Cardinal Health CIO: 'Every business is an IT business in the future'

April 2018

Jay Murdock

Cardinal Health chief information officer Patty Morrison says she loves technology and business, so her vision for the future probably isn’t surprising.

“Every business is an information technology business in the future. There is no such thing as a non-IT business,” she explained.

Morrison graduated from Miami in 1980 with a math and statistics degree, starting at Procter and Gamble as a statistician.

She arrived as package scanning came of age, her first exposure to really big data. That exposure led her to embrace IT as a career.

“What I love to do is solve problems, and the bigger, the messier the problem, that is where I have fun,” she said. “I happen to apply technology to solving those problems.”

Cardinal Health is the sixth industry that Morrison has taken on, and one she looked forward to tackling.

“We try to solve really important problems for patients,” she said. “Every single thing we do at Cardinal every day helps a person’s life, and that’s really meaningful to me.”

Morrison told students that every business major at Farmer School of Business should be keeping an eye on a particular technology or business that is already, or will be disruptive to current business practices.

Those considering a career in accounting should gain an understanding of blockchain, she said.

“Blockchain is going to enable companies that partner and move data from company to company to completely eliminate entire middle-processing businesses,” Morrison explained, using the example of tracking medicine as it moves from manufacturer to patient.

She noted that economics majors should know about machine learning.

“Machine learning is fascinating because machine learning is really applicable where you have enormous quantities of data and you can recognize patterns,” she said. “That’s what economists do. You’re recognizing patterns of movement in the economy.”

Robotic process automation is an area that future financial workers will want to understand as a way to automate judgment, Morrison remarked.

“So, when you get data that’s not in a form, and not structured, you have to judge what it is,” she explained, pointing to the example of online chatbots. “You can use it to take history of issues or judgments and automate them.”

Future supply chain managers will benefit from keeping up with the latest ideas to reduce friction in the chain, such as natural language processing like Amazon’s Alexa, Morrison said.

She remarked that marketing majors need to master analytics and algorithms for personalization, many of which are already used to serve ads online based on behaviors.

“Google, at its core, is an algorithm-based company. Search is an analytical tool,” Morrison said, noting how items left in online shopping carts often end up in ads that appear on users’ browsers.

She said those looking at entrepreneurship have a big potential future thanks to technology.

“Technology creates brand new business models that are software-based, that are finding unmet needs and filling those needs by creating a sharing effect,” she explained, using the examples of Uber and AirBnB.

But one thing that every student in a business major really needs to know, Morrison said, is coding.

“You need to understand computational thinking, and how it’s going to impact what you do with your career. And there’s no better way than to code,” she said. “You have to understand ‘Here’s the process, and here’s how I automate the process.’”

“The data is incredibly rich out there, and you have to learn how to harness it,” she said.

Patty Morrison Patty Morrison talks with students and faculty after her Executive Speaker Series talk