The five-minute CIO: Gar Murphy, Cook Medical

7 Oct 2016

Pictured: Gar Murphy, European IT director of Cook Medical

“Like all budgets, in essence they need to be strategic,” said Gar Murphy, European IT director of Cook Medical.

Cook Medical is a privately held medtech company based in Limerick.

The company develops and manufactures urology, obstetrics, gynaecology, and gastroenterology medical devices. It exports globally from Limerick where it employs 880 people.

Future Human

Murphy has over thirty years of industry experience working for SMEs and multinational companies, chiefly within the IT sector.

He has worked with Cook for the past 18 years in various IT management roles. He has been instrumental in the many global standardisation strategies within the company for the past decade.

Murphy holds a BA in Information Technology and an MSc in Technology Management from the University of Limerick.

Can you outline the breadth and scope of the technology roll-out across your organisation and what improvements it will bring to the company?

As one of the world’s largest privately held medical technology companies, our IT capabilities are integral to operations. Cook Medical has organised its IT into seven distinct areas: infrastructure, data, support services, systems development, business analysis, projects management and IT strategies. This allows greater synergy between organisational functions, which greatly accelerates global deliveries.

For example, members of our infrastructure team were tasked with providing a global wireless solution. The project encompassed global team setup, deploying identical hardware, consistent configuration, consistent setup, and training to remove any ambiguity for seamless end user integration.

What are the main points of your company’s IT strategy?

In recent years, we have enhanced our global model and structure. Continuing a proactive partnership with the business is fundamental to our IT strategy. Supporting a global structure requires our enterprise architecture model to embrace current and future technological advancements. Equally, understanding our capabilities in what to keep in-house and outsource externally, plays a big part in our strategy.

Can you give a snapshot of how extensive your IT infrastructure is?

Cook Medical specialises in the development of minimally invasive technologies for vascular and non-vascular surgery and employs 12,000 worldwide. I lead the European IT team that supports 3,000 end users. Ireland is Cook’s IT headquarters and central hub, supporting two manufacturing facilities in Limerick and Denmark, our European central distribution centre in Germany, and a sales force comprising 600 sales representatives. The European IT workforce represents one-third of the global IT team.

In terms of managing IT budgets, what are your key thoughts on how CIOs/heads of technology should achieve their goals?

The medtech industry is no different to other business sectors. Cognisance of our global strategic business plan and aligning IT with business goals is vital. Striking the correct balance with IT spend and delivering solutions sustains budget control. Like all budgets, in essence they need to be strategic; therefore focusing on ROI, delivery and project management is paramount for accuracy and success.

How complex is the infrastructure, are you taking steps to simplify it?

As a principle, information technology infrastructure is complex, so I’m not unduly worried. End user focus and user interface design is crucial. In an ever rapidly changing IT world, simplifying infrastructure design while not compromising on security and data integrity is key. Training and development are major components to ensure we have the core competencies to understand our environment and to fulfil business needs.

Do you have a large in-house IT team, or do you look to strategically outsource where possible?

We have an ongoing focus to balance the growing needs of the organisation in line with the correct support models. Currently, we have a large dispersed team throughout Europe. Ireland, being our IT headquarters, hosts a large part of the team, and there are also large presences in London, Denmark and Germany. Balancing internal capabilities with external expertise is something Cook Medical embraces, to create long-term solid partnerships.

What are some of the main responsibilities of your own role, and how much of it is spent on deep technical issues compared to the management and business side?

My role requires having the strategic foresight to ensure Cook Medical embraces new technologies to maintain our world-class capabilities.

In addition to deep technical expertise, a fundamental working knowledge of the medical device industry is paramount to ensure our global deliveries support our customers, and ultimately the patients who are in need of the health solutions we provide.

My role ensures Europe’s technical platform meets global requirements for all sub-functions within IT. Our current IT structure, which comprises strong management and technical levels, helps to sustain the overall enterprise. Fully understanding the business environment helps both management and technical layers to intertwine and produce successful systems.

What are the big trends and challenges in your sector, and how do you plan to use IT to address them?

IT in the medtech industry is at an exciting place right now. Addressing the increasing complexity of medical device enterprises and adhering to global standards, medical device regulations and directives is a constant challenge.

Awareness of trends in cybersecurity, data protection, big data and general enterprise architecture needs fundamental understanding and knowledge so they can be addressed successfully for the organisation. Embracing the Industry 4.0 revolution and exploring what it has to offer the medtech sector holds great potential for Cook Medical.

What metrics or measurement tools do you use to gauge how well IT is performing?

We use off-the-shelf and in-house packages. We’ve developed meaningful and measurable metrics in the main areas surrounding cost, quality and delivery. Monitoring in a consistent and timely manner enables my team to identify pressure points, review, and address in order to take appropriate actions.

Are there any areas youve identified where IT can improve, and what are they?

While we are very confident with our current strategic focus and platforms, there is always room to improve. Being able to clearly understand and convey the IT message from executive to end user level in a seamless manner is very important. In a rapidly changing environment, a consistency in delivering this message is something IT always needs to focus on.

What other projects do you have lined up for the year, and what will they contribute to the business?

In a changing world, Cook Medical is continually looking at current and emerging trends surrounding IoT, digital advancements and dynamic manufacturing, and supply chains.

The medtech industry is innovating and evolving daily. Ireland is a leading hub for the sector and well-positioned to lead the way — we are the second largest employer of medtech professionals in Europe with over 29,000 people employed in 400 companies.

Given this, it’s crucial that we continue to advance here. At Cook Medical, based in Castletroy, Limerick, we develop, manufacture and distribute medical devices, including stents and catheters, for export worldwide. Our IT strategy is central to this and we constantly work hard to ensure we stay ahead. Leveraging from initiatives such as Horizon 20/20 holds huge potential for us.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years