This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview Adam Cole: Internationally Awarded Technology Executive and Serial Innovator who speaks on entrepreneurship, global industry contribution and volunteerism, keys to continuing innovation, software development, project management, process innovation, relationship management, consulting, teaching, writing, graduate education, healthcare trends/challenges.
For over fifteen years Adam Cole has been an executive, senior manager and advisor to some of the world's most exciting companies. Cole started his own successful healthcare IT consultancy out of university and quickly grew it to over fifteen employees based solely on word-of-mouth.
Currently, as Vice President of Information Technology at CCTN (Canadian Clinical Trial Network), Adam is thrilled to play an integral role in building a world-class research oriented business from the ground up. With a partnership between JDRF and the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, The $34 million CCTN aims to accelerate clinical research in diabetes, by developing and conducting high profile clinical trials with leading universities and medical centers.
Cole's projects have won international awards including a ComputerWorld Smithsonian Honors Laureate (via a nomination by Michael Cappellas, President of Compaq Global), first place in the annual Kinetic Process Innovation Awards, and awards in innovation, financial contribution, and customer service (Cole's department scored 100% on the Customer Satisfaction Survey, a first in McKesson history, the world's largest healthcare company.) Cole attributes his solutions consistently winning awards and positive media exposure to a business-oriented approach to innovation, engaging the customer, and providing genuine business value.
Mr. Cole's articles regularly appear in Microsoft's Canadian IT Managers forum, in industry specific publications, and Cole has been an invited presenter to IDC and Microsoft hosted conferences, as well as having project appearances in the mainstream media including the Toronto Star and primetime Global TV. Mr. Cole is a graduate in Math from the University of Waterloo and an MBA candidate from the University of Fredericton. Cole is a member of CIPS, PMI, COACH, ACM, ISPE and Mensa. Cole believes strongly in IT professionalism and has worked to promote such as a National Director at CIPS, the association of the IT professional.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
Can you profile how you got into computing-what triggered your interest?
"....Today we take it for granted, but 30 years ago state-of-the-art was flashing LEDs and toggle switches. The closest most people had come to a computer was a four-function calculator and that was impressive...."
Which experiences most shaped your life and work?
"....Getting married and having my two daughters....My life has been full of rich experiences but none so profound that it stands out amongst the rest.....but you cannot overestimate the influence of corporate culture on the quality of what a company produces. I am a huge proponent of leadership by example...."
Past, present and future -- name someone who inspires you and why is this so?
"....What I really look forward to is when you turn the microphone around and allow someone to interview you for this series....Another really big source of inspiration is not a person per se. Although he does have a name....TED.COM....."
Over your distinguished career, what are your top lessons you want to share with the broad audience?
"....The three Ps - People, Process, Product; the interface is the system; perfection is the enemy of 'good enough', communication is an art, and context is king....."
Interesting. Now tell me about "the interface is the system". It sounds very Marshall McLuhan.
"....McLuhan may be most famous for his quote 'the medium is the message'. An information technology systems analogy would be 'the interface is the system'. It is about the context of interaction and how important that is relative to the content...."
Can you describe what you mean by "perfection is the enemy of 'good enough'"?
"....In software development I am a firm believer in the philosophy of Agile. Many small iterations, continuous incorporation of user feedback, and a key focus on providing value as quickly as possible...."
Adam touches upon some other top lessons.
What factors make for effective communications and writing?
"....Know your audience....Be prepared...."
How does one become successful at consulting?
"....Know your strengths, play to them, and be transparent about where you are not strong - or better yet, know individuals who can compliment your weaknesses and work with them as appropriate.....Identify a niche and be able to fill it better than anyone else...."
You have a long and remarkable history of global contribution through non-profit organizations, including winning awards for this work. Why should members of our audience get involved?
"....When my training budget was frozen a couple of years back I encouraged my staff to join user groups and get involved in the IT community. In retrospect I think hour for hour and dollar for dollar one gets more value from this than from formal training...."
Does professionalism matter in IT? What does professionalism mean and why should we care?
"....Professionalism matters because it cumulatively provides the employer and society confidence in the work being conducted...."
You teach post-graduate courses and you have worked on your post-graduate studies in Business. What useful tips can you pass on from your work and studies?
"....You get out of it what you put in to it. It is really that simple...."
You have launched successful companies-can you describe what is required to be an entrepreneur by using one of your companies as an example?
"....Define your niche (avoid being too opportunistic as focus and consistency is important to growth)....know what distinguishes you from the competition (but don't obsess over the competition)....be a good listener....be a good networker and salesperson....always hire people who compliment your weaknesses and are smarter than you...."
You led a department with a 100% score in customer satisfaction; the first to attain this remarkable achievement in one of the top global companies. Share with us how others can model your performance?
"....Treat everybody with respect....Avoid problems in the first place....Recognize people's strengths on your team and understand that generally everybody wants to succeed....Lead by example....."
What are your recommendations for effective software development?
"....From a technology perspective, video games are amazingly complex: intuitive and compelling user interfaces, immersive graphics, advanced artificial intelligence, 3 dimensional sound, highly engaging game play, massively multiplayer universes, true to life physics, cross platform compatibility, resilient network communications, and amazing reliability. These are all highly desired attributes, even by the standards of the most financially endowed business projects....I would like to see the developers in the business world start adopting strategies from the gaming world...."
What are the top challenges and solutions in healthcare technologies?
"....The healthcare IT industry is currently struggling to build systems such as Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Personal Health Records (PHR) which engage doctors and patients and ideally motivate behavioral changes. This is fertile territory for gaming mechanics...."
What are the software development and platform issues that need to be addressed in business?
"....As a software development industry we need to achieve more reliable results....I am a fan of high-level platforms which provide rich business development frameworks and require minimal to no coding to accomplish many standard business tasks.....Businesses that adopt these platforms discover many automation efficiencies....."
How does one achieve process innovation?
"....Top three strategies are to keep projects small, take a grassroots approach and always be results-oriented...."
As a long-time heath care industry contributor and innovator, what do you see as the burning issues and what are your recommendations?
"....It is clear that our current model of healthcare is unsustainable....While there is no single silver bullet, there are plenty of things we can do....implementing the checklists....clinician buy-in, a results-orientation, social media and gaming mechanics, as well as a host of other opportunities...."
Please provide your views on the IFIP IP3 program on professionalizing the profession. [http://www.IPThree.org].
"....I fully support anything that we as an industry do to mature and bring consistency and reliability to what we offer...."
You are such a busy person - what do you do to relax?
"....I've got my family and I love spending time with them....Recently I picked up running....One of the things that I do when I go out on lengthy runs: I'll take my mp3 player with me and I listen to one of your podcasts. It's another great way to keep myself educated on current trends...."
I'm going to ask one more question, what is your favorite gadget?