Walgreens CTO: What keeps me up at night and why partnerships are critical to digital transformation

Mike Maresca, Global CTO for Walgreens Boots Alliance, talks about what preserves him up at night and why building internal and external partnerships is key for digital transformation success.

How does IT help healthcare business innovate promptly, while also balancing patient privacy and data security? On this episode of TechRepublic’s

Dynamic Developer

, I’m joined by Mike Maresca, Global Chief Technology Officer at Walgreens Boot Alliance, to be informed about.

Readers in the UK and US will likely recognize the Walgreens and Boots refers, but WBA is also home to labels like No7, NICE !, Soap& Glory, and Liz Earle. Mike and I had the chance to talk about WBA’s digital transformation journey, data analytics, health data privacy, and what maintenances him up at night.

The following is a transcript of the interview, edited for readability. You can listen to the podcast exercising the player embedded below, watch the video above or read a transcript of the interrogation below, edited for readability.

Digital alteration wander: Walgreens Boots Alliance

Bill Detwiler: So we’re here to talk about digital transformation, and I don’t think over the last year there’s any manufacture that’s had to deal with digital changeover more than healthcare, having regard to the pandemic and everything that’s been happening as a result of that. I know you were new to Walgreens Boots Alliance and you have a tech background at Accenture. So, I’m really interesting to your take on digital transformation in an aged manufacture, being accelerated last year. I’m really looking forward to our speech. And maybe a great place to start is because you were a little bit of an intruder with a tech background coming in to the healthcare industry is…when you affiliated, where was WBA in their digital translation process? Had they been doing it for a decade? Was it ongoing? Where were they when you came on board?

Mike Maresca, Global Chief Technology Officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance

Mike Maresca, Global Chief Technology Officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance

Image: Walgreens Boots Alliance

Mike Maresca: Well, Bill, thanks for having me. It’s going to just…kind of provide detailed information on your question about where is WBA at in the digital changeover. But when I participated, it was in the middle of the pandemic, a lot had changed about our business, but what hadn’t changed is our fondnes for being genuinely the leading spouse to local communities, our patients, our customers, and trying to reimagine what healthcare looks like and wellbeing overall.

We propelled about the time that I connected, a new customer-centric healthcare strategy and we continue to reimagine that. You would’ve heard that announced earlier this month, as part of our investor daylight to drive sustainable long term kind of value, and to be customer preoccupied as we digitalize our services across retail pharmacy, and a originating business within health services. It’s a bit of a brand-new focus at the time, but it very much maps back to what we are haunted about. And “weve been” preoccupied about across both Walgreens, as well as Boots, both iconic labels, 170 years of innovation and pharmacy.

What we understood during the pandemic is we had to evolve and start supporting inoculation services, testing services. And I’m proud to say that we were very successful at that. What we started at the beginning of the pandemic, and we had to reimagine some of the customer services. We truly did invest and deliver. For instance, we now have an industry best buy-online and pickup in-store, something we didn’t have at the beginnings of the pandemic. We wheeled out tele-health services because we didn’t have our patients consequently inspecting us in our pharmacies. So that was about bringing our services closer to our clients. And that’s the passion that brought me to WBA and what maintains me elicited coming to work every day, trying to really drive better sequels for our patients and customers.

Additional digital resources

Building internal and external partnerships is key to digital changeover success

Bill Detwiler: I think that’s a really interesting perspective, and this is one of the things I desire talking to CTOs about, because you approach this from the technology side of the equation, but as you describe it, there’s an element of digital transformation that is the human feature of the equation. So I’d love to get your take as a CTO, as someone that has an engineering background. And, I can patrolman to sort of identifying with that myself back from my college dates. How do you, as the head of technology for the organization, delivering new technologies to bear while at the same time, stopping that focus on the human side of the business?

Mike Maresca: It’s a hard challenge, but it’s really something we’re very passionate about at WBA. What does it means for our customers? And we think about that day in day out, and part of the investments we’re making, for example, in shadow, which is about modernizing our core stage, is all about bringing an increased agility at the privilege penalty station, how we deliver IT for our purchasers.

Walgreens in-store pickup

Image: Walgreens Boots Alliance

Earlier this year, or actually last year, about this time, we realized that if we were going to drive more abilities, both digitally, but also in our accumulations, we needed a modern digital ready system. Again, retaining this patron at the center, we wanted a more immersive event, better abilities for our customers to deliver services that there is a requirement to. I needed a modern digital network to do that. So we invested in relationships here in the US with Verizon, we’re moving towards network as a service. Totally reimagining how we deliver network within Walgreens. And we’re doing the same thing with BT over in our international orientations in the UK and Ireland. So you do have to balance the technology, but you likewise have to figure out how is that delivering for your customer and creating those communications and driving that technology strategy that continues to introduced our customers and patients at the center is what my job is all about. And it’s what I enjoy about it.

Bill Detwiler: How difficult is that argument to stir, or is it even an arguing at all anymore to executive boards, to CEOs, to the CFOs, to the people that are looking at, or perhaps are generally looked at IT as a cost center? But now maybe see it as essential to maintaining the positive patron relationships, but too as a mode to improve actions, improve economies, as you talk…to improve the expenditure stage. Is that even something that you have to think about now as CTO, when you go and you say, Hey, examine, I know traditionally we’ve done our networking one way, but we want to do it another way? And in the everything as a service world, we think this is the right solution for us. When you make that tone, even if you have to induce that tone, is that something that you get pushback on now, or does everybody say no, that, that sounds like that’s the way to go. That’s the way everyone’s going. We simply need to do that.

Must-read make material

Mike Maresca: No. Is there pushback? No, there’s partnership. I like to say, there’s partnership and with any good partnership with the business and IT, you explore cause why in options. And in this case, including, we are speaking of networks. We saw this as an investment in the future. For example, we partnered with Verizon, we’re one of the first 5G powered pharmacies in the world. So it was more about how we leverage the ecosystem of partnerships to drive innovation. Because innovation doesn’t happen within the four walls at WBA, it’s through this connected set of partnerships. And I think we’re really excited about some of the partnerships in the last year that we’ve been able to champion, whether it be with Verizon and BT, from a network perspective. Certainly Microsoft has been important in terms of driving our position cloud and some capabilities around data and analytics.

Speaking of data analytics, we have a new partnership with Snowflake, which is helping us to bring insights from our data. And we just recently signed a deal with ServiceNow in terms of leveraging their capabilities and their innovation to help us reimagine IT, but also, some of the customer experience. They understand that innovation agenda needs to happen both within IT, but too that tactical portfolio. Now, do dollars and cents come into play? Is it the privilege financing at the best time? Certainly that discussion happens. And that’s part of the partnership that we have with the business. Again, as we try to evolve our presents and our capabilities for how we provide our both consumers and cases.

SEE: IT leader’s guide to achieving digital transformation( TechRepublic Premium)

Walgreens is leveraging tech to incentivize positive health upshots

Bill Detwiler: You mentioned a couple engineerings. We were talking about network as a service. You’re talking about data analytics and some of the partners you’re working with around those technologies. Besides those, what are some of the new technologies that you’re most excited about and you think are next on your roadmap to improve operations and that client event?

myWalgreens app screenshot

Image: Walgreens Boots Alliance

Mike Maresca: One that I would put out there is the investments we’re making around data and how we can use data more efficiently within Walgreens and WBA, in general. I think that’s going to be key to how we identify ways to better serve our clients through preferences. I don’t think there’s anybody better than WBA in terms of managing the privacy of our patients. So we do obstruct that breast of imagination, however, in terms of driving distinguished outcomes, partnering through our health services network to drag care management gaps. I’m very excited about how we can use data to drive better outcomes. I think that’s one to point out there and the investments in Microsoft, Snowflake and others are really starting to create that connected data programme, analytics programme that is going to drive those experiences forward. It’s also going to help us transform internally.

We have better optics on our so afford chain, which is a challenge these days, as you are well aware. We have better optics on our fiscals and time general better functional metrics. So that again we can continue our services running at the right cost and the privilege effectiveness through better metrics and data. So that’s one I would put out there.

The other one I kind of mentioned, the wreak that we’re doing in digital, whether it be tele-health services, whether it be the launch of myWalgreens, the relaunch of myWalgreens, that we are only did recently, where it actually commencing from a love perspective, as a relaunch of our allegiance curriculum. It too started blending in themes of health and wellness as part of your love event. I think that’s really impactful when you can start thinking more than simply the buyer know, but more of the patient experience that’s coming through that patriotism program. And we can kind of incent healthier customers. So I would say those two, those two or three that I mentioned I’m really excited about, and I think you’re going to see even more innovation come out of WBA in the next year. So it should be a good year for us.

Protecting patient privacy and data security in today’s composite healthcare ecosystem

Bill Detwiler: Let’s build on that last level a little bit, because at least in the United Government healthcare is a mix mash, right? Of companies and private entities and public entities. And you have traditional endpoint providers or points of charge. You have GPs, “youve had” physicians, you have gigantic structures of hospitals, immediate attend middles. And then you have what used to be the traditional kind of pharmacies that maybe people think of when they think of Walgreens, but that’s not what WBA really is anymore.

And you kind of talked about this, because you are talking about producing better patient outcomes and using data analytics to help drive that. But you’re too part of that larger ecosystem of healthcare providers. How do you integrate the data that you’re collecting about beings and that you’re using to help them with your part of their healthcare process with all those other different components successfully, so that maybe it’s not just the write data, it’s not just that case data, but that’s shared back with doctors, or that’s shared with the hospital, or the interactions that the doctor notes are shared with you. How do you do that as part of that administration, but make love in a way that doesn’t accommodation security of the data, privacy of the data? But too everybody is on first party data now, so you need some sharing, but you also need the rights to protect your IP. How do you balance that from an IT perspective or from a technology perspective?

myWalgreens app health alerts screenshot

myWalgreens app health alerts

Image: Walgreens Boot Alliance

Mike Maresca: Well, first and foremost, I can go back to…privacy is top of sentiment. I think we’re best in class in that, so I’ll only employed that privilege out there.

In terms of how we share data that’s by case and client assent and their ability to opt in to those curricula. That is an evolving space as the health parish comes more connected, again, putting the customer at the center, but that is being driven by some of the customer consent. And we don’t do anything without the customer’s admiration on that. We do have a flourishing structure of partnerships. VillageMD is certainly one of them that we partner across, again, with permit of sharing the data across such partnerships and driving better upshots. There are care gaps. There are…certainly when doctors share data with us in terms of filling prescriptions, that’s all shared. I think it’s all about driving that outcome for the patient.

Bill Detwiler: I’m not trying to put you on the spot in terms of the privacy and security. It’s to me, as someone who’s been in tech their entire life-times, I see that interconnectivity as a positive and being able to, and candidly, anymore being essential to driving those positive outcomes. I had two elderly relatives that I was their primary care provider for, and it could be a challenge for me, for their various doctors that they would meet, the various pharmacies, sometimes they would go to, that they didn’t have a complete picture. And so that’s why I’m always interested to hear the roadmaps for organizations in the gap around that, around this interoperability and being able to sort of convince people, Hey, ogle, I know we want to keep this private and we do, but you can get a better result if you’re willing and we can prove to you, it’s better for your state to have everybody kind of in the know.

So, I was thinking more bigger video. Is that something, those big picture interconnections that “youre talking to” other IT folks, other CTOs and leads in the healthcare industry and do you think exactly in general that it sounds like that’s the way in general, the industry is thinking that we need to go and hopefully we can convince people. Not convince, but really share with parties, examine, there’s positive outcomes from doing this and to help overcome some of the, perhaps the unwillingness that I approximate specific sectors of the population might have at that.

Mike Maresca: Yeah. There’s distaste there. And I can exactly point to, earlier this month, our brand-new CEO, Roz Brewer, had mentioned that customer centric state strategy, and I’m real elicited about that. It’s going to delve into some of those challenges that we is evident from an industry position. How do you…so for instance, critical services that are needed, how you hire the customer, and certainly it’ll actually start to address the data and the privacy. So that is something we’re still evolving, but I think some of the next steps that we’re going to be taking as a strategy will help us figure that out. And it is going to, as you spoke about, it is going to be an ecosystem of providers that are going to play a part of driving it holistically for “the consumers “.

Challenges facing today’s CIOs: Attracting top talent and keeping pace with the accelerate of business

Bill Detwiler: I have to ask you as a CTO, I know I’m running out of season with you, and this doesn’t have to relate to WBA, but as a CTO right now, what remembers you up at night? What are those challenges that you face that other CTOs are facing right now? And how are you addressing them?

Mike Maresca: A few things top of memory would be, keeping up with rapidity of our business. The last-place 18 months “were having” seen dramatic change in accelerating how we use technology to drive our business forward. That’s required us to look externally in some of the partnerships I has already mentioned, but also internally, how do we navigate? How do we develop? How do we invest? Because it is just driving stunning reform and the competitive terrain that’s out there. And how do we keep working the hurrying of our business as we look internally, do I have the right talent? Talent has been a premium lately, I think it’s not just WBA, but every company is looking at how they digitalize their services and we’re no different, but I review from an industry attitude, and IT, is driven a payment on knack and a ability is so important in terms of what we drive from a capability perspective and how we reimagine our future every day.

So I think it’s that, it’s the velocity at which our business even coming out front and trying to drive it with some innovation minds, but likewise the talent that we have at WBA and how we continue to improve upon it. We have a splendid crew, that was one of the euphoriums of deepening chores. I left a great company. I participated a great company with a great team that delivered amazing things through the pandemic. I’ve only is out there 15 months and I’ve come to appreciate the hard work and devotion of our crew representatives, both in IT, as well as the business. So, I’m super stimulated about the team that we have. We need to continue to evolve it because that’s really what our business involves. But I would say on the expertise feature, that’s something that we’re real be concentrated on, especially as we explore some of these new technologies.


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