Martin Carpenter has improved the level of integration of the IT function with colleagues, and helped reorientate the IT teams so they no longer see IT issues so much as business problems that require technical solutions. He has delivered a big data and analytics platform, resolved historic data quality issues and moved IT to scaled agile, and is preparing to tackle automation, code re-use and process and cultural improvements.

Job title
IT Director

Company name
Optum International (United Health Group)

How are you influencing the products, customer experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
I am part of the UK leadership team working with Sales, marketing and operational teams to deliver valued IT-based and IT-enabled systems to our customers.

My role is focused entirely on external customers, and drawing on Optum and United Healthcares global resource pool including experience in delivering the largest healthcare cloud in the US, a team of 7,000 developers in India and considerable technical teams in the US and UK.

Since joining Optum I have turned improved the level of integration of the IT function with colleagues, and helped re-orientate the IT teams away from seeing IT issues to business problems that require a technical solution.

Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance
Overseen the completion of delivery of Optum UK’s Big Data and Analytics platform, navigated IT and Operational teams through resolving historic data quality issues and delivering greater team cohesiveness as a result. Implementation of structures and processes supporting the move to scaled agile – including training and culture shift for non-technical teams. Established roadmap of key themes to be delivered in 2017, including automation, code re-use and process and cultural improvements.

What has been your involvement with innovation at your organisation – in particular, with products, business 0model and technology – over the last 12 months?
Setting goals and objectives for the IT organisation including setting the direction and laying foundations for delivering software and solutions at scale and at high velocity. This includes and enterprise architecture roadmap that has a service and micro service based architecture, platforms included enhancements to the Big data and Analytics platforms, software delivery at scale – automated test driven development, Continuous integration and deployment.

I am on the product council for all UK products and services, and help to shape functionality across products and determine prioritisation of delivery.

Underpinning this is a drive towards providing the NHS with products and services that help improve patient outcomes by delivering data and insight driven solutions. We are working closely with NHS organisations to provide them with access to market leading technologies for the betterment of all.

How have you delivered cultural and behavioural change as a CIO within the IT department and/or more broadly across the organisation?
My background has always been a Hybrid IT leader. I come from a non-technical background originally (Finance) before learning about and immersing myself in technology. The difference I have bought and noted amongst colleagues is a focus on delivery, and business outcomes, rather than technical solutions and helped bridge the gap between IT and wider business functions. This includes regular scheduled meetings with operational and sales colleagues (I go to two sales meetings a week).

The organisation is also on a journey of Agile implementation, I am supporting and leading on this with additional training of UK IT leadership and training/awareness sessions of non IT leaders and senior managers.

How have you worked with your CEO and/or board to communicate whatever ‘digital’ and IT means to your organisation/sector and improve digital literacy at the highest levels of the organisation?
Optum is a technology organisation delivering IT solutions to its customers. Digital literacy is high, however the move to Agile implementation needs improvement within the non technical teams which is where the effort has been spent.

How have you worked with the technology and IT vendor market to achieve your business goals? How have you been able to influence IT suppliers and successfully manage your partnerships/relationships with large IT companies, SMEs and startups?
We work across the globe with all sized organisations. United Health’s SharePoint implementation is the largest implementation outside of Microsoft. In the UK we have developed specific relationships with niche providers of software such as eceptionist who provide workflow software for use in a clinical environment, The software is build by a small company based in Texas – consisting of 10 people. We have worked closely with them to improve the functionality of their product as well the quality of release.

How have you tried to develop the diversity of your team?
We have a wide diversity of cultures within our teams, including IT development team based in the US, three teams based in India and one in the UK. We have regular meetings at the end of every increment (quarter) where teams come together. We also hold regular social events to encourage teams to mix.

Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
I work closely with Sales, marketing and Operations, and have moved away from an internal supplier relationship to one built on delivering a shared outcome. Early visibility of opportunities and ability to shape them along with input into Product Councils along with operational and S&M means that the UK organisation is moving towards a more joined up approach and strategy.

What strategic technology deals have you made in the last year and who are your main suppliers and IT partners?
Key implementations in the past year have been a Hadoop Big Data solution, augmented by Datameer and Tableau analytics platform. We are developing in house data experts who understand how to manipulate data and the context that clinical data is used in.

We are also in process of upgraded our call centre technology making it more scalable for the enterprise and have started a revamp of the digital customer channels.

What are your key strategic aims for next year?
People –
develop people skills especially around analytics, encourage a learning culture and embed an Agile way of thinking.

Process – implement automated processes (DevOps, test-driven development, Continuous Integration).

Technology – move technology from product-focused to platform- and service-focused, Enhance Analytics platform, and leverage investments the wider group is making in Artificial Intelligence.

Business ambition is to improve competitive advantage through delivery of software with increased velocity and quality.

How are you preparing for any impacts Brexit might have on your organisation?
Our operations although labelled EMEA are at present purley UK centric. Our market is health and the demand for health services will continue – we do not see demand falling at all.


When did you start your current role?
September 2016

What is your reporting line?
CIO Optum International

Are you a member of the executive leadership?

Are you a member of the board of directors?

What other emerging roles does your organisation have and what is their relationship to you?
CDO, Chief Privacy Officer, CISO

How often do you meet with your organisation’s CEO or equivalent?
UK leadership team monthly

How many people at your organisation does your function supply services to?
over 5,000


What is your annual IT budget, or your spend as a proportion of the organisation’s revenue?
Capital – $10m – $15m, OpenX $5m – $10m

What percentage of your budget is operational spend (ie keeping the lights on) and how much new development (ie innovation, R&D, exploratory IT)?
80% innovation and new products and services 20% BAU


Rank the following sources of advice/information in order of importance:

  1. CIO peers
  2. Media
  3. Analyst houses
  4. Consultants
  5. Industry bodies


Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?

Are you expecting an increase in budget specific to security in order to tackle the cyber threat?

Does your organisation have a designated security professional – CISO or otherwise – and what is their relationship to you?
Yes – Part of privacy function. I am a Certified Information Security Manager. Security is mission critical in healthcare and taken very seriously.


Are you finding it difficult to recruit the talent you need to drive transformation?

Has recruitment and retention risen up your agenda as a CIO?

Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?

How many employees are there in your IT team?

Are you increasing your headcount or planning to bring skills and the ability to react to needs in-house?


Which technologies or areas are you expecting to be investing in over the next year?

  • data analytics/business intelligence
  • ERP
  • enterprise applications
  • Machine learning/artificial intelligence

Which technologies or areas are you expecting to be investing in over the next one to three years?

  • data analytics/business intelligence
  • Machine learning/artificial intelligence
  • wearables

What emerging technologies are you investigating or expect to have a big impact on your sector or organisation?
UHG are investing in AI and looking at ways that AI can improve the delivery of healthcare outcomes, and would expect to see a bring to market opportunity in 2018.


Does your organisation do a significant amount of trade with the EU?

Does your department include technology staff from the EU?

Are you or have you been looking to the EU to recruit key skills?