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Stacey Zengel, left, Cheryl Hertel and Eric Olson
SBJ photo by Jessica Rosa
Stacey Zengel, left, Cheryl Hertel and Eric Olson

CEO Roundtable: Information Technology

Posted online

Springfield Business Journal Editor Eric Olson discusses information technology with Jeff Coiner, chief information officer at Missouri State University; John Darrow, chief information officer for Mid-Missouri Bank; Cheryl Hertel, chief information officer for CoxHealth; and Stacey Zengel, president of Jack Henry Banking.

Eric Olson: In one word, describe technology in the workplace.
Stacey Zengel: Available and virtual.
John Darrow: Evolving. Having experience in the industry is great, but you have to keep learning just to keep up.
Jeff Coiner: Critical. Thirty years ago, there were people that knew how to do their work without computers; they don’t exist anymore. You can’t really do anything without the things we deliver.
Cheryl Hertel: Change.
Olson: With virtual, is that more so on the workplace side or is it the consumer/user side?
Zengel: Definitely on the employee side. We’re more mobile. We expect to be able to work with technology wherever we’re at. We have a large number of remote employees, too, so they expect to be able to connect virtually. Our customers and his customers [nods to Darrow] and the bank, they expect that kind of capability, too. Banking is going through an evolution of what has traditionally been brick and mortar to more virtual capabilities. It’s just an expectation of society. We all expect to be able to use technology where we want it.
Olson: I want to look at some best practices for a mobile workforce. Does each of you have staff that work remote? [Nods around table] How do you manage that?
Darrow: We’ve got some lenders that just need to be available whenever the customer needs them available and flexible to be at places that the customer is at. My job is just to reliably provide access to our company resources so that they can get their jobs done whenever they need to.
Coiner: Everybody wants to be virtual and mobile, but they want it available 24/7, too. It’s difficult to find times to do updates and do the things that we need to (keep) running. We’ve got to be flexible with our employees because they may be working at midnight to 6 a.m. and can’t expect to roll in at 8 a.m. the next morning and be very coherent sometimes.
Hertel: In health care, it’s a mixed world. A lot of our systems are hosted remotely, which means we have a virtual staff that manage a majority of our systems remotely. We have a percentage that are actually managed on the premise and so you have to have that high touch, hands on, but you also have to rely on the systems that can be managed from a virtual capability. The workforce in and of itself in the health care system, you don’t see a lot of the remote workforce outside of your virtual radiologists, your virtual support individuals from a coding and billing perspective.
Zengel: It used to be the day that you had to work in one of our facilities, now you go to where the expertise is. Technology professionals are hard to find. They’re in demand. Everybody’s working now that wants to work. That’s one of our big challenges.
Olson: What percentage of your work is outsourced staff?
Hertel: CoxHealth, their entire IT department is outsourced. We have some what we would call shadow IT departments where you actually have it embedded in. I’m in the CIO role for CoxHealth, but I’m also part of that outsourced company that has responsibility for CoxHealth. I play a little of a dual hat. I represent our Cerner responsibilities because Cerner runs IT for CoxHealth.
Zengel: We’ve done some. Not quite there yet, but we’re starting to outsource some critical systems, Office 365. Some things you want to keep closer to the vest, but some you want to outsource.

Improvements and efficiencies
Olson: Looking at how technology is improving our lives at work, what are some specific ways that you guys are seeing and facilitating?
Hertel: A lot of activity in technology is being introduced into the consumer side. From a patient’s perspective: What do I use to get to the fastest care options possible? I think the providers, the clinicians in the health care industry, are just really struggling with the plethora of technology that’s been introduced into their lives in the last 15 years. What they’re really looking for are what are some of those things that are going to create more efficiency for them. They’re looking at voice-driven technology ... so that I don’t have to be behind a keyboard doing all of the activities that technology typically requires. Then you look at the workforce as a whole and look at what health care providers are faced with. In our hospitals, the rise of workforce violence is escalating. So you introduce technology like panic buttons for the staff to where now I go into a room and if I encounter a patient or family member that is threatening me, I have the ability to immediately indicate that I am in distress.
Zengel: The biggest technology that we all face is what’s sitting there on the table: the phone. Everybody has one. There’s just an endless number of devices that people want to connect. We have a lot of remote people, too, so we started using Microsoft teams a lot and you see the visual viewpoint. I can see him sitting across the table on my PC. It can save travel costs, people work remotely – also, more encryption. Security is becoming a bigger issue. The biggest thing is that if you have all this technology, you also have to make it easy.
Coiner: There’s a lot of data available, a lot of information, but really using it to make good business decisions, you start to see more of that with analytics. That’s becoming more prevalent.
Hertel: You touched on virtual earlier. That’s a big piece of technology that’s been introduced into the health care field. Telehealth is becoming mainstream for an individual in the community who wants to be seen by a provider that can’t leave work. Can I just virtually connect to a physician, have my appointment with that physician while I’m sitting at my desk and get my prescription sent to the pharmacy where I can go and pick it up on my lunch at work? That has a big impact on the workforce.

Data game
Olson: Data is really at our fingertips like never before. What are some ways that your companies are using data to improve efficiencies and make more informed decisions?
Coiner: One of the big topics at the university now is student success. I’m trying to help people retain students and recruit more students and then while we have them, we’re going to try and make sure they get through and they graduate, right? So looking at a lot of those indicators and trying to look at ways maybe to notify them to say, “Hey, you missed class the last couple of days. Is there something going on? Is there some way we can help you?” Again, looking at all that information and sending text messages or alerts because that’s what that generation is used to.
Zengel: We’re working more on analytics to drive the business, and it’s the little things that matter to a customer or an employee that you do. Also, our customers are wanting to do more with data. Where it comes into play for a bank, if they can mine their data and figure out how to market new products or come to market with new products, it helps them, too. Their customers are wanting more guidance on how to manage their financials. They have financial coaches. That’s all founded in data.
Olson: You’ve got to have people who know how to read the data, right?
Zengel: There’s this new job called data scientist that is kind of hard to find. You have this big glob of data, what do you do with it? How do you understand it? How do you look at the patterns in it? And that’s where the value is.
Hertel: In the health care field, it’s huge. We’ve spent years and years and years of collecting all of this data. Finding it to use just in time in the care of a patient has always been a challenge. Creating electronic records has been phenomenal because now you’re starting to create that data fluidity. But our next big challenge is really understanding what the data is telling us and getting more predictive. That really does take the talent of the data scientist, that analytical brain to really look at your data to help you understand what you need to be prepared for.
Darrow: We rely on our debit card processor to analyze all that data that’s coming in order to protect our customer and the bank, frankly, from all the debit card fraud that’s out there. Analyzing transaction patterns, is this outside the normal methods and patterns of a customer and blocking that transaction or asking that customer, is this you that authorized this transaction?

Technology & protection
Olson: Breaches have been on the rise. With new technology, there are new threats. The bad guys are getting smarter. What are your main cybersecurity concerns in your businesses? What keeps you up at night?
Darrow: Phishing has been around forever. We have a lot of great security layers in place, but anytime something can attack all of your employees, you’re just vulnerable to how much time they’re going to spend looking at each email. If you’re looking on your phone and in a hurry, you don’t notice some of those things that kind of stand out when you’ve got two monitors staring at you. Those threats always evolve. It’s just a matter of staying ahead of those and making sure that your entire staff is trained and aware.
Olson: Those emails are surprisingly deceptive.
Coiner: They’re good, and they change and evolve. It only takes one person in your organization to put you at risk. We have to spend more money and more time on that instead of maybe adding value to the organizations that we support. So that’s difficult.
Hertel: The monitoring tools and the surveillance is key because you have to be able to rapidly engage when you recognize that you’ve got a risk.
Zengel: The big one for me if I had to pick any kind of cybersecurity threat is ransomware. Banks are a great target for that. They can take their customer data. And then just general employee vulnerabilities – we have education but also sometimes employees aren’t honest, so you have to react quickly and shut them down, too. If you see an attack, you’ve got to look at all angles.

BYOD
Olson: Another risk is the BYOD trend, bringing your own personal devices connected to our business networks and the confidential data we’re talking about. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of that and then the best practices of how to manage. If I am using a personal device to conduct my business, how do you safeguard?
Darrow: We have all bank-owned devices for that reason. We can standardize on one platform, and we can kind of control it to some extent and push out patches and know what we’re dealing with. There are ways to protect BYOD; there are mobile device management platforms that kind of sit on top of the phone and that gets a little sticky on how much you’re containerizing the sensitive data versus monopolizing their phone and being able to totally remote wipe it.
Olson: You guys just make an investment up front to cover the potential risks?
Darrow: Yeah, it’s more to manage a fleet of devices, but it does mitigate some of the risks.
Coiner: At the city, we had a similar approach to that, and obviously, at the university, everybody is bringing their own devices and that’s part of what we have to support. It’s just monitoring and being able to respond and have systems in place that if and when something does happen that you can respond quickly to those things.
Hertel: It just all depends on what they’re given the ability to access. If they’re just bouncing off of your public internet, great. But if you’ve given them access to anything beyond that, you should know when their device is detected on the system. You should know which device they’re using.
Zengel: It used to be we didn’t allow anybody to have any device but our own, but with technology changing as quickly as it is, we have a lot of leading-edge folks who really want the latest iPhone or latest Samsung device. So we caved in and let them do that. But we own their device basically. We put the monitoring software on there.

Ozarks tech
Olson: What major wins have we seen in technology created here in the Ozarks?
Darrow: We’re fortunate to have the Bluebird Underground, Branson Mountain, the SpringNet fiber network. I think that infrastructure in place, to have those reliable assets in town allows us to focus on other things rather than kind of building all that up ourselves.
Zengel: I went to the (Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce) meeting last week and they said we’re going to continue to invest more in our infrastructure, which is huge for Springfield. Of course, 5G is coming, too. That’s an exponential upgrade to just wireless signal in general.
Olson: What is the upside to 5G?
Zengel: It’s just more capacity, more bandwidth to do things. One of the issues with technology is if you choke your bandwidth, you can’t do anything very fast. It really unpacks your bandwidth.
Coiner: More dense capacity. Used to have one big cell tower and would cover miles and miles of calls. Now they are putting those towers closer to where people are using it. When you think about when people come to a concert at JQH Arena, we’ll have those 5G towers and it’s just on top of a telephone pole a lot of times and you don’t even notice it driving by. It will be able to handle that increase in capacity.
Hertel: In the health care field, it’s the reliability and that connectivity, especially in this area. We have a lot of rural clinics in the region. Not being able to have that connectivity has its impact on patient care because everything is digitized today.
Darrow: To be able to have a high-speed data connection anywhere, that’s a game changer.
Hertel: The piece for me that I see in the Ozarks is the acceptance of introducing new technology into this region. We introduced palm scans at the hospitals to be able to positively identify an individual when they come in for their care to make sure, No. 1, that we don’t create duplicate medical records and, No. 2, that we know who you are and that you’re not falsifying who you are. We thought we were going to get a little bit of hesitancy, but it just was so positively accepted.
Coiner: We have some pretty big companies in Springfield. We have Expedia. You’ve got Prime trucking, Bass Pro [Shops], O’Reilly Automotive. These are big companies and nationally known and they’re all very invested in technology; Jack Henry is another one. The demand just keeps growing. We’re fighting that with employees for sure.
Olson: It makes me think of the hiring pool.
Zengel: With 3% unemployment, everybody is working. You’re trying to work closely with the colleges for new candidates, as well, but it’s a lot of stealing people. Or using contract resource where it makes sense.
Hertel: Definitely in some of those fields that are becoming more critical – your data analysts. You just can’t find individuals that are talented enough to be able to come in and do the things that you need.

Excerpts by Features Editor Christine Temple, ctemple@sbj.net.

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