Sarnova Embraces IT Leaders as Senior-Level Teammates in Order to Improve Efficiency and Success

Rick Trout - Columbus Tech Power Player Honoree

Rick Trout

Director of IT




Steve Gruetter

Director of Market Strategy - Central Ohio



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Director of IT for Sarnova, Rick Trout, discusses the changing role of CIOs and IT leaders gaining a seat at the table to enable success.


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SG: We are here today with Rick Trout, who is the Director of Information Technology at Sarnova. They are an organization based here in Central Ohio with about 600 total employees and about 300 in our market. My name is Steve Gruetter. I'm with Expedient. I'll be your guest moderator today. Rick, let's get started. Let's hear a little bit about Sarnova. What is Sarnova, if our listeners don't know that name and that organization?


RT: Sarnova is a company, a medical distributor, that specializes in what's called ambulatory and first responder care. So, most people know AED devices – automatic defibrillators – they see in airports, and most of those come from us. We actually own, so if you ever went to, that is Sarnova. Now we have four companies that are actually under this Sarnova umbrella, and those are a little bit more familiar than the Sarnova name, such as Boundary Medical, Tri-anim Health Services, Cardio Partners, and Emergency Medical Partners.


SG: There you go. So, you are relatively new in the Director of Information Technology role. How are you measuring the success of your impact on the organization?


RT: So, I care a lot about metrics, and we measure metrics through the help desk. We measure metrics through uptime. We measure metrics through MTRS. Normal IT-type metrics.  But really the way that I can tell whether or not the IT organization at Sarnova is making a difference and being successful is the seat at the table. So, when the operation staff decides that they want to take on a new capability or a new warehouse, do they reach out to IT first or do they come to IT with a solution and ask us to implement it? And I think in the past they were very much solution-based, where they'd come and they'd say, hey, IT, we've picked this product or we’ve picked this package, or we’ve picked this technology, and we need you to implement it. And just recently we were rebuilding one of our key facilities out on the West Coast and I was brought in early – actually, I was a member of the steering committee for the entire project, not just for the it part of it. So, I think that tells you a little bit about the seat at the table that IT is getting. So, that’s how I measure success – can we get in early, can we help enable the business? Can we actually make a difference in the decision before the decision is made?


SG: I would think that the seat at the table alleviates a lot of headaches on the back end, especially in the realm of security.


RT: Oh, absolutely. We don't have to come in late and try to figure out exactly what they've committed to, how it's architected. We’re there during the whole process. And we can have that kind of security mindset as we're building it so that we know it's architected properly to meet our standards and to meet the needs that we have from a security perspective.


SG:  Makes sense. On the note of security, you're in the health devices space and we hear so much news about organizations being hacked and having critical date stolen. How worried should we really be?


RT: I think it should be a big concern for any CIO out there. I think that security really should be kind of the foundation about how you build solutions and how you operate your IT business because there are state-sponsored people that are out there trying to steal things. There are organizations like Anonymous and other hacking organizations that are always looking for that next win, whether it be a financial win, an informational win or whatnot. And you know they’re not going to stop. So, we can't stop as IT professionals trying to make sure that we're doing the right things to prevent our data from being lost for our companies. So, I think it should be first.


SG: Smart take on that. If security is first in any build of a solution, then, again, it gives focus to the solutions that you're building, making it easier to do implementation down the line.

RT: Sure.


SG: For your staff – on bringing your own device – what are your thoughts around that?


RT: You know, the mobile device management space has improved so much over the last five years that I’m a pretty big proponent of bring your own device as long as you're working with products and standards that are easy to support. What you get into trouble with is, I’m not so sure I want somebody bringing in just any old laptop onto my network. I'm not sure that I'm comfortable that they're going to be getting the performance and the capabilities out of that device that they would from one that we've obviously taken the time to evaluate and taken the time to make sure it meets our needs. So, from a bring your own device perspective, cell phones -- no problem at all. But I think when we get to where you're using a device where you actually have to worry about the performance and security and other things that impact the performance of that device, I think that we should leave that to the IT professionals. Now, having said that, if I was to give out a list of standards and let people go buy their own devices based on those standards, I would be a lot more comfortable with it. But as far as just a greenfield exercise where anybody can go out and buy whatever they want, I think that would do more damage than good.


SG: I think your philosophy is how most companies are working at this point in time, where if you're working on the laptop, then the company assigns the laptop. But nearly everybody walks in the door with their own cell phone and you put some controls on that that.


RT: Sure.


SG: All right. So, let's talk a little bit more about security but in the infrastructure space. SD-WAN. What do you think? Is that for everybody?


RT: So, me personally? Yes. I think that there are ways that you can implement SD-WAN depending on your needs for security. You can do SD-WAN over MPLS. And so, you're actually doing SD-WAN over VPN. But yes, I think SD-WAN is for everybody, and the reason why is, because we are all dependent so much on the internet right now, but we can’t control the quality of service over the internet. So, all we can do is control the quality of service on our end. Having those multiple connections and the ability to traverse a path that is the least impacted and the highest performance for your business is important. Where I came in, we were in a situation where we had a single connection with a cell phone backup at each location, and we were frequently having issues. And when you're a warehouse distributor, your ability to ship and your ability to connect back to the main systems to get those shipping labels printed and those packing lists and all those things can really impact your business. So, we went in and installed an SD-WAN – a very light SD-WAN. It's not very complicated. And as a result, we've had zero outages from a WAN perspective since we implemented the SD-WAN.


SG: That’s outstanding. Well, if it’s a light or a heavy, you can't argue with zero percent downtime.


RT: Right. And at the end of the day, we look back on that and say, yes, it was an investment that the company had to make, a decision to make, but because of the entire elimination of outages, it's paying for itself tenfold.


SG: Makes plenty of sense. Rick, thank you very much for your time today. I'm looking forward to seeing you at the event coming up. This is Steve Gruetter and Rick Trout. To learn more about the Tech Power Players event, please visit Goodbye. Until next time.


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