Shari is the chief financial officer and head of IT at a membership association for physicians that specialize in gastroenterology. The association has 45 full-time employees and offers education, tools, and resources to their members to facilitate the optimization of medical procedures, patient care, and desired patient outcomes.
Shari explained her IT woes very simply:
“There were challenges because we weren’t doing the right things, we weren’t keeping current, and we were spending more than we needed to.”
Despite the expense, the association didn’t have the infrastructure and applications necessary to operate at peak efficiency.
To further complicate matters, Shari’s predecessor wanted to run the show and call the shots. So, despite having access to XL’s expertise, there was a governor on what could realistically be accomplished without greater autonomy.
The “Belt & Suspenders” Approach
When asked what her biggest IT costs were, Shari shared that redundancy and overengineering were the culprits of unnecessary expenses.
“Overengineering results in increased cost, complexity and redundancy. It was basically a ‘belt and suspenders’ approach to solving our problem. So, incremental spend wasn’t adding any incremental value,” offered Shari.
As a CFO, Shari sees all aspects of the business from a financial perspective. She’s used to evaluating how much is being spent on 1) improving, 2) maintaining or 3) fixing. In her view, most of the spend should be going towards maintaining or improving.
“If we’re spending a lot on fixing, which we were, that’s not good,” she added. “The greatest impact is that we didn’t have the money we needed for other things.”
Getting on the Same Page
When Shari became the CFO at the association, she didn’t need to go looking for a strategic IT solution. She simply had to tap into the expertise that was already at her fingertips.
“XL had been our partner already and knew a lot about our infrastructure as well as what we needed to change. They simply weren’t given permission to have those discussions.”
And, to her delight, she found XL was already on the same page when the lines of communication were reopened.
“When we put our heads together it became easy for us to reach decisions, make a plan, and move towards our goals.”
Shari offered, somewhat facetiously, that the association had a server room that could power the Chicago Board of Trade. And, she knew this IT bloat was part of what needed to be resolved. And, it was – one step at a time.
Letting XL do What it Does Best
We asked Shari how specifically XL’s expertise was used to solve her biggest challenges. She said:
“They will learn your systems, monitor what’s going on, visualize the data so it’s plain and clear, and make recommendations for what needs to change. They listen, they understand my goals, they’re working to achieve them.”
And, she added, it’s mostly a matter of letting XL do what it does best.
“I love the fact that I can pick up the phone and say,’ I’m talking to XYZ, and I would love for you to be on the call, because I think there will be something that will impact what we’re doing together.’ When you have a partner that’s willing to get down and dirty with you in the day to day stuff, because they understand the strategy… they are phenomenal in that way.”
In terms of results, Shari stressed that the greatest outcome was to increase efficiency.
“To be able to rethink our spending, shift resources to other applications that make us more efficient was the outcome we wanted and ultimately achieved.”
This outcome was only possible because Shari was able to reallocate funds from mismatched IT solutions to technology that would make a difference.
Measuring Against Key Performance Indicators
We asked Shari what her next big goal was, and she shared that the association was looking to ensure their members had everything they needed.
“We struggle with being timely, agile, and relevant. We need to work on those things, and some of them involve technology.”
Shari and the association board will also be deciding on a KPI to measure.
“One of them is efficiency ratio around number of employees relative to revenue or net margins – our ability to remain agile and generating revenue, meeting our customer’s needs while keeping costs minimal.”
In closing, Shari said enthusiastically:
“XL is like family. There are few days that go by that I don’t talk to someone on the team about some small thing, big thing, it doesn’t matter. And, they don’t get it perfect every time – nobody does. But we talk about how to get it better next time. And, that’s what makes it a good partnership. I appreciate them so much. I’m a CFO and not a techie. I love the fact that they let me be in that process and lead this initiative. It’s been a wonderful partnership.”