition to Boots, each iconic manufacturers, 170 years of innovation and pharmacy.

What we noticed in the course of the pandemic is we needed to evolve and begin offering vaccine providers, testing providers. And I am proud to say that we have been very profitable at that. What we began originally of the pandemic, and we needed to reimagine among the buyer providers. We actually did make investments and ship. For example, we now have an business greatest buy-online and pickup in-store, one thing we did not have at first of the pandemic. We rolled out tele-health providers as a result of we did not have our sufferers essentially visiting us in our pharmacies. In order that was about bringing our providers nearer to our clients. And that is the eagerness that introduced me to WBA and what retains me excited coming to work on daily basis, attempting to essentially drive higher outcomes for our sufferers and clients.

Extra digital sources

Constructing inner and exterior partnerships is vital to digital transformation success

Invoice Detwiler: I feel that is a extremely attention-grabbing perspective, and this is likely one of the issues I really like speaking to CTOs about, since you strategy this from the expertise aspect of the equation, however as you describe it, there’s a component of digital transformation that’s the human aspect of the equation. So I might like to get your take as a CTO, as somebody that has an engineering background. And, I can cop to kind of figuring out with that myself again from my faculty days. How do you, as the top of expertise for the group, carry new applied sciences to bear whereas on the similar time, protecting that target the human aspect of the enterprise?

Mike Maresca: It is a robust problem, but it surely’s actually one thing we’re very enthusiastic about at WBA. What does it imply for our clients? And we take into consideration that day in time out, and a part of the investments we’re making, as an example, in cloud, which is about modernizing our core platform, is all about bringing an elevated agility on the proper value level, how we ship IT for our clients.

Walgreens in-store pickup

Picture: Walgreens Boots Alliance

Earlier this yr, or really final yr, about this time, we realized that if we have been going to drive extra capabilities, each digitally, but additionally in our shops, we wanted a contemporary digital prepared community. Once more, protecting this buyer on the middle, we wished a extra immersive expertise, higher capabilities for our clients to ship providers that they want. I wanted a contemporary digital community to do this. So we invested in relationships right here within the US with Verizon, we’re transferring in the direction of community as a service. Completely reimagining how we ship community inside Walgreens. And we’re doing the identical factor with BT over in our worldwide areas within the UK and Eire. So that you do need to stability the expertise, however you even have to determine how is that delivering in your buyer and creating these connections and driving that expertise technique that continues to place our clients and sufferers on the middle is what my job is all about. And it is what I take pleasure in about it.

Invoice Detwiler: How troublesome is that argument to make, or is it even an argument in any respect anymore to govt boards, to CEOs, to the CFOs, to the folks which can be , or possibly have historically checked out IT as a value middle? However now possibly see it as important to sustaining the optimistic buyer relationships, but additionally as a approach to enhance operations, enhance efficiencies, as you discuss…to enhance the worth level. Is that even one thing that you must take into consideration now as CTO, while you go and also you say, Hey, look, I do know historically we have carried out our networking a method, however we need to do it one other approach? And within the every part as a service world, we expect that is the precise resolution for us. While you make that pitch, even when you must make that pitch, is that one thing that you simply get pushback on now, or does all people say no, that, that seems like that is the way in which to go. That is the way in which everybody’s going. We simply want to do this.

Should-read developer content material

Mike Maresca: No. Is there pushback? No, there’s partnership. I wish to say, there’s partnership and with any good partnership with the enterprise and IT, you discover the reason why in choices. And on this case, particularly, we discuss networks. We noticed this as an funding sooner or later. For example, we partnered with Verizon, we’re one of many first 5G powered pharmacies on the earth. So it was extra about how we leverage the ecosystem of partnerships to drive innovation. As a result of innovation does not occur inside the 4 partitions at WBA, it is by way of this linked set of partnerships. And I feel we’re actually enthusiastic about among the partnerships within the final yr that we have been in a position to champion, whether or not it’s with Verizon and BT, from a community perspective. Definitely Microsoft has been vital by way of driving our place cloud and a few capabilities round knowledge and analytics.

Talking of information analytics, we’ve a brand new partnership with Snowflake, which helps us to carry insights from our knowledge. And we only recently signed a cope with ServiceNow by way of leveraging their capabilities and their innovation to assist us reimagine IT, but additionally, among the buyer expertise. They perceive that innovation agenda must occur each inside IT, but additionally that strategic portfolio. Now, do {dollars} and cents come into play? Is it the precise funding on the proper time? Definitely that dialogue occurs. And that is a part of the partnership that we’ve with the enterprise. Once more, as we attempt to evolve our choices and our capabilities for a way we serve our clients and sufferers.

SEE: IT chief’s information to reaching digital transformation (TechRepublic Premium)

Walgreens is leveraging tech to incentivize optimistic well being outcomes

Invoice Detwiler: You talked about a pair applied sciences. We have been speaking about community as a service. You are speaking about knowledge analytics and among the companions you are working with round these applied sciences. Apart from these, what are among the new applied sciences that you simply’re most enthusiastic about and also you suppose are subsequent in your roadmap to enhance operations and that buyer expertise?

myWalgreens app screenshot

Picture: Walgreens Boots Alliance

Mike Maresca: One which I might put out there’s the investments we’re making round knowledge and the way we are able to use knowledge extra successfully inside Walgreens and WBA, normally. I feel that is going to be key to how we determine methods to raised serve our clients by way of preferences. I do not suppose there’s anyone higher than WBA by way of managing the privateness of our sufferers. So we do maintain that entrance of thoughts, however there are, by way of driving differentiated outcomes, partnering by way of our well being providers community to pull care administration gaps. I am very enthusiastic about how we are able to use knowledge to drive higher outcomes. I feel that is one to level on the market and the investments in Microsoft, Snowflake and others are actually beginning to create that linked knowledge platform, analytics platform that’s going to drive these experiences ahead. It is also going to assist us rework internally.

We’ve got higher optics on our so provide chain, which is a problem as of late, as you understand. We’ve got higher optics on our financials and simply normal higher operational metrics. In order that once more we are able to maintain our providers going on the proper prices and the precise effectiveness by way of higher metrics and knowledge. In order that’s one I might put on the market.

The opposite one I type of talked about, the work that we’re doing in digital, whether or not it’s tele-health providers, whether or not it’s the launch of myWalgreens, the relaunch of myWalgreens, that we simply did just lately, the place it really began from a loyalty perspective, as a relaunch of our loyalty program. It additionally began mixing in themes of well being and wellness as a part of your loyalty expertise. I feel that is actually impactful when you can begin considering extra than simply the patron expertise, however extra of the affected person expertise that is coming by way of that loyalty program. And we are able to type of incent more healthy clients. So I might say these two, these two or three that I discussed I am actually enthusiastic about, and I feel you are going to see much more innovation come out of WBA within the subsequent yr. So it must be a very good yr for us.

Defending affected person privateness and knowledge safety in at present’s advanced healthcare ecosystem

Invoice Detwiler: Let’s construct on that final level just a little bit, as a result of no less than in the USA healthcare is a combination mash, proper? Of corporations and personal entities and public entities. And you’ve got conventional endpoint suppliers or factors of care. You’ve got GPs, you might have docs, you might have giant networks of hospitals, instant care facilities. After which you might have what was once the normal type of pharmacies that possibly folks consider after they consider Walgreens, however that is not what WBA actually is anymore.

And also you type of talked about this, since you are speaking about producing higher affected person outcomes and utilizing knowledge analytics to assist drive that. However you are additionally a part of that bigger ecosystem of healthcare suppliers. How do you combine the information that you simply’re gathering about folks and that you simply’re utilizing to assist them together with your a part of their healthcare course of with all these different totally different elements efficiently, in order that possibly it is not simply the script knowledge, it is not simply that affected person knowledge, however that is shared again with docs, or that is shared with the hospital, or the interactions that the physician notes are shared with you. How do you try this as a part of that group, however do it in a approach that does not compromise safety of the information, privateness of the information? But additionally all people is on first get together knowledge now, so that you want some sharing, however you additionally want the rights to guard your IP. How do you stability that from an IT perspective or from a expertise perspective?

myWalgreens app health alerts screenshot

myWalgreens app well being alerts

Picture: Walgreens Boots Alliance

Mike Maresca: Properly, initially, I can return to…privateness is prime of thoughts. I feel we’re greatest in school in that, so I will simply put that proper on the market.

When it comes to how we share knowledge that is by affected person and buyer consent and their capability to decide in to these applications. That’s an evolving house because the well being group will get extra linked, once more, placing the client on the middle, however that’s being pushed by among the buyer consent. And we do not do something with out the client’s approval on that. We do have a rising community of partnerships. VillageMD is actually one in all them that we associate throughout, once more, with consent of sharing the information throughout that partnership and driving higher outcomes. There are care gaps. There are…actually when docs share knowledge with us by way of filling prescriptions, that is all shared. I feel it is all about driving that end result for the affected person.

Invoice Detwiler: I am not attempting to place you on the spot by way of the privateness and safety. It is to me, as somebody who’s been in tech their entire lives, I see that interconnectivity as a optimistic and with the ability to, and actually, anymore being important to driving these optimistic outcomes. I had two aged family that I used to be their main care supplier for, and it might be a problem for me, for his or her numerous docs that they might see, the assorted pharmacies, typically they might go to, that they did not have a whole image. And in order that’s why I am all the time to listen to the roadmaps for organizations within the house round that, round this interoperability and with the ability to kind of persuade folks, Hey, look, I do know we need to maintain this non-public and we do, however you will get a greater end result in the event you’re prepared and we are able to show to you, it is higher in your well being to have all people type of within the know.

So, I used to be considering extra larger image. Is that one thing, these massive image interconnections that you simply discuss to different IT of us, different CTOs and leaders within the healthcare business and do you suppose simply normally that it seems like that is the way in which normally, the business is considering that we have to go and hopefully we are able to persuade folks. Not persuade, however simply share with folks, look, there’s optimistic outcomes from doing this and to assist overcome among the, possibly the reluctance that I suppose sure segments of the inhabitants may need at that.

Mike Maresca: Yeah. There’s reluctance there. And I can simply level to, earlier this month, our new CEO, Roz Brewer, had talked about that buyer centric well being technique, and I am actual enthusiastic about that. It should delve into a few of these challenges that we see from an business perspective. How do you…so as an example, crucial providers which can be wanted, the way you interact the client, and positively it’s going to really begin to tackle the information and the privateness. So that’s one thing we’re nonetheless evolving, however I feel among the subsequent steps that we will be taking as a method will assist us determine that out. And it will, as you talked about, it will be an ecosystem of suppliers which can be going to play part of driving it holistically for the client.

Challenges going through at present’s CIOs: Attracting prime expertise and maintaining with the velocity of enterprise

Invoice Detwiler: I’ve to ask you as a CTO, I do know I am operating out of time with you, and this does not need to relate to WBA, however as a CTO proper now, what retains you up at evening? What are these challenges that you simply face that different CTOs are going through proper now? And the way are you addressing them?

Mike Maresca: A couple of issues prime of thoughts can be, maintaining with velocity of our enterprise. The final 18 months we’ve seen dramatic change in accelerating how we use expertise to drive our enterprise ahead. That is required us to look externally in among the partnerships I discussed earlier, but additionally internally, how can we information? How can we develop? How can we make investments? As a result of it’s simply driving dramatic change and the aggressive panorama that is on the market. And the way can we sustain the velocity of our enterprise as we glance internally, do I’ve the precise expertise? Expertise has been a premium these days, I feel it is not simply WBA, however each firm is how they digitalize their providers and we’re no totally different, however I feel from an business perspective, and IT, is pushed a premium on expertise and a expertise is so vital by way of what we drive from a functionality perspective and the way we reimagine our future on daily basis.

So I feel it is that, it is the velocity at which our enterprise even getting out entrance and attempting to drive it with some innovation concepts, but additionally the expertise that we’ve at WBA and the way we proceed to enhance upon it. We’ve got a improbable staff, that was one of many joys of adjusting jobs. I left a terrific firm. I joined a terrific firm with a terrific staff that delivered superb issues by way of the pandemic. I’ve solely been right here 15 months and I’ve come to understand the arduous work and dedication of our staff members, each in IT, in addition to the enterprise. So, I am tremendous excited in regards to the staff that we’ve. We have to proceed to evolve it as a result of that is actually what our enterprise requires. However I might say on the expertise aspect, that is one thing that we’re actual targeted on, particularly as we discover a few of these new applied sciences.

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