Brian Thomas, Chief Digital Officer & Technology Executive

Brian Thomas has served in several senior leadership roles, including Chief Information Officer, Chief Technology Officer, and Healthcare Executive in the Fortune 500, Healthcare and public sector spaces. He is known for delivering innovative and user-friendly solutions to the business partners and customers he serves.

Prior to his executive roles, he gained experience in and recognition for dependable performance improvement, leadership, program management and solution innovations. Brian has 20 years experience in technology and healthcare. He has been featured in several publications including the Harvard Business Review, and was recently named one of the Top 100 Chief Information Technology Officers by Richtopia.  He is a regular contributor to CIO Online and the greater IDG organization.

Prior to his more recent role, Mr. Thomas gained experience in and recognition for dependable performance improvement, leadership, program management, and solution innovations. Brian Thomas has progressed his career within the technology and healthcare verticals through increased responsibilities, leadership opportunities, and professional nominations.  Additionally, he has been extremely successful at building and retaining cohesive and synergetic teams while delivering results at all levels of the organization, both in Infrastructure Delivery and Program Management. Mr. Thomas possesses expertise in the following common areas, but not limited to:

Strategic Planning & Execution Fiscal Stewardship Technology Innovation
Thought Leadership Regulatory Compliance Program & Project Management
Professional development Support Performance Analysis Data Center Operations, Design, Consolidation
Security & Compliance IT Managed Services & Outsourcing Team Development & Leadership
Digital Transformation IT and Risk Governance Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery
AI, Blockchain & IoT Cloud Architecture & Strategy Negotiator, Mediator & Relations Management

Select Recent Accomplishments:

  • Closely partnered with Swope Health Service Board Members and the Senior Executive Team in developing and implementing a comprehensive Strategic Plan.
  • Recognized for Chief Information Officer (CIO) organizational contributions which resulted in a role expansion to CIO/Vice President of Support Services.
  • Enabled improved health care outcomes for approximately 40K patients by implementing interoperability and data sharing through bi-state connections with three regional Health Information Exchanges.
  • Realized nearly $1 million in actual, organizational-level cost savings through process improvement and contract re-negotiation.

Mr. Thomas is literate in a myriad of technology systems including Cerner, eClinicalWorks, Meditech, Merge/Vericis, PACS, Lawson, Cloverleaf, Microsoft SQL Server, SSIS, Tableau, ERP (PeopleSoft, Lawson, JD Edwards, Oracle), CRM (ACT!, Hubspot, Dynamics), NetApp, EMC Storage, Microsoft Windows Server, Cisco Networks and Voice, Nortel/Avaya Networks and Voice, Philips Healthcare, Citrix XenApp, Microsoft SCCM, Website Management, Social Media Strategy, and Microsoft Project Server.

Brian Thomas is a founding Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Trustees (FACHT) served as a Board Member for the Johnson County Community College HITECH Advisory Committee, a member of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), Kansas City CIO Exchange, and a Board Member of the Heart of America Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HOA HIMSS).

Mr. Thomas earned his Master of Business Administration from Baker University and his Bachelor of Science Information Systems from the University of Phoenix. Additionally, he has obtained the following certificates:

  • Organizational Leadership – University of Virginia
  • Artificial Intelligence – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • Digital Transformation – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

CIOs have an inherent duty to demonstrate the value of their departments, and this is never more true than with IT. It’s the same across other platforms of a business, from sales to finance to operations. With technology becoming more and more commoditized, companies are measuring the value of their IT departments, and thus services, in regards to the preservation of business value, creating benchmarks as a result of those outcomes, points out CIO. NO matter what department you’re talking about, the same principles of revenue generation and top-notch operations are used to not only evaluate but also prioritize and measure various projects to boost shareholder value.


The IT department in any given company is an important cog in the output machine. Take a mobile sales platform for a healthcare EMR system, for example. If something fails at the IT level, the whole system gets hung up, resulting in the possibility of a patient not gaining access to the medication they need to be healthy. It’s too easy to imagine a bunch of IT pros sitting in a back room somewhere far removed from the daily operations of a business. Not so. They have just as much impact on the organization’s failure or success as anyone else.

Flexibility

Being flexible in an ever-demanding and complex environment is an important facet of an IT department, one that can make or break the operational capacity of an organization. As such, IT is required to provide more service and solutions above and beyond just “keeping the lights on.” In fact, IT and its partnership with business balance both past and present collaborations to determine future successes. Because IT is most useful when projects are delivered successfully to the end consumer, its value is dependent on persuading management to measure positive value-added contributions as well as maintain a steady presence — even despite such a complex environment.

Business Capability

Much more than a technological-minded organism, IT offers a great value to the business capabilities of a given company, not just in the area of technology capability and contributions. IT as a cohesive unit can provide valuable input on business decisions, leading to solutions that benefit the company as a whole. So what can the CIO and IT do together to demonstrate effectiveness to the rest of the organization?

Business operates on a principle of “what’s in it for me?” — after all, this is how competition thrives. Therefore, IT needs to:

  • Realize what their pain points are
  • Identify areas of improvement, specifically in relation to IT
  • Provide a strategic advantage from a productivity perspective
  • Work on developing a partnership mentality
  • Demonstrate value instance by instance, with clear objectives

As the business strategist, the CIO needs to ensure IT’s strategic value is visible to the rest of the organization. Their position of leadership enables them to execute IT strategy, goals and objectives, and ensure they are aligned with the culture of the company as a whole. Driving business process improvements, IT becomes just as important a link in the chain as every other department when it comes to solutions that align with the corporate vision.

Here we go again — IT is starting off the new year in a hole that we’ve dug ourselves into. Check out these current headlines:

• Why Your Company’s Next CEO is Not Your Current CIO, Forbes, February, 2015.
” IT is still perceived as a cost center and the CIO as the Chief Infrastructure Officer.”

• Better Pharma CMO and CIO Collaboration Will Advance the Digital Revolution, Accenture Study, March, 2015.
“Two-thirds (67%) of the CMO respondents do not view IT as a strategic partner.” 

• The Top 10 Strategic CIO Issues for 2015, Forbes, February, 2015.
“Transform the IT organization and reputation from no to yes, from SLAs to revenue growth, from obstacle to accelerator, from passive to opportunistic…For too long, CIOs and their IT organizations have earned the unflattering reputation of being Doctor No.”

• CIOs Combat the Old “IT-as-a-Cost-Center” Perception, Wall Street Journal, February 2015.

“The IT-as-a-Cost-Center perception remains widespread, threatening to deny CIOs an opportunity to help drive strategy. New McKinsey & Co. research found only about one-third of executives said their CIOs are very involved in shaping the overall business strategies and goals of the company.”

It’s time to take a serious look in the mirror, come to grips with reality and hold ourselves undeniably accountable — Information Technology is still out of sync with our business leaders and customers. While many CIOs and technologists may defend IT in an attempt to sway perceptions, I recommend that we wisely invest our time, energy and resources in  “changing the business of IT” through clear, deliberate and intentional acts that position our businesses and customers for extraordinary success!

Why is it so difficult for IT to make the leap from technology geeks to influential business advisors, empathetic customer advocates and inspiring change agents?

The short answer is…the IT industry continues to attract a certain type of individual plus perpetuate a certain type of servicing style — people who are great at tactics but who lack strategic chops. Now there is a place for IT tactics, but when the scale tips to a degree where the number of tactical thinkers and doers vastly outweighs the critical strategic thinking and doing required to help our organizations attain new performance heights, we’re failing our key stakeholders. 

What do critical thinking strategists bring to the IT table?

Closely aligning and partnering with their C-level counterparts and customers, they are in the forefront of the action:

  • Anticipating and quickly responding to market shifts.
  • Articulating the possibilities as they identify, sell and act on the simplest to the most complex innovative solutions that will grow the business, advance market share and strengthen customer loyalty.
  • Evangelizing for and accelerating movement on ideas and decision-making outcomes as well as seizing opportunistic moments.
  • Building out the IT brand by enhancing the customer experience, connecting with customers at an emotional level and proactively shaping communications and key messages that highlight promises kept plus business value delivered.

Speaking in business not IT language plus crafting compelling, real-life stories that influence and inspire decision makers to take enabling-technology action.

Digging deep as they genuinely empathize with their customers while learning about their needs, pain points and goals, then seeking out targeted solutions that not only make their customers’ lives easier, but spotlight their customers’ accomplishments and successes.

Being curious about and learning business nuances only to discover and act on organizational challenges that would have otherwise gone undetected.
Tackling complex topics and issues that others avoid, such as customer-centric big data and analytics, social media engagement or more industry-specific subjects.

Embracing globalization by reinventing security, mobility and virtual workplace strategies.
Managing by exception versus managing everything in a world that is spinning at a rate that will obliterate us if we can’t get our arms around what’s most important to keep our businesses thriving and competitive.

What’s stopping us from building out our strategic bench strength? 

It would be a considerable relief if there was one very simple root cause that could be easily rectified. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. As CIOs, we’re confronting some incredibly tough and sticky issues. In a nutshell, IT organizations are:

  • Thinking that they’re strategic when they’re not — a case of being self-unaware.
  • Failing to recognize that they need critical thinking strategists as a competitive advantage — a case of being oblivious.
  • Magically expecting tacticians to become strategists when they’re not wired that way — a case of misguided optimism.
  • Continuing to hire like-minded people where tacticians are hiring tacticians — a case of “birds of a feather”.
  • Squelching the efforts of the few strategists that do exist in IT organizations by continuing to drag them into the tactics — a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. 

It’s Our Choice

As CIOs, we must come to the realization that we’re contributing to the IT-as-a-cost-center paradigm. We owe it to our organizations and our customers to take a hard stand and say “enough is enough”. It’s our responsibility to assess our strategic capabilities, or lack thereof, formulate a course correction plan and take decisive action. If we are remiss in our strategic responsibilities by continuing to turn a blind eye to this decade-old pervasive problem, we don’t deserve a seat at the executive table…we don’t deserve a loyal customer base…and we don’t deserve to be fulfilling the role of CIO. Let’s step up our game as IT leaders and permanently change the paradigm!