EMH Healthcare Implements Customer-Focused IT Strategy

 

179069079As I was writing last week’s post, I got an email from our social team asking me to take a look at a customer profile one of our internal teams recently put together.

The timing, as it turns out, couldn’t have been more perfect, and the story more in line with the “center of gravity” series I kicked off earlier this month. It’s a great example of the business benefits of a customer-focused IT strategy.

The profile recaps the journey EMH Healthcare went through to upgrade its legacy EMC storage environment. And while the product side of the story is compelling (and, yes, a nod to EMC products and solutions), it’s the  business/customer thread, you’ll want to note. It’s what captured my attention and surely EMH management’s.

By focusing on its customers (i.e., the ends) and not just the products/services it provides/delivers (i.e., the means), EMH IT is delivering measurable business value to the broader organization.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

I’m not saying that products aren’t important; they definitely are. But what I am saying is that IT organizations need to think first about the bigger business picture. They need  to understand what their customers (internal and external) need before they set IT priorities and invest in new products or technologies. (Recall the accidental architecture?)

EMH IT’s goal is to:

  • Improve operational efficiency (traditional IT metric) and responsiveness to patient needs (business-focused metric).

And it’s doing this by:

  • Improving application availability, responsiveness and performance – This expedites patient care, reduces the length of hospital stays and ensures accuracy of information processed at every level in the organization.
  • Simplifying administrative time – This allows the IT team to invest more time in business-optimizing activities (e.g., making sure their IT infrastructure is performing optimally for clinicians, administrators and patients).

I’d say EMH IT has found its business center of gravity, wouldn’t you?

Additional Resources

Customer Profile: EMH Healthcare: Private cloud improves healthcare applications, availability and performance.

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Heidi Biggar

Heidi Biggar

Marketing and IT Consultant, Data Protection and Availability Division at EMC Corporation
I’m often asked how a political science major at Tufts wound up in the IT world, covering backup, storage, virtualization and cloud of all things. Truth is, it’s really a love for learning, a need to understand the “bigger picture” and a desire to share that view with others that’s steered my path over the past 20 years, from campaign manager to editor, analyst and marketer. After hours, you’ll find me hanging with family, running 10ks through Peachtree City’s 90 miles of cart paths, watching football or reading. I’m a New England transplant enjoying life in the South. In my previous life, I also blogged for ComputerWorld, Enterprise Strategy Group and Hitachi Data Systems, but The Backup Window is my baby. It's been great watching it evolve.

How to Find Your Organization’s Center of Gravity

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It’s one thing to resolve to find your center of gravity and entirely different thing to change it.

In fact, I’ll wager a bet that like most people and most companies, the problem lies not in intention but in doing. More specifically, knowing what you need to do and how to go about doing it.

You know you need to lose 10 pounds, improve your fitness level, save more money, increase family time, etc. Your organization knows it needs to increase revenue, reduce costs and improve its competitive advantage. However, when it comes to losing the weight or keeping it off or, on the business side, to finding new ways to move the revenue needle, we often fall short.

As creatures of habit, we tend to go about our New Year’s resolutions or fiscal-year planning activities in the same way. We don’t take the time to re-think or change our behaviors.

In fact, I’ll wager a second bet that those of you who made New Year’s resolutions this year not only made the same, or very similar, resolutions as last year, but you’re tackling them in pretty much the same way. Am I right?

Is it any wonder, then, that come February 1, most of us have abandoned our resolutions? Or some businesses stall over time? That IT departments get stuck in the muck?

Our center of gravity shifts. Yes, our literal and figurative bottom-lines change, and those of us (organizations, departments, and individuals) who recognize this and make the necessary adjustments in our doing will benefit more those that don’t. It’s really that simple.

In Tilt, Niraj Dawar explains how the center of gravity for organizations has shifted from upstream to downstream, from products to customers. Moreover, he talks about the change this shift necessitates in the way organizations “think about” and “do” business.

He urges business leaders to think less about “economies of scale” (i.e., how much more product we can sell – “what”) and more about “economies of scope” (i.e., what else do customers need – “how” and “why”). The goal is “getting inside the customer’s mind,” he says. And I couldn’t agree more.

While Dawar’s book may be intended for management teams (Tilt’s intended audience), I contend it’s a must-read up and down the organization… for  IT departments…  for data protection teams. The center of gravity of  IT organization must also shift downstream to the customers (internal and external) it services. (More on this in my next post.)

How do you move your center of gravity?

First, you need to determine your current center of gravity. After all, you wouldn’t set a fitness goal without first determining your current fitness level, right? Okay, well, maybe some would, but best practice is to get a baseline of where you’re at so you have a realistic picture of where you need to go.

Some organizations may find that they are more upstream-focused than they thought; others may find some pockets of (upstream) strongholds and still others may discover that their infrastructures (people, process and technology) belie their intentions, to my initial point.

Whatever the case, the following three questions, pulled directly from Tilt, should help your organization get that baseline. They center on three areas: costs, value and competitive advantage:

  1. Where is the greatest burden of your fixed costs? Is it in your factory, in your R&D [upstream activities], or in [downstream] activities related to customer acquisition, retention and satisfaction?
  2. Which of your activities do your customers most value? Which activities are they most likely to pay a premium for? Which are the reasons for their loyalty? Where do these activities reside on the upstream-downstream spectrum?
  3. Where along the spectrum does your competitive advantage lie? What about your enduring differentiation?

Where does your organization fall? How customer-focused are you? Let me know what you find out @biggarhb, @emcbackup.

 

Heidi Biggar

Heidi Biggar

Marketing and IT Consultant, Data Protection and Availability Division at EMC Corporation
I’m often asked how a political science major at Tufts wound up in the IT world, covering backup, storage, virtualization and cloud of all things. Truth is, it’s really a love for learning, a need to understand the “bigger picture” and a desire to share that view with others that’s steered my path over the past 20 years, from campaign manager to editor, analyst and marketer. After hours, you’ll find me hanging with family, running 10ks through Peachtree City’s 90 miles of cart paths, watching football or reading. I’m a New England transplant enjoying life in the South. In my previous life, I also blogged for ComputerWorld, Enterprise Strategy Group and Hitachi Data Systems, but The Backup Window is my baby. It's been great watching it evolve.

Evolving Beyond PBBAs

I have been on a few missions in my life – some nobler than others – and now I’m on a new mission.  Specifically, I’m out to evolve the market beyond a discussion of simple ‘purpose-built backup appliances’ to focus on ‘protection storage’.  You may be surprised to hear me say this since Data Domain systems (arguably) created and today leads the PBBA market.  But the reality is, that as wonderful as PBBAs are, protection storage is so much more than a simple backup appliance.

The first reason is quiet simple; we’ve seen more and more customers move towards consolidating backup and archive data on a single system.  Protection storage must be designed to handle both workloads simultaneously.  Since backup data (very few, large files) and archive data (many, very small files) has opposite characteristics, this is no easy feat.  To support archive data, EMC engineering has invested years of development to refine the Data Domain file system to support both workloads.

The second piece of the protection storage puzzle goes to the heart of the purpose of backups and archives.  Specifically, if you’re going to recover or access data on backup or archive storage, you’re doing so because it no longer exists anywhere else.  That makes this protection storage system your storage of last resort.  This means that protection storage must be designed to ensure that when data is requested from the system, it will be reliably delivered back every time.  This is the core of the Data Domain Data Invulnerability Architecture –industry leading data integrity protection.

Finally, protection storage differs from primary storage in that must provide a cost effective $/GB.  As we all know, the key to this is deduplication – but not all deduplication is created equal.  In order to provide the highest dedupe rates, a system must use variable-length deduplication and dedupe across a highly scalable storage pool.  Data Domain deduplication reduces storage requirements by an average of 10 to 30x and systems scale up to 2 PB of usable capacity in a single system.

As you can see, I’m pretty passionate about this topic and sometimes I think I may be a crazy lone wolf on this mission.  But this week, I was thrilled to see that I may not be so crazy after all. Colm Keegan, Sr. Analyst over at Storage Switzerland just posted a great blog on Tuesday that discusses this very topic.   Check out what he has to say and let us know what you think.

Caitlin Gordon

Caitlin Gordon

Data Domain Product Marketing, Data Protection and Availability Division
I have spent the past nine years focused on all things data protection, with a focus on backup and archive. Lucky for me, Data Domain Systems give me lots of good topics to discuss here. When I’m not blogging, I’m equal parts gadget geek and sports freak – always ready to chat about the latest IT rumor or celebrate/lament the latest Boston sports heartbreak/victory. You can also find me talking backup on Twitter and YouTube.

EMC Elect 2014

EMC Elect 2014

First off, I wanted to say how honored and humbled I am to be a returning EMC Elect member in 2014. I have learned so much in the first year of being an Elect that I can only imagine what greatness is in store for me and being able to learn from this fantastic group of new and returning members.

For those readers that are not sure what “EMC Elect” is about, or have never heard of it, let me explain. As posted on our EMC Community Page (Login/Account Required):

“EMC Elect is a community-driven recognition and thank you for individual’s engagement with EMC as a brand over the last calendar year.”

While that is the most concise and accurate statement describing the program at a high level, having what it takes to become EMC Elect in my mind is where the true value of this program shines through.

There are three pillars that each member selected into this program stand on:

  • Engagement – EMC Elect revolves around a person’s social engagement and advocacy for the EMC brand, its products, and philosophy. Engagement usually takes place through social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, and Blogs, but can also include the level of engagement and contributions (speaking opportunities, etc.) that a member makes at industry events and conferences.
  • Commitment – This attribute comes in the form of being involved in industry conversation on a consistent basis, particularly surrounding EMC technology topics. However, more importantly, commitment is shown through constructive feedback helping efforts to improve not only EMC Elect or EMC and it’s products but also the technology industry as well.
  • Leadership – To put it simply, it’s all about initiative. EMC Elect are always ready to take the opportunity to engage and represent for the betterment of the community and the EMC Brand.

I want to go ahead and congratulate those that have been announced this morning as EMC Elect 2014. In particular, my fellow co-workers in the EMC Data Protection and Availability Division:

If you have a minute, take a look at their respective blogs and give them an EMC Elect congratulatory Twitter Follow!

While all of the EMC Elect 2014 should be recognized, the real winner in all of this is EMC’s customers and the industry as a whole. I speak for the group of Elect in saying that our main mission is to be an advocate for the EMC brand.  You are probably thinking now, “What does this mean for me?”

Our mission of advocacy is two fold. Providing you, the readers of our blogs and tweets, knowledge and a transparent view of the world of EMC. But more importantly it is also to listen and provide EMC with valuable feedback that ultimately means better service and solutions for you the customers.

So if you visit an EMC Elect blog, comment and share your views and feedback. Or, if you see an EMC Elect member at an industry event, feel free to engage, converse, and share knowledge, it’s what we as members are committed (and eager) to do!

Alex Almeida

Alex Almeida

Technology Evangelist, Data Protection and Availability Division
My passion for technology started at an early age and has never stopped. Today, I find myself immersed in data protection. Yep, I live, breathe and tweet backup, availability and archive. In fact, nothing short of fully understanding how things work will keep me from digging deeper. But when I’m not evangelizing on the benefits of backup or technology in general, I can be spotted at a New England Revolution game, behind the lens of a camera or listening to my favorite albums on vinyl. In addition to blogging for The Protection Continuum, you can find me on the EMC Community Network. Also, I'm a member of EMC Elect 2014, and I'm active in the New England VMware User Group (NEVMUG) and the Virtualization Technology User Group (VTUG). Let's get technical!

The One Resolution Your Organization Can’t Afford Not to Make in 2014

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I rarely make them. Actually, I can’t recall the last time I made one. College perhaps?

Why then this post to start the year?

For three reasons:

  • I’ve got a (somewhat) captive audience. We’re generally more open to change at this time of year than we are at any other point throughout the year, except perhaps on our birthdays. Just look at the volume of tweets generated over the past couple of weeks including the hashtags #2014, #newyearresolution or #resolutions, or, in the IT sphere, tweets with the hashtags #ITresolutions, #ITregrets, #2014techtrends or #2014techpredictions. We want to be healthier, kinder, smarter, more efficient, more valuable, etc., and the New Year provides the proverbial blank slate to start fresh.173669653
  • Change is inevitable. We grow older, markets and trends shift, technologies run their courses, new competitors emerge, etc. Being indelibly wedded to an idea, trend, technology, product or a way of doing things bounds options, and this isn’t healthy for you or your business. Data protection not excluded.
  • 2014 will be the year of the battle cry for protected storage to meet service level objectives (SLOs), and this is just as much a people/process story as it is technology/product story.

So, before the holiday break, I clicked on a link in an @HarvardBiz tweet, which led me to Tilt: Shifting Your Strategy from Products to Customers by Niraj Dawar. It’s a thought provoking, strategy-challenging read—and, importantly, it’s the genesis of this post:

  • The 2014 resolution your organization can’t afford not to make is determining where your center of gravity lies (upstream with products or downstream with customers) and taking concrete steps to tilt it in the right direction (downstream).

Short on time?

No worries. Over the next few posts, I’ll highlight some of Dawar’s more salient points  as well as don my analyst hat to explore some of the broader implications of this tale for IT and  data protection more specifically. Together, we’ll connect some important dots.

Heidi Biggar

Heidi Biggar

Marketing and IT Consultant, Data Protection and Availability Division at EMC Corporation
I’m often asked how a political science major at Tufts wound up in the IT world, covering backup, storage, virtualization and cloud of all things. Truth is, it’s really a love for learning, a need to understand the “bigger picture” and a desire to share that view with others that’s steered my path over the past 20 years, from campaign manager to editor, analyst and marketer. After hours, you’ll find me hanging with family, running 10ks through Peachtree City’s 90 miles of cart paths, watching football or reading. I’m a New England transplant enjoying life in the South. In my previous life, I also blogged for ComputerWorld, Enterprise Strategy Group and Hitachi Data Systems, but The Backup Window is my baby. It's been great watching it evolve.