Key to successful tech leadership for CIOs? Get out of the back office

Quest CIO Lidia Fonseca explains that by working with customers, technology vendors can better anticipate the needs of customers and design more effective products.
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Technology and IT positions deal with a lot of backend issues and products that often run in the background. But in an ever-changing environment, technology executives need to shift into a more proactive mentality.

“Tech leaders tend to be more back office. But we need to get out and be in the market and spend time with customers because we’re solutions providers,” said Quest Diagnostics CIO Lidia Fonseca. “It’s not enough for IT to be aligned with the business: You need to be in the business.”

That means tech leaders will be able to anticipate their customers needs for the future, explained Fonseca. In fact, Fonseca goes out with the sales team to “discuss out value proposition.”

It’s a way to better understand the challenges and needs of the customer, as they design and develop data solutions. The goal is to deliver value to customers -- and that holds just as true for hospital CIOs and IT pros serving their own internal customers as it does for tech vendors.

“It’s an exciting time to be in tech because there are so many forces out there driving change,” said Fonseca. “Consumers are realizing technology isn’t just an enabler. It can be a source of transformation.”

For Fonseca, the drive to solve key issues has been deeply rooted in her career choices for more than 20 years. While working in the entertainment industry just after college, she was inundated with a mass amount of paper licenses needed by the movie studio to ensure they had the rights to every song used.

Much like in the healthcare industry, Fonseca was told to work with the IT guys to find a solution to make it easier to gather the correct information.

“There were mountains of paper, but no one could point to whether we have the license or whether it was current,” said Fonseca. “That was my first experience where I actually created a database to keep track of rights, written work for all of the different movies.”

The studio went from having a 5 percent chance of knowing the rights the studio had -- to 99 percent.

That was her “A-Ha” moment: IT could provide solutions and Fonseca was a solutions person.

“I realized: Tech and data can really help companies make the right decisions,” said Fonseca.

She went from attending law school to selecting a business school that offered a degree in business informatics -- the only school to offer that program at the time.

“The world is getting smaller and we could connect the dots, connect information,” said Fonseca. “I realized I’m a change agent, I love technology and what it can bring. You can really connect the world through tech and data.”

Twitter: @JessieFDavis
Email the writer: jessica.davis@himssmedia.com

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