As the CIO of Blue Cross, Bill Fandrich oversees all technology-related services that support business operations and security. He is also responsible for providing critical IT operations, strategic technology leadership, and enhancing the connection between business strategy and technology. In this interview with CIO Insight contributor, Peter High, Fandrich discusses his current strategy, the way in which he collaborates with the CIOs of other Blue Cross Blue Shield organizations, the resilience of Detroit, and a variety of other topics.
Peter High: You are charged with designing IT plans to help drive business imperatives. What are examples of current strategic priorities in your business together with initiatives your team is undertaking to drive them forward?
Bill Fandrich: As a company, we support a variety of business units through customized strategies. One of our current priorities is our informatics and analytics department, which supports Blue Cross’ businesses.
The second area is around information security. With the ever-changing marketplace and our strong commitment to our customers and members, we continue to upgrade our technology and security offerings to protect their personal information.
Another area of focus is the modernization of our capabilities to service both our members and our customers by improving engagement and providing affordable, high-quality care. A key value of our company and health care IT is to work toward bringing new products and offerings to the marketplace that support collaborative relationships with our providers and make health care resources as effective and accessible as possible.
High: How do you work with the CIOs of other Blues Cross Blue Shield organizations?
Fandrich: Although BCBSM is our focus here in Michigan, we are part of a broader organization that is governed by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. As I mentioned previously, we also have more than four million members within our network, some of which are out of state. As part of that BCBS system, our responsibility is to ensure that our members are obtaining services and products that are consistent with the services offered in Michigan. Our various work groups make sure these services translate seamlessly to members across the country.
In addition to our various works groups, BCBSM along with five other BCBS plans are co-owners of a company called NASCO, which provides services and support around technology for members out of state.
The BCBS CIOs also meet twice a year to discuss collaborative tactics. A key part of BCBSM’s strategy is collaborating with other Blue systems to make sure we are bringing the right offerings to the markets in which we serve our customers.
High: You are now the largest IT employer in Michigan. As such, you have been a part of Detroit’s renaissance. What is your assessment of Detroit as an emerging IT hub?
Fandrich: The size of our IT workforce is gauged on a couple of things. Our IT employee base is made up of over 1,000 people. In addition, we work with local service companies who provide staffing services to support our IT capabilities. Combined, our IT workforce exceeds 1,400.
I grew up in the Midwest and lived in Michigan and Detroit during the 1980s. I’m just now returning to Michigan after having lived in the Boston area for more than 20 years. I’ve noticed that there is an incredible foundation here in the Midwest, and Michigan in particular, for technology companies. The academic institutions here continue to develop impressive technology and engineering talent. Detroit offers affordability, a resilient culture and an incredible amount of social and economic benefits for those in IT. There are also a lot of new developments taking place throughout the city, which makes it a very attractive place for companies and the technology population to plant roots and participate in the innovative environment.
High: What trends particularly excite you as you look out, say, two or three years?
Fandrich: What’s great about IT is there is no other industry like it. Information technology is one of the only industries continually reinventing itself and evolving its capabilities, which has led to new opportunities and innovative strategies that have supported our company throughout the years.
I’m excited to see more evolution around cloud space as well as analytics and informatics. I’m interested to see how those areas will expand and leverage robotics and cognitive learning. I’m also looking forward to seeing more advanced techniques that will allow us to leverage information, apply it in different ways, and deliver a new type of experience to our customers that we may not have been able to accomplish before.
Peter High is President of Metis Strategy, a businessand IT advisory firm. His latest book is Implementing World Class IT Strategy. 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.