CDO to CDO Podcast: Asha Poulose Johnson - Part 1

February 18, 2021 Chris Knerr

The CDO to CDO podcast is hosted by Chris Knerr, Chief Digital Officer of Syniti.




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Chris Knerr (00:23):

Hello and welcome to the CDO Magazine Interview series. I'm Chris Knerr, Chief Digital Officer of Syniti, a world leader in enterprise data software, and we're partnering with chief data officer magazine, MIT CDOIQ and the International Society of Chief Data Officers to bring you this series of interviews with thought leaders in data and analytics. Today, I have the terrific pleasure of talking to Asha Poulose Johnson, Vice President and Global CIO of Data and Analytics at GE Healthcare, and a CDO Magazine 2020 global data power woman, selected by CDO Magazine for being a pioneer and a key influencer in shaping the data and analytics industry. Welcome, Asha. Terrific to meet you and a great pleasure. I'm looking forward to our conversation today.


Asha Poulose Johnson (01:06):

Thank you, Chris. It's a great pleasure to be here and talk to you about some of things that are really passionate and are very close to my heart. So thank you for having me.


Chris Knerr (01:15):

Wonderful. Thank you. So, let me start talking a little bit about your GE career. You've been a long-time leader in GE. You've worked across a number of major divisions and these are in very different types of businesses. So you've had roles in aviation and power systems and in GE Healthcare. As a starting point for the audience, could you just give us an overall picture of GE Healthcare major products and types of services and markets?


Asha Poulose Johnson (01:43):

Sure. So, like you said, I've been with GE for 20 years, pretty much all of my career. I started out as a developer with the research division and then navigated my career through aviation, power, some roles at headquarters for GE Digital, and then, now in healthcare. I've had the opportunity to do half of these roles within engineering roles or technology roles like software engineering and analytics, and the remaining on business specific roles. So, that has been a very, I would say, a very important part of shaping up who I am today, the whole experience that I've had of multiple roles and industries within the GE family. It's like working in many companies without really changing your company. When I talk about GE Healthcare, so GE Healthcare is primarily a healthcare equipment provider and our real goal is to make the life of clinicians better by providing them the ability to really do better diagnosis and faster and more accurate diagnosis.


So that's our primary business and we have multiple segments within this and we also are now very focused on our digital strategy which helps take our domain expertise and our equipment business and marry that with the digital strategy to really help precision health and really help a patient. So that is the goal for GE Healthcare. It's a company that's more than 100 years old. It operates in more than 160 countries. 2019 revenues were 17 billion across all of the world, and this will give you some statistics. Every second, there are three scans that are done somewhere in the world from GE equipment. So really proud to be part of this organization and really be true to our purpose of mattering lives in moments that matter. So that's a quick overview of GE Healthcare.


Chris Knerr (03:52):

That's really helpful, thank you. And I thought it would be good to start with that because GE is an amazing global company, great reach, all of these different divisions and just interesting to think about that healthcare system, healthcare segment in particular and how commonly used all of the amazing devices are, particularly in the field of scanning. So I want to pick up on one thing that you just... A couple of things that you just said and maybe talk a little bit about your role and your vision for your role and how it fits into the business strategy. So, you're a CIO of data and analytics, how much of that work is focused on helping to, as you said, improve outcomes and optimize the clinical experience for clinicians, and how much of it is focused on helping use analytics more from an internal lens to grow the business? And maybe to some extent those two things are interrelated, so if you could share your thoughts on that, I think it would be very interesting.


Asha Poulose Johnson (05:01):

Sure, Chris. So, if you look at what my role is in the 17 billion enterprise, right? It is really to get the power of data analytics to every employee in healthcare, and in turn, this really helps us to be providing better solutions for our products which helps the clinical outcomes. So that is why there is no direct correlation of what I do to the clinical outcome. We are now moving into a more and more digital world, with the whole digital strategy where data is becoming ubiquitous. So we earlier... Most of our work used to be around enterprise data and now it's also about IOT data from the data that comes from the machines that we've installed in various hospitals and other clinical facilities. External market data, very important for us to know, especially with COVID disruptions. That's shared both our products on... We started shifting more of our focus to ventilators and other equipment that was needed for at that point of time.


And, also, for us to understand what should be our product strategy, what should be our market strategy, so that we continue to serve the people as well as continue to be successful and profitable as a company. So my focus is more internal. I think it's now getting to a mix of external because data really is not internal or external, right? It's data and the power is more in the combination, not in the uniqueness, and it's more in the joining of this data and the new insights that you can arrive faster, sooner, then modify your product strategy and then accordingly go to market, which in turn helps the industry and helps our customers.


Chris Knerr (06:42):

So that's super interesting and there's a lot there, so maybe we can unpack that a little bit. So I very much agree and I have this observation. Having both worked in very large global enterprises and then as a consultant, a management consultant for many years, that the use of external data is behind the use of internal data, and it was very interesting. Most large companies have many subscription, external data sources, and that's very poorly governed and very poorly managed and I think that... I absolutely agree too that the pandemic increased the need for interoperability of internal enterprise data and external data sources, so I think that's a terrific observation that I just wanted to tease out and make sure that we highlight in what you shared. Sticking with that thought a little bit, let's talk about streaming data and the importance of streaming data.


And I think I have in my mind, and, again, I'm interested in your experience across the different businesses and in GE, and I'm familiar, and hopefully most of our audience is familiar with this idea that I think GE may have really popularized this phrase of the industrial internet. So, almost when I think of streaming data, the first thing that I start to think of is jet engines, right? And streaming data from jet engines. So, I guess a couple of questions, and I'm mixing a few things together, but how important is that streaming data in addition to the external data that you're buying from a market standpoint to your business? And that's part two of the question. What are the experiences you've had been in the other divisions that are more, I'll say traditional industrial internet, that are different from life sciences or healthcare and how those all merged together?


Asha Poulose Johnson (08:52):

Yeah. So lot of questions in there. Let me try to unpack what you just said a little bit. I try to hit on some of these points. In my time between aviation to power to healthcare now, data analytics industry has really evolved. It has evolved to a point where that what used to be taught like it will happen 20, 30 years ago has already started happening in terms of how much volume of data can be handled, how much variety of data can be handled, how fast can we handle? So I think it's an industry probably that's moving faster than we thought it would move and I think things like the coronavirus have further accelerated it. Right. When I was... When you look at industries like aviation and power, lot of the IOT data that's streaming data is probably the machine data that we're getting from that are installed in field.


And primarily, that what we use that for was really around improving our service contracts in trying to find out when a failure is going to be happening and how do we do part sourcing and the whole repair process and all of that. So that used to be the bigger focus of these streaming IOT machine kind of data, I would say, maybe three, four years ago, but today, now we're taking this data and making that more into a revenue model, right? How do you look at this as a revenue opportunity to sell, upsell newer type of services and products to our customers? Which is to their benefit so that they can do digital solutions instead of doing hardware and software upgrades to their systems. So that's a big shift that I have seen on the streaming data side for our traditional businesses.


And I think it's similar in case of healthcare, right? If I look at healthcare, we today use lot of the data that comes from our scanners and X-ray machines and all of that to see where do we do lot more of remote service? How do you do a lot more of digital service? So then, we don't really need our field service engineers to go into the hospitals, especially very important during the pandemic situation. So, there has been a lot of shift and end of the day, all of this is a combination of knowing your enterprise data because if you don't know your master customer, you don't know your service contracts, you don't know how they are financed. If you do not know really how the service models are, which is all in your ERP, in your Salesforce, ServiceMax, kind of systems, and then effectively marry this with the data that's coming from the machines to figure out how should you be doing some of these things both internally and externally.


So that's the kind of shift I see, Chris, but the other shift I see is really the platform play that is happening within the data analytics space. So, for example, in the last couple of years, one of my biggest imperatives and one of the biggest things that I have been involved with is to really try to get a big platform play on a cloud-based native services approach to get all of the healthcare data together so that... Traditionally, DT or IT teams have been focused on getting the data together, the plumping, the stitching of the data, but with lot of cloud and native capabilities today, there are several big vendors like Amazon and Microsoft who really provide a lot of capabilities for doing that efficiently, and you, as a data analytics leader can really focus on how do you generate new insights and new values from your data. That requires a platform strategy, it's very important.


Then it requires investments in data management, data quality, because are your outcomes are going to be as good as what your data is? And then, finally, great collaboration and partnership in solving horizontal problems because we've mostly solved vertical problems, finance, commercial, service, et cetera, but how do you solve a problem that is across these functions in a really efficient way with your data? And especially when your world is changing very fast and your center of gravity keeps shifting. It's almost like, how do you have a comprehensive data strategy that allows you to be nimble at the time to both scale and speed? So if you ask me the big shift that is happening in the whole data world is two, three things to just to summarize what I said, right? I think the increased forces of external data are becoming more important for internal decisions. The second thing is really about the mixing of enterprise and IOT data for both productivity and growth, and the third thing is really true importance of platforming and data management strategies.


Chris Knerr (13:38):

Wow. That's awesome. I think it's just such a terrific summary of... And I very much agree with your points and we see a lot of this in our businesses as well and I think one thing that's extremely interesting to me about what you said is that there's a lot that's changed, but there's a lot that enterprises have traditionally not done very well around what I call data operations, master data management, data quality, making sure that you have clean, unique customer records, clean, unique service contract records, and over the last 20 years, enterprises have struggled a lot just with those fundamental building blocks of a data strategy and that continues to be the case. But then, as you shared the intro, the capabilities of interoperability based on technology growth, external data, the ability to employ hyperscalers at scale so that your internal organization doesn't have to figure all this out has just created these amazing new opportunities.


And then, the third thing just to play back that idea of horizontal solutions, I think is brilliant. So I very much agree that there's... Again, if I think of something that enterprise... Enterprise business architecture and enterprise IT is always aspired to have what people lovingly call this end to end view, and it's something that we've really not ever been very good at, and so, it's just a very interesting world we live in where there's a combination of things that forward-looking companies and IT and data leaders knew 20 years ago. They're still true, and we still need to stick to our knitting and focus on that. And then, there are all these new capabilities and done correctly, the two of those things really can work together to improve business outcomes, clinical outcomes, revenue outcomes and use data as a fuel for growth. So I think those are some really terrific insights.

About the Author

Chris Knerr

Chris Knerr is Syniti's Chief Digital Officer. As a former Fortune 50 Client Executive Sponsor for large-scale data migrations at Johnson & Johnson, as well as a Syniti alliance partner, Chris serves as a powerhouse whose proven success, background and experience helps accelerate Syniti’s data strategy, analytics organization and offerings.

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