The Friction at the Gala: Getting to know the "Solver in Chief"

Blog /The Friction at the Gala Getting to know the Solver in Chief
NTT DATA at Dignity Health Gala

The banter was loud and lively. Thanks to my aging ears, I had to really lean in to hear my seatmate better.

He was a client I wanted to get to know better at a table we were privileged to sponsor at Dignity Health’s recent Humankindness Gala in San Francisco.

Dignity Health President and CEO Lloyd Dean and former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown were in the throes of a “divide-and-conquer” live auction – moving table to table back towards us. The proceeds would go to three well-deserving causes Dignity Health supports: post-partum depression patients, human trafficking victims and a concussion awareness initiative helping middle and high school student athletes.

“$8,000 – do I hear $9,000 for Golden State Warrior floor seats? Two courtside seats and the game of your choice! $10,000 – sold to the lady in the pink dress.”

My client/seatmate was Mike Seagraves, Senior Director of Digital Transformation at Dignity Health. He and his lovely wife had joined us for this wonderful event, and we got to chatting. My colleague was sharing with Mike the work we were doing with the concussion awareness initiative and Mike said, “That sounds just like what we’re trying to do – use technology to create friction-less experiences for our patients and consumers.” 

I put down my appetizer and asked him, “Did you just say ‘friction-less?’”

 Meanwhile, the auction was moving closer toward us.

“$11,000! $11,000 and the Coldplay Experience for you, sir, and 19 of your closest friends in the VIP suite is yours! You’re helping us help our most vulnerable and getting to see Coldplay at the same time!”

 Mike repeated above the auction calling: “Friction-less.”

I was highly sensitized to this word.

Friction Factor” is NTT DATA Service’s customer framework for how we’re breaking down our client’s journeys into a bundle of business processes, quantifying the friction their customers might be experiencing in those processes, then helping them use technology to efficiently remove the friction.

I needed to know more – Mike’s view on friction.

(Wait – What? “Who wants to bid on ‘Hamilton on Broadway! 2 tickets and airfare to see Hamilton in Manhattan!” Wait – what? My Hamilton-obsessed daughter would flip!)

 Back to friction. I asked Mike for time for a call on this when we were both back in our quiet offices, and he graciously agreed.
With the Gala behind us (the Foundation raised almost $1.4M that evening to help the most vulnerable in the communities Dignity Health serves), I turned to customer friction and time with Mike.

“For us, one click is too many,” he explained to me in our phone conversation. “Our team is relentlessly focused on creating an intensely positive and personalized digital experience through which information and services are delivered to our patients and consumers when they need it and where they need it.”

I could hear the passion in his voice for creating seamless digital experiences that have no friction for Dignity Health’s patients. He said his focus and passion for the patient experience started out early in his work life as an occupational therapist. “For me, health care is all about helping to make the person and their family whole again,” he said, adding that a well-thought out digital experience presents a powerful opportunity to augment and accelerate this path to health and wholeness.

At Dignity Health, their digital initiatives also have a consumer focus centered around powering their mission to help the underserved. He said that no matter where in the patient’s journey they engage Dignity Health (website, search, scheduling as their front door – or – in their care transformation once they’re a patient) the goal is zero friction (clicks, stops, scrolls, redundant steps to get information). By driving growth through digital transformation, Dignity Health can be better positioned to carry out its altruistic mission. This is why the team is working to make sure that – like other industries such as airline, hospitality, retail and banking – their digital products and services not only meet their patients and consumers where they are but also know what they need even before they do.

I know that probably many organizations can say this when it comes to how they want to approach their consumers and the digital experience. But two things really stood out to me about how Dignity Health is approaching this:

  1. Move it up and out of IT: Mike said their digital initiatives have been as much an organizational transformation as anything – that they’ve been committed to not making this an "IT Project" or “Independent Project.” The Office of Digital at Dignity Health was thoughtfully created as a new and holistic business unit, inclusive of technology, marketing, clinical, and business talent who are collectively responsible for delivering on the overall digital strategy, he explained. This decision to move from “IT Project” to a “Consumer Product” focus has been transformational and its success has been powered by the strong collaboration across historically separate areas of the organization.
  2. A start-up mind set: "We're essentially a digital startup inside a healthcare organization with a culture of agile development, quick releases, failing fast and pivoting… it's a very different approach from typical healthcare IT, and it has been the key to our rapid progress toward a friction-less patient and consumer digital experience,” he explained.

I had our Life Sciences COO Adam Nelson — my Friction Factor lifeline and expert — on our conversation, and he weighed in on how we’re actually using friction against a bundled process for our healthcare and other industry customers — creating a benchmark that they can measure themselves against. Adam shared with Mike just a little bit about how we’re measuring our customers’ digital experiences, quantifying them and helping them prioritize and modernize.

I always like to see my clients through the personal lens – especially in this case of a healthcare organization whose mission of spreading “Humankindness” with every interaction. I wanted to know what drives Mike each day in his push to remove friction from the Dignity Health digital consumer experience.

“I like being our ‘Solver in Chief’ – the ops guy for digital,” he said. “The question of ‘How do we create digital experiences that best drive growth, empower patients, and improve outcomes is sometimes technical, sometimes design, and sometimes operational in nature. Whatever it takes to create an intensely positive and personal experience for our patients and consumers is what our mission is all about.”

“I’ve had the privilege to be here at Dignity Health for 16 years, and there’s no place I’d rather be,” he said. “I feel like, just as in my days as an occupational therapist, I’m getting the chance to build a relationship with our patients and helping them to be whole again. The difference is now, through digital transformation, it is on a much greater scale — and there is nothing more rewarding.”

Post Date: 7/12/2017

Gigi Shamsy Raye Gigi Shamsy Raye

About the author

Gigi Shamsy Raye has a passion for making the complex conversational to help people sell.  Her role as a Strategic Account Based Marketer at NTT DATA Services’ healthcare practice takes that passion and combines it with her early dreams of becoming a doctor. Her world is now complete. 

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