Thrifty White’s CIO Has Big Plans for Growing Company

By Peter High  |  Posted 06-20-2016 Print Email

The regional pharmacy relies on technology and dedicated employees to ensure medication adherence and drug interactions are kept in check. 

Thrifty White may not have the broad footprint of a national player, but the company's continued focus on health-and-wellness initiatives sets it apart from the competition in small towns and cities in the upper Midwest. The company is 100 percent owned by the employees. Thrifty White believes its greatest asset is its employees who cooperate in the spirit of teamwork to help the company continue to grow and prosper. The company also prides itself on helping the communities in which it does business.

As CIO, Matt Ode ensures that all areas of the business (from executives to staff) are working together executing on the corporate strategy. This includes both top- and bottom-line projects and initiatives across the organization as well as regulatory and security items as they continually emerge. As he tells CIO Insight contributor, Peter High, he also believes that technology will shape the company's future.

Peter High: What are your priorities for the year ahead?

Matt Ode: Our goals for 2016 are to grow our specialty pharmacy volume, grow our long-term care pharmacy business, and continue to focus on our retail pharmacy operations. One area in which we have taken the lead is in medication synchronization. Kicked off in November 2011, the program synchronizes all of a patient's prescriptions and enables patients on multiple medications to pick up their prescriptions at once. On the day of pickup, the pharmacist will review the prescription list, monitor changes after doctor or hospital visits and check for possible drug interactions. We have over 61,000 patients on this program today and they love the convenience and how it significantly improves their medication adherence.

High: Please describe your organization structure and the size of your team.

Ode: Our organization structure is composed of the following areas. We have 31 people in IT today. I started as an IT team of one so I take a lot of pride in our team and how it is positioned today as a strategic enabler of our business.

*Pharmacy Team: responsible for all design and development of our proprietary pharmacy system. Allows us to be nimble as changes in the marketplace seem to happen at a rapid rate these last several years. Med Sync program mentioned above was completely developed and implemented within our in-house system.

*Infrastructure Team: responsible for 2 server rooms, disaster recovery facility, connectivity, security, and all associated hardware/software/mobile/network equipment.

*Business Applications Team: responsible for all applications used in the back office and retail store teams - intranet/internet, HR/Financials ERP, data warehouse, content management systems, and cloud applications.

*Store Systems: responsible for all store systems including physical desktops/laptops, printers, POS systems, and automation equipment at both store level and central fill sites. Includes Help Desk as well.

*IT Business Partner/Project Manager: individual who works directly with the business executing on corporate strategy and managing incoming requests that then are prioritized in quarterly executive review meetings. Key role recently created in the last 2 years based on Joe Topinka's book IT Business Partnerships. Also serves as a project manager that can be plugged into any IT/Business initiative. Previous background in IT software/database development a must from my perspective along with excellent communication skills.

High: What are your strategic priorities currently?

Ode: One of the interesting things about being a CIO is executing both business-facing and IT-only related projects/maintenance. Add in security to this conversation and my team certainly has a full plate. Some of our business-facing initiatives include building out our Specialty Pharmacy offering, further enhancing our e-commerce business unit, and mining our data to make timely and sound business decisions. From an IT perspective, finishing up our EMV Chip and PIN rollout, continued security journey, and various proprietary new technologies and enhancements to our filling centers and retail stores will keep us very busy in 2016.

High: You have been with Thrifty White for nearly 13 years. How has the role of technology changes across that long tenure?

Ode: I think the biggest change is how our organization uses IT. All projects both internally and externally have some sort of IT component and it is critical all business and IT areas work together from vendor vetting to project implementation and everything in-between. By formalizing this process we have created much more value across the organization in our investments and also made sure we are choosing the right trusted partners to do business with. This is critical as an employee-owned company as we all share the responsibility for the financial success of our company.

High: As a regional pharmacy, how does your company use information to help it compete with larger national brands?

Ode: I think it starts with being committed to the communities we serve and believe that our services and products must exceed the expectations of our customers. While data provides a lot of insight, it still comes down to striving to meet the needs of our customers in today's strenuous and costly healthcare landscape. If we keep this at the forefront of our minds and match our business opportunities as a regional player to that mindset, we will win at the end of the day.

High: What trends particularly excite you as you look, say, three or five years to the future and why?

Ode: This is a tough question as an organization needs a blend between being both an industry leader and fast follower as opportunities present themselves. At the end of the day, it still comes down to evaluating all opportunities and greater collaboration and organizational alignment (notice I didn't say IT alignment as we are not any different than another department) to realize all potential value for a project or opportunity. The companies that do this well will survive and prosper and the companies that don't will not. It is as simple as that.

Peter High is President of Metis Strategy, a business and IT advisory firm. His latest book, Implementing World Class IT Strategy, has just been released by Wiley Press/Jossey-Bass. He is also the author of World Class IT: Why Businesses Succeed When IT Triumphs. Peter moderates the Forum on World Class IT podcast series. He speaks at conferences around the world. Follow him on Twitter @PeterAHigh.


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