Healthland just announced the appointment of a new CEO: Ms. Angie Franks, former VP of Sales & Marketing. Angie is a real pro in the business: over 20 years of “feet on the street” for vendors, including Lawson, probably the powerhouse in the ERP space, now that Oracle gobbled up PeopleSoft. We’ve worked with Angie a bunch over the past few years, since Healthland (previously known as Dairyland) is one of the major players in small hospital system selections.

Along with HMS and CPSI, they are part of the “big 3" for hospitals under 100 beds, a very competitive niche where dollars are scarce and FTEs minimal. With annual revenues between $50 million and $100 million, these three vendors must create an EHR that meets the same 24 “meaningful use” criteria as billion-dollar-plus giants like McKesson, Siemens and Cerner. A tough challenge in a market where small hospitals only want to spend about a million dollars for an entire HIS …

Angie has been a real pleasure to work with, especially since Healthland’s acquisition by Francisco Partners a few years back. The old Dairyland was more of a family business, with the challenges of keeping their small-company service ethic as they grew into several hundred clients through a combination of sales and acquisitions. In my opinion they made some strange acquisitions over the years, e.g., acquiring several AS/400-based systems, when their own HIS (known then a “Vision”) was UNIX-based.

Recently, Healthland bought APS and AHN, two smaller competitors, and has tried to convert their old client bases over, an area where Angie has excelled. She does it the tried and proven way in the sales world: first she sells herself, through her candor and communication skills, then starts talking about the product, (, sorry, I mean “solutions,” as vendors call them these days).

The challenges ahead for Angie are daunting, however, as Healthland’s new “.Net” architecture poses the same challenges faced by McKesson with Paragon and Siemens with Soarian, both of which took longer to complete than first promised. With ARRA dollars running out in 2015, there aren’t many years of slippage left, so best of luck to the folks in Glenwood, Minn.!

Promoting a VP of Sales to be CEO may seem passé in our HIT industry, but it stands in stark contrast to Siemens recent appointment of John Glaser to be their new CEO. John is easily one of the most famous and respected CIOs in HIS-tory, coming from Partners in Massachusetts where he presided over one of the largest and most advanced I.T. shops in the country. Indeed, John’s shop at Partners probably had more FTEs than all but the largest HIS vendors. He has also written more articles and given more speeches than me – and I do it for a living!

So what’s better, having a former VP of Sales as CEO who knows the world of quotas, closing deals, and Wall Street’s treadmill or hiring a CIO who knows the clients needs, problems and challenges? Interesting question. Two answers from two different perspectives:

• Clients – should benefit more from a former CIO, if he can stand up to the profit motivation of owners and stockholders, who demand positive earnings reported to Wall Street every 90 days. An ex-CIO knows all too well how fickle clients can be if product delivery dates aren’t met, service/support slips, veteran employees are let go to cut costs, etc. They should be able to fight for long-term, strategic goals, rather than the myopic quarter-to-quarter stock-market mania.

• Stockholders – should benefit more from a former Sales executive who knows all too well the pressure of numbers: quotas, profitability and calendars. Ex-reps are far more willing to sacrifice long-terms strategy for short-term profitability, and that keeps the dividends flowing into the pockets of whoever is funding the vendor, be it owners or stockholders. Yes, even firms that are not publicly held have owners who expect to make money.

 So who makes the best vendor CEO? The answer: a former CIO who’s made the transition to sales and then made his or her numbers. In short, either Angie Glaser, or John Franks!

 

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