CIO50 2019 #26-50: Peter Radich, Abano Healthcare Group

Peter Radich considers one of the biggest challenges he faced in his career was when the CEO of Abano Healthcare Group told him the organisation was moving from being a diversified healthcare group to focus on its dental networks in Australia and New Zealand, with the goal of being a leading trans-Tasman dental provider.

“He wanted the IT systems to be ready to support this change and deliver improved business outcomes,” says Radich. “He also wanted a more collaborative culture across the two networks, so I needed to look for technology solutions to support this desire.”

Radich joined Abano Healthcare Group in 2008, first as CIO of Bay Audiology, one of Abano’s subsidiaries. He stepped up to his current role as group CIO in 2011, and with this came a bigger geographic responsibility. He and his team in New Zealand and Australia were responsible for IT across the Abano group of companies that spanned New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The decision to focus solely on the trans-Tasman dental market meant another shift to create IT systems which would support the business seamlessly.

Up until that point, Radich explains, Abano had separate IT systems supporting its two networks - Lumino the Dentists in New Zealand and Maven Dental in Australia - and their individual leadership and support teams.

With the new collaborative approach in mind, and to bring the two businesses together to gain synergies and efficiencies, the CEO told him to look at alternatives. “That was all the encouragement I needed to investigate and learn more about public cloud solutions and providers.”

Cloud first mindset

This was the start of Radich’s step towards a “cloud-first” mindset, which resulted in a major transformation across the group.

A key enabler was the 100 per cent migration of their brands - Abano, Maven and Lumino support offices - to the public cloud using Microsoft 365 and Azure, he says.

The goal was to allow the business to scale easily, with IT facilitating this growth. Radich says the group also wanted to reduce IT costs over time, while delivering collaboration, flexibility and security.

The project went live in April 2018. Nearly a year later, he looks back at the implementation which now allows the business to collaborate digitally as a single organisation, regardless of physical location.

“I like to tell people that this project has provided the organisation ‘a thousand benefits’ from moving to the cloud,” says Radich.

The system was tested during the Commonwealth Games last year in Australia. The Maven Dental Group support office is right in Surfers Paradise. During the Commonwealth Games, the roads in and around the support office were closed and people were told not to travel to work for the three-week period of the Games.

This could have had a significant impact on the support office, but because of their move to the public cloud over the 2017 Christmas break, the office was able to continue supporting the dental practices across Australia.

The support office was virtually deserted during the Commonwealth Games as staff worked from home and communicated using tools like Skype for Business and Office 365 “exactly as if they were in the office”, he says.

Networking

Radich tapped not only technology, but a network of ICT colleagues when he started the business transformation programme.

One of the major challenges at the time was there were very few organisations in NZ who had experience completing a whole process of business migration to Azure, he points out.

He ran an RFP process to select a suitable partner and was surprised to find the lack of experience in market.

But, as he found out, it is critical never to discount someone small and relatively unknown. “The partner we selected was the smallest but niche and excelled in what we were looking for,” he says.

He also read articles and talked to other CIOs and colleagues about industry trends. One of the major developments at that time was Microsoft’s establishment of its Azure datacentres in Australia which solved the data sovereignty issue.

“I was lucky enough to establish dialogue with Andrew Goodin, who was the then CIO (now head of New Zealand growth at Fresh Supply Co.) at Zespri. He agreed to assist where possible based on his experience moving to Azure.”

Radich travelled to Microsoft’s office in Redmond where he met another contact, Roger Sillars, IT infrastructure architect at Ryman Healthcare.

“You can never talk to too many people when learning about something new,” says Radich. He says these experiences had also prompted him to agree to speak at industry events and share his experiences with others because, “I know how daunting that can be.”

He cites the importance of involving the team right from the beginning, especially during the selection process for the providers. This approach allowed them to work with “great partner organisations” like Inde, NOW Consulting, Microsoft, Intergen and PlanIT.

“It is very easy for me to answer questions and solve problems on behalf of my team. It is more powerful and a better development technique to sit back and let the team shine, always being there to support them if they ask for assistance,” he says.

Flow on benefits

Moving Abano’s infrastructure to Azure and Office365 is a strong foundation where we gain benefits immediately and can easily access other functionality in the future, says Radich.

The shift translated to major benefits across the group.

“Nobody really likes visiting the dentist so the better we can make the patient experience, the happier our patients will be,” notes Radich.

The new technologies benefited the dentists and the staff at the practices which flows onto benefits for our patients, he says.

“We can now automatically deliver KPI based performance dashboards directly to the dentists and practice managers, including both financial and non-financial measures like clinical treatment plans or net promoter scores,” he explains.

The dentists can automatically see our patients’ feedback on their experience, so they can make improvements across the board to make visiting the dentist the most pleasant experience it can be.

The automated dashboards also free up staff time from preparing reports to spend more time with the patients, making them feel more comfortable.

The new setup means they can add applications such as PowerBI, and machine learning without having to build on premise infrastructure.

They were also able to provide single sign-on and security from any device across all Abano using a single authentication solution for the entire enterprise and other cloud applications.

With the consolidated IT systems and security, users can access any application or data from a single login rather than the previous segregated systems and multiple sign in’s.

Radich says the move to cloud also facilitated their deployment of new technologies.

They recently developed a conversational BOT that is linked to their practice’s online booking system. The BOT is now able to provide high level clinical advice and book appointments. The group is also developing advanced analytics now that they have access to the machine learning capabilities in Azure.

Radich regularly communicates with the other C-level executives and key leaders across the group on the work he and his team do.

With the board, he reports regularly on IT, cybersecurity, privacy and updates on projects.

“Besides reporting on operational business as usual, I bring technology solutions to the table for consideration by my peers and the board,” he says. This is true of their recent projects around machine learning, AI and IoT.

The Lumino BOT, he explains, was developed quickly by a very small team, a “skunkworks” project, while keeping the senior leadership team informed of the process.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

6 digital transformation success stories