Tech Officer Vantage Point: Angela Yochem, ex-Novant Health

Leading tech officers give the inside track on how to unlock advantage through tech.

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Three takeaways from our conversation with Angela Yochem, ex-Chief Transformation and Digital Officer at Novant Health. 

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We need to bring conversations about technology and its enablement into the executive room so that it’s an intrinsic part of business strategy.

Angela Yochem
Chief Transformation and Digital Officer, Novant Health



How to unlock competitive advantage from tech...

The potential of tech is exponential. To unlock all that is possible, it’s critical first and foremost that the top tech leader is in the room. We need to think of our technology team as being just as much of a part of the business community as our finance team or marketing team. One hopes that more and more we'll see those domain experts and leaders with strong technology backgrounds in the room where strategy is being set. And if the person who holds that top tech role isn’t someone you would invite into the room with the CEO and the other executive team members, then perhaps you have the wrong person in the role. That inclusion is critical.

Secondly, it’s important that all executives have a strong fluency in how technology can enable their respective business units. Of course, we can allow some grace. We're not going to ask every business leader to tell us how to configure a router or how to design and build some sort of large transactional system. That's not in their remit. But just as every executive understands how money is made and how it's spent, they must also understand how technology supports the differentiation of their business line and how it can strengthen the broader ecosystem in which they're operating.

It's perfectly reasonable to expect that as executives propose a new business model, a new line of business, or a growth plan for their existing line of business to describe how tech capabilities that exist relate to that—to how they’ll continue to make money, grow, and differentiate themselves. That understanding is critical for companies to make the best investment decisions, to make the right bets on how they're going to grow. We need to bring conversations about tech and its enablement into the executive team room so that it becomes a critical part of business strategy.


Why culture is a safety net as you optimize for change…

Culture is key to every significant change activity. Particularly as we all are operating in a society that is evolving rapidly and not always comfortably. There's so much societal unrest and discomfort that the corporate cultures that we build need to become an anchor. They are that directional beacon for every team member as we adopt new priorities. As we optimize for change, our culture is our safety net. It’s so important that we intentionally craft culture and pay close attention to it.

A big element of cultural change is humility. It’s the need to constantly learn which can be difficult for people in industries that have previously been quite stagnant. Everything about the way we plan our business needs to be infused with a capacity to change, and the willingness to change, and to admit that there are things that you might not know. Executives must show this humility to their team and to the broader organization. To immerse tech savviness into a culture, it will require a lot of people to say, “I don’t know the answer, but I’m willing to learn.”


Why more tech officers should be CEOs…

The tech leader's responsibility is to understand everything they can about the business and to consume and retain vast amounts of detail. Their remit is huge. It’s someone whose teams automate every process in the company and is responsible for all virtualization, automation, data, and typically all digital touchpoints and channels (because every channel is now digitally enabled in some way). They also look after customer engagement, the customer journey, and the team member journey. There is not a piece of the business that is untouched by the technical team. It’s a role that isn’t for the faint of heart.

The tech leader must also ensure they get the nuts and bolts of what they do in the tech space right first. Because if someone can’t log in, they’re not going to invite you into a conversation that has strategic importance for their business line. The top tech leader role in a business is an extraordinary one that offers tremendous opportunity but also responsibility.

If, as a tech leader, you understand every aspect of the business, where the opportunity lives, who the critical members of the ecosystem are, what your emerging threats are, and how you can expand the business so that it can thrive regardless of what’s around the corner, your role is not that much different to what would be expected from a CEO. I think the tech leader role is a great training ground for CEOs of the future. I look forward to seeing more tech leaders evolve and to be running organizations.


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