This software company takes business and IT collaboration to the next level

This software company takes business and IT collaboration to the next level

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What's the best path to achieving business goals? Breaking down barriers between business and IT, according to Andrew Olowu, CTO at Axxess, which provides cloud-based software to the home health care industry. In an interview with The Enterprisers Project, Olowu explains how keeping communications flowing helps his company thrive.

CIO_Q and A

The Enterprisers Project (TEP): What are your strategies for ensuring clear lines of communication between IT and the business side?

Olowu: As a software company, IT is the business side at Axxess. The goals of IT and the goals of the business go hand in hand, which is one of the main reasons we have been so successful.

Active collaboration is another reason. We utilize collaboration tools and enjoy constant chatter, which creates serendipity. And like the rest of our leadership team, I try to be as approachable as possible. I rarely use my office — I prefer to sit in the open workspace alongside my team. That way, I'm at the ready to answer questions and help solve problems.

I also think the more open you keep communication across functions, the easier it is to achieve your objectives. Axxess values communication so much that we have company-wide meetings twice a week in which different departments share insights from their work. Our individual departments also meet daily to set objectives and share strategies.

TEP: What strategies do you use when talking about complex IT projects to a business audience?

Olowu: Traditionally, the home health industry has been underserved from a technology perspective. At Axxess, we are bringing advanced technologies to home healthcare, so we often face the challenge of explaining our products to an audience that is not at all tech-savvy.

For this reason, our client-facing team members all have a home health industry background. They are nurses, administrators, and owners. They speak the language of our customers, and can bridge any gaps between the technology and the users.

Our company also grew from its inception as a home health consulting company. This early experience allowed our founder to learn first hand about the pain points in the industry, which in turn enabled our team of engineers to create intuitive, user-friendly interfaces that solve actual issues.

TEP: How do you handle regulatory concerns?

Olowu: We have a thorough understanding of the HIPAA Security and Privacy Rules, so we build our software to be compliant from the ground up and our technology stack to be adaptable enough for us to make changes on the fly based on changing regulations. We also dedicate quite a lot of resources to free, on-demand education.

TEP: Are there specific strategies you use to keep communication flowing between IT and business executives?

Olowu: I consistently encourage members of our team to do three things: take ownership, continually collaborate, and trust each other. As our engineers work on individual projects that they own, they routinely share updates with the rest of the company during our company-wide meetings twice a week.

Our company culture promotes sharing tribal knowledge, providing status updates, and celebrating milestones across teams; it becomes a matter of personal pride. People outside of IT like to hear updates about what we are working on, and of course, we are more than happy to share. We'll often ask for feedback on particular products because everybody is invested in our IT department.

Collaboration is critical to our success. While we do have individuals leading special projects, every single product is reviewed by everyone on the team and eventually shared with the rest of our employees. It's the ultimate QC.

Once a month, we hold company Town Hall meetings. These give our leadership an opportunity to share our vision and direction, as well as giving anyone in the organization the opportunity to share updates, ask questions, or express concerns.

TEP: Any advice you'd share with CIOs about keeping communications open?

Olowu: My final advice to other CIOs is to cultivate trust within your team. Share business objectives and updates with them, and empower them to bring their projects to life within that framework. We see the fruits of this approach on a daily basis. At the end of the day, a CIO or CTO is not just responsible for the business needs of the company but is there to empower the engineers to be successful.

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and columnist for Inc.com. She is co-author of "The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive," as well as several other books. She lives in Snohomish, Washington.

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