Welcome!

Linux Authors: Plutora Blog, Pat Romanski, Carmen Gonzalez, Elizabeth White, Sematext Blog

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, Java, SOA & WOA, Linux, Security, DevOps Journal

Cloud Expo: Article

How Healthcare SaaS Provider Masters Quality and DevOps Using Cloud ITSM

Healthcare app provider PointClickCare manages growth while maintaining quality

Healthcare SaaS application developer PointClickCare has had to manage high growth while maintaining even higher quality of services delivery demands amid constant up-time requirements.

Whether it's monitoring medication management in a closed-loop integration with pharmacies, or managing weekly release schedules for their software, the change is constant at PointClickCare, based in Toronto.

To help maintain control and remain ever-ready for improvements, PointClickCare recently adopted a cloud-based IT service management (ITSM) solution. To learn the benefits and lessons learned in moving from an older approach, BriefingsDirect had an opportunity to sit down with Craig Schultz, Director of Hosting Operations at PointClickCare.

The discussion, conducted at the recent HP Discover 2013 Conference in Barcelona, is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: We know that healthcare is a very dynamic environment, and there is a lot going on in moving organizations to electronic health records (EHRs). How is this affecting your business?

Schultz: We’re very busy, adding customers all of the time, trying to keep up with the demand for data, installing new customers, training customers, deploying new platforms on our end, infrastructure changes, and of course, rolling out Service Anywhere.

Gardner: And because your application is delivered through multi-tenancy, software as a service (SaaS) and cloud to all these healthcare organizations, software is more than a core competency. It practically defines your business.

Schultz: Exactly. As a SaaS provider, we need to always be up. Up-time is our biggest focus. The other part is release management. How do we keep updating our software, staying competitive, being agile along with our developers, and constantly improving ourselves?

Gardner: And you're no johnny-come-lately to the cloud. You’ve been doing SaaS for quite some time.

Schultz: Yes, for approximately 10 years. We were one of the original ones to kick it off in our market. From that, we've grown it, and now it's scalable. We're in multiple countries, and we're looking at how to continue to grow and keep the SaaS model and multi-tenancy as efficient as possible.

Mobile revolution

Gardner: Craig, how about the mobile revolution? How is that impacting your business? Does it matter whether they’re using a tablet to access your services, other devices, or PCs? How is the device end of things affecting you?

Schultz: Good question. We're fully cross-browser. From a platform standpoint, it doesn't matter. We’re actually releasing our Point of Care and related software on the Apple iPad and iPhone. We’re looking at it as if they have a dedicated tablet that they could use in their environment or they have one of the PCs or related items.

Schultz

Gardner: I have to assume, Craig, that this is a mission-critical application for these healthcare organizations. They’re administrating medications, tracking billing, tracking  what takes place through a process along a medical trajectory, all very much in real time, very mission-critical.

Schultz: Absolutely. This is a 24×7 service that’s used all the time. As you say, with medication management we do a closed loop with the pharmacies for ordering. Obviously, safety is the biggest priority for our customers and for us. So on the SaaS service, we need to make sure that all the tools are current. We have our monitoring and our stats. Then, obviously, if there are any issues, incident management is one of the key areas.

Gardner: Tell me how you do operations and development. I believe that with software being so critical, when you do fast iterations for a multi-tenancy environment, DevOps is a priority, but with development and operations, there’s no daylight between them.

We make sure that that’s a defined process, scripted, and then tied into our tools.

Schultz: Exactly. Our development team runs by agile, as a lot of places do. At PointClickCare, we’re looking at a weekly release schedules in general. That means constant change and constant releases. DevOps is a priority. We need to make sure that the QA people have their servers. Then, it goes to production, and there aren't any problems when we release it. We make sure that that’s a defined process, scripted, and then tied into our tools.

Gardner: Given that you’re the Director of Hosting Operations, what do you need in terms of other outside help to get this done? What were the challenges and requirements you had and then how did you fulfill them?

Schultz: What we wanted to solve at this point was to improve our processes, our definitions, and our policies on how we deploy our software and make sure that they’re set on standards. We were looking at an ITSM tool that would bring that framework to us to help us mature and take us to that next level, as we look at how much change and growth we're going through.

Gardner: How long have you been using HP Service Anywhere?

Schultz: We have been using Service Anywhere for three months. At this time, we’ve rolled it out into the whole hosting operations team. We use it for tracking all of our change management, incident management, problem management, then related key performance indicators (KPIs).

Gardner: How did you do it before?

Case system

Schultz: We used a CASE system. It wasn’t defined as a ticketing system, and it was very hard to track information. What made it harder was the lack of searchability within there to find that information. How do you do reporting? How do you really look at the statistics? So we launched this new tool, and that’s taking care of all that.

Gardner: This sounds a bit like changing the wings on an airplane while still flying. Did you find the transition difficult? What was most difficult about it?

Schultz: The transition was made simpler by engaging HP Technology Services. We used them extensively for our training. We did the ITIL training ahead of time with our staff. We used HP services to come in and walk us through this. They’re the experts on the tool.

Probably the biggest difficulty was, as you say, getting the resources to the people that were dedicated to this project while running full speed ahead. There was no delay.

Gardner: I know it's a little early in the roll out, but have there been any indicators of how it's functioning and any metrics of success or return-on-investment (ROI) types of inputs?

Schultz: Our biggest results right now is that 100 percent of changes are tracked in the system. They’re following our change-management process. We can go through, review them, monitor them, look at the results of the changes, and actually get end-to-end process development.

We actually have that closed loop on change and incident management. We’re now tracking all incidents that we weren't before. Because of the system, you can look for them after. So you can build any trajectory or problem management. When you look at the suite of change incidents and problems, we have that full loop in our operations.

The transition was made simpler by engaging HP services. We used them extensively for our training.

From a measurement standpoint, that has reduced the amount of time that it takes for us to actually implement a change. If we’re asked to create a database, create new customers, whatever it might be, we can turn that around a lot faster because there aren't delays in the system.

Gardner: Any thoughts, once you get further into HP Service Anywhere, as to what you'll be integrating this into other activities, further back into the development phase, perhaps associated with code management? Where do you go next?

Schultz: Where we go next is around the new versions and new software. As we bring on the new versions of the software and Service Anywhere, we’re going to implement the new tools. So when we look at the self-service portal, how do we roll that out to the users to be able to connect, create their own requests or, even better, solve their own problems. That will reduce a lot of the load runner IT team and lot of those tickets that we are getting from that.

Looking at some of the integration points, that’s going to be how we automate our changes, our software, and our incidents in the future. That’s going to all tie in the Service Anywhere. As well, we’re looking at rolling it out across the company. That way, everybody uses a centralized tool. It has all the functionality that you need. Develop the KPIs, and run by the numbers and metrics.

You may also be interested in:

More Stories By Dana Gardner

At Interarbor Solutions, we create the analysis and in-depth podcasts on enterprise software and cloud trends that help fuel the social media revolution. As a veteran IT analyst, Dana Gardner moderates discussions and interviews get to the meat of the hottest technology topics. We define and forecast the business productivity effects of enterprise infrastructure, SOA and cloud advances. Our social media vehicles become conversational platforms, powerfully distributed via the BriefingsDirect Network of online media partners like ZDNet and IT-Director.com. As founder and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, Dana Gardner created BriefingsDirect to give online readers and listeners in-depth and direct access to the brightest thought leaders on IT. Our twice-monthly BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcasts examine the latest IT news with a panel of analysts and guests. Our sponsored discussions provide a unique, deep-dive focus on specific industry problems and the latest solutions. This podcast equivalent of an analyst briefing session -- made available as a podcast/transcript/blog to any interested viewer and search engine seeker -- breaks the mold on closed knowledge. These informational podcasts jump-start conversational evangelism, drive traffic to lead generation campaigns, and produce strong SEO returns. Interarbor Solutions provides fresh and creative thinking on IT, SOA, cloud and social media strategies based on the power of thoughtful content, made freely and easily available to proactive seekers of insights and information. As a result, marketers and branding professionals can communicate inexpensively with self-qualifiying readers/listeners in discreet market segments. BriefingsDirect podcasts hosted by Dana Gardner: Full turnkey planning, moderatiing, producing, hosting, and distribution via blogs and IT media partners of essential IT knowledge and understanding.

@ThingsExpo Stories
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. He also discussed how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics discussed were barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold. Mike Kavis is Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Pa...
Dale Kim is the Director of Industry Solutions at MapR. His background includes a variety of technical and management roles at information technology companies. While his experience includes work with relational databases, much of his career pertains to non-relational data in the areas of search, content management, and NoSQL, and includes senior roles in technical marketing, sales engineering, and support engineering. Dale holds an MBA from Santa Clara University, and a BA in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly in the process of breaking from its heretofore relatively obscure enterprise applications (such as plant floor control and supply chain management) and going mainstream into the consumer space. More and more creative folks are interconnecting everyday products such as household items, mobile devices, appliances and cars, and unleashing new and imaginative scenarios. We are seeing a lot of excitement around applications in home automation, personal fitness, and in-car entertainment and this excitement will bleed into other areas. On the commercial side, m...
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Performance is the intersection of power, agility, control, and choice. If you value performance, and more specifically consistent performance, you need to look beyond simple virtualized compute. Many factors need to be considered to create a truly performant environment. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, discussed how to take advantage of a multitude of compute options and platform features to make cloud the cornerstone of your online presence.
SYS-CON Media announced that Splunk, a provider of the leading software platform for real-time Operational Intelligence, has launched an ad campaign on Big Data Journal. Splunk software and cloud services enable organizations to search, monitor, analyze and visualize machine-generated big data coming from websites, applications, servers, networks, sensors and mobile devices. The ads focus on delivering ROI - how improved uptime delivered $6M in annual ROI, improving customer operations by mining large volumes of unstructured data, and how data tracking delivers uptime when it matters most.
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
Since 2008 and for the first time in history, more than half of humans live in urban areas, urging cities to become “smart.” Today, cities can leverage the wide availability of smartphones combined with new technologies such as Beacons or NFC to connect their urban furniture and environment to create citizen-first services that improve transportation, way-finding and information delivery. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Laetitia Gazel-Anthoine, CEO of Connecthings, will focus on successful use cases.
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
“With easy-to-use SDKs for Atmel’s platforms, IoT developers can now reap the benefits of realtime communication, and bypass the security pitfalls and configuration complexities that put IoT deployments at risk,” said Todd Greene, founder & CEO of PubNub. PubNub will team with Atmel at CES 2015 to launch full SDK support for Atmel’s MCU, MPU, and Wireless SoC platforms. Atmel developers now have access to PubNub’s secure Publish/Subscribe messaging with guaranteed ¼ second latencies across PubNub’s 14 global points-of-presence. PubNub delivers secure communication through firewalls, proxy ser...
The industrial software market has treated data with the mentality of “collect everything now, worry about how to use it later.” We now find ourselves buried in data, with the pervasive connectivity of the (Industrial) Internet of Things only piling on more numbers. There’s too much data and not enough information. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Bob Gates, Global Marketing Director, GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, to discuss how realizing the power of IoT, software developers are now focused on understanding how industrial data can create intelligence for industrial operations. Imagine ...
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
The Internet of Things promises to transform businesses (and lives), but navigating the business and technical path to success can be difficult to understand. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, demonstrated how to approach creating broadly successful connected customer solutions using real world business transformation studies including New England BioLabs and more.
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...