Taking IT to New Levels
By Mary Friedberg
How can an organization use information technology (IT) to mitigate business risks and maximize opportunities? And how can it use IT to serve its customers better? During the past 10 years, Barry Lurie, Ph.D. ’75, has helped Unisys Corporation tactically develop and implement systems to address these questions, spanning diverse applications such as processing state income tax returns more efficiently in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, reorganizing policing functions in the Northwest, and dramatically improving the performance of the unemployment compensation system in California. Now the Philadelphia native is spending most of his time thinking about how these questions play into the future.
In January 2003, Lurie became a partner in the Global Solutions Development organization of the Global Infrastructure Services at Unisys. In this position, he is responsible for developing and implementing the Unisys vision for infrastructure-based IT solutions in the financial, public-sector and transportation vertical markets, among others. Unisys, based in Blue Bell, Pa., is a worldwide IT services and solutions company.
“I do a lot of thinking and interacting with folks in both Unisys and various client industries. I try to understand what their business requirements will be and determine what kinds of IT infrastructure, technology and services we can develop to add value,” says Lurie. “This position was created so that Unisys would better understand where to invest in order to meet our clients’ needs.”
A Holistic View
Industry analysts got a peek at Unisys’ vision in June when Lurie published a white paper on the value of thinking about infrastructure as a critical part of a business, rather than merely a support function (http://www.unisys.com/services/network__services/insights/white__papers/index.htm). “By taking a holistic view of the infrastructure — by treating IT as the lifeline that connects all people, business processes and tools — businesses will be better equipped to create and manage an agile enterprise that keeps current business goals at the forefront,” he wrote.
Lurie is now working to implement this vision through a variety of strategies, including directing efforts to create new products and services. “The kinds of products and services that we are developing will have a major positive impact on a business’s ability to do its job. So that business — whether it’s a police department, revenue agency or financial institution — will be much better equipped to serve its customers,” he says. By taking full advantage of their technology infrastructures, businesses can process information more efficiently, reduce operational costs and provide more customer services, such as Internet account access, online product ordering and electronic bill paying.
For Lurie, mapping out a whole new plan to help businesses become more effective is very rewarding. “This job gives me an opportunity to exercise leadership and to solve problems,” he says. “I like creating order out of chaos. For me, it’s like looking at a fairly jumbled field and navigating through it to achieve a particular goal. I also enjoy working with very smart people.”
Solving Business Problems
Lurie credits his scientific background with shaping his approach to problem solving. He earned a B.A. in chemistry from Temple University, Philadelphia, and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Bryn Mawr. “The way I think is essentially scientific method,” he says — proposing a hypothesis, making predictions and testing those predictions. “I like to think this method makes me much more effective at my job. I believe it has allowed me to very quickly get to the core issues and come up with solutions to address those issues.”
After graduating from Bryn Mawr, Lurie taught chemistry at Drexel University, Philadelphia, for two years before joining Unisys, where he has held a variety of senior positions in consulting, marketing and product development.
Among Lurie’s key achievements is his work on the development and installation of an advanced imaging system at the Massachusetts Department of Revenue. The system, which received the 1997 Computerworld Smithsonian Award for Innovation, allows the revenue department to scan personal income tax returns and electronically process the information, which dramatically reduced the department’s costs and returned refunds to taxpayers more efficiently. Lurie also helped develop an imaging system for Pennsylvania’s Department of Revenue that captures personal tax information, as well as sales and business tax data, and an imaging system for the California Department of Employment that expedites the collection and processing of labor-related taxes and claims for unemployment insurance.
Embracing New Challenges
Lurie is a widely respected expert in the document-imaging field. In 1997, IW Magazine named Lurie one of the 50 most influential people in the industry. He was elected 1997-98 chair of the Association of Information and Image Management Board of Directors. He is also a sought-after speaker, writer and leader in applying technology to gain competitive advantages.
Looking back, Lurie believes that his experiences at Bryn Mawr and Unisys have given him the foundation he needs to succeed in the business world. “Life is a big learning experience,” he says. “Part of what allows me to do my job effectively today is the things I’ve learned in the various aspects of my career. Some of those are very technical and tangible. Others are more visionary and innovative. The trick is to know what to apply when. It makes for a fun ride.”
Mary Friedberg writes on science and technology as well as business topics for a variety of publications, including Outpatient Surgery magazine.