In this interview Priorities, Plans & Perspectives, Skilled Nursing News speaks with BJ Boyle, Senior Vice President, Product Management, PointClickCare to learn more about how he approaches his priorities in developing new healthcare technologies. healthcare to serve the post-acute care market.
Read on to find out how Boyle’s perspective has changed over the course of his career and where he draws inspiration to move his team and business forward.
Skilled Nursing News: What was your first job title in healthcare or healthcare technology?
BJ Boyle: I’ll answer your question and tell you a funny story about how it happened. In my first post-undergraduate job, I was an implementation consultant at a software company that developed products specifically for skilled nursing facilities. That’s how I entered this space. Essentially we had two products and one involved being in charge of the skilled nursing facility’s inventory control system. There is a supply closet and the product aims to track who gets which supply.
We brought a point-of-care solution to market that was really good, and we were finally able to help nurses and caregivers. That’s how I started.
The funny story is that I got engaged when I was in college and was supposed to get married in July. I graduated in May and my dad said, “You know, now that you’re getting married, you need to have a job to support your new family.” I’m like, “Oh, shoot, I better do that.” I knew I wanted to work in tech and took the first job I got, which is how I ended up digging into this business and into healthcare.
I wish I could say to you, “Hey, I knew I always wanted to do this,” but that’s how I got here and I’ve been here ever since.
SNN: How do you think your perspective has changed since your first day in the industry?
Boyle: I like this question. It’s been over 20 years for me. I used to think of technology like, “Hey, I have a product, and I’m going to help you solve a problem.” I think the difference in healthcare is that we can all be personally connected to it. When you walk out, you see the work that a nurse or CNA does in a skilled nursing facility, and the work that they do is the heart and soul of those facilities.
Now I think of technology not just as “here’s a product we’re trying to sell” but as “how do we use technology to help provide better patient care, to help our frontline workers be better and more efficient and have time to do what they need to do?” For me, my perspective changed in that I became really passionate about the mission, rather than the technology. I think that is seen in the products we make, and in waking up every day and looking forward to going to work towards that end.
SNN: Who do you consider to have the greatest influence on your views?
Boyle: For me personally, there are three that come to mind. All have been, directly or indirectly, someone for or with whom I have worked. In my first job, my boss was Larry Triplett, who was the founder of our company, Resource Systems. He still impacts me today as a leader, in terms of how I organize, how I prioritize and as an entrepreneur what he taught me was this relentless pursuit of goal.
There are many difficult days and [it’s important to] find a meaningful mission. Sometimes it’s a grind; sometimes it’s exciting, and you have to get through that. What I learned from him was this: be passionate and relentlessly pursue that goal and drive it.
My second influence was when I spent a short period of my career at Cerner. At that time, I didn’t really know him, but Neal Patterson was the CEO and founder, and I was amazed by him and his ability to have a vision and connect that broad, broad, innovative vision directly to value . In healthcare and healthcare technology, it’s so easy to get bogged down by regulatory challenges and other hurdles, so having that vision and tying it to value is critical.
The third is actually one of the co-founders of PointClickCare, who has been my boss for a few years, Dave Wessinger. Among all these other things he brings to the table, he has this passionate connection to the human side of what we do – our users and their patients, residents and loved ones. People are extremely important. Those three elements of relentlessly pursuing and sticking to the business, having a driving vision of value, and putting people first are really three that stand out for me.
SNN: How do you define and execute your professional priorities?
Boyle: It has changed a lot for me over the years. By taking on different roles and responsibilities, I have learned as a leader that how you assess yourself or set priorities is no longer limited to what you can accomplish on your own. It’s about how you can execute and deliver through others, through your team, through your peers, through your partners, and that’s key. How I set and execute my priorities starts with what I said earlier, I think about the value vision.
What is our vision? Where are we going? How can we bring value to that and prioritize around that? We have a saying in the product world in my role, in driving our product strategy, where we have to “prioritize ruthlessly”. This means we need to be really challenged to know where we are spending our resources, where we are investing our time and focusing on what has the most impact on our end users, on the business, and delivers the most value.
SNN: Can you name three of those priorities?
Boyle: Yeah, thanks for making me stick to three. As it stands, for me, as a leader, I put these priorities not necessarily in a 1, 2, 3 order: are we setting up our teams to be successful? Are we well organized? Are we empowering our team members to succeed? It may be counter-intuitive, but as you move up a leadership ladder, it becomes more and more essential to empower that team to succeed.
Organizing people is number 1 for me. The second priority is to make sure we have a solid vision and plan. In my role around product vision, it means “do we have a clear vision of where we want to go that’s both innovative and aggressive and can inspire, but it can also be simplified and broken down into a way we could go and run that? People, number one; vision and plan, number two; and then the last being: do we deliver?
SNN: How do you approach planning when a high degree of uncertainty is involved?
Boyle: Excellent question. If I could have an easy answer to that, we’d all be excited. For me, you will never get certainty. I do two things. The first is to have as much data as possible and be as data-driven as possible, and then use that to set priorities. I think planning is both an art and a science. How? ‘Or’ What? Again, as soon as I answer: have a plan, make sure you have data to support it, and/or support where you are heading or support change.
Not being afraid to pivot is the final piece. Make sure you have data, make sure you’re honest about where you are, and pivot to make sure you get back to this issue.
SNN: How do you follow your projects and your professional progress?
Boyle: At the macro level, I’m a big proponent of goals and we at PointClickCare and other places I’ve worked have been proponents of the OKR process. The OKR is “Objectives and Key Results”, to make sure we understand, A: where we are going, and B: what are the key milestones and key results we hope to achieve. Consider this our dashboard of how we are progressing. It’s really important, not just for me as a leader, but for a team to make sure we know how we’re doing.
I’m still an old-fashioned to-do list note-taker, translating daily and weekly, making sure we’re working on the right things. I always like to cross things off my list. I balance this with the systems we have in place to track our milestones and key results.
SNN: What do you do when something doesn’t go as planned?
Boyle: One thing about leading a product organization or frankly, leading any team is that things never quite go to plan. It’s how you show up, how you react, and for me it’s, “can we face it and recognize it as soon as possible?” Face the facts, be honest, look at where we are, what went wrong, then pivot and address and come back after the plan.
SNN: Leaders need time to process and gain perspective, what do you listen to, read and watch to gain perspective?
Boyle: There are three areas that I tend to focus on. First, I’m a real geek around health informatics. There are several posts and/or mailing lists, or even frankly, people I follow on social media or others who are specifically interested in what’s going on in health informatics. Almost my entire professional career has been spent here. I love it. I’m passionate about it.
Second, I try to read and [listen to] podcasts on the two functional areas around leadership and product leadership. Some of my favorite authors are Simon Sinek, Patrick Lencioni and Geoffrey Moore. What’s great now is that they don’t just write the books we all know, they blog and also have podcasts.
Finally, I think it’s not just about the industry. It’s really important to network with other professionals and read other stuff. I’m happy to come back to some local conferences and user groups and have some conversations around the water cooler if you want, just see what happens.