Tag Archives: IT

No Silo’s in a Healthy Foundation.

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Last week I was lucky enough to listen to a number of you describing your IT environments and the current issues you face, and I’m a little shell shocked!

As EMC is an international company, we can sometimes convince international experts to visit and share their experience and knowledge with us. (Easier to do in our summer!)  Last week we had two such experts, (Healthcare and Life Sciences), tour the country. A great opportunity for me to meet hospitals and researchers, and learn first-hand about your issues. My lesson learnt from the week was that your issues are shockingly consistent: Growth and Budget, (too much of one and not enough of the other, you know which!). Living the ‘doing more with less’ cliché.

What might surprise you was that in each case the prime cause is ‘stovepipes’. Segregation of departments, budgets, projects, planning, leading to the implementation of disparate systems, applications and  datasets. (One person told us they had about 2000 applications in this single hospital, wow). So its not surprising that no-one seems to be able to provide a single patient view!

How were people thinking about solving this problem. Well on the whole a lot are not, they are too busy doing ‘business as usual’ or keeping the lights on, to even think about it.  Others were very optimistic about implementing an organisational wide EMR/EHR, but as many were very sceptical about getting a business case up and showing any return on the investment.

In my experience, working in other verticals, the journey has always started within IT.  The first step is to consolidate the environment, perhaps starting with the IT support systems and then moving into the ‘business’ applications. If you are a producer or consumer of IT services the goals remain the same:

  • To cut costs: by increasing utilisation when moving to shared infrastructure.
  • To become more responsive: by using virtualised technologies.
  • To improve the service: by using automation.

At the end of the day the results have been impressive across the board, as an example EMC itself has taken this journey from consolidation to virtualisation to automation and we estimate the savings in the millions but more importantly:

  • the amount EMC spends on ‘keeping the lights on’ from over 70% of the IT budget to less than 40%, and now invests in innovation.
  • the time it takes to stand up a new service from over 3 months to under 1 day, freeing up people to help drive business outcomes.

If you are a customer of IT how about asking what are they doing, this year to cut the cost of the services they provide by x%, and how are they going to be more responsive to your requests?

While this may sound very tech-centric it’s a good place to start.. it’s the foundation that needs to be laid in order to move into the making healthcare healthy, (sorry)!

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The IT Kick-off is dead what a pity!

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In the early days of the IT industry it was customary to get the sales team together at the beginning of the year to gee them up and get them going for the year.

If you haven’t worked for a vendor before it’s a bit like a yearlong Groundhog Day. Each year you get a new number, you look after your customers and find new customers in-order to make that number. When you make the number you get a congratulations, a slap on the back, a shake of your hand, as the other hand receives the new number!! Having sales meet their number is essential, as it enables the developer to invest in innovative new technologies, which helps customers create value for their ‘customers’ … which is the virtuous cycle!

So the kick-off is a combination of the congratulations and kicking off the year! (Arm the sales force with all the new goodies and new messages and send them on their way) In the old days these were ‘big’ events! (You can imagine the personalities involved in an entire sales force, combined with the end of the year elation and fuelled by cold beverages!)

However, in this rapidly consolidating industry the major vendors are now large and the accountants have taken over! Now I understand the sticker shock when they look at the cost of doing this, however what I don’t understand is that the larger the event, effectively the lower the per person cost. So why when a company was small was it worth investing more in the people and when it’s large?

More of a concern is that if this infusion of the organisation’s culture and message led to the organisations success, what is going to happen now?

The Information Factory

@chuckhollis posted a blog recently which equates IT to a modern factory, (here). This is great, as some of you know,  I am the analogy king and I’ve been thinking about this analogy for a while.. and Chuck has beat me to it!factory

Chuck talks about the functions of a modern factory and how they relate to modern IT, such as:- “demand forecasting, process optimization, supply chain optimization — and, yes, product quality”. It’s a great article and traces the parallels between them, however I was thinking about a couple of issues that he only touches on.

Agility:- is the catch cry of the Cloud discussion- however what do we mean by agility? Chuck talks about agility in terms of scale; get bigger or smaller very quickly!  However, how about agility in terms of ‘flexible manufacturing’, where a factory has tooling that allows it to be re-configured to produce different products.  By using robots and CNC machines, (Numerically controlled machines), you can essentially re-program a factory to produce a different product, for example, cut the pieces of wood to create different chairs, or a table! (Virtualising the factory!)

Process Optimisation:- Here building on from Chuck’s solid foundation, I think we can extend the analogy. One of the optimisation techniques in the earlier factories was ‘worker activity optimisation’, where an expert would watch the workers on the line and remove redundancy, double-handling, inefficient movements, etc. The idea was that by watching what was being done, you could recognise the patterns and optimise around these.

Consider, if you could watch everything that everyone you work with does each day. You would notice massive inefficiencies, (in the flow of information, the way tasks are performed, etc.). Now a few small changes would create massive productivity gains!

Move down a level; these people use systems to perform these various different functions. These sophisticated systems provide alternative ways to produce the desired outcome.  If we could watch how each person does, essentially the same task, you would find ways that are better than others… and with a bit of training everyone could use the best practice, more productivity.

And lastly down another level; those systems are essentially software running code. Imagine if you could monitor the flow through the code as everyone uses it? We could understand how to make the code more efficient, we could see what never gets used, we would see the path to a bug, etc. Now think of the impact of having this meta-data about the running system… and the optimisation that could be done!

This, to me, is one of the really exciting aspects of Big Data. And if you are thinking this is very “Blue-sky” thinking… well not as far out as you might believe, (for example there is talk of doing this process optimisation, by monitoring the case-flow data that can be obtained from Documentum xCP and using Greenplum analytics to optimise this.)

IT Stack wars continue, will HP survive?

By Clive Gold, CTO Marketing, EMC Australia and New Zealand.

You know something is happening when there are $10Billion+ acquisitions going on, and people asking if leading IT vendors will be purchased, like Forbes asking if Oracle will purchase HP? (here)  We certainly seem to be living in interesting times!

In the past whenever there has been a major shift in the IT industry there has been a corresponding reshuffle of the leading vendors.  (I joke sometimes that I should have kept a ‘logo’ museum of merchandise from brands that have disappeared.) I have two poignant memories that typify these changes; the day the Wang sign, which dominated the North Sydney skyline for so long, was replaced by the ‘SAP’ one that is there now!  The other was hearing the news that the second largest computer company DEC, who dominated ‘technical’  computing when I was at Uni, was being purchased by Compaq. The new consuming the old!

The issue I question is, have we learnt from history? I thought that we moved away from the monolithic, single vendor IT solution to gain portability, wider innovation, and lower costs! It just seems that as the new architectures are being defined these critical advances are being ignored by some of the vendors.

HP, IBM and Oracle appear to be trying to convince the world that a single company can innovate better than an industry.(Maybe Dell is in this pack as well).  I have two issues with this; firstly the run of acquisitions we see demonstrates that larger companies do not innovate as effectively as smaller ones. Secondly, as Gartner classified these vendors at last year’s Symposium, as the ‘Super Vendors’. Likening them to super-markets, where you purchase generic stuff all in one place. My flippant view is they are pursuing their old strategies; ‘you need services with that’ or ‘there has to be a licence in there’ or ‘do you want ink with that!’.

The trick here is how to create an ‘open’- simple portability, ‘integrated’-vendors carry the cost and risk, ‘best of breed’-leverage all the bright minds in the world – solution.  Here is where EMC believes that virtualisation enables this new  converged infrastructure model, (which I have beaten to death elsewhere in this blog.)

So will Oracle purchase HP? And maybe we should open a book on what other rumours will start about who is purchasing whom?