The Path to Digital Optimization


The Path to Digital Optimization  

using the Digital Transformation Framework



In my last post, I presented a Digital Transformation Framework built atop research from MIT and presented in the book ‘Leading Digital’.  The framework also incorporates the 4 strategic priorities of Microsoft’s Digital Transformation Strategy and maps these pillars to a business value curve that, in turn, directly corresponds to the financial impact realized by each of your Digital Transformation projects.  The resulting framework looks like this:

A nice integration of research, strategy and financial performance in a single image; but the real test comes with practical application of this framework as we Digitize our business.  So, without hesitation, let’s jump into an example and apply the framework to a Digital Optimization initiative.

From my experience working with Customers and Technology Partners, most of the work required to drive Digital Transformation will be focused on Digital Optimization.  This is the heavy lifting of Digital Transformation; building the foundation of Data, Systems, Processes and Analytics required to relentlessly pursue optimal business performance and enable to Digitization & Transformation of your products and your business.

‘most of the work required to drive Digital Transformation will be focused on Digital Optimization..the heavy lifting..required to relentlessly pursue optimal business performance’

To ensure that our example clearly communicates the value that can be realized via Digital Optimization, we will describe the Digital Transformation journey for a specific business; a multi-site healthcare delivery network named MHealth.  As a regional healthcare provider, MHealth delivers healthcare services across an integrated network of clinics, hospitals and tertiary (skilled nursing and aged care) care centers.

For MHealth, and for any other organization embarking on Digital Transformation, we systematically apply the DT Framework by:

  1. Upgrading existing Technology Infrastructure to enable a Hybrid Cloud operating environment
  2. Leveraging native capabilities available via the Microsoft Cloud and related applications
  3. Adopting new applications and driving new processes enabled by Microsoft Partners

Let’s get started!



Optimizing Operations


Referring back to our Digital Transformation Framework, we will build our Digital Strategy and Execution Plan atop new technologies designed to optimize the operation of our business.  In our example, MHealth has the ambition to completely transform healthcare delivery with a focus on improved efficacy and reduced cost in every care delivery scenario.  To achieve this objective, MHealth will need to adopt new applications and processes required to support efficient care delivery; but first, they need to set the cornerstone upon which they will build, their Digital Infrastructure.

Where do we start?

Hyper-Converged Infrastructure:  I would recommend a thorough review of existing infrastructure with the goal of delivering a Hybrid Cloud computing environment.  For most companies, and for MHealth, there are significant cost savings and increased flexibility available via a redesigned data center using a Hyper-Converged architecture.  If you are not familiar with Hyper-Converged systems, you can review the definition and then review Gartner’s Hyper-Converged Magic Quadrant.  With savings estimated in the range of 30% – 60% via more effective use of existing investments, a Hyper-Converged data center is a great place to start with your Digital Optimization.  My personal preference for Hyper-Converged infrastructure includes an integrated Nutanix, Microsoft Windows Server and Azure Stack environment.  You can find a reference architecture here.

Azure Active Directory:  Why would I want to push Identity and Access Management (IAM) into the Cloud?  For MHealth, the answer is clear.  As the boundaries between healthcare providers, business partners and customers blur (think integrated care delivery with input from payors, secure patient profiles and mobile care delivery by contracted providers) there is a clear need to authenticate identity for applications that run outside our own private cloud.  This is not something unique to MHealth.  Cross-industry collaboration requires secure access across a constantly changing portfolio of applications and Azure Active Directory enables increased flexibility while supporting all existing applications.

Azure First Workloads:  Microsoft has a standard pick-list of Top 10 Workloads to migrate to Azure.  Of these 10, there are a couple of solutions that are fundamental to our hybrid cloud environment.  For MHealth, we will first deploy Microsoft’s Operations Management Suite (OMS) to increase the level of insight and analytics available across all Hybrid Cloud workloads.  In addition to Workload Management, MHealth also plans to use OMS to automate I.T operations.  Given the significant cost of technical staff relative to total I.T. budget, any incremental investment made in I.T. automation is a step toward increased speed and reduced cost in our Digital Transformation.  And, while MHealth continues to invest in incremental staff to support Technology (in line with the 80% of all I.T. organizations), we know that our I.T. investments will always be stretched to enable the change required across the MHealth healthcare network.  To compare your own I.T. investments and productivity with industry peers, I recommend the analytics provided by Computer Economics.

To summarize the investment priorities required to Optimize Operations at MHealth, we return to our Digital Transformation Framework to document our recommendations and initiate the detailed plans necessary to prioritize, learn, implement and adopt these solutions.


Empower Employees



Across the MHealth care delivery network, we have the clear objective of driving increased productivity for every team member.  Physicians, Nursing, Ambulatory Caregivers and Administrative staff all need a technology ‘leg-up’ to enable efficiencies in their day-to-day work.  With the mix of systems, skills and processes required to deliver quality healthcare, employee empowerment and productivity is a big challenge in healthcare (as it is in all industries).

Healthcare specific applications, tailored to the needs of an individual user or department, provide the ‘final mile’ of empowerment and these systems and related change processes will be prioritized after we establish our MHealth productivity architecture.  To set a technical foundation that Empowers Employees, we will focus our initial efforts on:

Collaboration & Communication:  Regardless of role, every MHealth team member requires secure, efficient and easy-to-use collaboration and communication tools to boost daily productivity.  With the recent announcement of Microsoft 365, we can quickly equip the MHealth team with familiar tools that are designed, out-of-the-box, to work together.  In addition, these applications can be integrated with existing clinical and administrative systems to provide email, office apps, Teams-based collaboration, Voice & Video Conferencing, Threat Protection, IAM and Device Management.

Clinical / Operational Data & Analytics:  Employees are Empowered when they have comprehensive and immediate access to the operational data and analytics required to run the business.  Not just pieces, but ALL data from across your business ecosystem.  For MHealth, this requires a new level of collaboration and data sharing agreements with competitive healthcare providers, vendors, payors and patients.  To collect and analyze this comprehensive set of data, we have the option of building the integrations and analytics from scratch, leveraging the Azure Cloud as a host for SQL Server and Power BI.  As an alternative, we could engage Microsoft Services to deploy a pre-packaged Clinical & Operational Analytics solution.  We may also want to leverage Microsoft’s Partner ecosystem to identify ready-made population health, analytics and care coordination solutions like Caradigm or Health360 Care Coordination.

Collection and effective use of data across the continuum of care and across the ecosystem of payors, providers and patients serves as only a first step for MHealth.  Natural next steps include prescribed use of digital health monitors to enable virtual patient monitoring and automated alerts.  As an example, check out all the devices already connected to HealthVault (Microsoft’s personal health record).     MHealth may also consider using specialized IoT applications to track and manage assets or may use the same IoT devices to collect and manage patient flow data to improve both the patient experience and provider productivity.  Check out providers like Intelligent Insites to enable this experience.

With our initial Employee Empowerment targets established, we again update our Digital Transformation Framework to document the portfolio of projects that pave the way to empowerment and productivity.


Engage Customers (or Patients)



Virtual Health Delivery:  With the increased use of technology, social media, email and other digital services, it is only natural for us to seek improvements in both patient experience and provider productivity via digital patient experiences.  To enable the virtual interaction of patients & providers, the Microsoft team has built the Virtual Health Portal.  The portal is designed as an integrated suite of services to enable effective provider / patient interaction; via online data sharing and virtual communications.

While it may be difficult for care providers to adopt to a virtual care delivery model, the reduction in cost and proven improvements in care quality will make this transformation mandatory.  This is the path forward for MHealth and there is likely some aspect of virtual customer engagement in your future as well.

Aged Care Management:   With the significant financial implications associated with long-term care, MHealth and all other cross-continuum care providers are keen to drive improved patient engagement and operational efficiencies in the Aged Care setting.  To tap into the specialized tools and streamlined processes required in this high priority patient population, we will leverage the expertise of Microsoft’s Partners.  For this example we may connect with Momentum Healthware (Canada) or Tsuzuki Denki (Japan).  You can find a complete inventory of Microsoft Partner applications, across all industries and products via Appsource.

Based on the business and clinical priorities of MHealth, we’ve established a clear set of patient engagement priorities with a focus on Virtual and Aged Care patient engagement.  We complete our Digital Optimization Executive Summary by returning to the Digital Transformation Framework.


Next Steps


By systematically upgrading our Data Center (private cloud), applying the Microsoft Cloud and related solution offerings, and leveraging Microsoft’s Partner ecosystem and solutions, we’ve established an initial framework that addresses each pillar of our Digital Optimization Project.  These technologies, combined with education and fundamental changes in our day-to-day processes serve as the building blocks of our Digital Transformation effort.  Of course, there is considerable work yet to be done.  Project planning and budgeting, project prioritization, target setting to ensure measurable financial, productivity and clinical results; all remains.  However, with this executive view of our Digital Transformation we are well equipped to move our MHealth leadership team down the path of Digital Optimization.

I recommend the use of the Digital Transformation Framework and this simple mapping of solutions and services to support your DT efforts for one simple reason; it will save you money.  Many organizations, when embarking on their Digital Transformation initiative, will spend significant time and dollars to assess existing operations and produce reports required to make simple decisions.  You can spend a lot of money with processes and systems analysis, opportunity and financial assessment, etc.   However, there is so much low hanging fruit in these first 3 pillars of Digital Transformation: Optimize Operations, Empower Employees and Engage Customers, that a packaged solution and proven technology partners will help you both deliver value and accelerate adoption.


Digital Transformation

AppSource Catalog

Good luck in your efforts .. and stay tuned for the next post where we will discuss DT pillar #4, Transforming your Products and your Business!

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