After 20 years in tech leadership roles in mortgage capital markets and financial services, Patrick Doherty made a career pivot and now leads IT applications and infrastructure at a national non-profit healthcare-focused organization. His primary focus is managing IT risk, simplifying operational complexity, improving security, and building business systems that can be measured, managed, and scaled.
Formerly, he was part of a VC-backed executive team that transformed a small boutique consulting startup into a mid-sized subscription-based SaaS software and services company. As Chief Operating Officer, he played multiple business and technical leadership roles in product management, marketing, and IT operations. His original professional training in systems integration and consulting was sponsored by two of the Big Four accounting-consulting machine.
In 2016 McKinsey estimated that 70% of complex, large-scale transformation projects failed to reach their stated goals. Two years later, it revised this estimate to say that only 16% of digital transformations resulted in successfully improved performance. As organizations increase their use of digital technologies to drive customer engagement, employee productivity, and resilience, are you set up for success? Pat Doherty, an association tech executive, explains how he has successful spearheaded a digital transformation within his enterprise and what it takes to be successful and beat the odds.
INTRO: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Power of Digital Policy, a show that helps digital marketers, online communications directors, and others throughout the organization balance out risks and opportunities created by using digital channels. Here's your host, Kristina Podnar.
KRISTINA PODNAR, host: [00:00:23] A big welcome to everyone listening today. My colleague and friend, Pat Doherty is with me to talk about managing risk, simplifying complexity, security, and building systems that can be measured, managed, and scaled. I might also ask them a question or two about policy since he told me secretly that he wrote some reasons. So we're both chuckling. I had this big grin on my face because I've known Pat for many years and have seen him successfully leading large and small teams, connecting disperse business and technology workstreams. He has so much knowledge and experience to share. So super excited. I just want to jump in Pat, welcome to the Power of Digital
PATRICK DOHERTY, guest: [00:00:57] Kris, thanks for inviting me. This is such a thrill. And I was telling my wife how excited I was to get to chat with you, on the pod and just connect; you've always been a great leader and just a great colleague and a good friend. So thanks for that.
KRISTINA: [00:01:12] Well, thanks. I feel like I should just slip your bonus money right now, but let's do this, you've done a lot of things in your career. Most recently, you've spearheaded some significant transformations at national nonprofit organizations. I don't want you to divulge any secret sauce, but let's just dive in and tell us a little bit about that initiative. What have you been up to lately?
PATRICK: [00:01:33] Sure. Yeah, well, when I got to the American society for radiation oncology, what really struck me immediately was that I had a team of dedicated and smart, and mission oriented people. The mission comes before everything else. And they're the best. They really care about servicing the mission of education and advocacy. And my team really cared about making ASTRO work better. Where I saw an opportunity for me to add value, you wouldn't be surprised if it was to bring a bit of a consultant's mindset to the goal of management and operations. Three basic phases of successful consulting, discover, what's going on, plan and then implement. So, when you sort of tackled change management, the thing I wanted to start with at ASTRO was, listen to my colleagues and management, my colleagues on my team and colleagues, kind of horizontally across the organization and then, figure out, what's the set of strategic goals. What's a small set of strategic goals that you can communicate top-down and bottom-up throughout the organization, and you can tie it to everything you communicate. As you're, talking to the executive suite, everything you communicate as you talk to middle-management, everything to communicate as you talk to every new person who joins the organization. And we came up with five goals, manage IT risk, IT security. Obviously, that's at the top of everybody's mind right now, simplify the tech stack, manage the application life cycles, communicate and train and partner and innovate. And what we really invested a lot of time in was, okay, get the individual goals, the yearly, individual goal planning process lined up with these categories so that, instead of a kind of set of, oh, I'm interested in doing this project, and it doesn't really line up with anything else. Anybody else is doing. You have people saying, okay, how are we going to, for example, manage IT security better, or how are we going to simplify the tech stack? And then you have a team working on it because everybody's goals have to line up to everyone's individual goals have to line up to those strategic goals on the IT team.
KRISTINA: [00:03:44] I'm really enjoying listening to you talk about this because it's fascinating. You've taken this framework that you've mentioned as sort of the traditional consulting approach or model, but here you are inside of an organization, and for a lot of the listeners, they're actually inside of the organization day-to-day they don't have the luxury of being a consultant. It's like you can't just advise something and walk away. We're in that position now, right?
PATRICK: [00:04:06] Absolutely. Yeah.
KRISTINA: [00:04:07] So has that been a challenge or...
PATRICK: [00:04:10] I've really enjoyed it. My career, as you know, was in consulting, IT consulting, and in the financial services space. So this was kind of a whole new space for me, the healthcare space and, not consulting essentially. And it's been pretty great, especially with a mission-driven organization and the people that come with that, the commitment that they have is real, it's a leverageable asset, and if you, if you have a little bit of guidance and you write down the things that you want to do over three years, people will buy into it. Cause they're driven that way. It's very important, of course, like you have to connect, those goals, those strategic goals with an end result, that's improving the organization. It can't just be some random goal that you kind of got high on, I guess. , it's gotta be something that resonates; they have to be goals that resonate with the organization and things they see in their day-to-day work.
KRISTINA: [00:04:57] Yeah, it's interesting that you say that because I'm also thinking too, every organization that I've worked with that has a strong mission. One of the things that I find, especially in the nonprofit or sort of the NGO space, it's, people aren't making millions of dollars. They're there usually for the mission, more so than in the financial services sector necessarily. And so that also helps, I think, in terms of staying within these guardrails or like within policies and doing the right thing, because people inherently are so dedicated, they want to do the right thing. That's what they're there for.
PATRICK: [00:05:27] Yeah. Yeah, it's really it's. It is amazing that was a mindset change that I had to kind of process; I come from a finance background and, working in financial services for 20 years on the IT side, certainly. But, the kind of money culture in that industry is a different motive. It's a different motivator than what he gets on the nonprofit mission, mission-oriented industries. So that was, that was a big change for me and a change I was seeking; that's something I was seeking out. Yeah, but it's been very inspiring to see how my, my teammates the people who work for me, the people who are, across horizontally across the organization and then the leaders of the organization, how they think about, how to advance the mission of the organization, because they do it in everything they do, it's very every day is very practical about it.
KRISTINA: [00:06:09] And so very practical day-to-day stuff, but achieving great things, going through a transformation as an executive, how do you recognize the lessons learned from these real-life transformation experiences you're having and maybe some pilots. And how do you bake that into the culture? Like how do you change the culture so that it's more transformative going forward?
PATRICK: [00:06:29] Yeah, that's a great question. I like to tell my team I say this a lot and they probably like get they're probably so hard of hearing me say this, but you make the most practical choice that also fits with our long-term strategy. We have limited resources, as many, many organizations, oh, well, all organizations have limited resources. There's not an endless bucket of dollars for people to tap and an endless pool of people to pull from. It's a lot of pieces in that sentence right there. But you know, make the most practical choice that also fits with your long-term strategy. If you've all committed to the strategy of, if you've written it down as a team, you've communicated it throughout the organization. You can think ahead on all of that stuff, and you don't have to let your short-term choices compromise the long-term strategy. So, maybe, and if you've been transparent about that and you've communicated widely throughout the organization, your colleagues and other departments, or your colleagues, above you or below, you will respond. And they, they may come to you with like, oh, I want to do X, Y, Z. And you say, We, we also would like to do that, but you know, this vendor you're bringing to us, doesn't, doesn't meet, our goal of managing IT risk because they don't comply with the standard, ISO 27001, the standard we said, as part of this, those goals. So this is a maybe on this we'd have to do additional betting on it. There's a trade-off there on, like, implementation time. Do you still want to go down that path? And if you've been honest and transparent and you've built trust in the organization around that goal, they all respond kind of favorably. They're like, okay. You guys are trying to do in IT and what we're doing here on the business side. And those don't have to be different things. It's a team. You can make it work that way; you can make it work as a team. And that's all, that's all super satisfying, especially when it clicks.
KRISTINA: [00:08:14] Yeah, you're actually describing a very different kind of it leader as well. I'm listening to you speak, and I'm thinking to myself like, wow, it's fascinating to hear sort of this governing framework because it sounds like it's very collaborative. It's one very much of enabling and supporting. And those aren't things that we think about traditionally from IT; IT is a roadblock. They hold marketing hostage.
So, is that something that was already in place? Are you feeling like you're shaping some of that culture? Like how does that working?
PATRICK: [00:08:41] I think the communication of it is maybe something new in the organization. I've only been at ASTRO for 18 months, started right before the pandemic, which was an obviously fun and challenging time, but the communication of it the kind of like, hitting it in every meeting, every one of our I know the folks who roll up to me is sick of seeing the strategy slide, but we put the strategy, slide on everything we do with every part of the organization. Like, it just remembers everybody. These are the five things like. This is the commitment for the next three years, or, when we wrote it, it was, three years ahead. So we'll, we'll look back at that obviously, but communicating that every time with every touch, I think, that's important to remind people like this is what we're doing. This is how we're supporting you and, and you build trust through that because they see performing that every day
KRISTINA: [00:09:28] Did you have to get executive buy-in to that strategy. Tell us a little bit more about that because that sounds like a really great and practical tip that folks in a step away.
PATRICK: [00:09:36] I had my initial thoughts, of course, within two or three months of joining the organization. And so probably around January or February, I, I joined ASTRO in November of 2019, probably around January or February, kind of went to the executive team. And of course, preceded with my boss, the CFO, and laid out what the strategy would be for the next three years. Those principles how we would organize work. And then gave a very practical example of the security plan that would roll up underneath that first goal plan that out. Okay. Here, here are the things we're going to do. And then, as we kind of linearly move through time advertise to the rest of the organization, the accomplishment of those goals, as we hit those milestones, write a post on the intranet that says, thank you guys for supporting us, on this, we, as a team, all of us, we have achieved this goal, we've, we got MFA in place for everything where our work around, business intelligence is starting to pay off here, some training on that. And, here's how we're going to use that to make better business decisions, or, another, this pilot was successful. This was part of our this goal, X, Y, Z goal. Thank you all for helping us do that because you are part you were that success, not part of it, like we're, we're doing it together. I think that's the thing that you need to do in order to have successful change management, build trust, communicate all the things.
KRISTINA: [00:10:59] But I think it's so easy to take it for granted. But these are the things that you're talking about, I think are the hardest of things, because you really have to make that change. And like you said, it has to start with trust, but really transparency, communication, getting buy-in, and it's sort of, I always say that's the softer side of Sears. It's hard.
PATRICK: [00:11:19] That was, that that's, that's an example of great branding. If I'm we're, we're still saying that that is I say that all the time.
KRISTINA: [00:11:26] Is that just me that we're getting older? My son has no clue what I'm talking about. He's like, what is that, mom? But you know, but it's interesting because I think these are the hard things within an organization and making sure that there's a lot of transparency. And I'm curious, do you also do a lot of KPIs as part of this communication? Or do you just sort of do visibility and communication and milestones and thinking folks, what does that look like?
PATRICK: We don't show our KPIs. But for the internal organization, my applications on infrastructure teams and one thing I started doing immediately when I got there, here at ASTRO was monthly IT management roll-up, that's something I just thought was fair, to my boss, like you should know exactly what's going on in the IT organization or know, the risks we're managing. Know the short-term projects we're working on and the long-term projects we're working on in the status of those projects you should know on each of these strategic goals, what are some KPIs that we're watching on a daily, weekly, monthly basis to measure where we are and decide how to allocate resources? So we started doing that on a monthly basis; I pulled two of my assistant directors into the meeting, and we kind of build the deck each month, but set a pattern on what we were, what we report and we have a really good thoughtful Q and A, discussion with, my boss every month about what IT is accomplishing which is great. And then what IT roadblocks exist, what, what are the blockers. That is kind of slowing us down so that he can help, help us, get the organization to the end, to the goals, to the milestones that we've laid out. So, so that, that's been, that's been, a very important part of the management of how we manage the organization. How, how me and my team, your organization.
KRISTINA: So, you report to the CFO. A lot of folks are saying like, wow, CFO CEOs, people who don't necessarily speak digital, they don't know IT. And rightfully so. They're business people. That's their specialty, but it seems like you're speaking their language, and you're translating things into their language. Tell us a little bit about that. Like, how does that work? What are some tips that you have?
PATRICK: [00:13:36] Yeah, that's a great question. That is super important for any sort of like CIO role or director of IT role or, IT consultant role. The reason why we are here is to support and advise the business, not even like, support so much, like advise the business, like how are you going to get to the business goal that you have by, importantly leveraging technology, leveraging people leveraging operations, operational improvements, all that stuff you have to talk, I'm not gonna talk to my boss or the CEO about like our firewall settings, or hyper-specific infrastructure or application code development work. But I am going to talk to them about the projects that we have in place or have in mind to advance the goals of the business. Like, expanding membership expanding, online, learning making sure, making sure our internal resources can collaborate better so that their productivity rises. Like I couch a lot of my language and, in the IT space in this role, catch a lot of my language and descriptions of the work we're doing in terms of increasing productivity in the organization, like getting the right tool in the right hands. The person is very productive or more productive than they were because labor is the most expensive thing that we have in the organization. So if you're taking the cost management angle, where IT can be super helpful is okay, let's make sure that labor is getting the most bang for the buck. That may mean you select an IT tool that's slightly more expensive, but it saves 15 hours a month of one person's time or 30 hours a month of two people's time. You get that back in productivity and, being able to make those arguments, I think those, those types of arguments resonate with business leaders because they're managing a P&L, and they know they have inputs and outputs, not just one or two.
KRISTINA: [00:15:24] Well, speaking of productivity and P&L, we've all been at home for the last 17 months or so doing lots of remote work and productivity has been a challenge in some ways, people are trying to keep the dog from barking when Amazon is coming up, the driveway, managed kids, homeschooling all that crazy stuff. What have you been thinking about? What have you been doing in order to really allow your employees, your team, your organization to work together more closely?
PATRICK: [00:15:50] Yep. That's a great question. I think there are a lot of users out there, w the one, one big view is, productivity has taken a, hit another, another view, which I, I ascribed to more is that productivity has increased. And I think there's some data there's probably data that explains both of those arguments or makes both of those arguments, but what we're doing to make sure that people's productivity stays the same or increases. We've really gone all-in on the Microsoft tech stack. Teams has obviously been amazing. Their usage has increased. I mean, I think they're at a hundred more than 175 million monthly users. I think they, before the pandemic, were at 33 million monthly users. They've invested a ton in that product, billions of dollars on that product. I'm sure. And for us, leveraging the Microsoft stack, we have almost everything we need to do our jobs almost, almost on our mobile phones at this point, where we use SharePoint for document management and file collaboration. Co-authoring, we obviously use email but, but even email internal is less than the last. I mean, I, I am and video conferencing on teams. Those have just been hugely collaborative. Innovations before the pandemic, I, I'd see my team in the office, kind of stroll past them in the hallway and, we maybe chat a little bit, everyone's running places. During the pandemic, we have, of course, like everybody else, maybe too many video calls, but you do feel that connection over a video that maybe we didn't really have before. Or maybe it was the stress of the pandemic. It was also very stressful. But it was, the team, the team really connected. And I think it's amazing. We live in a time where these tools actually exist, and they did not shut down. It did not shut down productivity from the work center.
KRISTINA: [00:17:33] I remember talking to you at one point, and you said, Hey, I was riding, or you were in the midst of writing a, bring your own device to work policy. And I was like, wow. Or bring your work home policy as the case might be. Have you had to write any kind of policies or give advice to your team or to your organization around working from home and keeping the home environment more secure in order to support work things like, what kind of a router do you need or what kind of security protocols should you have on your own wifi? Are you talking about any of that?
PATRICK: [00:18:04] It's interesting you ask that question. Because we've acknowledged, the organizations acknowledge the reality of work from anywhere. It's, WFA, like, there, people are, we're moving into a more flexible world on all of that stuff, not, not just Astro, but everybody. And right now we're I actually have a meeting later today with my network engineer to talk about, okay. What security requirements are we going to put in place for work from anywhere? We, we obviously had some emergency, flexibility over the course of the pandemic, but we're moving into, the new reality. And we need policy around it. We don't want you working from a coffee shop with 12 other people on an open wifi network. Are you going to control that? I mean, it seems great, but the coffee is probably not worth the security risk. So, we'll start, we'll document that we'll manage that through Intune and Endpoint manager on Microsoft, we'll have secure, connected laptops that support that. But we're, we're definitely going to need some controls around that. Microsoft dumped a ton of dollars into Teams product development. They have now like the end-to-end encryption on, point to point meetings. I don't think they have it on the group meetings yet, like larger meetings, but if you're calling me and I'm calling you, that's encrypted end to end at this point, which is. I'm sure to support future telemedicine use cases as CMS or, or any of the other health, regulatory organization, changes that to be more flexible and on a permanent basis. But yeah, we're in the midst of that right now. We'll have practice out on it by November, and we'll definitely have a policy done this summer.
KRISTINA: [00:19:46] Who writes all of your policies?
PATRICK: [00:19:47] It's a mix we have; we have a really great HR team. It just does a ton of research. Does a lot of comparables research specifically on the IT stuff. That's, that's me like, I'm the one to write the policy.
KRISTINA: [00:19:59] One of the questions that I always get in, so I'm curious to kind of ask you as well, is how do you actually codify your policies? How does that actually get disseminated to everybody in the organization? How do they know what policies are out?
PATRICK: [00:20:09] So our primary document for that, or our primary documentation for that, is the employee handbook, which is, it's relatively slick. And,, encompasses a lot, but, as far as like things changing, how to manage that and communicate that we're using our, SharePoint based intranet we're hosting training meetings. Our HR department does a great job of like, okay, Hey, where do you need to, talk about this. So there'll be training on that or. And we have a monthly staff meeting, which is the staff meetings that I've been to in the past have not then as collaborative and like, open and transparent as the staff meetings here. And, the all-staff meeting is usually a great place to share little things and big things and, and keep the organization informed and IT on a monthly basis has something to show.
KRISTINA: [00:20:49] It sounds like there's a lot of collaboration already and coordination, certainly a lot more than many other larger organizations that I see. Can you just talk a little bit about are there functions or opportunities that you see for folks collaborating more closely together, especially if we're going to be still working remotely or having more flexibility in terms of coming into the office?.
PATRICK: [00:21:08] Yeah, definitely. Here, the online marketing organization, in the marketing organization and the membership organization, that's a, that's a separate, that is separate from IT here at Astro. But my first focus in getting here was to build trust and build a great relationship with my colleague over there, because it's obviously in this era, for any business, that is the super important way of communicating with customers and, in our case, members; Yeah, that that was the first, that was really the first relationship I focused on when I got here, and that's paid off a ton, we were actually going to sit down later this week to collaborate on our budgets, for next year, because there's obviously like a cross-collaboration and needs that could be supported by both budgets. So we're going to be tightly integrated on that this year. We did a little bit of that last year, but we're really gonna get into it this year.
KRISTINA: [00:22:00] It sounds like you're doing a lot of things right. And also moving at a fairly rapid pace, which is a little bit unusual now. Well, you're laughing, but it's true. Yeah. Well, you're doing and trying and doing, but you know, when we look at the healthcare arena, we see a lot of changes happening, but they seem very, very slow. In fact, I think somebody said the word molasses to me last week. Things that are easy for grocery stores are hard for hospitals. You're in the healthcare unit is HIPAA really the biggest hurdle that you see from an executive perspective and slowing things down, or what else can we do to speed up this change?
PATRICK: [00:22:33] I'm not sure HIPAA is the kind of the, I mean, obviously there are challenges and but I'm not sure it's the kind of like the boogeyman that's like slowing down everything else. So maybe that's sort of a contrarian view. I think it's just realistic to acknowledge the fact that talent in the industry is scarce. People who can communicate and what, learners who, learners in IT who want to change their skills or want to lead even, like those, these are kind of like scarce things and that's the thing that kind of slows down change. And so, when you're leading an organization, I think you have to put a lot of focus on that, like, okay, we are going to change. Change is inevitable. I mean, just broadly, broadly speaking, changes are inevitable. So, I want you all, and I don't want people on my team to learn, be learners, be people who tackle problems in the strategic framework that we've laid out. These are the five things that we are going to do over the next three years. These are the five goals, get all of your goals, get all of your learning, get all of your leadership organized underneath. And together, we can drive change in the organization.
KRISTINA: [00:23:41] So as a healthcare executive, and as folks are listening to you, how would you suggest that they'd make their strategy future-proof? What do you do? What are you thinking?
PATRICK: [00:23:50] I think it really comes down. If you think about the people that are in your organization that's, that's really your big lever for future-proofing. The future is uncertain and definitely gets more uncertain the further you go out. But, if you hire people or even, and more dour approaches, separate people who don't fit that. Which a lot of organizations do. That's, that's how you're going to future-proof and how you're going to make sure that your org and the, yeah, the wider org evolves, in the way, the way you want it, they, they have to be people who like to learn, people who like to solve problems, people who want to lead, and not, not lead necessarily like on every, at large initiative, but you know, the more practical things, the practical things we talked about, the day-to-day things we talked about identifying those people and, making them feel great about the work they're doing. That's, the people are the big lever that you have in order to future proof. It's, there's not like magic, there's not a magic iT tool or platform though, Azure is very good. And so is AWS.
KRISTINA: [00:24:59] It sounds like Microsoft is paying you on the side, quite frankly.
PATRICK: [00:25:04] It's a great company. My background is actually from the AWS side and but this was a Microsoft shop when I got here, and the skills or Microsoft skills, the organization, the IT team is a Microsoft shop. So, I, drinking my own Kool-Aid, I've learned, and I, and I've learned a lot about, what, what Azure is doing and how, how we can leverage that to achieve our business goals.
KRISTINA: [00:25:25] That's great. You just talked about really having the team be very kind of, forward-leaning, very learning, evolving, open to change. I think we've both have worked, unfortunately, in some environments where that's not always the case. Very hard and but that's a reality, I think, for a lot of organizations, right? Any advice you have for those folks dealing with a counterpart, maybe who isn't willing to change, who isn't as open perhaps as a Pat Doherty is like?
PATRICK: [00:25:56] Great question. I think I think if you invest early in honesty and transparency, that can really pay off with people like that. Because eventually you can go to them and be like, I've been telling you what we're doing for a long time. I've been totally transparent about it. You're a blocker, so tell me why you're a blocker, or maybe we have to talk about some other option for you. I think, and I know that's not realistic, the second part of that, it's maybe not realistic for most organizations all the time, but if you're honest and transparent and you've laid out the goals, And then you've identified a blocker, in a person, for example, you're going to have this, the other support, the support of your other colleagues up and down the organization to make a change or, blow through that blocker. And I think that's probably the practical reality of investing in, honesty and transparency.
KRISTINA: [00:26:52] That's great advice, actually; I think I adjust and adapt to that or adopt that aspect. So I appreciate that. Well, this has been great. I'm just so excited to hear about all these really great things that you're up to and that you're working on. It's a lot of stuff, but you know, I'm also fascinated that you've embraced this role coming in as a consultant and just really living the day in and day out as a part of the organization. How is it? How has it being on the dark side, or am I on the dark side?
PATRICK: [00:27:21] Well, Kris, you are obviously on the dark side as the consultants; it's been great, I've, I've enjoyed it. As I said, the team has been amazing. Everyone's treated me with such openness I've been happy to help me help the organization. So I've, I've really enjoyed it. As I said, this was kind of my first real mission-based organization, and that's, that's been completely new to me. And the people that come with that, that's sort of new to me. So I, I'm a lifelong learner. I've really enjoyed that. I like seeing those things.
KRISTINA: [00:27:49] So what is the next big challenge or the next big learning adventure that you're going to be taking.
PATRICK: [00:27:54] As we work through our plans and achieve some of the goals that we've laid out with the achieve some of the projects that we've laid out underneath our strategic goals, I think, after this kind of, two and a half three-year period, we're really going to be able to take advantage of some of those things. Really upping our game on business intelligence for the organization. I think that's right on the horizon. We've run a couple of pilot projects. Those have been really successful. We've got a nice methodology down that works for the organization. Like we were really going to be able to get some leverage out of that work, those investments. So I'm excited about that. I'm excited about the staff that's working on that, at the data layer and at the presentation layer; they're learning a ton and reaping the rewards of Microsoft's investment in power BI. So there's, there's the last plug.
KRISTINA: [00:28:39] Well, and it sounds like you're going to be able to reap the rewards of everything that you've sown and really kind of like enjoyed that proverbial its gardens. So that's great. We'll come back and tell us more about that as things start to unravel, but we appreciate you being with us today. I'm always so delighted to speak with you, but you've given us lots of practical advice, and Pat can't thank you enough.
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