Edward Rybicki, SVP and Global CIO of Vyaire Medical, explores how the company embraces digital innovation in the medical devices market… By Dale Benton
Working in the modern technology space is challenging, regardless of industry. Technology is transforming and disrupting industries the world over at an increasing rate, presenting a time of both great opportunity and great challenge. This has seen the role of the CIO change and evolve from its traditional roots as simply a leader of IT or technology in a company. This is most certainly the case for Edward Rybicki, SVP and Global CIO at Vyaire Medical. Over a 20 plus year career, Rybicki has played “just about every role you can play in IT” across a wide number of industries. Now in his role as Global CIO of Vyaire Medical, Rybicki is responsible for all corporate IT on a global scale. But, as he highlights, it goes beyond that. “It’s about helping the business make sure that it’s running in a secure and stable way and helping it enhance its operations through the implementation of technology,” he explains. “But it’s also about helping the business make broader changes as the market around it changes and so I am also heavily involved in the product side of things too.”
Vyaire Medical is a manufacturer and marketer of more than 27,000 unique medical products for respiratory diagnostics, ventilation, airway management and operative care consumables. As CIO, Rybicki sits at an intersection, where key strategic goals of the organization meet the changing technology demands from the market. He highlights that this has changed his role of CIO as he now intersects with parts of the company’s product lines and how it does business differently as a direct result of technology. Rybicki points to strategic goals centered around managing data. “We want to manage our internal data so we can run reports and analytics to understand how the company is improving,” he says. “But we are also harnessing data to be able to provide applications and insight to our customers in ways that can help them improve their operations.” He highlights one of the company’s more “classic” products, a ventilator. Ventilators are becoming smarter and are communicating back to customers so that customers can then predict when a user can breathe without the need for a ventilator again. This is in stark contrast to traditional situations in which the users were reliant on doctors and respiratory therapists to monitor their process. “This is where it’s about helping the business change as the market around us changes through technology.”
Key to any technology implementation, particularly in the healthcare industry, is an intimacy and an open dialogue with customers. For Vyaire to be able to provide products that are both relevant and innovative, it has to understand what is happening in this ever-changing market. Rybicki highlights that the company can do this more effectively than some of his previous ones because of its standalone foundations. Launched as a joint venture in 2016, Vyaire is a startup company built on the backbone of a 65-year track record of pioneering, innovating and advancing respiratory diagnostics, ventilation and anesthesia delivery and patient monitoring. What this means for Rybicki and the role of IT is that he is actively involved in the formation of company strategy. “I’ve worked with larger companies that have a harder time pivoting,” he says. “From an IT perspective we are very much involved in how we pick innovation waves and identify trends in technology that we can grab onto and determine what’s relevant for the business.”
“At the end of the day, you have to make sure it aligns to your goals. So if these new technologies are really going to help us align to accomplishing the company’s goals, great. If a 20-year-old technology also helps us align to the company’s goals, well then that’s fine, too, right?” Identifying a strategic roadmap is crucial to achieving any growth and ultimately success. Vyaire IT has four key pillars of its strategy that are defined by business outcomes in which each business function can identify how it can help and align with these strategies.
Pillar one, is a foundational pillar. “The goal is written around a secure, stable, and scalable set of technologies to run the business. So that’s just kind of running the business in a secure way and a stable way,” explains Rybicki. “You have to make sure that the environment you have today is stable and secure and is able to grow with the business.” The second pillar is built around the concept of business excellence and operational excellence. In short, using technology to help the functional areas of the business to operate more effectively. “So whether it’s HR, finance, sales, marketing etc. it’s about asking how do we work directly with them?” he says. “Understanding their goals and working to implement technologies to help them there. The third pillar looks at business growth. “This is an area again where it’s this non-traditional IT. How does IT actually help our business grow?” explains Rybicki.
“At Vyaire we are embracing digital strategy and are starting to build software, which is pretty far outside what you would think for a medical device company. But it is the way business is going in the new world. We collect a lot of data through our devices that can then be packaged for better intelligence and offered to our customers so they can do their jobs better. It’s all on a backbone of technologies. So that’s where my team looks directly at can we use technology to drive and grow our business.” The final pillar is IT maturity, something that Rybicki admits, “everything is riding on.” The first three pillars are dependent on this fourth pillar, as Rybicki explains: “How do I make sure the internal operations of my department are mature?” he says. “We actually use COBIT as an external framework. It’s an IT framework that says, “Here’s what an IT department does. Here are all the functions and here’s levels of maturity of what you can do. We use it to assess ourselves on how mature we are so our IT maturity pillar is just about making sure that we’re investing enough to make sure that it can enable all those other goals.”
As technology continues to disrupt and redefine the ways businesses operate, it is crucial that they do not focus entirely on investing in the technology and disregard investing in the people at their disposal. After all, technology is no good if there is no one there to use it. When Rybicki joined Vyaire, 90% of the company’s IT requirements were outsourced due to the company going through a carve-out as a division of a larger medical device company into a new standalone company. Now, as a fully standalone company, Vyaire is in growth and innovation mode and so the company is in the process of reducing that figure to around 50%. This means that Rybicki is hiring a lot of new talent into the IT space while retraining the core existing people. “As an example, we have around 15 data centers around the world that we are consolidating and moving to the Cloud to be more nimble. The people that were maintaining those were in-sourced and outsourced personnel. All of those people will change because the skills to maintain a data center in the cloud is much different than a physical server room,” explains Rybicki. “So we are retaining our internal people and providing them with opportunities to grow their skillset.”
With Vyaire embarking on a new journey as a standalone company, Rybicki is keen to highlight that any company operating in the IT space requires the support of external vendors to navigate the volatile and exciting marketplace. Using the data center migration as an example, Rybicki highlights Amazon, Zensar and Wavicle Data Solutions as key partners that are instrumental in navigating that particular journey. “Zensar is a key partner for us as we are using them across a broad range of services (Infrastructure operations, applications maintenance, data management, information security, and EDI),” he explains. “They also assisted with our application strategy and are working across our project portfolio which is helpful, as they can bring “end-to-end” services to support our transformation.”
“Wavicle is also a key partner as we build out a robust data architecture and management practice,” he says. “Managing the many data sources and building a flexible data architecture are key to Vyaire’s business strategy and Wavicle has been a key partner in that area. Their flexibility and expertise have really enabled us to gain maturity quickly and positively impact business operations.” Rybicki is also keen to point to the fact that while the company is doing its utmost to build skills internally it cannot grow without its vendor network. “The IT industry is one that’s exciting because it moves so fast,” he says. “When any company wants to make that huge jump forward, not an evolutionary jump but a revolutionary jump, it’s really key to leverage the external experts for that.” The IT space is, as Rybicki notes, exciting because of the speed at which it is continuously transforming.
In order for Vyaire to succeed from a technology perspective, Rybicki understands the responsibility that rests upon his shoulders as the CIO to understand how to put the puzzle pieces together from both a technical and process perspective. “You have to know when to jump on something new that really helps fill a gap, but you also have to be mindful of jumping on something new that feels good but it doesn’t really accomplish what you want,” he says. “You can waste a lot of time and a lot of money, or you won’t accomplish what you hoped to accomplish. That’s where it’s really important to align these new innovative technologies to what your business is trying to achieve.”