- Boston Scientific spent the last four years overhauling its IT department.
- The medical device manufacturer improved its hardware, pivoted to agile-like teams, and created new innovation studios to pursue the latest in digital health technology, among other improvements.
- When the coronavirus hit, that transformation proved critical to keeping the business afloat.
- “It’s because we made all of those changes in the last few years that we were so well-positioned to make the swift, dramatic changes that COVID forced upon us,” Chef Information Officer Jodi Eddy told Business Insider.
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MARLBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS — Back in February, Boston Scientific chief information officer Jodi Eddy extolled the medical device company’s four-year digital transformation, detailing the many improvements to operational speed and efficiency to Business Insider.
This was just as COVID-19 was beginning to make more headlines in the US, but still weeks before the pandemic overtook daily life the way it has now. But those advancements would prove to be a lifeline for the company after it, like many other firms, transitioned the majority of its employees to remote work and suddenly had to make difficult decisions about the future.
It’s yet another example of how digital investments enabled businesses to accommodate — nearly overnight — entirely new operating procedures and stay resilient during an unprecedented global health crisis.
“We have been preparing for this moment for the past four years through this transformation,” Eddy told Business Insider in a July interview. “It’s because we made all of those changes in the last few years that we were so well-positioned to make the swift, dramatic changes that COVID forced upon us.”
The digital transformation included improvements to basic IT functions but, on a deeper level, required a pivot to more cross-functional teams that paired tech professionals with business experts to dramatically cut-down the time it takes to get new products or innovations out the door — a management style commonly referred to as agile, one that companies like Fidelity have also used to improve productivity in the last few months.
Boston Scientific — which reported $10.7 billion in revenue for 2019, a 9.3% boost over the prior year — also propped up new innovation studios that could capitalize on the latest tech in digital health and launched an automated dashboard to give senior leaders a quick overview of everything from day-to-day financial metrics to cybersecurity incidents. The overhaul also enabled Boston Scientific to quickly handle increased usage of tools like augmented reality-based device support and online medical education courses.
“This global pandemic has broken down barriers that were there in the past,” said Eddy. “It was just, ‘Are you ready to go from zero to a hundred overnight?’ And I would say we went from zero to a hundred in like a week. Maybe not overnight.”
Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships
For Eddy, most of the past four years was spent building up Boston Scientific’s defense against something as significant as the coronavirus pandemic.
It tapped Office 365 and Microsoft Teams prior to the shift to remote work, which made the pivot to virtual collaboration easier. The company also created what Eddy calls an “omnichannel” experience for employees, under which they could access their documents and other data on any device.
Boston Scientific also used zScaler for its cloud security needs — a platform that other CIOs also relied on during the outbreak for its ability to rapidly grow with business needs. So when COVID hit at full-force and remote work became the norm, there was “minimal” work that Eddy had to do apart from increasing the user licenses for its virtual private network.
“Because we were so well-positioned on the defense side, we were able to quickly shift our priorities to offense,” she said.
Reports that the executive team used to look at quarterly were now being viewed daily — and sometimes, like when it came to admission numbers at hospitals across the globe, the cadence picked up to hourly dispatches. The information came in use as Boston Scientific plotted out its immediate response and plan for the rest of 2020.
“We basically had to rewrite our annual operating plan like everybody else in like a period of weeks, something we usually spend months on,” she said.
And like at other firms, the pandemic had the silver-lining at Boston Scientific of highlighting just how critical IT — a department that is historically used to operating in the shadows — is to the enterprise.
“It went overnight from ‘nice to have’ and important for efficiency to drive optimization, to business-line critical for operations,” said Eddy. “The big opportunity and innovation is now: How do I leverage digital? For the CIO, that puts you squarely in the middle of commercial operations.”