Innovation in Regulated Industries


Last month, I attended Gartner Symposium and enjoyed hearing about the challenges Senior IT leaders are facing today as well as some of the innovative approaches presented for solving them. If you’re interested in an in-depth recap of what topics most captured the attention of the data-focused attendees, you won’t want to miss out on Merv Adrian’s daily blogs from the conference.

The symposium provided a lot of opportunity to learn more about a variety of topics that capture the imagination and interest. For my part, I made it my mission to learn more about simplifying data strategies in highly-regulated industries. So, after his speaking session titled, “Accelerating Innovation by Breaking Down Data Silos”, I was able to catch up with Bill Fox, VP, Healthcare & Life Sciences to ask him to expound upon the current challenges healthcare, and other regulated industries, are up against today.

In my Q&A session with Bill, we discuss conference themes, the steps to modernizing your data strategy, and why “there’s (not) an app for that.” I hope you find it as enlightening as I did.

Q. What was the key takeaway from your presentation?

Bill: Evaluate real risk verses perceived risk when it comes to updating your data strategy. Healthcare and Life Sciences organizations are struggling to scale and operationalize all of their data – both of which are vital to survival. These organizations are trying to pull off huge data integration projects, but what’s holding them back is the underlying legacy technology and general thinking that anything new is a risk. Eventually, the recognition sinks in that the real risk is in not moving to next-generation technology, and trying to implement these complex data projects on technology that wasn’t built for it.

Q. Do you have an example of an organization that is making the transition to next-generation technology well?

Bill: Aetna personifies this in that they are very forward thinking and very much involved in the transformation of an industry. Aetna has the vision that by 2020, it will be a fully integrated, digital, consumer-centric healthcare organization. They know that outdated technology isn’t going to bring this vision to fruition. So, they are currently making decisions, at an enterprise technology level, to bring their vision to reality.

Q. You mentioned an alternate title to your presentation could have been “There’s not an app for that.” Why?

Bill: In any highly-regulated industry, like healthcare or financial services, new regulations that pop up tend to induce panic and rattle organizations. Some vendors then run around saying, “We have an app to help you navigate this new regulation.” To us, the solution for any new regulation is simply the ability to see what’s in your data. Sure, the urgency to look for a new solution may be driven by particular regulations, but we at MarkLogic believe organizations should be building towards becoming agile enough to react to any new or existing regulation, without needing a new app for that.

Q. What key themes did you notice at this year’s Gartner Symposium?

Bill: The themes at the conference certainly align with what we’re doing at MarkLogic. People are looking for data enablement platforms to enable their organizations to have a fluid, iterative, nimble data environment. But, how many of the vendors talking that talk can actually deliver on that like MarkLogic has?

Another interesting thing I noticed was the amount of security breach and threat companies in attendance. Data security is a critical theme and it points to one of our strongest differentiators from other NoSQL players: MarkLogic leads the pack in that we’re the only NoSQL database that is Common Criteria Certified. We understand that, at the enterprise level, you need all the features and functionality of a next generation technology, but you also must meet and exceed those security requirements to protect your business from very real security threats.

Q. Many organizations tend to feel locked into their legacy technologies. What are the next steps decision makers in highly-regulated industries, e.g., healthcare, should take to modernize their data strategies?

Bill: There are a couple things. First, realize that there will always be “blockers,” or people who are locked into legacy technology and will try to stop change at all costs. So, get out of the endless cycle of conversations and do the proof of value. Get your data into this new technology and see what it can do. Generally, once that actually happens, you can move quickly towards a manageable demonstration of how the new technology handles your data. That’s an important first step towards breaking through barriers posed by outdated technology.

The second step, and this is advice for the business side, is to really make it part of your role to be more involved in technology decisions. One of the things we often see is that it’s the business leaders who know what needs to be built, or the analytics required, but they transfer the decision over to IT and assume that they will do it the best way possible. Sometimes that works just fine but unfortunately, this is not always the case, due to the same ingrained legacy thinking I mentioned earlier. Adversity to change is a natural human component, so sometimes the business needs to empower IT with the forward thinking of what’s ultimately best for the future of the organization.


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