Microservices Expo Authors: Liz McMillan, Kareen Kircher, Andreas Grabner, Roger Strukhoff, Carmen Gonzalez

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Linux Containers, Cloud Security, @DevOpsSummit

@CloudExpo: 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.


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.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
DevOps is a term that comes full of controversy. A lot of people are on the bandwagon, while others are waiting for the term to jump the shark, and eventually go back to business as usual. Regardless of where you are along the specturm of loving or hating the term DevOps, one thing is certain. More and more people are using it to describe a system administrator who uses scripts, or tools like, Chef, Puppet or Ansible, in order to provision infrastructure. There is also usually an expectation of...
DevOps is speeding towards the IT world like a freight train and the hype around it is deafening. There is no reason to be afraid of this change as it is the natural reaction to the agile movement that revolutionized development just a few years ago. By definition, DevOps is the natural alignment of IT performance to business profitability. The relevance of this has yet to be quantified but it has been suggested that the route to the CEO’s chair will come from the IT leaders that successfully ma...
As we enter the final week before the 19th International Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo in Santa Clara, CA, it's time for me to reflect on six big topics that will be important during the show. Hybrid Cloud This general-purpose term seems to provide a comfort zone for many enterprise IT managers. It sounds reassuring to be able to work with one of the major public-cloud providers like AWS or Microsoft Azure while still maintaining an on-site presence.
The best way to leverage your Cloud Expo presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at Cloud Expo. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audiences.
This is a no-hype, pragmatic post about why I think you should consider architecting your next project the way SOA and/or microservices suggest. No matter if it’s a greenfield approach or if you’re in dire need of refactoring. Please note: considering still keeps open the option of not taking that approach. After reading this, you will have a better idea about whether building multiple small components instead of a single, large component makes sense for your project. This post assumes that you...
As software becomes more and more complex, we, as software developers, have been splitting up our code into smaller and smaller components. This is also true for the environment in which we run our code: going from bare metal, to VMs to the modern-day Cloud Native world of containers, schedulers and microservices. While we have figured out how to run containerized applications in the cloud using schedulers, we've yet to come up with a good solution to bridge the gap between getting your conta...
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain. In this power panel at @...
DevOps theory promotes a culture of continuous improvement built on collaboration, empowerment, systems thinking, and feedback loops. But how do you collaborate effectively across the traditional silos? How can you make decisions without system-wide visibility? How can you see the whole system when it is spread across teams and locations? How do you close feedback loops across teams and activities delivering complex multi-tier, cloud, container, serverless, and/or API-based services?
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftNet Solutions will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SoftNet Solutions specializes in Enterprise Solutions for Hadoop and Big Data. It offers customers the most open, robust, and value-conscious portfolio of solutions, services, and tools for the shortest route to success with Big Data. The unique differentiator is the ability to architect and ...
Today every business relies on software to drive the innovation necessary for a competitive edge in the Application Economy. This is why collaboration between development and operations, or DevOps, has become IT’s number one priority. Whether you are in Dev or Ops, understanding how to implement a DevOps strategy can deliver faster development cycles, improved software quality, reduced deployment times and overall better experiences for your customers.
Without lifecycle traceability and visibility across the tool chain, stakeholders from Planning-to-Ops have limited insight and answers to who, what, when, why and how across the DevOps lifecycle. This impacts the ability to deliver high quality software at the needed velocity to drive positive business outcomes. In his session at @DevOpsSummit 19th Cloud Expo, Eric Robertson, General Manager at CollabNet, will show how customers are able to achieve a level of transparency that enables everyon...
At its core DevOps is all about collaboration. The lines of communication must be opened and it takes some effort to ensure that they stay that way. It’s easy to pay lip service to trends and talk about implementing new methodologies, but without action, real benefits cannot be realized. Success requires planning, advocates empowered to effect change, and, of course, the right tooling. To bring about a cultural shift it’s important to share challenges. In simple terms, ensuring that everyone k...
What do dependency resolution, situational awareness, and superheroes have in common? Meet Chris Corriere, a DevOps/Software Engineer at Autotrader, speaking on creative ways to maximize usage of all of the above. Mark Miller, Community Advocate and senior storyteller at Sonatype, caught up with Chris to learn more about what his team is up to.
@DevOpsSummit has been named the ‘Top DevOps Influencer' by iTrend. iTrend processes millions of conversations, tweets, interactions, news articles, press releases, blog posts - and extract meaning form them and analyzes mobile and desktop software platforms used to communicate, various metadata (such as geo location), and automation tools. In overall placement, @DevOpsSummit ranked as the number one ‘DevOps Influencer' followed by @CloudExpo at third, and @MicroservicesE at 24th.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in Embedded and IoT solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/Big Data, HPC and ...
JetBlue Airways uses virtual environments to reduce software development costs, centralize performance testing, and create a climate for continuous integration and real-time monitoring of mobile applications. The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer performance engineering case study discussion examines how JetBlue Airways in New York uses virtual environments to reduce software development costs, centralize performance testing, and create a climate for continuous integration and real-tim...
Without lifecycle traceability and visibility across the tool chain, stakeholders from Planning-to-Ops have limited insight and answers to who, what, when, why and how across the DevOps lifecycle. This impacts the ability to deliver high quality software at the needed velocity to drive positive business outcomes. In his general session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Eric Robertson, General Manager at CollabNet, will discuss how customers are able to achieve a level of transparency that e...
So you think you are a DevOps warrior, huh? Put your money (not really, it’s free) where your metrics are and prove it by taking The Ultimate DevOps Geek Quiz Challenge, sponsored by DevOps Summit. Battle through the set of tough questions created by industry thought leaders to earn your bragging rights and win some cool prizes.
SYS-CON Events announced today that LeaseWeb USA, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LeaseWeb is one of the world's largest hosting brands. The company helps customers define, develop and deploy IT infrastructure tailored to their exact business needs, by combining various kinds cloud solutions.
“Being able to take needless work out of the system is more important than being able to put more work into the system.” This is one of my favorite quotes from Gene Kim’s book, The Phoenix Project, and it plays directly into why we're announcing the DevOps Express initiative today. Tracing the Steps. For years now, I have witnessed needless work being performed across the DevOps industry. No, not within our clients DevOps and continuous delivery practices. I have seen it in the buyer’s journe...