How to drive business with digital transformation

CIO Lidia Fonseca is helping lead Quest Diagnostics into lucrative new businesses, all while streamlining IT and improving the customer experience.

digital transformation 2
fonseca lidia2015

Quest Diagnostics CIO Lidia Fonseca

Digital transformation is the buzz phrase du jour, but the reality is that many CIOs struggle to understand what it actually takes to drive new customer-facing opportunities. They’d do well to look to Lidia Fonseca, the CIO and executive sponsor of the business transformation efforts underway at Quest Diagnostics – the lab testing and (emerging) analytics powerhouse.

[ Related: How to succeed at digital transformation; Digital transformation will shape 2016 ]

In this installment of the IDG CIO Interview Series, Chief Content Officer John Gallant asked Fonseca to outline exactly how the transformation effort was conceived, structured, managed and tracked to ensure success. Fonseca talked about how IT is organized to streamline and standardize operations, all to help align resources with new efforts to offer new big-data-driven services to Quest’s customers. She explored the politics of digital transformation as well as the key focus areas for 21st century CIOs.

[ Related: Tech Titans Talk: The IDG Enterprise Interview Series ] What was your mission when you were hired into Quest a couple of years back?

Quest Diagnostics CIO Lidia Fonseca: Quest has been transforming since the CEO, Steve Rusckowski, joined in May 2012. He put the company on the course for transformation and called it the New Quest, with a new mission and vision. When we met to discuss having me join the team, it was really to help contribute to the overall transformation, but there were some elements of that transformation that I could specifically drive.

If you look at the company’s vision, we empower better health with diagnostic insights. One of the things that Steve set in motion is the idea that we’re more than a lab. Yes, we do medical testing and our test menu is one of the most extensive available out there, from glucose testing all the way up to genetics, genomic testing, as well as some pretty sophisticated neurology and cancer testing. But we’re also an information and insights company. The insights we provide with that testing really enable decisions to be made.

One of the other things we did over the past year and a half is that we refreshed the brand around a unifying idea, which is ‘action from the insight.’ From our perspective, it’s not enough to just provide insight. We very much believe that those insights need to enable actions so the best decisions are made about patient care. Those are going to be clinical decisions, reimbursement decisions, operational decisions. With that as the backdrop, Quest is transforming. Part of what I came to do is that transformation program. I’m the executive sponsor of that actually and that was one of Steve’s assignments for me. I am a transformation agent. If you look at my career, that’s my passion. Innovation is a side effect of what we do and what I do, but transformation is what I love to do and what I’m passionate about.

[ Related: Digital transformation: Why it's important to your organization ] You’ve talked about the modern CIO role encompassing three key components: operational efficiency, enabling business technology and leading transformation. I want to explore those first two relatively quickly and then spend most of the time on the business transformation. Let’s talk about that operational efficiency front. I assume this is all tied in with your Invigorate program?

Fonseca: Yes, it is. Our transformation program has three goals. The first goal is superior customer experience. More and more, that experience is defined by digital interactions and one of the major efforts that we’ve been driving since I joined is redefining those experiences.

There are physical elements to our business. We still collect the samples. A patient comes in either to our patient service center or that sample is collected at the doctor’s office. We still have couriers that pick up those specimens or samples and bring them into our labs. We then have a number of digital touchpoints along the entire value chain.

As we are redefining those digital experiences, we are making it very simple for that patient, that provider, to interact with us, whether making an appointment online or showing up to one of our patient service centers and then being cued. We then we provide the results electronically through our MyQuest portal. One of the goals is creating a seamless and intuitive digital experience for what they’re doing with us throughout, from beginning to end.

This is important because the consumer is becoming more engaged in managing their health. We can connect that patient, that consumer, with the provider and ensure that as they define the best course of treatment and the next steps in that patient’s care, it’s information, it’s the results that we offer that facilitate that communication. That’s one of the goals that’s really driving superior digital experiences.

The second goal is about operational efficiency and we are standardizing the way we work across all our locations so we can present a unified Quest. Regardless of where a provider or a patient interacts with us, whether they’re in the West or in the Northeast or in Florida or in the middle of the country, it will be a unified Quest with a standard menu, a standard experience, a very intuitive and recognizable interaction. That includes our brand and services as well as the various capabilities and options that we provide.

Standardization is a major effort for us and that’s driving that operational efficiency, as well as being able to launch new tests and new products. For example, a lot of the analytics offerings that we launched earlier this year we piloted in 2015. How do we get to market faster? That is also part of the operational efficiency, getting to market faster with our solutions so we can very quickly respond and anticipate client needs, especially in the changing landscape that we’re seeing in healthcare today. This is really operational excellence because it’s not just efficiency. It’s how you create an operation that’s not just standardized but can launch new products and services as quickly as possible.

The third goal is [around] information and the insights that come out of medical testing. Laboratory medical testing represents about 2-3 percent of total healthcare spend yet it actually informs a majority of decisions that get made about patient care. What we’re doing around that third goal is leveraging those insights so that we can provide them to our patients, our providers, our hospital, and our payer clients at the point where they can make the right decisions.

So, the third goal of our transformation program is delivering those insights at the right points, at the point of care and not retrospectively - in other words, where they can make a decision and take an action while the patient preferably is in front of the doctor or even before the patient gets in. We have more than 20 billion test results in our big data backbone and we have an impressive amount of data but now we’re focused on turning that data into insights that really help the industry and our clients make better decisions.

[ Related: How to turbocharge digital transformation ] How did the management team decide on those goals and define the role of the key players in that business transformation?

Fonseca: Several of us worked together to define the goals of the program. When I joined we actually created a cross-functional senior leadership team. A subset of us in the senior management team worked together on the scope and the definition, and that included the head of operations, the head of strategy, me, our CFO and, of course, the CEO.

Then we discussed it with the entire senior management team and got their feedback, so it was really all the members of the senior management team. The chief medical officer and heads of clinical franchises also participated. Once we had that strategy and that scope defined and we had it documented, we then took that to the board and got the green light to proceed. How did that evolve into specific projects and specific undertakings? How did you go from the three broad goals of that business transformation to the specific things that you’re undertaking today? I think people really want to understand that process.

Fonseca: Again, having done transformation work before, we set the expectation that this is not a one-year kind of thing. This is a multiyear effort we’re driving. Once we got the green light, we organized this program into four work streams with a senior work stream leader. Within each of those work streams, we then defined specific initiatives and we have a core, cross-functional team. This involves operations, IT, and regional groups.

We have roadmaps laid out with specific activities and specific team members and roles. We set up a steering group that meets every month and then we provide quarterly, detailed updates to our senior management team. We also provide regular updates to our board. We put in place a well-organized governance structure because this impacts all sites in our operation. We have clear work stream leaders - we have an operations work stream leader, a business work stream leader as well as an IT work stream leader and they work together to define the specific project plans. We also have resources that are dedicated to support the effort.

It’s very important to have the governance in place. It’s very important to define the work streams so that the specific projects fall into the work streams. It’s critical to have dedicated resources. We do resource planning and allocation and we review all of the team members and what they’re spending their time on. We’re staying on track with our milestones, which are defined down to the task level. Requirements, work plans, tasks are defined down to the individuals and then we roll all that up to show how we’re performing in achieving the milestones across all the work streams.

We also have, very importantly, a change management group with some pretty experienced change management experts. Some of those came from the outside as well as some people from inside the company. Then we have a number of black belts and green belts that are supporting the effort and you can imagine a good chunk of activity going on around this. Again, it really came to structuring it very well with a clear strategy, a clear plan, and governance, and then dedicating the resources is also part of what I feel contributes to success. What does it mean that you are the ‘champion’ of this business transformation? Is that a specific role? What does that entail?

Fonseca: There are two of us who are the executive sponsors of this transformation -- the head of operations and me. What that means is that both of us are accountable for making sure the program is delivering. We are responsible for making sure that we meet those deliverables and we deliver on the goals and the results that we set out and that we presented and agreed to as the senior management team. I want to talk about the big data aspect of this in creating products and services for the customer base. How did the ideas for those products and services develop once you knew that was a high-level goal? Can you walk me through the process by which you actually came out with the partnerships and the products that represented the fruition of that goal?

Fonseca: I’ve done this before in terms of launching data services and big data products and solutions. When I joined, one of the first things we did was stand up a product management organization and we complemented the team here with some specific skillsets that we needed to beef up. We brought in a couple of really strong big data experts and people who had done some of these things before. We created a technical product management group and they started to spend time with our CEO and with our customers to understand [their needs]. We spent time with our commercial team and our field services team and we started to really define the areas are that we’re hearing more and more about.

We got a really good sense of what customers are looking for. We reviewed that with our steering committee and our senior management team. Here are the data services and here’s how we propose prioritizing what we go to market with first. That was a conversation together with our marketing team, together with our senior management team, but our technical product management team actually put forward the different needs that we picked up based on the conversations. We captured that input from the market and from our sales team. It’s important because you want to hear what they’re bumping into.

Then, as we spent more time with customers, we started to get more insight into the kinds of services that would really make their lives easier, that would help them with advancing patient care, that would really help them to navigate how the market is shifting. We’re moving towards value-based care. How do we help them cope with that? We brought that back and that’s how we defined the offerings.

The next decision point was how do we build ourselves up and are there services where it makes sense to partner? To your question, for example, we partner with Inovalon on an offering that we launched late last year where we combined our datasets. We have a very large dataset around laboratory and laboratory medicine.

1 2 3 Page 1
Page 1 of 3
The 10 most powerful companies in enterprise networking 2022