LION Discusses Regulations and Client Ownership of Data

Mark Boyed - Central Ohio Tech Power Player Honoree

Mark Boyed





Steve Gruetter

Director of Market Strategy - Central Ohio



To listen to the podcast, click here!


CIO of LION, Mark Boyed, discusses regulations and client ownership of data. 


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


SG: We are here today with Mark Boyed, who is the CIO at LION, an organization based here in Central Ohio with 1,300 total employees and over 100 right here in Central Ohio. My name is Steve Gruetter. I'm with Expedient, and I'll be your moderator today. Let's get started. Could you give us a little bit of input on what LION does?


MB: Yeah. Um, I think it's best identified the way Angelo told me a long time ago. Angelo Mazzocco, um, I've kind of followed for years and he's helped me through my career. And he said, “You are the smallest conglomerate I've ever seen.” Uh, so LION is in three major lines of business: uh, military, police, and fire. And uh, we are the largest provider of PPE equipment for firefighters. Uh, we are a chem bio producer for police and first responders, and we are a military 3PL provider.


SG: 3PL?


MB: Oh, 3PL, third party logistics. So, uh, every piece of gear a marine wears has been touched by someone at LION.


SG: Wow. That is a massive responsibility.


MB: It is. Not just a responsibility, um, but we really take it as a goal to make sure that all of our first responders, including military, are safe. And so, we take, we take that responsibility home every night. It's a very different environment when you're selling software, to, when someone's life is on the line. And that sense of responsibility and ownership is critical at LION.


SG: That is impressive. I'm, I'm glad that I learned more about LION today. So, for your role at LION as the CIO, how have you seen your role change?


MB: Yeah, it's, uh, it's not unlike a way, the same way that you've seen the CIO role change universally. And what that means is, CIOs were seen as technical leads years ago. In the past 10 years, I think that's modified itself to be more of a business unit leader. And that's been true at LION as well. Where we're ahead of the curve is, IT is integrated into the business. So, when we have customer communications, IT is part of that. When we have operational reviews, IT is part of that. IT brings things to the table. Uh, so a great example of that is, we're very big into business intelligence portals, specifically to run the business. And as we looked at that, we said, “How much better for our customer base if they had access to these ad hoc reporting engines and we could make it easier for them to use.” So, using a stack of technologies, we were able to provide that to our customer base. And uh, the army specifically liked it so much that they required it in the contract the next time the contract came up.


SG: That’s interesting. We've seen changes where, if the organization is not taking advantage of their information technology division, then they’re, that organization is being left behind.


MB: Absolutely. Uh, we, we see it in the competitive market, uh, pretty heavily. So, uh, since we compete in so many markets, it's, it's easy to see trends across all markets. And when we see the innovation is dwindling in some of our competitors, and yet our market share continues to go up, that's not coincidental. Uh, innovation is the cornerstone of the work at LION. In fact, uh,  LION is seen as the innovation company in all of our markets. Innovation ties directly to technology, whether that's fiber technology or whether it’s IT.


SG: On the innovation track, what are you seeing as the most disruptive technologies in your industry as well as what LION is doing?


MB: It, it's interesting. Disruptive technology in our industry is pretty low, but LION leads the way in a couple of key areas. So, what we're seeing in terms of technology change is access to information from the customer base. Customer wants to own their information, and that's across the board. You see that in a lot of the regulations coming out of Europe and a lot of the regulations now coming out of California with the consumer protection acts. It's not okay for me to just hold your information and use it wherever you want. That is very disruptive, but it's not disruptive to us. At LION, we've segmented that information for years. Uh, we don't, we don't gather information and then use it as a cross sell in other areas. But some of our competitors do. And you're seeing a real kickback out of that now. When you look at GDPR coming out of Europe, it's a very similar piece of legislation. Uh, somebody said to me, it's a civil rights responsibility; it's not a compliance standard. And that's how the world is now looking at data, and there can't be anything more disruptive than that.


SG: That is an interesting take on equating the data ownership to civil rights, but it makes sense.


MB: It does.


SG: Because it belongs to the person.


MB: It does! Uh, your information should be yours. It shouldn't be someone else's. And GDPR and the California Consumer Protection Act both identify it as a civil rights responsibility.


SG: Do you think that the GDPR regulations are going to be adopted in America, or a more watered down version of it?


MB: Yeah, we already see it in California in their act. It is, it's a bit of a watered down version. That's a, that's a great example. But we also have seen it in Texas. So, people say, “Well, California is usually the first to respond to that.” And I would agree with you, but Texas is not generally the first to respond to those, and their legislature is looking at things. Ohio is actually looking at their own legislation. So, we're seeing it across the board. There are six states who have acts currently in their legislative branches to deal with consumer privacy.


SG: I hope I'm not making a mistake on the podcast on this, but I believe that is Senate Bill 20.


MB: I think it is


SG: That's coming out of Ohio on, on the data protection and data creation, where it's more easily accepted–


MB: That's correct.


SG: –by, by other organizations. So, in the realm of innovation, in the realm of how your role is changing, how do you want to take these changes and improve your organization over the next three years?


MB: So, when we look at, uh, today's trends, we should already be there. So, our group takes a look at a five-year plateau on technology, and a lot of people do a strategic plan, uh, from the inside out. And we don't do that at LION. We go from the outside in. We look at all of the different elements. So, uh, legislative and governance, uh, consumer need, uh, holes in market spaces, and then we say, “In five years, we believe that we'll be here, which will drive trends in three years here, which means we need the technology today.” And so, when we look at that today, um, one of the biggest things we're looking at is consumer portals. So, in a consumer portal, having access to your data is really important, but having ownership of your data outside of this company is impossible if I want to provide information to you. So, if you want access, I can give you access. But if the data's not there because I have legislation against holding that data, how can I provide you anything of value? So, we're looking at different ways to make that data available without being personally identifiable, so we can aggregate information for you.


SG: So, it ends up being more of a trend analysis.


MB: Exactly.


SG: Then the company can use their own data to compare against the trend.


MB: Exactly. So, the analytics engine of that in the BI world, the analytics engine says, uh, “I can either have detail within this or I can have an aggregate level.” And we've chosen to go to a less detailed level. So, the granularity is much higher.


SG: Mark, this has been an outstanding educational experience for me, and I hope it has been an educational experience for anyone listening to this. Thank you very much for your time. This is Steve Gruetter and Mark Boyed. To learn more about the opportunities to get engaged in the Central Ohio community, uh, please visit Goodbye, until next time.


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