Mark Jackson, Chief Data Officer at Piedmont Healthcare on strategic planning to align tech goals to foundational focus areas across the business

We first spoke with Piedmont Healthcare’s Mark Jackson in the winter of 2022. Since then, the scope of his role at the healthcare provider has expanded considerably. Now its Chief Data Officer (CDO), Jackson has overseen a reorg of his 45-strong team. “I take a lot of pride in efficiency,” he reveals. “I think it’s the key component of our success. Everybody experiences failure. What I want us to do is have the ability to fail quickly and get to working solutions faster because I believe in this way, we can deliver a lot of value with a small and nimble team.”

Leading on technology – the DITTO strategy                                                                                        

“I’m a firm believer technology leaders should be technical,” reflects Jackson. “It draws respect from the people you lead if you really understand the technology. I’m in data and analytics because I love this work; I find it fascinating. Knowing the technology makes the decisions less stressful. When you understand how it all works, you can really cut through… You have to find the right balance as a leader. If you can’t pull yourself out of the weeds as a practitioner who loves the work, you won’t step back and take a look at the bigger picture and think strategically. For that reason, we’ve looked at Piedmont’s approach to strategic planning to align tech goals to foundational focus areas across the business.”

To achieve these goals Jackson has created a standardised approach given the acronym DITTO. “It stands for Data hubs, Innovation, Talent, Team culture and Operational improvement,” he reveals. “We’ve started quarterly sessions with our leadership team where we look at how can we align goals that are achievable in a three-month timeframe to those focus areas. This allows us to step back from the day-to-day work and focus on the bigger picture things that impact our progress towards those goals.”

The Data Journey

The most important part of the strategy for Jackson’s team is working on managing data as a product. Furthermore, they are supported in this endeavour by the key partnership with Exasol. “It’s a key part of how we measure our success,” he continues. “Technical resources are centralised. That makes sense for a healthcare provider where most of your staff is clinical. However, it can lead to a point where your data products are owned by your technical team. The issue here is that the technical team are not the consumers of the information. We’re rarely included in the operational decisions – that can lead to data drift; when the process itself or the inputs change, affecting the accuracy of the data products. By shifting the responsibility of product ownership to the operational areas we see greatly improved trust in the information and speed to insight, ultimately leading to greater business value.”

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