The life and career of Daniela Crivianu-Gaita—from growing up in Romania to attending grad school in Canada to becoming the CIO of a major Canadian healthcare company—is improbable in many regards. So, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that she is challenging her staff and her business partners to approach their tasks with a creative eye.
Dynacare began as a laboratory company, but now it markets itself broadly as a health solutions enterprise. In addition to providing traditional laboratory testing, Dynacare offers genetic testing (Dynacare Next), employee health and safety testing and services (Dynacare Workplace), health risk assessments (Dynacare Insurance), and direct-to-consumer services (Dynacare Plus).
That’s a large service offering, and one that requires best-in-class technological services and equipment. Add to that the physical nature of Dynacare’s business, much of it involving time-sensitive biological samples and mandatory on-site visits by patients, and it’s easy to see the challenges of stringing together hundreds of locations and thousands of employees.
Crivianu-Gaita’s purview therefore involves a widely distributed network that means she’s often physically separated from her staff, internal clients, external clients, and the patients themselves. IT is not just a solution, but the lifeblood of the organization.
“Our focus is on keeping people healthy,” she explains, underscoring how the geographic distance doesn’t remove Crivianu-Gaita and her IT team from their ultimate mission. She professes a strong belief in the company’s mission and values: compassionate care, ingenuity, accountability, cooperative work, and customer focus. She also visits sites to meet patients and technicians with some regularity.
But to deliver those beliefs requires innovation. Because she oversees an IT staff of eighty-five individuals, she has to create a truly innovative culture to serve the company’s broad objectives.
“Our technologies and services have to enable all these clients,” she says, explaining how, in many situations, data from one line of business is used to deliver services in another area. “This includes servicing a very diverse group: hospitals, nursing homes, governments and their agencies, private insurers, and of course, individuals.” Indeed, the complexity of these many services and many stakeholders means Crivianu-Gaita must run a high-performing IT organization to satisfy the dynamics and technological needs of all clients. An innovative culture is essential, she says.
“To find ideas, we sometimes look outside our industry,” Crivianu-Gaita explains. For example, Dynacare was inspired by a hair salon app to devise a unique queueing solution for patients. The app, known as Dynacare Net Check In, was tested in 2015 in Saskatchewan and is now rolling out across Ontario, where Dynacare has more than one hundred locations. “Clients need to find a testing laboratory, and they don’t want to wait in line,” she says. “We wanted to give them choices for patient services centers and for them to know what the wait times were in real time at those different locations. It turned out a hair salon chain had an app that did something similar. It wasn’t 100 percent of what we were looking for, but it was a start. Now at the press of a button, you can find a location and put yourself in the queue.”
Servicing 2,700 employees across Canada, the IT team provides employees a portal where they can find all the needed information. But in a gesture to pull those employees out of an exclusively digital relationship with their peers, the portal includes photos and videos. “This helps them to get to know each other better,” she says.
She took that idea a step further with a platform that promotes collaborative innovation. In 2016, Dynacare launched a program called Soapbox as a means for employees to post ideas for improvement. The software functions somewhat like a wiki; it allows participants to comment on, tweak, pose specific challenges to, and eventually vote on those ideas. “It makes every employee an innovative partner,” she says. “Everyone at every level can participate. For example, we had one strong proposal on how to reduce use of paper. Other proposals include how we can be socially responsible and how to cut a particular ten-step process down to seven steps.”
Crivianu-Gaita had heard about Soapbox—which was developed by students—and proposed it to the company president and CEO, Naseem Somani. “She said, ‘This is it, this is what we need,’” Crivianu-Gaita says. From there, resources were allocated for its development and rollout.
Good ideas are good ideas. The fact that those ideas can come from other industries, from student innovators, or from any level of the company is a part of the culture at Dynacare. Crivianu-Gaita also notes that at Dynacare, good ideas are given credence no matter the gender of the person offering them. For example, she describes semiformal mentor relationships she’s had with both men and women. “If there is to be true fairness in the world, it should involve both genders,” she says. “Sure, men and women might think differently, but 95 percent of requests for help and guidance are the same.” In this semiformal approach, she likes her mentees to draft a plan that includes specific outcomes over the next six to twelve months. She says it’s a good technique for staying focused.
Crivianu-Gaita has found the desire to be focused—to be a contributor to the organization—is consistent among her IT staff. “It’s sometimes difficult for them to see how the mission is theirs,” she observes. “I talk to them to explain that everyone has a role to play. That’s extremely important. They want to be recognized for their work, to be seen for having gone beyond the call of duty. They want responsibilities, to progress to more senior roles, or sometimes just to make horizontal moves.”
That seems entirely possible when they have a leader who crossed an ocean to thrive in an industry more typically run by men—and to supervise with such open-mindedness that her staff is delighted to engage in innovative projects.