He may not wear a cape, but John Tikka has a habit of
coming to the rescue, particularly
on large complex software implementations facing
challenges. A seasoned information
technology project manager and consultant with more than
20 years of experience, including
academic and health care implementations, Tikka this week
assumes leadership of the
His official title is senior director for Johns
Hopkins business systems, and he will also
be in charge of the support organization that lives on
after the HopkinsOne project ends.
HopkinsOne went live Jan. 1 with new business
software systems and processes for
human resources and payroll, finance and budget, supply
chain and sponsored research.
According to a recent user satisfaction survey, faculty
and staff have found the system
challenging and difficult to use and are, overall, not
satisfied with it. The issues they cited
include inadequate training, new processes that take more
staff time to complete than
previous ones, and system issues and glitches — all
of which sound very familiar to Tikka.
Until recently a client relationship executive with
Cerner Corp., a provider of academic
and health system software and technology solutions, Tikka
has several times assumed
leadership of struggling information technology projects
and turned them around.
He did it for Memorial Medical Health System in
Springfield, Ill., when he assumed
leadership of a project to implement an electronic
medication-ordering system for the
"It was a difficult implementation," said Alisa
Groesch, director of pharmacy for
Memorial Medical Center. "John came in the middle of it to
get us back on track. He was really
able to assess the issues quickly, get us the key contacts
and get us moving forward."
He also did it when he took over SAP implementation
for Tetra Pak, the world's leading
manufacturer of liquid food packaging solutions (such as
juice boxes), which had implemented
SAP in two countries and planned to implement it in 18
more. SAP is the integrated business
software being used by Johns Hopkins.
"He's an impressive guy," said search committee
member Greg Finnegan, director of
organizational development and training for the Johns
Hopkins Health System. "He had a very
similar experience with a company in Europe, coming in
after SAP went live and helping to make
At Tetra Pak, Tikka, who was then a principal
consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers,
found a difficult situation. "They had already gone live
in Italy and Switzerland," Tikka
recalled. "Both of those projects had gone over budget,
and the end users didn't feel they had
received the functionality they were looking for."
Faced with implementing SAP for Tetra Pak in the
United States, France and England,
Tikka initiated better communication with the customers,
revamped the structure of the
project team to take better advantage of SAP's integration
and systematically worked to
ensure employees learned how to run the system for
"Ultimately, within SAP, people build things in
silos," Tikka said. "Even though it's
integrated, it's still 'architected' in specific
functionalities. It's like when you build a house:
You have a plumber, you have an electrician, you have
carpenters, and the plumber doesn't
necessarily know what the electrician does and vice versa.
But there's got to be somebody who
has to know how it's all going to come together."
Steve Golding, who has directed HopkinsOne since the
project began five years ago,
announced in March that he would be returning full time to
the School of Medicine's Finance
"Steve Golding has done an amazing job under the most
challenging of circumstances,
and we will miss his leadership on the project," said
James McGill, senior vice president for
finance and administration for the university. "With John
Tikka, we have found a focused and
serious IT project manager who can pick up where Steve
left off and take us forward."
Ron Werthman, vice president of finance for the
health system, said he likes Tikka's
ability to identify and prioritize issues, and to
systematically work to resolve them. "He really
has the best of both worlds, a keen insight into the
technical aspects and an appreciation for
serving the users."
Stephanie Reel, chief information officer for the
university and health system, initiated
the search for a senior director to lead both the
HopkinsOne project and the ongoing support
organization, which will now fall under IT@Hopkins.
"John has a balanced view of the world," she said.
"He's an optimist, and a realist. He
appreciates the complexity and sophistication of SAP, and
he understands customer service. I
feel fortunate that our paths crossed when they did."
While he says he knows it will take some time to get
to know the project, and Johns
Hopkins, Tikka says he already thinks some of the
improvements he made at Tetra Pak — better
communication with users, a more cohesive project
structure and systematic approaches to
issue resolution and knowledge transfer — could
"I think that those are the kinds of things we're
going need to do at HopkinsOne," Tikka
said. "It may not be exactly that, but it's going to be
Kevin England, vice president for clinical services
at Memorial Medical, where Tikka ran
the pharmacy implementation, said of Tikka, "He's the type
of person who will be open with his
customers. "He's an individual with a high amount of
charac ter and integrity. He's going to be
honest and forthright, and lay his cards on the table."
"The gist of it with John was issue resolution," said
Memorial Medical's Groesch. "He
understands timelines and goals, setting expectations and
really holding people accountable."
For Tikka, who holds a bachelor's degree in computer
engineering from Michigan State
and an MBA in finance from the University of Georgia, the
fit at Johns Hopkins felt right as
he made his way through the interview process.
"It felt like I could fit in, and it also felt like
the work that needs to be done is
something that is very familiar to me. I felt I could make
a contribution relatively quickly,"
Tikka is already familiar with the angst users are
feeling over the project and, having
been through these kinds of projects before, he said, "I'm
very impressed with what's been
accomplished so far. There's been a lot of success. It may
not feel that way to a lot of people,
particularly the end users who've had their world turned
upside down overnight, but for a
project of this magnitude, it's amazing what's been
"Ultimately," he said, "HopkinsOne needs to be a
system that enables Hopkins employees
and staff out in the field to do a better job than they