by Divina Paredes

CIO100 2018 #31-100: Dhaya Sivakumar, Orion Health

Mar 28, 2018
Big DataCloud ComputingDigital Transformation

Dhaya Sivakumar says his dual role at Orion Health means being part of the executive leadership team and the research and development teams.

“In this position, I am able to influence both technology direction as well as company strategy. Regular communication is essential in both roles,” he says.

“To enable this, we have weekly meetings as well as regular informal communication to deal with issues as they occur.

“To ensure alignment across plans, I also lead a monthly ‘All Hands’ with the development lines of business to ensure communications are cascaded throughout the organisation and to provide the opportunity for team members to share views and achievements.”

Sivakumar says he highly values these informal conversations that allow him to form strong relationships with his team members across the globe.

“These relationships and one on one engagements enable proactive buy-in to strategy, plans and more importantly friendship,” says Sivakumar.

“I believe the only way to achieve things in a team is to encourage a more collaborative, flat structure and bring people on the journey with you. For me, leadership is more about influencing through relationships and trust than my position.”

It is also about stepping outside the norm.

“Health IT is an industry often accused of being a laggard with new technology,” says Sivakumar. “However Orion Health has challenged this by pushing boundaries and offering software delivered via the cloud, class leading technology such as our Big Data Solution, high volume message processing and opening up the solution to competing third parties via open APIs.

In the US market Orion Health’s technology is regarded as industry leading and is often adopted by more progressive companies with transformation agendas, he states.

“Complementing the technology innovation is our new approach to operating customer environments with DevOps. This is unique amongst health IT service providers and often directs customers to think differently about their business and operating models, providing thought leadership in how large health organisations can change their business and customer engagement models.”

Sivakumar says through the the development of its Open APIs programme Orion Health has now positioned itself as the “Switzerland” in healthcare. “We do not compete head on with the large Health IT EMR vendors but can offer a complimentary service that works with everyone.”

He says hundreds of clinicians in over 25 countries use Orion Health software to improve outcomes for more than 110 million patients.

Orion Health has the opportunity to fundamentally improve people’s lives by using smart technology solutions, such as machine learning and AI across a wide set of data, he says.

There are some essential building blocks required in order to lay the foundations for this transformation, which is where Orion Health’s SaaS programme (Amadeus) comes in.

Over the last two years he says Orion Health has invested in a large programme of work to move product offerings to the cloud and to pivot the organisation to deliver SaaS services, creating standardised products and recurring revenue streams.

The outcome for customers is a modern technology solution that incorporates the best of big data capability, continuous integration and modern open APIs. Thus, enabling our customers to use the latest, most innovative health technology to assist in delivering a higher standard of care to their patients.

The standardised deployments have created software that is more supportable and improved the currency of customer deployments. This enables customers to focus on key elements of their business with the latest features and capability. He says there are currently a number of North American customers on the Amadeus platform who have shown promising early reports.

“The ability to deploy Orion Health products in the cloud, complemented by a DevOps approach enables incredible innovation and digital transformation for customers that adopt Orion Health’s Amadeus platform.”

He says it was important to explain this new approach for people inside Orion health as well as global customers who were not ready for cloud adoption. “There has been a conscious effort to bring multiple internal parties on the journey to the new business model, as well as leading customers by providing thought leadership in explaining what could be possible.”

But as in major shifts, he says this had to be driven driven by leadership from the top down, and required significant internal investment in education, training and time visiting teams globally selling the vision and implementing the organisational change.

Technology innovation, like the work they did on the Amadeus platform, is a key part of software development.

Orion Health applied this innovation lens to the creation of their cloud hosting infrastructure.

This was done in close partnership with AWS Seattle, where we leveraged our engineering expertise with the support of Amazon to build a HIPAA compliant cloud model that enabled operations from NZ for global customers, he says. The delivery engineering team developed detailed designs and completed the build to meet security requirements, which was certified by AWS.

In order to operate effectively in Orion Health’s cloud offerings, engineering teams developed tooling to enable software applications to be seamlessly packaged and delivered allowing faster build times.

“All development and service teams have adopted this tooling to implement, manage and support customers,” says Sivakumar.

“Having engineers supporting what they build results in greater responsiveness, quality and most importantly, customer empathy.”

Sivakumar stresses the importance of providing a workplace that will allow the teams to do their job best, in a friendly, fun and safe working environment.

“I see my role as being their coach and mentor and I am driven to develop them beyond their current role and to be successful outside and beyond their current organisation,” he says.

I like to use the same approach of successful sports teams with my direct reports, he says.

This means each member has a specific role and function within the team.

The goal is to work as a cohesive team with each knowing the part that they play and having trust in each other and the team process, he says.

“As a team, we develop a vision, goals and objectives keeping in mind the broader business context. A useful approach is to encourage the team to act like they own the business and have to steer it to success.”

An area he takes pride in is the continuing focus to foster diversity in the team.

“Orion Health has software products in over 25 countries and as a global company we have a culturally diverse workforce,” he says. This is especially true in their Auckland office where multiple nationalities are represented.

“We have an increasing number of women in our company, and especially in my team. Technology has traditionally been a male orientated domain but with excellent women IT graduates we see this rapidly changing. I encourage my team to embrace diversity in both culture and gender, so going forward I would like to see my team having greater balance.”

He reveals that his leadership style was very different at one point in his career.

“I was the ‘hands-on’ doer, he says. “I failed to truly appreciate the value of creating the right environment for high performance and the value of leadership versus management.

“While this was moderately successful the biggest shift in my leadership style and ability happened when one of my CEOs actively encouraged me to work on the broader business with him,” says Sivakumar.

“He saw potential in me that I didn’t and was quite brutal in actively moving me to an office next to his and revoking all my administration and root access privileges. His rationale was that I was far more valuable to him with the spanner out of my hands.

“My leadership style has now evolved to one of empowerment and team collaboration where I trust in the ability of each individual and the team as a whole.”

Dhaya Sivakumar at a CIO forum in Auckland