Co-authored by: Naveen Devnani
In this two-part blog series, we will provide recommendations on how to adopt a robust Cloud Ops model for multi-cloud environments in the healthcare industry.
We live in unprecedented times. While on the one hand, digital, cloud, social and mobile technologies have gotten customers used to higher and higher standards of service, convenience and efficiency, on the other, these technologies have empowered organizations with greater business resiliency and the ability to scale innovation for the business. Cloud is one such immensely powerful technology that is ubiquitous today.
According to Gartner, “by 2025, 50% of enterprises will adopt (intentional) multi-cloud and by 2022, 80% of I&O leaders will struggle with maintaining a proper balance between the emerging, existing, and legacy skill sets ”.
Cloud technologies are being adopted across industries, and life sciences and healthcare (LSH) organizations are no stranger to this. Apart from pure cost efficiencies, cloud technologies allow for real-time collaborative workflows across healthcare professionals, and maintain data integrity and security while facilitating its sharing across departments. It also boosts the ability of using data analytics to achieve better health outcomes. The current pandemic has given a further push to cloud adoption by LSH organizations, which have seen a significant shift toward virtual care models (telehealth, RPM , hospital at home etc.), remote clinical trials, and IoT adoption. Of course, harnessing these cloud capabilities calls for a robust digital foundation, built on a scalable and resilient multi-cloud architecture, that works seamlessly with the traditional IT environments present in most large enterprises.
While cloud migration takes the lion’s share of everyone’s attention today, cloud operations (cloud ops) often get overlooked. Over time, sustained focus by industry leaders, including HCL, has led to the creation of mature toolkits, frameworks, and IPs with a clear point of view and skilled resources to deliver results for cloud migration initiatives. However, many enterprises continue to think of cloud services as a technology platform that can be operated using traditional processes built for the on-premises world. This, however, is a mistake. The life sciences and healthcare industry being in the early adoption stage for cloud services, can benefit from the experience of other industries. It can adopt a robust cloud operations model from the get go, in order to pivot towards a more patient-centric enterprise.
We, at HCL, have had the privilege of working with 400+ G2000 customers globally across industries and one consistent theme, I have observed is the importance of robust CloudOps. Today, an increasing number of customers are realizing that migrating workloads to the cloud is just half of the transformation journey. The remaining half, i.e. establishing a strong operating model to get the most of their cloud services investments is more challenging.
One critical fact to acknowledge early on, is that cloud migration is a one-time activity and the skilled resources performing the task are fungible across projects and engagements. Operations, on the other hand, demand a lot of business and contextual knowledge. This is especially true in the highly regulated LSH industry. The reskilling of existing teams in the new ways of working, is important given the value of their contextual knowledge. In addition, infusing fresh talent to the existing teams is also important to accelerate the adoption of the new ways of working. This not only requires detailed planning but also good execution capability and experience.
First and foremost, organizations need to define a vision for their IT operations. This vision should clearly articulate a strategy about the way IT organizations will operate, in line with their business objectives. Most organizations create an IT strategy using a three-step approach. First, they focus on stabilizing the core IT foundation with stronger observability, continuous provisioning, and continuous deployment. Second, they focus on aligning IT with business strategy and driving outcomes. The final step, which is also the most complex and critical one, is to establish the right cloud operating model and end-to-end holistic framework, taking people, processes, tools, and governance into consideration. Key considerations should cover the required healthcare standards around quality, compliance, safety, and security in the third step.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Given the choices across the cloud market, the choices made at the vision stage can bring in many different trade-offs and have a cascading effect on the subsequent stages of the cloud adoption journey. HCL Cloud Smart, our comprehensive suite of industry-aligned offerings, capabilities, products, and platforms, can help in the cloud adoption journey. It brings in the power of convergence and enables you to make intelligent choices that address industry and organization-specific business objectives. It also covers the entire gamut of cloud requirements including consulting services, offerings and industry solutions, HCL accelerators and IPs, a well-developed partner ecosystem, the HCL R&D ecosystem, operations offerings and frameworks, as well as tools, processes, and frameworks to build cloud-aligned skillsets and a cloud-aligned culture. In addition, it also comprises industry-specific offerings, use cases, and a healthcare cloud consulting team.
Based on our experience of working with LHS organizations, we believe that the following key areas need targeted focus from enterprises to successfully transition into a multi-cloud landscape.
A successful operating model ensures that key tenets such as people, processes, and tools, are set up to support one another effectively. “People” are perhaps one of the most critical factors for achieving cloud success in capturing business benefits. Thus, it is imperative that enterprises build modern teams that have engineering-focused talent and work with a site reliability engineering (SRE) mindset.
The SRE concept was first developed by Google, in the context of supporting web-scale applications, that support many global users while delivering an outstanding user experience. Today, enterprises are increasingly embracing it as it is equally relevant to CloudOps. SRE principles emphasize combining the aspects of software engineering and operations to operate mission-critical systems reliably. It leverages key tenets such as observability and rigorous postmortems to identify the root cause of failures and eliminate repetitive activities.
Another emerging and equally important concept related to CloudOps is to inculcate the core principle of agile software development around cross-domain collaboration, in day-to-day working. Operations teams are no longer responsible for just delivering infrastructure components; they are also delivering digital services consumed as cloud platforms. Supporting these digital services requires the operational teams to shift toward product thinking. Instead of working in siloes, developers, ops teams, and cloud platform architects should transform and embrace agile concepts of squads, tribes, and guilds. Ops teams must take end-to-end ownership of services and operate them as such i.e. “We have built, and we will manage the full stack”.
The key to maximize business value from the cloud is a cultural shift. While working with one of our customers, a leading F500 manufacturing company, it took us nine months to move to NWOW (New Ways of Working) which included building product teams, prioritizing an agile culture, and upskilling existing teams. HCL had to infuse 30% of new talent from other projects to enable this transformation. Organization change management was key to this successful transition.
For projects like these, the Cloud Smart suite of services can help through process harmonization and immersive training through HCL’s Cloud Native Labs. It assists large enterprises in undertaking the cultural transformation and aligning with NWOW.
CloudOps requires the Ops team to rethink their process strategy and as anybody worth their salt in IT knows, such process-related changes do not happen overnight. Clients often ask us if the change will happen through ITIL, DevSecOps, a combination of both, or something entirely new. The answer to this is, all these frameworks will continue to coexist, provided they are measured by the ability to add value. Along with key processes, what we need to build is a culture that inculcates transparency, collaboration, and speed.
Key ITIL process domains such as provisioning, incident, change, and problem management are around for decades and will continue to be used. However, enterprises now need to think about how they can add agility and cloudify these frameworks, to better fit the needs of the cloud operating model. For example, in the cloud-native world, it is critical to put out fires as quickly as possible when incidents arise, by adding resiliency and agile responsiveness. To do this, we need to embrace automation, collaboration, and continuous improvement and build adaptive incident management practices.
Another important area is service contextualization i.e. the ability to visualize the full stack service and manage incidents through auto-triaging, escalating urgent SLAs, and keeping linked issues updated across key stakeholders– application owners, cloud engineers, architects, and cloud service providers.
Similarly, we must streamline change management through increased automation and collaboration. We must ensure that we automate low-risk standard change requests and change approvals with stakeholders. Traditional root cause analysis needs to adopt an SRE-driven approach for continual improvement with retrospectives, a.k.a. blameless postmortems and a culture of working toward waste elimination. To realize these business-critical objectives, enterprises must prioritize organizational agility and look toward cloud for the servitization of everything. Relentless automation is the need of the hour; Cloud Smart helps enterprises achieve this objective by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) for IT and operations with HCL DRYiCE- our suite of autonomics and orchestration products and platforms powered by AI technology.
In order to get the most out of their cloud investments, organizations must start thinking about Cloud Ops the moment they start considering a migration to cloud technologies. In this blog post, we looked at the importance of a “cultural shift” in making robust CloudOps possible. In part 2, we will cover intelligent automation and cloud security and governance recommendations for a successful CloudOps strategy.