Novanta’s Sarah Betadam on transforming the IT model status quo

Over the next five years, the healthcare industry is expected to go through dramatic changes as service providers expand value-based care models and equipment manufacturers strive to keep pace in a digital-first world. One factor driving global transformation is the push to bring healthcare services, as well as responsibilities and control, closer to consumers.

By 2027, 70% of healthcare organizations will rely on digital-first strategies to empower patients to take a more active role in health responsibilities and experiences, notes IDC in its FutureScape Worldwide Healthcare Industry 2023 Predictions report. Spending on digital patient engagement and experience technologies that target such areas as mental health, telehealth, clinical trials, digital therapeutics, and ‘care anywhere’ solutions is expected to rise, according to the report.

Bedford, Mass.-based Novanta is a trusted technology partner to medical and advanced industrial OEMs, with deep proprietary expertise in photonics, vision, and precision motion technologies. Novanta engineers mission-critical components and subsystems that deliver extreme precision and performance, enabling customers to improve productivity, achieve breakthrough performance, and enhance people’s lives.

Leading the technology strategy at Novanta is Dr. Sarah Betadam, an experienced digital executive who, as presently the company’s CIO and CISO, is charged with delivering transformational solutions that scale operations and improve business agility, but she also helps drive business strategies and global objectives. Betadam is well-suited for the task, given the range of her experience prior to joining Novanta more than four years ago, and holds a doctorate in engineering and engineering management, as well as degrees in computer science from noted universities.

A self-confessed data analytics and research junkie, Betadam wrote a thesis presented to George Washington University a few years ago that outlines a contemporary model for IT program management that challenges many existing models, which she calls ‘overly subjective’ and less viable in today’s world.

“Everybody wants to have a business impact and business outcome,” she explains. “But business value is what is important for a particular business, which stems from the business capabilities rolled up from the business strategy. There’s revenue generation, the compliance aspect, operational efficiency, and legal. If you total all of this up it gives you a spectrum,” Betadam says, noting that this model was used at a previous organization and resulted in a more focused and successfully executed strategy.

More details on Betadam’s program management model, as well as her thoughts and insights on the challenges that lie ahead in terms of leading a transformational digital business, are presented in this CIO Executive Council/IDC Future Forward podcast interview. The following are edited excerpts from the podcast. Click on the links at the end of the excerpts to listen to Parts 1 & 2 of the full conversation.

Tim Scannell: IT organizations are going through a lot of structural changes, with reporting lines changing and the focus becoming more intense on business and customer facing objectives. How has your IT organization changed over the past year or two, and how has this made Novanta more flexible and adaptable?

Sarah Betadam: We’re expanding our competency levels — not just within IT, but across the business — to be successful. There’s also another aspect in terms of the agile transformation within our team and flexibility in terms of product roadmap ownership. This means really emphasizing the business partnership and making sure we’re aligning with the business strategy. We’re very big into Lean processes; aligning to those is how you get the momentum going. It depends on the resilience of the CIO to make sure there’s a match between the capabilities you’re trying to add as components to the Novanta organization and the current flow of programs and projects that each business unit is running.

Technology initiatives that have a direct impact on the bottom line are more of an emphasis today. Does this create any pressures on you and your IT organization to complete projects more quickly and with less risk involved?

Betadam: This is why agile is important for our entire organization. It’s educating the business that it’s okay that something is not going to be perfect the first time around. I also use Lean language, which is more familiar, letting them know there will be continuous development, process improvement, iterations, and that everything is not going to be perfect. It’s a journey and people are getting more comfortable with that approach than in the past two years.

A lot of companies today are investing more in data analytics and business intelligence. Some are even establishing digital strategy teams consisting of people from both IT and the business communities. The problem, however, is finding experienced IT and business talent. How is that impacting your data analytics strategies?

Betadam: We started our journey pre-pandemic with one or two people and now have a BI Council. We have brought in experts from the business to take ownership of the different data that we are trying to centralize, but finding people and talent is very difficult. One solution that has worked for us is to expand your search to places where you wouldn’t think that there would be talent. We’ve started doing analytics training, where everybody is invited to join, and more people from all departments are interested in learning more about data reporting. We are evangelizing this across the organization, so you don’t have to be IT person. You could be anywhere within Novanta, and we will train you to make use of the data that could help you and your team.

A lot of IT organizations are being asked to minimize risk and focus on projects that deliver a definable and maximum ROI. Do you see this as impacting your innovation initiatives in any way?

Betadam: I think there is definitely a slowdown in innovation activities, especially during times of economic uncertainty. Innovation comes with a certain tolerance level of accepting failure. At the same time, you are trying to keep the lights on and making sure customers are satisfied when there is a lot happening outside of your own control. Depending on the leader, however, there might be some incubation to keep things going. We’ve been looking at different efficiency solutions within the organization and at tools like AI. But this is done by a smaller group because we really needed to shift our focus to meet the customer amid all these different vectors that surround us. So, it slows down, but I don’t think as a leader you should shut it down because then you’d be behind.

Digital Transformation, IT Leadership