CTO Sessions: Wes Wright, Imprivata

What makes an effective tech strategy? “Hyper-alignment with your business outcomes.”


Name: Wes Wright

Company: Imprivata

Job title: CTO

Date started current role: May 2018

Location: Lexington, MA

Wes Wright is the Chief Technology Officer at Imprivata. He brings more than 20 years of experience with healthcare providers, IT leadership, and security. Prior to joining Imprivata, Wright was the CTO at Sutter Health, where he was responsible for technical services strategies and operational activities for the 26-hospital system. Wright has been the CIO at Seattle Children’s Hospital and has served as the Chief of Staff for a three-star general in the US Air Force.

What was your first IT job? I was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and was CIO for USAF hospital in the in Yokota, Japan, a small 25 bed community hospital serving the AF population.

Did you always want to work in IT? No. I had many interests I considered pursuing.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? Defense Language Institute.University of Maryland (graduated from the Asian Division). Master’s degree from University of New Mexico.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I went from Korean linguist to CTO for a healthcare software company, so there were many twists and turns. I came to work in the health IT industry through a series of decisions in life. I started out as a Korean linguist, which is kind of not the normal path for health IT people. And then I moved into this area and met a bunch of good mentors along the way who helped me with my journey.

What type of CTO are you? I am an “operational” CTO – as opposed to a wire-hair/breakthrough-ideas CTO. I look for synergies so that 1 plus 1 = 3. That’s evident in what I’m doing at Imprivata.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? Right now I’m really excited about the advent of 5G. That’s going to change a lot. Secondary to that is FIDO 2.0, as it’s moving us ever closer to a password-free environment.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? Blockchain is overhyped. That’s a back-end database kind of system. I don’t know how it made its way into the public view. But now that it’s there, it’s hot. And it’s really just a database. AI may also be a little over-hyped as well – much of what people think is AI is really machine learning. For AI, we should have had more focus on RPA. From that, once you get it automated and reliably get good data, then you can stream it into machine learning, and THEN you can move into AI. Lots of folks have skipped those productivity-enhancing and cost-saving steps and tried to move straight to AI.

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? Our recent partnership with Microsoft. Both Microsoft and Imprivata recognising their respective IAM portfolio gaps and successfully brought those together to deliver the most comprehensive IAM hybrid solution to our customers.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? Personally, I don’t consider what I’m currently doing to be a digital transformation initiative. I’m facilitating transformation at different locations of our organisation, but more through thought leadership and other activities.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? Our customers are fully understanding the importance of identity and access management. Identity is the new perimeter, because we’re no longer confined to our domains – there is a cloud everywhere. The only way you can protect all you own is to make sure that your identities are: 1. Who they say they are; and 2. Provided with the right access to the right data and applications. We concentrated on firewalls and VPNs, and used the tech that way, but now we need to shift our thinking and get our perimeter software defined. The software that defines that is digital identity.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? From a lean philosophy, start with the end in mind. What’s the outcome for business that’s necessary? And work your way back from that outcome and lay in the technology to get you to that outcome from where you’re start. But, more often than not, it’s not technology you must lay in first – it’s process. Then you can apply the tech.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? No. If you do, you have a problem. Because that tells me you’re doing tech for tech sake – and not for the sake of an identifiable business objective.

What makes an effective tech strategy? Hyper-alignment with your business outcomes.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? I think the CTO will increasingly become what we used to think of as the CIO. The CTO used to be the technical brains, and hardly had a seat at the table – that was the CIO’s job. In healthcare, most CIOs are so involved with those business outcomes and strategies that they lose contact with the technology. So you’ll see the CTO start to run IT operations more and more, and be asked to come to the big table to offer technical expertise. The CTO role is growing. 10 years ago you didn’t see many CTOs in healthcare. Now I see weekly advertisements looking for CTOs.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Building the team that led the digital transformation we did at Suter Health. The scope and scale and timeliness of that project for healthcare was pretty outstanding. More importantly, it was the team that jelled and made that possible.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Not spent all that time learning Novell.

What are you reading now? Titans by Ron Chernow - the story of John D. Rockefeller.

Most people don't know that I… I am a terrible singer – but it doesn’t take them long to figure it out!

In my spare time, I like to…First, there is no free time. But, when I'm not working or thinking about work I like to spend time with my kids. My daughter is moved out but I still have three boys with me. I spend as much time as I can with them.

Ask me to do anything but… Work on an assembly line.