Northwoods Discusses Focusing on What Technology Can Offer to Help Others Rather than Innovation Alone
Cindy Sheets - Central Ohio Tech Power Player Honoree
Director of Implementation Services
Northwoods Consulting Partners, Inc.
Hybrid IT Professional
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Director of Implementation Services for Northwoods, Cindy Sheets, discusses focusing on what technology can offer to help others rather than innovation solely for the sake of innovation.
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MF: We are here today with Cindy Sheets, who is the Director of Implementation Services at Northwoods Consulting Partners, Inc. Northwoods Consulting Partners, focusing on human services software solutions, is an organization based in Dublin, Ohio with 160 employees. My name is Marilyn Finfrock, and I am with Flexential, formerly known as Peak 10 + ViaWest, and I will be your guest moderator today. Let's get started. Cindy, you have been in the CIO role for 23 years. At what point in your career did you decide that you wanted to be a CIO?
CS: I never did decide. I was asked to take on the role after I had risen, or went up through the ranks, and I get that question frequently – people that are looking at the career track as, “When did you know that you wanted to be a CIO?” I honestly never did. What I loved, and what I knew I loved, was applying technology to business process and how can we improve that? And that's what attracted me to it. So I, I love getting into the detail, this is how we do it now, this is how we might be able to improve it, utilizing the technology as a tool. So, I never had an “Aha!” moment, I just loved what I was doing and loved the progression of the technology at the time, that you could really, particularly in healthcare, you could really make significant changes for the good.
MF: So, by utilizing technology services in your role as a CIO, what would you say would be your best attribute for the CIO role?
CS: I listen. I listen between the words. I try to understand what the customer is really confronting and what the pain points are. And in healthcare when you're working with physicians and nurses, they obviously have a lot that they're dealing with in their day-to-day jobs. So, trying to understand what their true issues are and being able to listen to the whole package.
I also think I have a sense of humor that’s served me well. Sometimes we do have to laugh about it all, and I try not to take any of it too seriously. I got feedback from one associate, said that I also don't freak out, which my husband disagrees with vehemently, but she said we can walk in and tell you we've got three systems that just crashed and we don't know what's wrong and you'll say, “Okay, let's talk about what's going on and see what we can do.” And um, so, I think it may be a sense of calm as well as being able to listen.
MF: And that organizational skillset you have, it helps. You know, listening is 70 percent. Your listening skills are phenomenal, and that makes a world of difference. So, you have been heavily involved in the IT community in Central Ohio. Why spend that much time?
CS: I think the community in Central Ohio is unique. We have people that I'm sure will be, um, you'll be talking to as well that have dedicated their IT careers not only to the companies that they work for, but to the overall community. And for some reason, we all take that very seriously. Um, you get an…when I was a first became a CIO, I was contacted by the ad hoc CIO Forum and said, “Would you like to come to our monthly meetings?” We really, at that time they didn't have anybody from healthcare. Um, and we've just, it’s been an organic growth, but I think it's, uh, it has attributed a lot to the success of the Columbus tech community with Smart City designation and a lot of other things. I mean, we're on front page every other day in Columbus with some tech startup or some, uh, huge accomplishment from the tech community. So it's, I feel like it's, it's not just giving back, um, but I also get a lot from it, from the folks that are, are so committed to it and, uh, across the board, it's pretty prevalent.
MF: Excellent. That's quite important. Very much so. When you think about technology and utilizing it, as you have done over the course of your 23 years as CIO, how would you say in the past three years technology has changed the way you do things, and how will it change over the course of the next three years as it was over the past three years?
CS: Oh, so on the horizon?
CS: The, the rapid change, the development, the tools that are available now, things that used to take us hours and hours and hours to develop can be done very quickly and, uh, pairs with new methodologies and new tools, and the cost has gone down significantly. Um, the cloud obviously, is, gives us an opportunity to provide customers with solutions that they weren't able to afford before. So, I think that's had a significant impact.
Um, over the next three years, I think we're challenged with, um, I work a lot with government agencies. I think we're challenged with getting the rest of the world comfortable in the technology space. I can't tell you how many conversations we have in our office about directors of agencies that are concerned about the security of the cloud. And it's like, you know, it's not even a question anymore, um, in the tech mind, but it's, it's not readily understood and appreciated by folks that are in management positions outside of the tech community.
So, I think the next three years is going to transition us, I hope totally, to the other side where we're not dealing so much with, um, paper still. Unfortunately, we have huge amounts of paper. Um, I had a colleague that once said, um, “We'll just have more paper until there's none.” And I think, I'm hoping we can get into the none phase here pretty soon, but, um, I think that's going to be a significant change. And how do we get people in their day-to-day functions through that and comfortable with it?
MF: So much of it is still back to the human aspect of accepting said technology.
CS: Yes. Yeah.
MF: Whether it's cloud or what that agility is.
CS: Yeah. There's a lot of ‘wizbang’ stuff, and we all like to look at it, but I'm, um, I've always been most interested is how does it impact the worker at the bedside or at the agency or working with a child in foster care? How does that actually impact the service that they are able to deliver to their, to their client or their patient or their customer? And that's what technology is about for me. It's not about the ‘wizbang,’ it's about a tool that we deliver and can be life changing, um, within the operations and efficiencies of the roles that they're doing, putting the information at the fingertips, however, establishing the security measures in place to accommodate that information, from a secure perspective.
MF: Mhm. Well, thank you for your time.
CS: Thank you!
MF: This is Marilyn Finfrock and Cindy Sheets. To learn more about us, visit comspark.tech. Goodbye, until next time.
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