Terry Thornton is the Vice President and General Manager of Intel, Civil, and Healthcare IT Programs at Harris IT Services. He has more than 25 years of DOD program and IT management experience and prior to joining Harris, served as vice president of Operations of Multimax, Inc., as well as director of Engineering Services at Wam!Net Government Services. Thonton also served as lead systems engineer and senior software engineer for Lockheed Martin and Unisys Corporation.
Thornton recently spoke with WashingtonExec and discussed his definition of mobility, its impact on the healthcare IT industry, priorities for agencies regarding mobile solutions and more.
WashingtonExec: Could you talk about your role and how mobility has made your job easier?
Terry Thornton: Mobility has always been critical to the military, law enforcement and intelligence operations. As people become more comfortable with mobile communications, requests from our customers increase exponentially. It’s a challenge because we have to understand what each customer’s current IT posture is and make sure that we put forth the best recommendations for solutions that are high quality, cost-efficient, and sustainable. So, it definitely impacts our customers and the need to get access to data is the biggest thing for them.
I think all of us have experienced how mobility makes our jobs easier and more demanding at the same time. We are never out of touch with our job responsibilities. We can talk to customers, have conference calls, answer e-mails, or edit documents just about anywhere at any time. The problem is that we never seem to be away from work, because we can do all those things. On balance, it’s better. It helps us avoid crises and it keeps work from piling up while we are out of the office.
WashingtonExec: What is your definition of mobility?
Terry Thornton: For me, mobility implies the use of any device that can put the data at a person’s fingertips so they don’t have to be tied to a desk. They can be virtually anywhere in the world or in any physical situation and get the data or applications that they need. Cloud computing is an important part of that because it allows us to house data on something other than mainframes; it’s housed somewhere else; but it’s accessible. It’s not on your specific device or the tablet that you have in front of you. The cloud plays a big part and enables us to go out and retrieve the data, applications or whatever else we are looking for.
“For me, mobility implies the use of any device that can put the data at a person’s fingertips so they don’t have to be tied to a desk”
WashingtonExec: How big of an impact does mobility have on the healthcare IT industry?
Terry Thornton: There are many more smart devices and equipment out there that generate real-time reports such as health monitors, IV med pumps, and other technologies. So important data can be gathered in real time, and caregivers don’t have to find places to plug them in, and connect to the wall port, or to retrieve hard-copy. Also, both passive and active RFID with logistics can do real-time tracking of equipment throughout the hospital so that administrators know where all beds and equipment are at all times.
WashingtonExec: If you had the top federal CIOs and CTOs in a room, what would you tell them their top priority should be for their agencies as far as mobile solutions?
Terry Thornton: Security should be their top priority. I would advise them to take a hard look at their IT infrastructure, to understand their security posture and make certain that they have proper security measures in place before they actually roll out the technology.
WashingtonExec: What is one of the biggest challenges you see when trying to manage these new mobile apps?
Terry Thornton: The biggest challenge we have is that the technology is changing so rapidly that it is difficult to stay on top of what’s new and what might be just over the horizon. We need to work both with customers who don’t have to have the latest and greatest thing and customers who want the latest and greatest thing. You can’t really marry the two. But just trying to manage multiple requirements is a challenge.
WashingtonExec: Are you interested in commenting on the current budgetary climate? What has your plan of action been at Harris IT?
Terry Thornton: It’s difficult for me to evaluate how they are handling sequestration. I think they are doing the best job that they can.
WashingtonExec: Do you have a favorite mobile device or an app that makes you more productive?
Terry Thornton: My favorite mobile device is of course the smart phone. It is just so versatile because it puts everything at your fingertips. It’s great. I would say as far as my favorite mobile app – we just relocated out here from Minnesota recently, so Face Time is big in our family as far as trying to keep abreast of what the kids, friends and family are doing back in Minnesota.
WashingtonExec: Are you involved in local organizations? What do you like to do in your spare time?
Terry Thornton: I am involved with AFCEA and the National Homeland Security Association. As far as personal time outside of work, since we are new to the area we do a lot of exploring of the C & O Trail — Chesapeake and the Ohio Trail — which is 184 miles long and stretches from D.C. to Cumberland, Md. We do a lot of biking and hiking there. We don’t do the whole thing at once. There are segments of 15 to 20 miles long that you can do that aren’t too bad.
WashingtonExec: Is there anything about Harris that you think is a well-kept secret or that isn’t really emphasized?
Terry Thornton: A lot of people know Harris for the radios that we provide to the military and first responders. But there are a lot of unique things about Harris. A lot of people don’t know that we design and build some of the world’s largest networks. We support the FAA and the work that our folks are doing in the field and on the ground in making sure planes take off and land safely and on time. I think what’s unique about us is we have pretty much every layer of the IT world covered, from the engineers who design networks and IT systems, to the architects who put them together, to the people who maintain them. I don’t think a lot of people realize that we cover the full lifecycle of IT services.