Troy Hardeman – Ceannate Corporation
There is always a seat available at Troy Hardeman’s technology table. In his mind, it’s the best place to have people sit down and talk it out, because face-to-face interaction is the fastest way to get even the most complicated projects done.
Regulations. Legacy systems. Data migration to the clouds. Hardeman, an IT veteran with more than 20 years of experience, has done it all as CIO at the Illinois-based Ceannate Corp., a company 500 strong with five subsidiaries that provide financial, telehealth, and business process outsourcing for government and other private and affiliated sectors, particularly focused on the higher education student experience.
But there’s an interesting dynamic taking place in solving IT problems these days, according to Hardeman. In essence, the speed at which business end-users are becoming tech savvy has outpaced IT’s understanding of business processes and has put some pressure on departments as a result.
“A decade ago IT aligned itself with business processes, but there’s a shift and we are on the precipice where we are redefining the role,” Hardeman says. “This collaborative process has a more natural flow, which happens when the walls are broken down. The result is that we increase our speed-to-market and like a buckshot rifle we all go off at the same time.”
Regardless of whatever technology protocols you subscribe to, Hardeman says the root of many problems often boils down to an old-fashioned people problem.
Hardeman poses several scenarios. One is that people struggle to understand what is going on, or communicate their needs; another is that people don’t want to relinquish control. Yet another is a healthy tension between “ivory tower” IT professionals and businesspeople. The latter are accustomed to explaining high concepts that trickle down to the businesspeople uncontested, while the businesspeople are usually looking to have more say in their tech, given its ubiquity. So, where’s the common ground?
At Ceannate, Hardeman invites both technical specialists and businesspeople to the technology roundtable to break bread and discuss each project conceptually. Then, when everyone is more or less on the same page, he farms out tasks to the specialists who then can work their magic. Efforts combined, Hardeman says the fruits of those labors have created $140 million annually in company revenue.
Feet on the ground, head in the clouds
With the new approach sorted, it’s time to get to work.
Hardeman and his team of 30 are in the midst of leading the shift to cloud-based services and infrastructure, with information security a priority. Over the last three years, each of those subsidiaries have started to move in their own direction, away from centralized processes, resource models and infrastructure, to enable them to work more independently within Ceannate’s corporate structure.
It will take time, Hardeman says, with one of the biggest challenges being the migration of services to the cloud safely and securely. Two of the subsidiaries have completed the transition and one subsidiary was recently conceived in the cloud. The team has created the roadmap for the next round. Hardeman says it’s all about untethering the end-user from the hardwired, physical infrastructure and giving the businesses the ability to run from anywhere in the world around the clock.
All five of the subsidiaries are highly-regulated and subject to strict governance and regulation due to the nature of their businesses and their data, which makes the process significantly slower.
Additional speed bumps are the residual legacy systems dinosaurs.
“Some of those legacy shared services models are becoming inhibitors. What people are marketing to IT are products that increase the efficiency of IT, but the next great technological product isn’t being marketed to the IT person, it’s being marketed to the CEO, or the CFO, or director of marketing,” he says.
Part of the challenge is deciding which of those potential technological solutions make sense to each of Ceannate’s projects and subsidiaries.
“What is cutting, or bleeding edge, isn’t always the right decision as it can be a waste of an investment if is causes stress and frustration to people and eventually kills morale and productivity,” Hardeman says.
At the end of the day
Technology aside, Hardeman says Ceannate hopes to help students remove some of the stress and anxiety from their college experience so they can reap more benefits from their education investment.
To that end, five subsidiaries are largely focused on educational solutions. IonTuition is a web-based loan tool for student-borrowers existing as an employee benefit and a service provided by schools to their students; LoanAxis is a loan and relationship management SaaS solution for schools; i3 Group provides a channel for schools to strengthen and sustain their relationship with current and former students; Financial Management Systems provides custom BPO solutions to both government and private sector educational partners and provides a variety of accounts receivable management (ARM) solutions; and AuthenticAID provides data matching solutions to maximize revenue for government agencies, generating more than $315 million for federal and state tax agencies.
These products and programs provide students with everything from repayment loan counseling to secure web-based tools and financial resources. Ceannate’s most recent venture, however, is its Meta subsidiary. Meta is a telehealth service provider connecting students to therapists. Meta exists, Hardeman says, because today’s students feel more anxiety, depression and stress than previous generations and often do not have access to help. Suicide, he says, is the second leading cause of death for college students after car accidents.
“We want to help maximize the joys of the college student experience by helping where we can to identify solutions,” Hardeman says. “We are a for-profit company so of course we need to be profitable, but we refuse to do it at anyone’s expense. We don’t want to make anyone’s bad situation worse; we want to offer options and solutions to help turn their life around. Our goal has always been—and will forever be—to be a good company that does well.”
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