Angelo Mazzocco Tackles Hi-Tech Trials and Threats



Angelo Mazzocco, CIO of Central Ohio Primary Care

Photo by Rebecca Hendrixson

 

With corporate data breaches and technology privacy concerns regularly making headlines, chief information officers are always on guard. You’d think that they might even lose some sleep at night.

 

Maybe not so much for Angelo Mazzocco, the CIO for Central Ohio Primary Care Physicians in Westerville.

Mazzocco’s company is the largest independent physician-owned primary-care practice in the United States, with 400 doctors, 1,550 employees and about 300,000 patients – or one of every four patients in central Ohio.

“We try to do the best we can,” Mazzocco says. “We always have had bad guys that tried to rob banks, but what’s been an eye-opening experience for me is how many bad people there are out there who are trying to get to us electronically.”

Mazzocco maintains his confidence because of an extensive network of chief information officers in the Columbus area and beyond who constantly share information to keep companies’ systems safe. Mazzocco is a co-founder of that networking group, CIO Forum, which began with eight companies in 1997. Today, it regularly attracts 150 of the top technology executives in the region.

“For this many years, we’ve been meeting monthly,” Mazzocco says, noting that the lunch meetings, with speakers and a topical program, are hosted by a different company each month. He has a four-year schedule, “so everyone knows when their turn is coming up.” Except for a few of the very largest companies, the chief information officers who represent the members attend the meetings; the so-called deputies sent by those large companies also are high-level executives with extensive information technology know-how. The CIO Forum also provides subgroups focusing on topics such as security or aiding the nonprofit sector’s
tech needs.

“We also do a lot of cross-talk,” he says. “We‘ll send emails across the entire CIO Forum that may talk about new tools – ‘Hey, have you heard about this?’ or ‘You might want to look at this.’”

Mazzocco has spent most of his career in information technology, and he’s on his third stint as a chief information officer. He received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He then received his MBA from University of Dayton while working for NCR Corp. as a systems analyst. He landed in Columbus at Nationwide Insurance, where he became information systems manager, then moved to several other companies,
including Accenture (Andersen Consulting) and the Columbus Dispatch.

He was the Dispatch’s first CIO in 1997, and it was there where he started the CIO Forum. It quickly grew beyond the space available at the media company for monthly meetings.

The CIO Forum began an annual summit in 2002, now called CIO Tomorrow, which gathers about 400 high-tech executives, workers and vendors every April. It’s another venue where participants can learn about the latest trends, tools, security, innovations and futuristic uses of technology.

Much has changed since the ’80s and ’90s.

“The CIOs really came about in the ’90s,” he says. “When I think back to the ’80s, most of the heads of technology were IT directors or systems directors, and we weren’t really getting a seat at the table with the CEO back in those days. So in the ‘90s was when you first heard of the term chief information officer and when you first began to hear that the CIO was going to report directly to the CEO.”

Before, IT or systems directors typically were in the finance department, even reporting to the chief financial officer. Technology mostly involved finance systems. As technology rapidly progressed, more data in many areas were collected, and reporting and analytics were necessary.

“Systems were created to become part of the product offering of the companies,” Mazzocco says. “We went from being the accounting system to being the reporting and analytics system to being a core part of the business and generating new revenue. As we moved along that progression, and especially as we became the source of revenue, we were more welcomed to the table with the C-suite.

“So it’s been an interesting journey for heads of technology, whether you call them the CIO or the IT director. We don’t get too hung up on what they’re called.”

Besides ensuring that data are safe – that breaches don’t occur or that privacy isn’t violated – CIOs put much effort into managing all of the systems.

“I spend a lot of time on financial reconciliation on the software and hardware that we have to buy,” Mazzocco says. “What is it that we truly need? What can we test and see if we can get better quality from our systems for less cost? New technology is flying at us at a fast speed.”

He says companies can stick with hardware and software from the world’s largest companies, at a price. However, “There are so many little guys that come out with products that are so much cheaper and claim to do the same thing, but you have to make sure that they really do. We spend a fair amount of time with proof-of-concept testing to make sure that we can get a better solution at a better price. We stay current with all of the new technologies out there by making sure that we’re working with the vendors, testing the products and putting in front of our patients and our doctors the absolute best that we can.”

All of that can lead to anxiety for even the best battle-tested tech exec. Through the CIO Forum and other tech-related groups, Central Ohio companies collaborate to remain proactive in ensuring that state-of-the-art systems produce and protect data in an efficient manner.

 

More on Mazzocco

 

  • Taught in the Department of Accounting & Management Information Systems at The Ohio State University for seven years, then began teaching information technology leadership, management information systems and other classes at Otterbein University, where he continues to teach.

 

  • Has worked in large companies and also at startup companies, including Nationwide Insurance, Andersen Consulting, Compucom, NC Group, Pillar Technology, the Dispatch Printing Co. and Progressive Medical. He was part of the team at Nationwide Insurance that developed an early HMO and PPO.

 

  • What sparked his interest in technology? “My dad was an auto mechanic. I didn’t have a liking to the mechanical side of things, but I really enjoyed computers. I got my first exposure in high school. That’s where it started. Right off the bat, I knew that when I was going to go college, I was going to study mathematics because I did have an interest in actuarial studies and computer science.”

 

  • Wife: Eileen. Children: Chris, Miami University graduate working at Accenture; Andrea, University of Akron (bachelor’s degree), Wake Forest University (master’s degree)  and University of Chicago (master’s degree) graduate working at Deloitte; John Patrick “J.P.”, Ball State University graduate working at Ernst & Young.

 

Angelo Mazzocco is Chief Information Officer of Central Ohio Primary Care, 655 Africa Road, Westerville, OH 43082. Contact him at 614.865.6331 or visit www.copcp.com