Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS)



Jo Surich, President PresiNET Systems, past CIO Province of BC and Partner Sierra Systems: Leading Entrepreneur, Innovator, Executive, Investor

This week, Stephen Ibaraki has an exclusive interview with Jo Surich.

Joe SurichJo Surich is President of PresiNET Systems Corp. and PresiNET of its new affiliate, PresiNET Healthcare. PresiNET is a long-standing innovator in the network performance, security and compliance space. PresiNET Healthcare was founded to bring to market a new set of products based on the TOTAL VIEW ONE system installed by private and public enterprises around the globe.

The PresiNET Healthcare product line was developed under Jo's direction. TOTAL VIEW PLUS brings the capacity to track and report events and transactions based on the DICOM, HL7 and XML protocols. The capacity to track these transactions massively enhances the ability to manage privacy, security and regulatory compliance concerns.

Jo has a long entrepreneurial history, launching the largest boutique management consulting firm in Victoria, BC after leaving a post as the CIO for the Province of British Columbia. At the same time, he provided leadership for the development of PresiNET Systems and its full line of products and corporate relationships. He sold Transformation Solutions to Sierra Systems in 2001.

From 2001-2004 he provided corporate leadership for Sierra Systems' Enterprise Solutions Practice across North America. Jo brings a unique combination of information systems, human resources, and change management expertise to the entrepreneurial world. Strong facilitation and negotiation skills allow Jo to successfully manage large complex projects with competing stakeholder interests. Jo has extensive project management experience at the senior level.

Jo serves as Director of several small technology companies, assisting them to emerge from the 'garage' and take their place as fully commercial enterprises.

Skills and Experience

Project Leadership
As the Partner responsible for the Enterprise Resource Practice at Sierra Systems, Jo Surich directed the growth and development of the software integration business across North America.

Acting on behalf of the Ministry of Health eHealth Program, negotiated a major agreement with IBM for the development of a Pan-Canadian Health Surveillance solution and subsequent change orders related to delivery schedules. Total value of the contract is $50-$75 million.

Acting on behalf of the Ministry of Health eHealth Program, negotiated a major agreement with Sun Microsystems for the development of the PLIS/iEHR applications. PLIS involves the development of a lab repository system for the Province, while iEHR will provide identity management capacity. The project was valued at about $150 million, including managed services.

As Principal of Transformation Solutions, led a range of management consulting projects involving diverse teams of employees and contractors.

To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link

The latest blog on the interview can be found in the IT Managers Connection (IMC) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.


Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:50: Jo, with your recognized standing as a leading executive and entrepreneur, it's a real pleasure talking with you. Congratulations on your remarkable contributions throughout your career.

:01:02: The first World CIO Forum (IFIP WCF 2011), is being hosted in China November 1-4 2011 in ShenZhen, China (innovation center of China), with participants from the Global Fortune 1000 CEOs, CIOs, C-level and IT executives; international government officials and industry decision makers including the top 600 China-based companies. Can you comment on this and on the importance of getting CIOs together on a forum like this?
[Ed. Note: Senior executives and industry decision makers are encouraged to participate in the first World CIO Forum (IFIP WCF 2011). English is the official language of the IFIP WCF 2011 and simultaneous translation between English and Chinese is available. The WCF is supported by IFIP and hosted by the CIE for 2011....more]
"....It's very important in today's time that people start to share their understanding of what works and also share their understanding of where (in general terms) people think this is all heading. The pace of change is so fast that anything that is the standard today is not going to be the standard 2 years from now...."

:02:21: Jo, please share key roles you had in the past and important lessons you learned from each role that would be of value to the audience?
"....The fundamental lesson is that the CIO in a modern organization (private or public sector) is the spear point that change processes. The more conservative parts of an operation will always resist the kind of changes that are being proposed...."

:04:13: You have this background of CIO for the Province of BC and other roles such as with Sierra Systems – can you describe some of these other roles?
"....When I left the province I founded a management consulting firm....I sold that firm to Sierra Systems. That in itself was the exposure to the change....I think there's an important lesson in there: if you're going to play in the technology world at this level, you have to assume nothing is going to stay the same for very long...."

:05:33: What were your biggest challenges: the people side, technology side, management side? What were the pain points?
"....It was a management challenge figuring out how to work with the people, convincing local managers who didn't want anything to change that change was going to be necessary if the system was going to continue to survive and continue to make money at it...."

:08:21: What prompted you to shift into things like investment and being an entrepreneur and getting into innovation?
"....I always had an interest in gathering a group of people, developing applications, developing a marketing plan, etc. It was always a part of my DNA if you like...."

:09:42: Jo talks about his current role and his goals moving forward.
"....My role with PresiNET is that I provide a little bit of technology leadership, and do a lot of the standard financial management dealing with investors and dealing with contracts with large resellers...."

:14:20: Why is Health Network Surveillance so important?
"....We continue to be surprised at the assumption that many enterprises appear to make, which is that if you just build a big wall around the system that you will in fact have a secure enterprise....Firewalls are robust but the hard reality is (as those people who built those forts way back in the middle ages discovered), one of the problems is inside....You can't assume that the firewall on the fortress is always going to protect you. You have to do some monitoring on the inside...."

:18:52: What is the impact of privacy breeches and how often do they occur?
"....You'd be surprised....You've got to allow people to get access to the electronic health records and, as much as possible, improve the way information flows, but at the same time you've got to be sure that it isn't being accessed by people who don't have the authority or the need to see them...."

:21:04: Are hospitals and healthcare providers compliant today with privacy and security?
"....I think that they are all working very hard at being compliant. I don't think they've gotten as far as they need to...."

:23:25: By improving privacy and security, how can this improve patient care in the medium and long term and how much money can be saved?
"....It improves patient care because it means that you can legitimately share information that's important from a diagnostic perspective....The savings in the health system always come in a number of different ways. One is the number of unnecessary duplicated procedures should go down. The fact that we're able, with good information, to properly diagnose a particular condition will save money in terms of healthcare, but it will also deliver a solid return to the individual concerned...."

:27:39: How can a small Canadian company grow to reach international markets with a needed solution?
"....Ultimately it's the challenge of getting the right kind of people to provide the leadership and it's partly a challenge getting the money (although I think it's far less about the money as it is about the people)...."

:29:06: What specific attributes contributed to your personal success?
"....An important part of the management process is motivating people to produce the best they can produce and opening the channels so that when they have ideas you actually absorb them....Set yourself up to be receptive to receive input from a large number of people. You also have to be proactively involved in assisting people to achieve their goals and to make sure that they do achieve their goals. I've always believed that a good manager should be fundamentally respected by their people but not entirely likely to be loved...."

:30:40: What are the major challenges in being an angel investor and how can they be resolved?
"....I think what angel investors have to be willing to do is to cut the organization and the people who run it enough slack so that they can make decisions and be able to make mistakes (and they will make mistakes). You have to allow organizations to flourish. If you sit on them in this very traditional way watching everything they do, they will not flourish....You have to balance that with the fact that you are taking a significant or at least a financial risk of some sort...."

:32:16: What are the mistakes made by startups and entrepreneurs?
"....I think people who found companies, particularly in the technology areas (but probably in other areas too), where you get young-ish people who probably recognize that they should get advice but are not actually attuned to taking any advice. They are most inclined to assume that they know better but they are also inclined to be mostly focused on the technology or completely focused on the solution, when in fact the growth of the business depends on the technology and the solution and marketing, proper financial management, proper people management. In other words, what a large organization can afford to do, the little organization has to figure out how to do with very few resources...."

:33:58: What are the biggest opportunities in investment and how can they be actioned?
"....I think in the technology world there continue to be significant opportunities because the world goes through these waves of consolidation and there will always emerge small companies with innovative solutions and innovative tools...."

:37:03: Can you provide your global perspective on innovation and investment trends?
"....Innovation, in my view, is endless. The capability of modern communication tools to allow for ongoing and significant changes in the way people do business is where we are only scratching the surface. Out of all this we are going to get a whole new kind of firm where the people probably never meet each other face to face except on a PC. Where groups of people work together delivering services or delivering code....I think that's where the innovation is going to happen...."

:39:45: You choose the areas – provide your top predictions of future trends and their implications/opportunities?
"....I think the traditional way we measured economic growth and activity (at least in so far those things that can be driven on a network) will be less and less bound to a country....Our economic system will shift significantly more and more towards a world where there will be some countries that produce machinery well and will continue to do that, but a whole bunch of countries that produce essentially intellectual property, (that's where Canada will end up in large part)....I think what's interesting is what happens in China or India...."

:43:02: Which are your top recommended resources and why?
"....I use the internet as much as I would have used the library....People who I associate with...."

:44:37: Jo shares some stories from his work and experiences.
"....It's surprising how candid people will be with you when you are seriously interested in what they have to say...."

:46:51: If you could sum up your life experiences with career tips for the ICT professional, what would be your tips and the reasons behind them?
"....Be open-minded. Do not ever go into a circumstance or job working on the assumption you already know everything because you don't, you never will....I think part of the role for a manager, from the middle of the pack on up is also to be a mentor, teacher or educator of the people you are working with....If you have to make change in an organization, you have to change early on some of the expectations....Recognize your own strengths and weaknesses in the process...."

:49:51: Jo gives his thoughts on computing as a recognized profession like medicine and law, with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, and globally recognized credentials? [see for more details]

:51:34: If you were doing this interview, what questions or areas would you cover and then what would be your answers or comments?
"....How do you generate wealth that doesn't just depend on taking out of the environment things that can't be put back?....A lot of the world is still essentially operated as a highly autocratic society and that is not sustainable....The new organizations that develop around technology...."