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ADP CIO Pursues Passion, Lands COO Role

CIO Mike Capone moves to SaaS company Medidata Solutions, which provides tools to manage clinical trials.

After 26 years at ADP, CIO Mike Capone is leaving the payroll-processing giant in a career move that might inspire other technology pros for two reasons.

One, Capone is pursuing a passion -- moving to a software-as-a-service company, Medidata Solutions, that helps manage the data and processes used in clinical trials. Having had his own family touched by critical illnesses, and having spent volunteer time on the boards of health-related nonprofits, Capone has long wanted to work in an area related to disease management and research.

[Does IT need to be more consumer friendly? Read 6 Ways To Consumerize IT Without Dumbing Down.]

Two, Capone is moving into a chief operating officer role, parlaying his experience running a tech organization that helps get paychecks to 34 million people worldwide into a broader operational role. At Medidata, his role will include overseeing IT and cloud operations, as well as the company's data science group, professional services and support, and some marketing functions.

"As SaaS and cloud gain in importance, you're going to see more opportunity for tech folks," Capone said in an interview this week. 

Moving into an entirely new industry comes with daunting challenges, starting with learning the language of that industry. Capone said he has started the hard way, downloading to his iPad a textbook on the fundamentals of clinical trials.

"The CEO asked how it's going, and I said I've gotten through 30 chapters," Capone said. "Unfortunately, it's the same chapter 30 times."

Capone points to two life experiences that fuel his passion for healthcare. His mother died of leukemia when she was 42 years old, leading to his involvement with the New Jersey chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, where he’s a board member. (He's also on the board of the Northern New Jersey chapter of the American Heart Association.) In addition, his daughter has a condition called hydrocephalus, requiring surgeons to implant a shunt to let fluid drain properly from her brain. The device is programmable, so it can be fine-tuned as she grows rather than requiring her to endure multiple brain surgeries to place new shunts. She's now a thriving teenager. "A medical device that probably didn't exist 15 years ago saved her life," he said.

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Medidata, where Capone starts next week, posted $276 million in revenue last year. Led by its two co-founders, CEO Tarek Sherif and president Glen De Vries, it went public in 2009.

Medidata is in growth mode, so Capone thinks one skill he brings is experience running IT systems reliably at huge scale.

Another skill is generating and managing tech-powered innovations. Capone created an innovation lab at ADP, relying on both permanent lab staff and employees coming from business units to do short-term stints in the lab, all to generate new ideas. Medidata is at a different stage of its development than ADP, but continual innovation is still vital there.

Across the software industry, B2B companies aren't nearly as good as their consumer counterparts at creating user-friendly apps. Whether it's for ERP or a product like Medidata, Capone says, the pressure will grow to improve the user experience. At ADP, in addition to serving as CIO, Capone was VP of product development. "With this next generation of employee, they won't tolerate a bad user experience, even if we're paying them to come to work," he said.

Capone said there "haven't been a ton of success stories" of CIOs moving into broader operating roles, but he thinks we'll see more of them as cloud and other technologies become increasingly important. That's not to say he's fleeing the CIO role, which he thinks will continue to thrive even as cloud computing changes the function. "The CIOs who can transform themselves and be more outcome-driven will be fine," he said.

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