For the Record with Peter Winston, Founder & CEO, ICS – Medical Alley Association

For the Record with Peter Winston, Founder & CEO, ICS

It was at a user conference at MIT in 1987 that Peter confirmed what he suspected — interface design (today user experience or UX) was the future. And with that, he founded Integrated Computer Solutions (ICS).

Thirty-plus years later, Peter drives innovation by pairing data with intuition, leading his team – which he considers the key to ICS’ success – in developing modern user interfaces, connected products and touchscreen-enabled applications. ICS’ project portfolio, which spans high-impact industries, includes intuitive medical devices for global companies like Quidel, Thermo Fisher, Boston Scientific and MilliporeSigma.

Peter is a graduate of Vassar College and resides with his family outside Boston, Massachusetts.

Give us ICS’ elevator pitch.

Integrated Computer Solutions (ICS) has been helping Fortune 1000 companies and innovation-hungry start-ups create groundbreaking products for over 30 years. We help our customers shape the future with transformative products and pride ourselves on making the complex easy to use. We’ve worked on every variety of smart device from defibrillators and medical diagnostic testing equipment to construction cranes and coffee machines. Today not only do we design and build devices, we also address difficult, real-world concerns revolving around fleet management, cloud computing, device cybersecurity and regulatory compliance. Our medtech team, relied upon by companies like Quidel, Thermo Fisher, Boston Scientific and MilliporeSigma, uses ISO 13485 and IEC 62366-compliant processes within a suite of services that accelerate development, testing and certification. ICS is headquartered in Waltham, Mass., with offices in California, Canada and Europe.

What is one thing the Medical Alley community might be unaware of about ICS that you think would be good to know?

ICS has a dedicated medtech practice to support the ongoing technology-driven healthcare transformation. But our truly special sauce is how we have embraced the user experience (UX) design process. By having UX, software development and regulatory expertise under one roof, we can use UX prototypes to uncover issues much earlier than possible via agile programming. By blending the UX process with the development and regulatory processes we have found ways of improving product quality without adding extra cost or time.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic change ICS for the long term?

I have to admit, when Covid hit last march I was scared. I worried ICS’ customers would cancel contracts, that my staff would get sick and business would nose dive. But just the opposite happened. After the initial scare, things settled down. ICS has always been a company where we hire the best people we can from around the world rather than restricting ourselves to talent within 50 miles of our office. Our development team had already been working remotely so there was no disruption there. And our corporate culture and technology set-up enabled the rest of the team to easily work from home. What changed was that our customers no longer required us to work on site. This allowed us to better allocate resources since we were now free to assign the best person or team to each job rather than being limited to who could get to Detroit or Sacramento. As a result, we’ve been able to not only strengthen our customer commitments but also grow. We have hired nearly 50 people this year!

What are the big milestones to come in the next few years for ICS?

Every year, Moore’s law puts more computer power onto edge devices and more bandwidth between the devices and the cloud. This means the devices are getting more complex at an accelerating rate. A simple blister button on an ECG machine a few years ago gave way to a tiny touchscreen last year. Today, the device is likely to be part of a fleet of IoMT devices controlled by voice recognition or built-in facial recognition. Modern devices are no longer limited to a single function, but instead encompass expanded capabilities like keeping track of each user’s settings, ordering supplies, monitoring device usage, and predicting when it will need repair. Integrating all of these capabilities requires a team with 10 times the number of skills as we had even a few years ago. Most of the 50 people we’ve recently hired bring new skills that are needed in today’s systems. It is a huge challenge to not only develop a complex machine but do it efficiently and affordably. We’re at a tipping point where fewer companies will want to do this themselves. And that’s where ICS sees an opportunity to shine.

What does leadership look like to you?

Strong leaders are both insightful and flexible. Not only must they be able to envision what’s ahead, they need to be able to motivate their team to come along on the journey — and do so in a way appropriate for each individual and circumstance. As CEO, it is my role to share my vision and establish the direction the company will head. But I can’t stop there. Leadership also means picking the best people for the team and then guiding them so that ICS can achieve this vision. With our current team of around 200 people worldwide, my focus right now is ensuring that every ICS employee knows what they’re responsible for and establishing processes that deliver predictable and repeatable results. 

What is the best advice you have received in your career? What is the worst?

When you start a business you get a lot of advice. Some of it good and some, not so much. But advice is merely a suggestion, an idea. You have to reflect on the idea and see if it works for you. Here are two pieces of advice that have served me well over the years:

“If what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else.”  This is the opposite of try, try again. They don’t give out awards for hitting your head against the wall so if something isn’t working, reflect on your goal and find a different path.

“Talk less, listen more.” You don’t need to prove your authority. You need to understand the pain in the market and the problems delivering your solution. So, listen to your customers and your team. 

What have been the most rewarding moments in your career?

As a leader, I get the most satisfaction from seeing the imagined become real. This takes its form in many ways, for instance seeing in the real world a device that my team has developed. And beyond that, seeing that the company we worked with to create that device is thriving. I also take great satisfaction from watching an ICS team member expand into a position of new responsibility as their career grows. And of course, from watching ICS itself grow and evolve. Tech companies like ICS can never stand still. We are always reinventing ourselves into what we think is coming next.

What do you enjoy most about the Medical Alley community?

I strongly support Medical Alley’s mission to develop innovative healthcare technology, something we’re focused on at ICS. The ability to network and collaborate with the quality organizations that make up the Medical Alley community helps all of us elevate our game and create quality medtech products that can be truly life-altering.

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