As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m a pretty dedicated listener of both the Wall Street Journal Audio Edition and the IT Conversations podcast site. This morning, I caught some great audio from both of them.

Great Audio

IT Conversations – The IT Conversations audio came from the Software 2006 conference series. The focus of the podcast in question was a CIO panel at that conference. Toby Redshaw and Con Goedman, IT executives from Motorola and Shell International, respectively, provide some great insights into the user-focused mentality that it takes to succeed as an IT executive in the corporate world. They are both quite candid, with Mr.Redshaw providing some especially interesting insights and sound bytes. I’ve quoted a couple below:

  • [On dealmaking] “You’ve got to remember, the people that cut the deal aren’t the people that manage the relationship. I don’t care if the [software] salespeople leave with blood coming out of both of their ears. I’m not going to see those guys again.”
  • [On the widespread use of wikis and blogs at Motorola] “Where the real work gets done is down in the ranks that interact with each other and exchange information and build ideas and come to conclusions and do stuff. Management is just overhead.”
  • [On introducing wikis and blogs at Motorola] “I purposefully didn’t tell anyone upstairs or laterally that this was going on until we got to a scale where we couldn’t stop it.”
  • [On vendor dislikes] “The easiest way for you to watch me pull the trap door lever in my office and drop you into a pit of crocodiles is ‘tell me about your problems.’ ‘Hmm… interesting, we have some software that we think will fit your problems.’”
  • [On vendor likes] “I love honesty. My best vendors pull me aside and say ‘you know that idea you have, it’s stupid. Don’t do it, it’s a bad idea and here’s why.’”

Anyone who thinks that IT executives are out of touch needs to give this podcast a listen. These guys are focused on delivering user value, remaining business centric, and they just get it when it comes to understanding what it takes to encourage the type of collaboration and creativity that it takes to differentiate a company’s product or service offerings.

Wall Street Journal – On the other side of things, and totally unrelated to IT or the normal stock option backdating concerns that the WSJ has been so focused on lately was their cover story on the move towards home-based care in Vermont, entitled “Olden Days: Seniors in Vermont Find They Can Go Home Again.”

The article covers an innovative approach being taken in Vermont to move elderly citizens out of facility-based care and into home-based care with their families. Interesting here it that the families are then allowed to collect for the care they provide to their family members (spouses not included). The plan is approved and funded by the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) under a special waiver to normal Medicaid administration protocol. The waiver’s goal is to reduce or cap Vermont’s annual Medicaid funding / spending increase.

These Medicaid expenditures amount to 20% of some state’s budgets and are matched with funding from the federal level as well, providing a huge incentive for innovative ways to reduce these costs. The WSJ audio focuses not on the money side but on the human element instead; telling the story of several individuals whose lives were dramatically improved through participation in Vermont’s program. The audio also paints the assisted living providers as organizations scared of and resistant to change and willing to resort to scare tactics to retain the facility-based care entitlement legally afforded to Vermont’s citizens.

The reason that I found this audio file particularly interesting, aside from the fact that my parents care for my 93 year old grandmother and that my first state government project was on a Medicaid waiver system, is that the story reminds me of why I stick it our with state government projects – the potential to make a difference in peoples’ lives. Transformation programs such as the ones enabled by the Medicaid waivers not only offer the possibility to save money, they afford people the opportunity to lead normal lives, where that otherwise might not be possible. Far beyond the dollars, the bits, and the bytes, this is what really makes a difference.

The Wall Street Journal article is available in printed form or in MP3 format to Audible.com providers. The official text of the Vermont waiver can be found at http://www.dad.state.vt.us/dail/1115Waiver/VTLTCWaivernoappendices.pdf, while a provider-slanted but informative summary can be found at http://www.ahca.org/brief/ib_vtwaiver.pdf.

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