May 16, 2006

Case Weatherhead grad, 46, advances career with EDM degree

Brings new business tools to his job as Sr. Principal and part owner of ProviderGateway, Inc.

As consumers park gas-guzzling cars and pick up the computer's mouse to go shopping, something in their Internet search builds Web site loyalty beyond pricing, trust and ease of accessing the online store.

Demo Solaru, of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, in research for his doctoral dissertation for the executive doctor of management degree (EDM) from Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management investigated the concept of "flow"—a term first coined by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi in the 1970's—to see if it impacts customer loyalty.

Solaru, who is senior principal partner in ProviderGateway, Inc.—a Cleveland-based consulting company—describes flow as an optimal experience in which a user is totally engaged, involved and absorbed in the use of their computer or web-based system and experiences a seamless flowing from one moment to the next while using the system.

"It's a subtle characteristic, but it's important. Flow decreases the customers desire to switch from one website to another," he said. "It's the glue that increases customer loyalty and contributes immensely to the profitability of a cyber business."

One of the masters of creating flow on the internet, according to Solaru, is amazon.com where the customer in search of a book or record will not only brings up a product but additional links to related materials and comments from others that keep the user engaged on that site. Solaru's research work examined different search engines to discover that each has its own type of flow.

"Google got flow so right that now we even have the word google in our vocabulary," said Solaru. Even though Yahoo offers all sorts of links in their indices of Websites, Solaru found Google had intuitively interpreted what the Web visitors most want.

"The site creates flow through its unmatched speed and other site characteristics, and has probably made Google the most successful and profitable search engine," he said.

Four years ago, Solaru enrolled in the practitioner-based doctorate program to give him "new ideas for the tool chest" to use at ProviderGateway, his Cleveland-based consulting company that designs and markets software that links private social services and health related service (Medicaid) agencies to their counterpart agencies in government.

Solaru plans to incorporate optimal flow theories into ProviderGateway's software programs. ProviderGateway's software enables agencies serving clients with multiple needs to be linked to multiple services, provided by as many as 300 organizations and eliminates multiple application forms at each agency as well as unnecessary visits.

The outcome is to raise client satisfaction with reliable and complete information support, he said.

ProviderGateway's software system has improved the turnaround time for many transactions from as long as eight months to almost immediately.

"Future generations of our software will look quite different from the ones today," he said.

Solaru, who has been involved in some form of systems or management consulting work for the past 25 years, had thought about adding a doctorate degree to his resume 14 years ago, but a growing family and a new job moved the degree off the top of his priorities.

Four years ago, it all changed for the then 43-year-old when he returned to school for his doctorate degree.

When he accepts his diploma during ceremonies, May 21, at Case, he will join other seasoned executives from around the world who have maintained professional careers while spending 30 hours each week on research or assignments and attending classes at Case in the program geared for the busy executive.

Case's EDM program, a one-of-a-kind program, attracts the working professional, who already has earned a master's degree and has 12 to 15 years of experience. The average age of the EDM student is 47.

While the program attracts local student like Solaru, other EDM students fly from as far away as Israel, Kenya, Central America and Hawaii to attend one four-day and five two-day residencies each semester to complete the three-year program.

According to Bo Carlsson, director of the EDM Program at Case, "These individuals are energized by new ideas, appreciate the importance of a disciplined and demanding course of study and realize the value of participating in a learning community of experienced practitioners with diverse backgrounds."

The business practitioner's focus attracted Solaru, whose brother Damos also earned his doctorate in the EDM program in 2004, and is employed by KeyBank in Cleveland.

"I have a difficult time learning something just for learning sake," said Solaru. "I get excited by applying knowledge, and that's precisely what I plan to do."

He also said with the plethora of business theory existing, few are actually easy to apply in the real world. But through EDM research projects and dissertations the doctoral students can employ them in new ways that relate to their careers or help take their careers or workplace in a new direction.

"Our EDM students have education as a core value and like being around other executives in the way the programs links leaders with leaders," said Sue Nartker, who oversees the EDM program.

"This has been a different experience for sure; all the members of this class are seasoned veterans in a diverse array of industries and are owners and top managers in their firms. The knowledge sharing was incredible" said Solaru.

After years of consulting, Solaru said, "You can develop tunnel vision and never get the chance to experience a truly different perspective"

What Solaru finds beneficial about program is that "we can talk about real world problems in an environment free of the workplace politics or competitiveness," he said.

To learn more about the Weatherhead School program, visit http://weatherhead.case.edu/edm.

Posted by: Heidi Cool, May 16, 2006 01:00 PM | News Topics:

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