Biotech Bytes: Conversations with Biotechnology / Pharmaceutical IT Leaders

IT helping to drive business P&L with Eduard De Vries

February 15, 2024 Steve Swan Episode 4
IT helping to drive business P&L with Eduard De Vries
Biotech Bytes: Conversations with Biotechnology / Pharmaceutical IT Leaders
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Biotech Bytes: Conversations with Biotechnology / Pharmaceutical IT Leaders
IT helping to drive business P&L with Eduard De Vries
Feb 15, 2024 Episode 4
Steve Swan

The convergence of technology and business savvy is reshaping the biotech landscape. Today's leaders are adept at harnessing IT to drive profitability and impact lives, turning data and innovation into strategic gold.

In this episode, I sit down with Eduard De Vries, a visionary at the intersection of IT and healthcare business strategy. Eduard shares insight from his career, reflecting on mentorship, leadership, and the critical balance of curiosity and focused innovation in driving successful P&L.

Throughout our conversation, Eduard emphasizes the crucial role of IT in powering business progress. His passion shines when discussing how technology is not just a tool but a core strategic driver, especially in critical areas like R&D and clinical outcomes. 

To cap off, we delve into the soft skills of leadership and the necessity of creating environments where ideas and debate flourish, ensuring the best outcomes for a company. 

Don’t miss this enlightening conversation about the symbiotic relationship between IT and business performance that's both pragmatic and forward-thinking.

Specifically, this episode highlights the following themes:

  • The essential role of IT in driving business growth and patient outcomes
  • Integrating artificial intelligence into healthcare for enhanced decision-making
  • The symbiotic relationship between mentorship, leadership, and fostering innovation

Links from this episode:

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

The convergence of technology and business savvy is reshaping the biotech landscape. Today's leaders are adept at harnessing IT to drive profitability and impact lives, turning data and innovation into strategic gold.

In this episode, I sit down with Eduard De Vries, a visionary at the intersection of IT and healthcare business strategy. Eduard shares insight from his career, reflecting on mentorship, leadership, and the critical balance of curiosity and focused innovation in driving successful P&L.

Throughout our conversation, Eduard emphasizes the crucial role of IT in powering business progress. His passion shines when discussing how technology is not just a tool but a core strategic driver, especially in critical areas like R&D and clinical outcomes. 

To cap off, we delve into the soft skills of leadership and the necessity of creating environments where ideas and debate flourish, ensuring the best outcomes for a company. 

Don’t miss this enlightening conversation about the symbiotic relationship between IT and business performance that's both pragmatic and forward-thinking.

Specifically, this episode highlights the following themes:

  • The essential role of IT in driving business growth and patient outcomes
  • Integrating artificial intelligence into healthcare for enhanced decision-making
  • The symbiotic relationship between mentorship, leadership, and fostering innovation

Links from this episode:

Eduard De Vries [00:00:00]:
Technology is there to serve the business and not the other way around. If I look at more of my applications, you know, leaders, I want them to really think about what are we trying to do from a business point of view. And I'm in the business of helping the health of women and delivering babies safely. So what can we do to make that happen a little bit better every single day? And if you look at it from that lens, then a lot of the technology decisions become simpler.

Steve Swan [00:00:24]:
You welcome to Biotech Bytes podcast, where I sit down with pharmaceutical IT leaders to learn more about what's working in our industry. I'm your host, Steve Swan. And today on the podcast, I have the privilege of speaking with Eduard De Vries from Axia Women's Health. Welcome.

Eduard De Vries [00:00:40]:
Thank you, Steve, and excited to be here.

Steve Swan [00:00:42]:
Thank you. How are you today?

Steve Swan [00:00:44]:

Eduard De Vries [00:00:44]:
It's a good day. Every day is a good, good.

Steve Swan [00:00:48]:
Well, so I think I want to kind of start out and preface it well. You and I have spoken before, and most if not all the leaders that I speak with, I've spoken to before, and I sit down with them beforehand and kind of understand some of the things they may want to hear and may want to talk about. And a lot of folks are talking about and want to hear about what I think everybody else does.

Eduard De Vries [00:01:09]:

Steve Swan [00:01:10]:
Right. And I think just to kind of give us an introduction into where I think we'll go is knowing you and talking to you as much as we have you, in my opinion, anyway, of all the folks I've spoken to put much more of the business spin on not only it, but definitely AI and all these things. So I think maybe I'll start pretty general, right. And open it up and say from an AI perspective, which again, a lot of folks want to talk about that and want to hear about that. What are your thoughts and feelings around our whole general trend here with AI and as it applies to our industry?

Eduard De Vries [00:01:48]:
I think we're shifting. I think before it was very theoretical and not applied, and I'm a great fan of applied technology and applied means that we really have an impact in the business. So at the end of the day, if I look at the P L at the end of the month, do I see a difference because I've implemented that technology or not? Did I gain more customers? Did I grow my share of revenue from the customer or did I grow my margin? If not, you have the risk of just creating a beautiful science project which doesn't have the impact you want. So it was interesting earlier this morning I was on a call talking about AI with a number of other portfolio company CIOs.

Steve Swan [00:02:22]:
And we really talked about, so how.

Eduard De Vries [00:02:25]:
Do you get AI to grow the business, to grow the revenue? And for example, if you think about it, so if I'm a customer service agent and you call me as Stephen and say, hey, I've got a problem with this product, if I can solve that problem, what if it suggests, hey, Steven might want this product as well. What if the system will recognize cross selling opportunities a human cannot do? We should start looking at it this way and not just look at it as a, hey, we can automate a manual task, which is good, but at the end, I'd rather grow the business and then grow the margin at the same time.

Steve Swan [00:02:56]:
Yeah, absolutely.

Steve Swan [00:02:57]:
I think part of that leads into some of the data. Before we started recording, we were talking about data and we were talking about, like you said, helping to grow a business. And the AI can sniff those things out, right, if it knows sort of a customer profile or a profile of what someone's asking it. And hey, someone that's asked this in the past may have been looking for that, right?

Eduard De Vries [00:03:17]:
Absolutely. And look, as technology people, people have a tendency would always say to go from the left to the right. I have this system, I have this data, then I can do this. Here's the end result. We have to look at it the other way around. We have to go from the right to the left. What drives value for the customer and for the company? Okay. If we sell more products or new service lines, that drives value.

Eduard De Vries [00:03:37]:
Okay, what do I need to do there to make that attractive to the customer now? What pieces of information, at what moment do I have to give to my employees or to my system to give that cross selling opportunity? What do I need to get done to enable that? So I would always say we need to start thinking right to left instead of the traditional left to right in the future. And AI is an example of where you have to do that.

Steve Swan [00:03:58]:

Steve Swan [00:03:59]:
So you're starting with the solution or not the solution, the end result. And working your way backwards is what you're saying, right?

Steve Swan [00:04:05]:
Yeah, absolutely.

Eduard De Vries [00:04:06]:
And success is measured in dollars and cents at the end of the month. Success is not measured in implementation. Or a nice green dot on a PowerPoint slide at the end is, are my customers buying more? And is this enabled by technology?

Steve Swan [00:04:18]:
That's the key question.

Steve Swan [00:04:20]:
It's funny you say that, because last week I did a post on LinkedIn where I basically came out and said, let's forget about the word implementation. Like you just said, let's talk about what we're doing. What do we do?

Steve Swan [00:04:34]:

Steve Swan [00:04:34]:
Business results. That's kind of exactly what you're saying here.

Steve Swan [00:04:37]:

Eduard De Vries [00:04:37]:
And if you look at the good CIOs or the good digital leaders, not everything needs a technology solution. Sometimes there's a process solution. So what is the business outcome we want to realize? Or in my case, often, what's the clinical outcome we want to realize? Let's say that at the end, my goal is to have less people, mothers who've received a baby, to have postpartum depression. Okay, well, how can I solve that? Well, if I can get the patients who need it, behavioral health services. Okay, well, how do I identify those patients? Well, I need to look at certain elements, then maybe do a questionnaire for a subset of them. What data do I need to do? So again, you keep going from the right to the left instead of saying, hey, I can use this data to create a new questionnaire that doesn't drive the business outcome I want or the clinical outcome I want. So it's all about what are we trying to achieve? And then how do we align the systems and the incentives of our salesforce, too? Because if I ask my Salesforce to take certain actions, maybe it works, maybe not. But if I make it really easy for them to do that, and if I then put the right incentives in place, guess what? I get the outcome I want and everybody wins.

Steve Swan [00:05:44]:

Steve Swan [00:05:46]:
Now, what about the data that goes into all this, right? There's a ton of data, and it's all got to be, I mean, it's all got to be almost perfect, doesn't it, to get to where we want to go.

Steve Swan [00:05:57]:
It will be nice if it's all.

Eduard De Vries [00:05:58]:
Perfect, but it never happened. That's just reality. We all do acquisitions and divestments and things like that. And in the past, historically, sometimes we said we are going to master data and governance and we're going to clean all this data without knowing what we're going to get out of it. Again, I think that's the past. I think, number one, with the technology of these days, our systems and AI can scrub more data in an automatic way that we don't have to worry about it. So it's nearly for free. But then, secondly, so let's say I want to have this business outcome.

Eduard De Vries [00:06:29]:
Well, to do that, I need this data set, and then I'm going to see, can AI clean that data? And if it can't, okay, I'll clean a very subset of my data, but it's worse that I do the cleaning because I know the return is there. I'm not going to do it as in the past, say I'm going to clean all my customer data. That makes no sense. What if I never use it? Then I've spent a lot of resources on something. It's not creating value. So again, think about, keep the end in mind, as Stephen Covey said many.

Steve Swan [00:06:53]:
Many years ago, and then work backwards now.

Steve Swan [00:06:58]:
Okay, so then let's talk about the business and let's talk. So in the recent past, right, things have changed. And things have changed because the feds raised rates as much as they've raised them. Right, which would mean we all need more return out of our investment to make it make sense.

Steve Swan [00:07:16]:

Steve Swan [00:07:17]:
So do you have to put on yourself and your organization a different level of need for outcome because of everybody's, I guess, search for a higher return on everything?

Eduard De Vries [00:07:32]:
I think partially, I think what I would say, you know what I mean? Now the hurdle rate is higher because at the end of the day, the cost of capital is significantly higher. I would say private equity has always pushed fairly hard for their companies to say, you need to have a real good return on what you do. So I would say in our world, yes, it's sometimes harder to get capital, but if the return is there, the right thing will be done. I think for other companies, the world has changed. And before they might have said, look, we can only get a 5% return on our capital. So if you have a seven or 8% internal rate of return, that's okay. Well, nowadays people are talking about 20 30% as an internal rate of return, which I think is the right thing. And even when the interest rates go down, because, look, the feds stopped raising them, many of us expect that they're going to go down somewhat next year.

Eduard De Vries [00:08:20]:
When they go down, I don't think we should lower our internal rate of return. Why would we?

Steve Swan [00:08:24]:
I don't think so either.

Eduard De Vries [00:08:25]:
I think we should stay aggressive and push ourselves to keep delivering. And then when the interest rate is down, that means the return for our company is higher, we're more profitable. Why would we give up the edge we've created for ourselves?

Steve Swan [00:08:35]:
This is a competitive edge. Right.

Steve Swan [00:08:38]:
And I guess to take what you were saying initially, if our end result was 8% before, like you said, let's make our IRR 20 30% and then work our way backwards. And maybe that is implementing more of this AI, right, to get a higher rate of return to whether it's reducing human capital, whether it's increasing human capital in this area, whether it's changing this system to be, whatever the case may be, agree.

Eduard De Vries [00:09:02]:
And maybe at 30% or 25%, I can accept that one out of ten doesn't have a return. So maybe when the interest rates go down, I can place a few more bets for growth and accept that one or two don't succeed. But I would rather have some big wins than a lot of really small wins. Because if one of them goes wrong, I have no margin to correct with the other ones. If my internal rate of return is 8% and my cost of capital is 7%, I have no margin. At 20 30%, I have a margin. I have a margin of error, which I think we need to be able to do some investments. When we invested in AI one or two years ago, it was a long term bet.

Eduard De Vries [00:09:37]:
There were small investments, but you had to try something. Now everybody is investing there. How are we going to think that in two, three years we can still do those small investments to see if they work in future technologies?

Steve Swan [00:09:49]:
Do you think then that. So we all have our core systems, our core functions, our HR finance, our supply chains, procurement, all that stuff. Are they going to be affected by what we're talking about, or are we talking about the returns of the systems that are on the peripheral?

Steve Swan [00:10:05]:

Steve Swan [00:10:05]:
I guess my question was, do we have core systems and are they stagnant, are they not going to change, and are we working on the advance in IRR on the other systems, on the peripheral?

Eduard De Vries [00:10:16]:
I tend to look at it this way. To me, as a business, you have a core. If you are a pharmaceutical company, part of your core is your r and D systems, how you develop and discover new drugs. And then there's your manufacturing. And probably my Chro or my CFO don't want to hear this. But my HR system, my finance system, they're becoming commodities. And yes, they're getting a little bit better. But if my HR system is double.

Steve Swan [00:10:39]:
As good as my competitor, it's not.

Eduard De Vries [00:10:41]:
Going to change my business. If my medical record system or my drug discovery system is twice as good as my competitors, my business is going to be significantly better.

Steve Swan [00:10:51]:
So I don't think you should say.

Eduard De Vries [00:10:53]:
In all your systems, you want to be the best in the world. I want my HR system to be good enough, and I want it to be a good employee experience, and I want it to be reliable. But I don't need to be cutting edge. If I can be cutting edge pregnancy prediction, if I can be cutting edge on some of our medical systems, that really makes a difference for my patients and does for my business. If I'm a pharmaceutical company, the way I can set up reimbursement support and the way I can do PBM contracting, if I could be best in class there, that's going to move the needle for my business.

Steve Swan [00:11:24]:
The way how I manage, I don't.

Eduard De Vries [00:11:26]:
Know, my active directory, it's going to.

Steve Swan [00:11:29]:
Be good, but it's a commodity, so.

Eduard De Vries [00:11:32]:
We have to choose. You can only look, the most precious thing in all of our business is the attention of our leaders. We only have so much attention, so we should really be conscious deciding on what two or three or four things am I going to spend all my effort and the rest should be good enough.

Steve Swan [00:11:47]:
So then let me ask you this in my wheelhouse, right, in finding up, let's say, and I'm doing this, I swear I would never do this, but I'm doing this on my own podcast, right? If you were looking for somebody, if you had a list of folks you were looking for, right. I guess what you're saying is the R and D and the commercial stuff, those would be the people that really have to understand, I don't know, the EBITDA or whatever, right? And then it kind of slides down from there as far as the return on investment when it comes to ROI and IrR, right?

Eduard De Vries [00:12:20]:
If you're in a pharmaceutical company, I would say you have to say what is your core? And there's different types of pharmaceutical companies. But if it's a company which creates drugs, then it's about discovery, it's about manufacturing, and it's about commercialization. Those are your three things which are really going to grow the business.

Steve Swan [00:12:37]:
If you are exceptionally well at recruiting people, that will help you, but it's.

Eduard De Vries [00:12:44]:
Not going to double your shareholder value. So what are the things which drives, what are the key business value drivers? What are the levers you have to pull in your business? You're in the business of recruiting. At the end of the day, you can have the nicest office and the best facilities and the best it set up. There's a point where if your computer is double as fast, it's not going to make you find it be double as efficient. So what would really move the Needle? Maybe for you, it's having a great system where you can track all the candidates you stay in touch with over the years and then you can find some nuggets there. So you got to know your business to figure this out. And the last thing you want to do is peanut butter, spread your know, if you think about Porter, one of the great strategy guys, my favorite saying from him is the essence of strategy.

Steve Swan [00:13:33]:
Is choosing what not to do.

Eduard De Vries [00:13:36]:
We have to accept what things are good enough is good enough. I mean, I drive a car, and I just want a car to work. I don't need to go to the best place to service my car. Just put oil in and do whatever you do and make it. You don't have to tune it every time.

Steve Swan [00:13:51]:
We got to be willing to make choices. That's life. Yeah.

Steve Swan [00:13:56]:
We lost Charlie Munger recently, if you know who he is, and I'm a big Charlie fan. And one of the things I was reading about last week when they were talking about him was they were talking about Charlie just always really focused on really what not to do.

Steve Swan [00:14:13]:

Steve Swan [00:14:14]:
If I know what not to do, I do the other stuff. Avoid the mistakes, the upside takes care of itself kind of stuff. And that's kind of what we're talking about here. Just make sure you're doing not, don't lose money, and don't do silly things, and you're going in the right direction.

Eduard De Vries [00:14:30]:
Getting the basics right. I think he was the master in getting the basics right, and he had such an amazing relationship with his partner, how they worked together and how they gave each other the space. To me, that's an amazing couple of the two of them, and I don't think we'll ever see that again in that industry.

Steve Swan [00:14:47]:
I don't think so, either. I went to those meetings. I went to about eight of them, and there's not a lot of books that Charlie put out. Two or three, and I read them, and one of them is from Darwin, de Monger. And it's great about, just about how we think as humans, and we're really not meant for these high level, sort of high emotional emotions get in the way, fight or flight gets in the way of everything. And that's really what it breaks down to, as opposed to being logical.

Eduard De Vries [00:15:17]:
And it's interesting, I think he was the first one who really brought psychology into the economic model they were using to make decisions. And I think he was different. And by now, a lot of people do this and we talk, call it behavioral economics. It wasn't there 2030 years ago. And also, he reinvented himself a number of times. I mean, he fell on hard times. Earlier in his career, he had an unfortunate death of his son. And every time he reinvented himself and came back stronger.

Eduard De Vries [00:15:44]:
And people say, well, he became rich working together with Warren Buffett. No, he was very well off going into that. He just continued to extend his success, and that's amazing to see.

Steve Swan [00:15:55]:
And at the end of the day, really, he did a lot of reading, like clearly you do behind you with all those books.

Steve Swan [00:16:00]:

Steve Swan [00:16:01]:
And he very much made a point to make sure that he actually gave away most of his money. A lot of folks, they don't talk about that in any of these articles. I think he gave away close to $20 billion and he ended up with two, two and a half, which again, ton of money.

Eduard De Vries [00:16:15]:

Steve Swan [00:16:15]:
But gave away a lot of it. So there's a lot to be said for that. But anyway, back to you and what's going on with you now from, I guess, more of a business perspective because I know that's a lot of what your angle is and that's what we talked about a lot. Right. What would you say would be, I mean, you don't look at or look for systems kinds of folks.

Eduard De Vries [00:16:43]:

Steve Swan [00:16:43]:
You look for more of that. Like we just talked about that business minded person, which in our industry, I'll be honest with you, it's tough to find.

Eduard De Vries [00:16:50]:
Right. Well, I think you need different skill sets. At the end of the day, if I look at the people running my infrastructure and operations function, you want them to be a technical person first, but understand that technology is there to serve the business and not the other way around. If I look at more of my applications leaders, I want them to really think about what are we trying to do from a business point of view? And I'm in the business of helping the health of women and delivering babies safely. So what can we do to make that happen a little bit better every single day? And if you look at it from that lens, then a lot of the technology decisions become simpler. I don't get excited about features anymore, but I do get excited about, so when my vendor comes to me, my core EMR vendor, and I was just on a phone call with their CEO, and we talked about some of the AI and some of the new features they were doing. And my question is, so what would that change for one of my patients? And when we're able to articulate that, and then we said, well, what if you put a little bit more development on this angle so it would really influence the decision my doctor makes with that specific patient that makes a difference.

Steve Swan [00:17:58]:
So again, at the end, I'm there.

Eduard De Vries [00:18:02]:
Or my group is there to service our doctors and our care centers. We're there to service our patients. That's the core of the business. And everything else is less important than that. And yes, we have to do taxes and we have to do all these.

Steve Swan [00:18:14]:
Other things, but at the end, if.

Eduard De Vries [00:18:16]:
We can trace it back to our.

Steve Swan [00:18:17]:
Mission of taking care of our patients.

Eduard De Vries [00:18:20]:
Everything else falls in line, and we can never forget about that. And it's so easy to forget about that. If we talk about uptime in it or if we talk about budgets or if we talk about top line growth, that is critical, but you always have to connect it back to, why are we here today? That's, I think, what really, if we lose that, then we just become a technology shop. And I think Steve Jobs said it once when he was trying to recruit somebody for apple. He said, do you want to sell sugar water forever, or do you want to make a difference in people's life? Now, it's a little bit easier for us in healthcare to say that. Do you want to have a drug which cures a disease for a child? I think those are pretty exciting things for us. Do you want to help deliver more healthy babies?

Steve Swan [00:19:02]:
Well, that's pretty exciting.

Eduard De Vries [00:19:03]:
I can get out of bed for that every day.

Steve Swan [00:19:05]:

Steve Swan [00:19:06]:
It's funny. One of my daughters is a data science, computer science major. And she says they have this long elevator ride up to their classes whatever day of the week it is. And she says that the kids in the elevator, all they want to talk about is their runtime. She goes, dad, I try and get them engaged in what you have for lunch. What are you doing this weekend? She's like, runtime, to your point, she's not saying it, but she's almost saying that's kind of a commodity. Let's talk about how we're going to. She wants to help business, but she doesn't know how to articulate that.

Steve Swan [00:19:38]:
She's 20 years old, but she wants to make a difference. And that's exactly what you hire in three, four years.

Eduard De Vries [00:19:44]:
And in ten years, she'll hire me working for her. But at the end of the day, she's already looking at it. Like, look, I'm not just looking at the tool. I'm looking, what else is there? Over time, I think as we grow, especially early in our career, we get exposure to different areas, and we can then learn what really makes a difference and how can we have the most impact? Because at the end, look, we do our job every day to have maximum impact. That's what creates satisfaction. And she's already searching for that at 20. That's amazing. And, I mean, I've got kids, and I hope they're going to do well and think about things like that as well.

Eduard De Vries [00:20:14]:
Yeah, absolutely.

Steve Swan [00:20:15]:
Fingers crossed. Now, we were just talking about Charlie and Warren a minute ago, right? And I know in the past when you and I spoke, you actually said to me, and I've never heard this from anybody but Charlie and Warren.

Steve Swan [00:20:30]:

Steve Swan [00:20:31]:
They actually set aside time every day to think about or study their craft or do whatever they're doing. And you mentioned to me that you do the same sort of thing you set aside on your calendar.

Steve Swan [00:20:43]:

Steve Swan [00:20:43]:
A couple hours a day. What exactly do you focus on during those? Do you make it strict? Do you not make it strict? What do you think about there?

Eduard De Vries [00:20:50]:
I wish it was a couple of hours a day. I think that's hard. But it's a couple of hours in a week where, look, number one, I read the newspaper every day, the Wall Street Journal, and I think that already gives you a really broad overview of what's happening. And then I tend to read a lot of books and articles. And what happens is I really believe in compounding of knowledge. So when I started reading in my 20s, when I started reading serious books, that didn't make a difference. But by now I can sit down and we can have a discussion about Munger and Buffett, or I can have a discussion about oil and gas just because of all the knowledge I've accumulated over the last 20 years. You got to keep investing in that to keep growing.

Eduard De Vries [00:21:30]:
So wherever I go, there's always books around. It's funny, tonight I'm going to buy the Christmas gifts for my direct reports, and those are going to be books. And then what happens is when you give enough books away, eventually people start to give you books as well. So then you keep learning more. And it's fascinating. And the thing is, if we only look at our little industry, then we're never going to get better. So if you think about healthcare, if you think about pharmaceutical, well, we should.

Steve Swan [00:21:56]:
Think about what do companies in other industries do?

Eduard De Vries [00:21:59]:
What can we learn from them? Because our industry is never the most advanced in what we do. So then you keep reading and there's always innovation is a lot of it's copying what others do and then combining it in a different way. I really believe in doing that and then talking to a lot of people. That's how we ended up talking. I talked to a lot of people.

Steve Swan [00:22:18]:
Yeah, I was just about to say that.

Eduard De Vries [00:22:20]:
And I think then if you always have something to share, then over time, next time you will learn things which you can apply in your business. You learn and you keep learning and then you keep finding new ways to apply it. And that goes back to, we talked about AI in the beginning. It's about applied AI. It's about applied innovation. It's not about just some theoretical story. It can't just be academic. It's got to really move the Needle.

Eduard De Vries [00:22:44]:
And to me, I measure moving the needle at the end of the month how it looks in my PNL. I mean, that's at the end of truth.

Steve Swan [00:22:50]:

Steve Swan [00:22:52]:
And so you actually keep A-P-L because a lot of it leaders can say they do. I don't think they can.

Eduard De Vries [00:22:57]:
Not that I know of anyway.

Steve Swan [00:22:58]:
But that's good.

Eduard De Vries [00:22:58]:
No, but there's A-P-L for our company, which I look at every month, and then I have a component. Sure. But at the end, if I don't understand financially where my company is, then how can I make the right decision? How can I say, is this a good investment right now? Or maybe we should wait till next quarter. And if I see certain trends, then I might tell my people, look, I know you're working on that area, but I think we should focus a bit on that because I see that the revenue in that area is starting to take off and the margin will follow. So if you're not a business person with a technology portfolio as a digital leader, then how can you be really full peer in the executive suite? When we set the strategy as a team, I don't just talk about it. And my chief HR officer doesn't just talk about HR. We together talk about it.

Steve Swan [00:23:46]:

Eduard De Vries [00:23:46]:
So we want to grow in this segment of the market. Well, hey, maybe technology can help here, maybe we can do this, but we all discuss it as a team. I'm there as a business leader, and I think if we still have technical leaders who talk technology first or who are there to just get the projects to be completed, that's the past. That's not what's going to get us to where we need to get our companies towards and over time. I don't think they will be the leader in 1020 years.

Steve Swan [00:24:12]:

Steve Swan [00:24:13]:
If you're not thinking about that.

Steve Swan [00:24:14]:

Steve Swan [00:24:14]:
So that was to kind of circle back on what you started with there. Cumulative knowledge just gets that much better every day. And that was one day I was just sitting, not thinking about in my business, just thinking about more about my business. I was away from the office and I was like, I know so many leaders, I know so many edwards, but they all have a different angle on how they think about stuff and what they do and if cumulative knowledge is getting that much better every day, let's share it. Because if it gets that much better, let's raise the tide a little bit more every day for everybody. And that was my whole idea about this thing.

Eduard De Vries [00:24:52]:
It's a great idea and it's interesting. When we then talked, we quickly started to pivot towards and how can you monetize that in the long term? Because I can't help myself at the end, we're business people all. So how can you grow that over time? And I think for you, it helps you to build your relationships, to build your network, and your value is your network, because at the end, that's where you're going to pick future candidates or future business from.

Steve Swan [00:25:12]:
Yeah, and like I told you, I was more of the hippie mindset, right? Just kind of let's share knowledge. But it kind of grew and here I am. But it's also good, right? Because I get to talk to folks, you and I, this is why we're talking again, right? We'd be talking again in a little bit. But I think it's interesting to listen to, each person has their own ideas, their own spin, their own thoughts and feelings about how things are to be handled and approached. Some folks will talk about that shiny object. Some folks will talk about applying that shiny object to business. Some folks will talk about, like you just said, business working our way backwards. And if that shiny object is going to help me, great.

Steve Swan [00:25:52]:
If not, we're going right by it.

Eduard De Vries [00:25:55]:
And I learned from everybody I listen to. I learned from everybody I talk to. And I think the more we are open to experiences like that and input from other people, the better leaders we are. And we have to tell the same to the people, to the vps and directors we report to them, and the managers and the people in their teams. How do we get them to also keep learning? Because it's really easy these days to just spend your time on your phone and just spend your time on social media. That's not going to get you to where you want to get to long term. And if you're happy with that, great. But I think many of us don't want to be stagnant.

Eduard De Vries [00:26:26]:
We want to keep growing. So how do we do that and how do we use our time wisely? And that doesn't mean that we always have to be productive. But I try to be very conscious how I spend my time so I can decide to spend my time doing fun stuff as the kids. And I can spend my time having quality time with my wife. It can be working out. It can be reading, it can be working.

Steve Swan [00:26:48]:
But I can't let our slip away. That feels wasteful. And I think a lot of things.

Eduard De Vries [00:26:55]:
These days are set up for us to waste our time. But honestly. So it's a choice we do to not let that happen. And as you see behind me are the Patriots. Well, the good thing is I don't watch football right now because I can't watch my own team, for heaven's sake. But at the end of the day, we need to be smart. Our most precious commodities are time, and that goes the same for leadership team. The most precious commodity they have, the most precious thing they have is the time they can focus on a few.

Steve Swan [00:27:22]:
Topics, pick them wisely.

Steve Swan [00:27:24]:
I have a question. I have a guess at what your answer would be, and I'm not going to say, but what would you say is the one most important quality when you're looking at somebody, whether to hire them or to hire them? How about that?

Steve Swan [00:27:38]:

Steve Swan [00:27:38]:
Because you're going to be investing money in your hire, right? Yeah, absolutely. I think I got the answer, but I'm not quite sure. Here, let me hear what you.

Steve Swan [00:27:46]:
I think it's focus.

Eduard De Vries [00:27:48]:
Can they focus to get things done? Can they set the right priorities? And when I hire people reporting to me, they're leaders. So it's not about can they get.

Steve Swan [00:27:56]:
The job done, but can they make.

Eduard De Vries [00:27:59]:
Sure the job gets done. Can they create the environment, the team, the context, and can they work with the other people in the company or in our partnership network to get things done? I'll give you one example. When I came into the company I'm in right now, our key partner on the software side, we didn't have a great relationship. And it's really easy to say, well, it's your fault. No, it's your fault. And I said, look, within the first month, I flew down and I sat down with the CEO and we had a cup of coffee, and I said, look, this can go two ways.

Steve Swan [00:28:28]:
We can either prove the other one's wrong and we're both successful, then I've.

Eduard De Vries [00:28:32]:
Proven it your fault, you've proven it's my fault and we move on, or we can say, you know what? We're going to make this work together.

Steve Swan [00:28:38]:
I know what I prefer.

Eduard De Vries [00:28:39]:
What do you prefer? He's like, no, let's make it work together. And guess what? We do. But that was a conscious choice. But the only way to stop the cycle is say, stop. Let's think about what are we trying to achieve what are we doing here? What are we showing our people with our behavior? And when we made that conscious choice, everything changed. And now, a year ago, we were considering what are we going to do next? A month ago, I stood in front of four and a half thousand people in his annual conference and told the story about how his product is making a difference for our company because we made a conscious choice together. And those are, to me, the fun things in your career when you've turned something around with a few people.

Steve Swan [00:29:14]:

Steve Swan [00:29:15]:
If something's going off the track, sure.

Steve Swan [00:29:16]:

Steve Swan [00:29:17]:
100%. I thought you may say curiosity.

Steve Swan [00:29:21]:

Steve Swan [00:29:21]:
A curiosity. It's somebody who's, if they're always curious, they're always going to be trying to learn or move to, but hey, focus.

Eduard De Vries [00:29:28]:
Honestly, I think that's a really good answer, too.

Steve Swan [00:29:31]:
I am very curious.

Eduard De Vries [00:29:32]:
I'm worried. The problem with curiosity is it also has to be actioned because you could say, and I love academics and college and hey, when I retire, I was.

Steve Swan [00:29:41]:
Just going to say you could be an academic, love to be a college.

Eduard De Vries [00:29:44]:
Professor when I'm retired at 65 or 70, but it's not going to help me run my business. If you learn more and more, but you don't apply it. So I'm hesitant to say that, but it's a key skill I look for. But if I get only one, it's not the one. Because at the end, results are what drive my bottom line.

Steve Swan [00:30:00]:
Sure, yeah.

Steve Swan [00:30:01]:
And to your point, curiosity with no actionable or curiosity with just, okay, I learned it. Now I'm moving on. You got to have the focus.

Steve Swan [00:30:09]:
You're right.

Steve Swan [00:30:09]:

Steve Swan [00:30:10]:

Steve Swan [00:30:11]:
Focus will pay the bills. Curiosity doesn't alone.

Steve Swan [00:30:13]:
No, I think curiosity gives you, it.

Eduard De Vries [00:30:17]:
Opens your aperture to see more potential solutions, business solutions, but then you got to do something with it. So I would say focus first, driving.

Steve Swan [00:30:25]:
Results, and then you need curiosity to figure out how you can get to the results. Yeah.

Steve Swan [00:30:31]:
Now, one last subject that a lot of folks have asked me about and a lot of folks have talked about. And again, just feelings and thoughts around. And again, this is more of, I guess, a commodity thing.

Steve Swan [00:30:42]:

Steve Swan [00:30:42]:

Steve Swan [00:30:43]:

Steve Swan [00:30:44]:
It security within the organization. I know it's a hot topic, yet it's one that I'm not looking for. No particulars, no specifics, nothing at all. But just your thoughts and feelings around that. Is it hurting? Is it helping? Is there something more we should be thinking about? Is there something less we should be thinking about that kind of thing?

Eduard De Vries [00:31:04]:
Well, I don't think less these days.

Steve Swan [00:31:06]:
I think, look the issue with security.

Eduard De Vries [00:31:10]:
Is we can make our security as.

Steve Swan [00:31:12]:
Good as we want, but we know.

Eduard De Vries [00:31:14]:
We will be breached eventually. Everybody in principle, and I'm not talking about my employee, but in general, everybody will be breached. How are you going to find it out quickly? How are you going to respond to it? Security is hard. And look, as a CIO or as a digital leader, you can only lose, because either you spend a lot of money and nothing happens, and then did you really have to spend the money, or you spend a lot of money, something happens, or why didn't we spend more money? So it's hard. We have to continuously keep improving little steps. We have to find a balance between where do we make life slightly more inconvenient for our colleagues and our customers, our patients, versus how do we stay safer? Because I've got a passcode on my phone and now tech text my face. It was easy ten years ago. You could just open the phone.

Eduard De Vries [00:32:05]:
I didn't have to do the extra step. If you think about it more and more, we put in multifactor authentication. We all do many things. When I go to the bank, they send me text codes.

Steve Swan [00:32:15]:
It's all a little bit inconvenient, but.

Eduard De Vries [00:32:18]:
We needed to stay safe. So how do we stay ahead of the curve? I think AI is starting to help there. It's detecting things, but in general, it's a hard topic. And I think many of us also don't like to talk about it too much in public also, right?

Steve Swan [00:32:33]:
Yeah, exactly. I was talking to one CIO and he was telling me, and I've had this conversation with folks that are responsible for security, DLP, AI, so on and so forth. He was telling me he and one of his consultants were looking at open Chat GPT, and up came some data, some information from a company that he knew, and he knows the other CIO. He got right on the phone and said, you got a problem, they handled it. But that's tough. Stifling innovation, turning off chat, GPT. Or you could run into something like that.

Eduard De Vries [00:33:08]:
It's all trade offs, and everybody has to pick their own trade off. Hopefully, 55% of the people will be happy with the trade off. You choose, the other 45 will not. And that's life. And that's okay. That's part of the role. But that's the same when you do salary increases annually as a management team, nobody's ever happy or think they get enough salary, but at the same time, you've got a company to run too. So it's a reality of leadership, you.

Steve Swan [00:33:34]:
Can'T make everybody happy.

Steve Swan [00:33:37]:
I always say, if everybody loves what you're doing, you're doing something wrong. If everybody hates what you're doing, you're doing something wrong. So like you said, there's always a balance.

Eduard De Vries [00:33:45]:
And do you have the relationship to explain why you've made certain choices? And I like the Amazon concept of disagree and commit. So we will, in our leadership team, and also my IT leadership team will debate certain topics and then at the end we'll make a decision and know we close ranks, we're going to execute the decision and you can have a different opinion, that's fine. But at the end we've committed, we're going to do this. This is one of those where maybe we disagree on that it's fine, we make a decision and we move on together.

Steve Swan [00:34:11]:
Right? Yeah.

Steve Swan [00:34:12]:
Well, that makes a lot of sense. Agree to disagree and move on and know what's going on and let's move forward, make a decision. I like asking one more question before we end. Right, which I didn't prompt you on or anything like that, but before I ask you that, is there anything more that you want to cover from the leadership, the IT perspective? My other question is more like a.

Eduard De Vries [00:34:38]:
Fun question, I would say.

Steve Swan [00:34:39]:
The one other thing is there's been.

Eduard De Vries [00:34:42]:
A lot of discussion about diversity, and I'm not the one on diversity councils.

Steve Swan [00:34:47]:
And all those things, but I do.

Eduard De Vries [00:34:49]:
Think you shortchange your company if you don't take it into account. I think you have to be smart and realize that if everybody on your team looks like you or me, we're not going to have the best opinions, we're not going to have the best outcomes. Your team has to be a reflection to a certain extent of your customer base, of your patient base, of your employee base. If I look at our company, the majority of leaders in my IT team is female. Why? Well, a, we're a women's health company, but b, also it's really easy to know just the majority of white males there. That's not what we want. So we got to be smart how we make the decision. So I think that also means that as leaders, we have to mentor other leaders.

Eduard De Vries [00:35:30]:
So I've always done a couple of groups like Tech Alex and others where I mentor people younger in their career. So we give back because people have helped us and we can really drive to how do we want the average IT leadership team or digital leader to look 20 years from now? That's based on decisions we make collectively. It's not just somebody else what they do. So I would say, again, take action, do something. If you believe in it, I think.

Steve Swan [00:35:54]:
That'S great because it pushes you to surround yourself with folks like you just said. That essentially didn't come up like you or don't think like you or have different ideas than you, and that pushes your brain to go in different directions and to think like, yeah, that makes a ton of sense, but I would have never thought of that, because you're a collection. Your opinions and your thought processes are a collection of your experiences. And we don't all have the same experience.

Eduard De Vries [00:36:19]:
Absolutely. And then if you do that and you create what you would call psychological safety, that people feel free, that they can say, look, Steven, I disagree, and we debate. So if one of my direct reports comes to me and says, look, Edward, I don't think it's a what you're saying. I think it's b. My initial reaction will always be, why do you think it's b? I'm truly curious why? And I would say 70, 80% the time I go, you know what? You're right.

Steve Swan [00:36:42]:
Let's go that direction.

Eduard De Vries [00:36:43]:
And in other cases, I'll say, well, I happen to know that based on the strategy of the company, we're going to do this in one or three years. So this is why we're doing this. But at the end, you've got to be open and assume that you don't have all the right answers. And the people reporting to me all know more about their individual areas than I'll ever know because my portfolio is wider. So if you take that approach and going in like that, then you orchestrate to get to the best outcome. I'm not orchestrating to get to my opinion. If my opinion can improve, we get to a better spot. And I owe the company to do that.

Eduard De Vries [00:37:12]:
As an executive, it's not implement efforts, best ids. It's find the best id within the group and implement that.

Steve Swan [00:37:19]:
That's the goal.

Eduard De Vries [00:37:20]:
What we're trying to do.

Steve Swan [00:37:21]:
You talk more about debate than anybody I've spoken to in a long, long time. And that goes right into what you just said, debate. And let's talk, because I don't know exactly what you're talking about. So let's debate it so I can figure it out. Let's swap ideas and let's come to a conclusion on this thing.

Eduard De Vries [00:37:38]:
You have to, because as we go into different areas in the business, we don't know inside out. As we start looking at things like AI or generative AI, nobody knows everything about that. So at the end, you got to talk about it with a number of people, get to the best outcome.

Steve Swan [00:37:51]:
And the only way to get there.

Eduard De Vries [00:37:53]:
In my mind, just talk about it, debate it, and get to the best answer. Not to have the highest paid person's opinion, but have the best answer, and then collectively say, this is it, let's now drive and make it happen.

Steve Swan [00:38:04]:
And that may be tough, too, Edward, for some employees, because I don't even know how else to say this. Some folks could take debate as conflict.

Eduard De Vries [00:38:17]:
And it is a very low level.

Steve Swan [00:38:19]:
Of conflict, but some people are so conflict averse or debate averse that it may be like, oh, boy, I'm not getting. It's tough to get the horsepower out of that person if they have that personality trait.

Steve Swan [00:38:31]:

Eduard De Vries [00:38:31]:
But as a leader, that means when I come in, I've got to level the playing field. I've got to say, when we're trying to figure out an answer, we're sitting here with eight equals. When there's a decision to be made, I can make the decision at the end. Hierarchy matters. When there's a decision to be made, when there's an approval to be given, when there's budget to be signed off. But until then, all of us have whatever, twelve and a half percent of the truth to get to a collective truth.

Steve Swan [00:38:56]:
And that means that I have to.

Eduard De Vries [00:38:59]:
Go in with a low ego to.

Steve Swan [00:39:00]:
Get a better outcome. Right.

Steve Swan [00:39:04]:
And you got to convey that from.

Eduard De Vries [00:39:05]:
The moment you start. You got to set the table for that. If you don't do it, some people will try to spend their time figuring out what is Edward's opinion, because I.

Steve Swan [00:39:13]:
Can make sure I repeat that, right.

Steve Swan [00:39:16]:
I can be a yes man. And you got seven others around the desk that are just saying what he said. Like what? No, I'm not paying you for that.

Eduard De Vries [00:39:22]:
Well, at the end of the day, if I do that, I could hire 50,000 people, $50,000 a year people. I don't have to hire the level of people I do now because I don't listen to them. And that's where, over time, every leader is replaceable. And my goal is in three years that either I get incremental responsibilities or go do something else in three years, they shouldn't need me anymore. The group should have been transformed, and hopefully somebody will have stepped up and said, you know what? We can do it better. And that's great. Don't be afraid of that.

Steve Swan [00:39:50]:

Steve Swan [00:39:51]:
So your goal is to truly make your team better around you. That, hey, they can do everything I.

Eduard De Vries [00:39:57]:
Can, then somehow they absolutely will. And if not, that means I've not been a good leader, because that means I'm holding myself back and my company back. And then hopefully, the company will grow aggressively, so the scope will be bigger and everything will fall into place.

Steve Swan [00:40:11]:
Yeah, no, it makes a lot of sense.

Steve Swan [00:40:12]:
That's great. Good. Awesome.

Steve Swan [00:40:14]:
Well, thank you for your insights. So let me hit you with my final question, and I didn't prompt you.

Steve Swan [00:40:19]:
On this at all. Music.

Steve Swan [00:40:21]:
Do you like music?

Eduard De Vries [00:40:23]:
Sometimes I listen to music. I can also enjoy the silence. Remember that? Thinking true things.

Steve Swan [00:40:27]:
But yes.

Steve Swan [00:40:28]:
Okay, well, what I was going to ask is, if you've gone to concerts, what's ever been your favorite live music that you've ever seen?

Eduard De Vries [00:40:35]:
So I'm going to give you two different answers on two phases of my life. About two years ago, why did I know that? A few years ago, I went to Santana, and it was amazing to see he was in his stage. He had more energy than I don't think I've ever had. It was amazing.

Steve Swan [00:40:51]:
And what he was able to do.

Eduard De Vries [00:40:53]:
The atmosphere he was able to create, and then to put the focus on as drummer was a female, was the best female drummer ever. And also how he did it, low ego and said, look at her. He also showed real leadership on the stage. So that was amazing to see. When I was in my late teens, I had no gray hairs, and I was a little wilder. I went to a lot of festivals in Europe, and just imagine, there's a 16 year old me hitchhiking to other countries to go to music festivals. God forbid my children ever do that. But I love to go to, like, nirvana, rage against the machine, pearl Gem, which back then was really cool.

Eduard De Vries [00:41:29]:
Now I don't think I would want to go to a concert anymore. And some of the lyrics, I go, ooh, I might have outlived that, but that was an exciting time back then. Even though if my children would ask me to go hitchhike through Belgium to France to go to a free concert, I don't think I would actually survive that ask.

Steve Swan [00:41:47]:
Yeah, no, not at our age. And by the time. If we did that, by the time we got there, if we sleep in at ten or whatever, be like, no, I want to go to that hotel. I can do that now.

Steve Swan [00:41:57]:

Eduard De Vries [00:41:57]:
I always say to my kids, like, look, I would like you to be more successful than me in life, but also don't repeat all the wild years I had when I was younger.

Steve Swan [00:42:05]:
Her. Yeah, absolutely.

Steve Swan [00:42:07]:
Well, so don't sell Pearl jam short. I've always been a fan. I've seen them twice in the last year. Still pretty good. Yeah, but I'm not sleeping in tents or anything and I'm not hitchhiking.

Eduard De Vries [00:42:18]:
I have that image in my mind of seeing them 20 years ago. I love that image in my mind. I don't think I want to change that, but maybe I should.

Steve Swan [00:42:28]:
To each his own.

Steve Swan [00:42:29]:
No, listen. To each his own. Right? I was always into them. Never saw them first saw them 911 22 and then I saw them again September of this year out in Minneapolis.

Steve Swan [00:42:40]:

Steve Swan [00:42:41]:
I just always liked them. Always wanted to see them. Empty nester now. So let's go do some.

Steve Swan [00:42:45]:

Eduard De Vries [00:42:45]:
You have to enjoy life.

Steve Swan [00:42:47]:
Well, anyway.

Steve Swan [00:42:48]:
Well, thank you very much. It's been great. I really appreciate all your insight.

Eduard De Vries [00:42:57]:
My pleasure. Thank you for doing this.

Steve Swan [00:43:03]:
You one.

About Eduard De Vries
Focus on business/clinical outcomes, not just technology
Private equity demands higher return on investment
Strive for excellence where it matters most
Business success requires understanding key value drivers
Leaders need tech knowledge, focus on impact
Consistent reading helps accumulate knowledge for discussions
Regular financial analysis guides effective decision-making
Choosing to work together changed everything positively
Security is hard; breaches are inevitable
Diversity in teams leads to better outcomes
Strategic openness and orchestration for best outcome