Central Ohio Primary Care Discusses the Central Ohio CIO Forum

Angelo Mazzocco - CIO of Central Ohio Primary Care, Central Ohio Tech Power Player Honoree

Angelo Mazzoco


Central Ohio Primary Care



Steve Gruetter

Director of Market Strategy - Central Ohio



To listen to the podcast click here!


The CIO of Central Ohio Primary Care, Angelo Mazzocco, discusses collaboration and community. 


Hello, and welcome to the comSpark podcast, where you will get to meet today's technology leaders. To learn more, visit comSpark.tech.  


SG: We are here today with Angelo Mazzocco, who is the CIO of Central Ohio Primary Care Physicians, and also the founder of the Central Ohio CIO Forum. My name is Steve Gruetter. I'm with Expedient and I'll be your guest moderator today.

Angelo. Let's get started. You have been, more so than anyone, exceptionally involved in the Central Ohio IT community. Why do you invest your time, and what does the Central Ohio CIO Forum mean to you?


AM: Well, I think that I invest my time because I get so much out of it. I can see how much others get out of it as well, so it's definitely a win-win-win – and that win keeps going on –  situation. So, that's the first question. The CIO Forum is something that we established in 1997. So, that's been a long time, about 20-some years, and it's one that has had enormous payoff for myself, for other CIOs in the region and for the region itself.


SG: I, I certainly think so. Could you give us a little bit of information about the growth of the CIO Forum from where it started and, and how many members we have today?


AM: Sure. Um, in 1997, the first meeting, there were eight of us. And I remember going door-to-door, practically, to visit CIOs and asking if they would be part of our group. And when I reached eight members I thought, gosh, that's a lot of people. Let's, uh, let's start with eight and see how it goes. And um, in 1997, the topic that was top of mind to everyone was Y2K. Now that's something that didn't end up being that disastrous, but we didn't know that. So the eight of us sat down with the thought that we would meet once a month and talk about Y2K and the things that we were doing to resolve and make sure that we were prepared for it.

And um, I think one of our best products that has come out of the CIO Forum over the years has been a nonprofit called the GroundWork group. The GroundWork group was something that we created along with Tony Wells, who is sort of the king of the nonprofits in this region, and we created it in 2006, and it was a nonprofit that provided technology services for other nonprofits, and it has been hugely successful. We've service probably 200 nonprofit organizations and have done other very good service and that is, for instance, if any of our CIO's or their staff want to get involved with any organization, any nonprofit organization – maybe it's a nonprofit that benefits children or benefits ill children or something of that sort, they can get involved. And we've done that. And we now have a lot of CIOs and their staff on the boards of nonprofits as a result of this.


SG: Good deal. And uh, today, uh, if I'm not mistaken, you’ve got 150 companies that are now in the Central Ohio CIO Forum.


AM: Yeah, we say 150 because that's a good round number. We've actually gone over 160, but how we got from eight to 160 in 20 years is pretty interesting. Um, every meeting when we had eight people, there would be one of the members who would say, “Hey, I know another CIO, do you mind if I bring them along so that we can have that person join the group?” Absolutely. Absolutely. So, little by little, we grew. I remember getting up to about 25 members and at that point, we didn't have any room in our conference room that we were using. We were in small quarters and, uh, I thought, gosh, well, we're going to have to stop the growth. We're just not going to allow any more.

And um, that's when I got a real awakening. One of the CIOs – actually Jody Davis at the time – she was, uh, Patty Morrison's predecessor at Cardinal. And of course Cardinal was the largest company, and still is, in Ohio. And, uh, she called me and said, “Hey, you have to allow me in. I am the CIO of the largest company in Ohio.” So, of course I couldn't argue with that. So, um, we, we said, sure, come on in, you'll be number 26. Well, things went that way and other different directions too. Um, for instance, we used to have a limit as to what size company you needed to be. So, we used to have it at about $250 million and then, you know, went up to half a billion where, if you weren't that big, you couldn't be in the group. Well, one day I get a phone call from a very beloved zoo person here in Columbus about the, the Columbus Zoo. And by the way, our next CIO Forum is going to be held at the Zoo and uh, that'll be held this Wednesday, by the way. So, um, so that's another thing, he called and said, uh, certainly, uh, we're not anywhere near a quarter of a million dollars, but we have the same kind of issues as any big company does. And so, we started to get a little more lenient to the size of the organizations as well.

But it seemed as though it didn't take long for us to grow more and more people as the word got out. And so, it really became something that we could all count on to find out answers if we needed answers to the tough questions. For instance, you know, how are you securing your organization? We would never talk about confidential information, never talk about how much we're paying for services and things of that sort. But it was all about nonconfidential solutions that we all needed to have. And what were you doing to get smarter about those?


SG: I have been mentioned – I have mentioned several times along these podcasts that nowhere collaborates better than Central Ohio. And I think the root of that is from the Central Ohio CIO Forum where so many of your members, as I understand, somebody will ask a question one day about a project they might take on and before they take it on, what's everyone else's take on a particular type of project? And from there, you might get six answers by the end of the day and really be coached along the best direction for your company to go.


AM: You know, I, I have a perfect example. Today at lunchtime I met with the CIO of Mettler Toledo, uh, the North America CIO who is in the Westerville area. And um, he had asked some time ago for assistance from the Forum on doing an Office 365 rollout. And um, the thing that was different about his was he's got international people all over the place – over 10,000 desktops. And so we put out a feeler out to the CIO Forum as to who had experience with that, with that size. And the next thing you know, we've got Nationwide, we've got Alliance Data, we've got, you know, all these mega-huge companies coming forward to say, “Hey, what kind of help do you need? Here's what we did. Um, here's something you ought to consider.” And uh, he told me today that he couldn't believe it, that he was able to talk with about five or six different companies and did it within a couple days.


SG: Again, it shows the power of collaboration – build your network before you need it.  I learned that in the IT leaders class.


AM: Well, and of course, you know, the IT leadership class is another outcome of the CIO Forum, because the CIO Forum, when we got to the point where I told you we had 25 companies, we weren't growing very quick, and so what we thought we would do is create something that is today known as the CIO Tomorrow event. It wasn't always called that. It's actually had four different names, but it was a way for us to try to gather as many CIOs, not only in our community, but throughout the state and nationally, because we've had a number of CIOs come from around the country and um, that lives on to today also. So, that has become a significant event for us. And each year we challenge ourselves with things we should do to better the community. And one thing that we challenged ourselves with two years ago was to develop a succession-planning training and also create, uh, a vehicle that up-and-coming CIOs would be able to use to get to the next level. And that's the IT leadership class that Steve helps run today.


SG: Yes. For anyone listening to this podcast, um, really it was an idea born out of the 2017 CIO Tomorrow, where Angelo and I and Ben and all got together and talked about what it should look like, what it would look like. Angelo introduces to Maureen Metcalf, Metcalf & Associates Mike Sayer, and that's what built the Central Ohio, IT Leaders organization. So, uh, so many thanks to you, Angelo, for being so much a part of having that happen. For, um, for, in relation to the collaboration that we discussed, how have you seen the role of the CIO change?


AM: Well, you know, I can speak from experience on that one, Steve. Um, I've been a CIO three times and in between two of those CIO stints, I was a president of a company. And um, when I first became a CIO, coincidentally in 1997, it was for a very large media company, um, the dispatch companies that also dabbled in a number of other industries, far out industries like agriculture and aviation and real estate and things that you wouldn't always identify with a media company. And quite frankly, a lot of the job, the way I expected to go in and manage it was going to have to do with technology. But I'll tell you, it did not take long for me to understand the value of people skills and making sure that, also, that you have relations that you have within these different, uh, at the time the, the dispatch was almost 20 business units, different companies that had come together for a purpose.

So, um, so my initial thought was, this is going to be very technical. I found out it wasn't quite that technical. And what I have found since then is the role of the CIO is one where you have to understand what I call the horizontal of technology, understand what infrastructure is, understand app development, things of that sort, and how to make sure that you're providing the sanity check when your good people are coming to you saying, “Here's what we ought to do.”

But in addition to that, you know, my company today does business with 37 technology vendors. You've got to be a good manager of vendors and make sure that you've got good contract skills, although we have a legal staff that helps us, but still, you've got to have good legal help and skills, but also, make sure that you know how to manage those folks.

In addition, the skills of community, I find are always so important. Everybody in our CIO Forum gets to cheat in a good way. What I mean by that – cheat in a good way – is this office 365. Hey, here's something you haven't done before. That can be a scary thing, especially if you're going to roll it across the globe to 10, over 10,000 people. Well, it makes it so much easier if you're plugged into our Forum and we're able to self-help and get, get people who can, uh, help you along the way. So, those are definitely, uh, very important.

The other thing that you don't always think about when you're a first-time CIO, that today I think of first and foremost is your business understanding. You have to realize that as a CIO, the business is counting on you to interpret for them what all this technology is about and today, we have so much technology, especially in comparison to 1997 when I first came on board. So, you are the interpreter, you are the ones, many times, who are explaining why we're buying this, what's the ROI and how it's going to improve the business.

The last thing that your business people want to know is that we're going to buy this technology just to have a neat technology. Not going to happen. You've got to translate to them why it is that you're going to purchase this technology in order to make life better for that business.


SG: I've heard that, I've heard you speak, where learning what each of the business leaders needs, be it marketing or sales or HR or operations or whatever aspect of it – if you can what is going to make them successful, you can go ahead and alter the technology plan and work with the vendors strategically and be able to deliver that.


AM: Correct. I agree, and that's why I think it's important. I have a great undercast, so to speak, our IT directors and folks, uh, informatic directors, and have had that opportunity at every company I've worked at, I’ve really been blessed. And that has given me the opportunity to go and spend more time with the business, which I think is so important.


SG: For you, Angelo, and this is a, this is a personal question – what is the best part for you for working, uh, here in Central Ohio?


AM: I think the best part for me is, I get to maintain a life balance that, at one point, I never thought I could achieve. What I mean by a life balance is, I can get up happy in the morning, I can go work out, I can go to my, uh, my job and just be enthusiastic about what I'm doing there. I can get out at a decent time. I can go home and spend some time with my family. I can be active in the community. Um, myself on, on Tuesday nights I teach class. That's been a tradition of mine for 30 years now


SG: Right, at Otterbein.


AM: Yes, Otterbein for 22 of the years and Ohio State University for eight. But that, to me, is life balance. You know, I don't want to just work my job, I want to be involved with nonprofits. I want to be on an advisory board for another company. I want to have the opportunity to do things with my family. Um, you know, call me crazy, but I like doing all those things. And Central Ohio has given me that opportunity. The biggest challenge really is that there are so many opportunities that, you know, sometimes my wife says to me, uh, because I've, I've changed careers about every seven years with these CIO jobs and other positions, and she says to me all the time, thank goodness that, uh, you, you get the seven year itch at, at work and not at home because as I told you, we've been together 35 years – next week we will have been married 35 years.


SG: I knew you were gonna go to the seven year itch card.


AM: Yeah. Yeah. You know, one of, one of the other things about this region of Columbus and Central Ohio is that many times we forget that Columbus, Ohio is the 14th largest city in the United States.

Um, you'll never believe that the 13th largest, who I think we're going to overtake in size in, probably in the next two years, is San Francisco. And when I tell people that from outside the region, they're very surprised. As a matter of fact, they don't even believe it when I first tell them. So, uh, I think that that says a lot about this city. We have been growing at a tremendous rate and we've had a lot of technology. If you look over the last 20 years, technology has changed consistently, not every year, but every few months. And we, as a group of technology leaders, have done a pretty good job at keeping up, also admitting new leaders as we create new innovations and new companies. And it's really been quite satisfying. But I think at the heart and soul is number one, the, the, the area is growing very quickly. Organizations are taking advantage of this growth and growing also, and we as a technology leadership group have also been growing.


SG: Angelo, thank you from me to you for all that you've done for our community. So, thank you for helping us launch the IT Leaders program. Uh, this community is better off because of you, and I mean that from the heart.

Thank you for your time. This is Steve Gruetter and Angelo Mazzocco. To learn more about the Tech Power Players event coming up on November 13th, please visit comspark.tech. Goodbye until next time.


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