ITIL® Misconceptions: The ‘IS’ and ‘IS-NOT’ of ITIL

Do you also think,

  • “ITIL is just Incident, Problem & Change Management. And yes, CMDB!”
  • “ITIL is a rigid set of tools, procedures, and processes and if you don’t follow what’s in the books, it’s not ITIL.”
  • “ITIL is for infrastructure or production only.”
  • “ITIL is only for big organizations, and it requires too many people.”
  • “ITIL doesn’t require any formal training, it is just common sense or a tool that will fix it all.”
  • “You don’t need to worry about culture when adopting the ITIL framework.”

If your answer to any of above is Yes, this article is for you!

Misconception #1: “ITIL is just Incident, Problem & Change Management. And yes, CMDB!”

Well, this misconception is incorrect. In essence, ITIL covers the entire life cycle of a Service/Solution/Product, right from its inception (aka, ‘kick-off,’ ‘initiation,’ ‘envision’) where ‘VALUE’ for the service is created, thereby supporting the complete service/solution/product lifecycle as an approach.

It involves practices such as management of Strategy, Portfolio, Finance, Demand, and Customer Experience function, with purposes of establishing Business Relationship Management for customer collaboration and loyalty.

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Misconception #2: “ITIL is a rigid set of tools, procedures, and processes and if you don’t follow what’s in the books, it’s not ITIL.”

ITIL is sometimes treated as a standard, which it was never meant to be. Businesses enforce this inflexible structure upon their employees, and it is often met with resistance. Despite what some people think there is nothing called an ‘ITIL way’.

As a resource, the very nature of ITIL is ‘adopt and adapt’ mindset which encourages users to tailor the best practices to their needs. If something fits your requirements, great, use it. If it does not, tweak it or do not use it.

Misconception #3: “ITIL is for infrastructure or production only.”

Many people associate ITIL with managing incidents and problems focusing on break/fix scenarios. But practices such as Lean, Agile, DevOps cannot be complete without ITIL for a holistic solution involving SDLC plus warranty.

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Misconception #4: “ITIL is only for big organizations, and it requires too many people.”

I have encountered several people who believe ITIL is not for their organization as they “don’t have and can’t afford to employ 26 process owners”.

Initially, ITIL may seem overwhelming and people think they need a big team to make it work. However, when taking the time to consult the ITIL guidance it is clear organizations of any size can use the framework.

A tailored approach

  • Just because ITIL has 26 processes, and each one must have a Process Owner – that does not mean having 26 different people each doing one of them. The roles can be assigned to existing employees in your organization with relevant skills and experience.
  • You do not need a minimum number of ITIL people to work effectively within a business. But what you do need is senior management buy-in. To get that, you need to communicate the business benefits clearly in a way that will show the tangible, positive changes it will bring to the organization and how ITIL will help with the pain points.
  • Another very common denominator for problems across teams is lack of role clarity: clearly documented ITIL processes can be used by businesses of all sizes to bring clarity to roles and responsibilities.

Misconception #5: “ITIL doesn’t require any formal training, it is just common sense or a tool that will fix it all.”

A lot of people believe that if they implement an ‘ITSM tool’, it will fix all problems in their business. And it is easier to implement a tool than a process.

Unfortunately, both these viewpoints just are not correct!

Often, while IT teams trying to adopt a full ITIL process, they instinctively just change what is possible within their silo, i.e.  going from Tool A to Tool B. While they may end up with a better Incident Management system or have SLAs implemented, it is questionable whether the proposed way of working, or a target is something that the business also requires.

Alongside a change in approaches and practices, ITIL requires a genuine collaborative cultural shift of a whole business. Otherwise, organizations will not achieve the transformation they are aiming for.

Misconception #6: “You don’t need to worry about culture when adopting the ITIL framework.”

Moving from one framework to another should not affect the organization’s culture too drastically but going from home-grown processes and methods to a structured framework can be quite daunting.

There are steps an organization can take to manage the company culture which will help a change initiative run smoothly:

  • Involve employees from the start – Brainstorm what is working and what is not with your employees. The more involved they are, the smoother the change will be. Reassure the most affected that they have value and a voice. By asking them to help shape the change, their worth to the organization is acknowledged.
  • Take the help of ITIL professionals and experts – Take professional advice that allows you to take advantage of each of the recommendations offered by ITIL methodology. An expert can clarify any doubts that may arise and ensure each process is executed properly according to the requirements of the business.
  • Break down larger changes – Larger changes can be broken down into smaller parts, which will make them easier to work through and can make them less daunting for potentially reluctant employees.
  • Embrace the fact that ITIL is not an immediate problem solver – ITIL does not bring with it a recipe for immediate efficiency but represents a transition that depending on the requirements of each business can vary widely in the amount of time needed to be successful. The effective coordination between processes, people and technology can take a considerable period. But there is no doubt that if these best practices are applied correctly, the organization will be able to enjoy the benefits progressively.

About the Author –

Gouri Mahendru

Gouri is part of the Quality Management function at GAVS, handling the Operations and Delivery excellence within ZIF Command Centres. She is passionate about driving business excellence through innovative IT Service Management in the Digital era and always looks for ways to deliver business value.

When she’s not playing with data and pivoting tables, she spends her time cooking, watching dramas and thrillers, and exploring places in and around the city.

Reimagining ITSM Metrics

Rama Periasamy

Rama Vani Periasamy

In an IT Organization, what is measured as success.? Predominantly it inclines towards the Key Performance Indicators, internally focused metrics, SLAs and other numbers. Why don’t we shift our performance reporting towards ‘value’ delivered to our customers along with the contractually agreed service levels? Because the success of any IT operation comes from defining what it can do to deliver value and publishing what value has been delivered, is the best way to celebrate that success.

It’s been a concern that people in service management overlook value as trivial and they often don’t deliver any real information about the work they do . In other words, the value they have created goes unreported and the focus lies only on the SLA driven metrics & contractual obligations. It could be because they are more comfortable with the conventional way of demonstrating the SLA targets achieved. And this eventually prevents a business partner from playing a more strategic role.

“Watermelon reporting” is a phrase used in reporting a service provider’s performance. The SLA reports depict that the service provider has adhered to the agreed service levels and met all contractual service level targets. It looks ’green’ on the outside, just like a watermelon. However, the level of service perceived by the service consumer does not reflect the ’green’ status reported (it might actually be ’red’, like the inside of a watermelon). And the service provider continues to report on metrics that do not address the pain points.  

This misses the whole point about understanding what success really means to a consumer. We tend to overlook valuable data and the one that shows how an organization as a service provider is delivering value and helping the customer achieve his/her business goals.

The challenge here is that often consumers have underdeveloped, ambiguous and conflicting ideas about what they want and need. It is therefore imperative to discover the users’ unarticulated needs and translate them into requirements.

For a service provider, a meaningful way of reporting success would be focused on outcomes rather than outputs which is very much in tandem with ITIL4. Now this creates a demand for better reporting, analysis of delivery, performance, customer success and value created.

Consider a health care provider, the reduced time spent in retrieving a patient history during a surgery can be a key business metric and the number of incidents created, number of successful changes may be secondary. As a service provider, understanding how their services support such business metrics would add meaning to the service delivered and enable value co-creation.

It is vital that a strong communication avenue is established between the customer and the service provider teams to understand the context of the customer’s business. To a large extent, this helps the service provider teams to prioritize what they do based on what is critical to the success of the customer/service consumer. More importantly, this enables the provider become a true partner to their customers.

Taking service desk as an example, the service desk engineers fixes a printer or a laptop, resets passwords. These activities may not provide business value, but it helps to mitigate any loss or disruption to a service consumer’s business activities. The other principal part of service desk activity is to respond to service requests. This is very much an area where business value delivered to customers can be measured using ITSM.

Easier said, but how and what business value is to be reported? Here are some examples that are good enough to get started.

1. Productivity
Assuming that every time a laptop problem is fixed with the SLA, it allows the customer to get back to work and be productive. Value can be measured here by the cost reduction – considering the employee cost per hour and the time spent by the IT team to fix the laptop.

How long does it take for the service provider to provide what a new employee needs to be productive? This measure of how long it takes to get people set up with the required resources and whether this lead-time matches the level of agility the business requires equates to business value. 

2. Continual Service Improvement (CSI)

Measuring value becomes meaningless when there is no CSI. So, measuring the cost of fixing an incident plus the loss of productivity and identifying and providing solutions on what needs to be done to reduce those costs or avoid incidents is where CSI comes into play.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Make reporting meaningful by demonstrating the value delivered and co-created, uplifting your operations to a more strategic level.
  • Speak to your customers to capture their requirements in terms of value and enable value co-creation as partners.
  • Your report may wind up in the trash, not because you have reported wrong metrics, but it may just be reporting of data that is of little importance to your audience.   

Reporting value may seem challenging, and it really is. But that’s not the real problem. Keep reporting your SLA and metrics but add more insights to it. Keep an eye on your outcomes and prevent your IT service operations from turning into a watermelon!

References –

About the Author –

Rama is a part of the Quality Assurance group, passionate about ITSM. She loves reading and traveling.
To break the monotony of life and to share her interest in books and travel, she blogs and curates at www. kindleandkompass.com

The Hands that Rock the Cradle, also Crack the Code

Sumit Ganguli

On February 18, 2021, I was attending a video conference, with my laptop perched on my standing desk while I was furtively stealing a glance at the TV in my study. I was excitedly keeping up with the Perseverance Rover that was about to land at the Mars. I was mesmerized by space odyssey and was nervous about the ‘seven minutes of terror’ –  when the engineers overseeing the landing would not be able to guide or direct the Perseverance landing as it would take a while to establish or send any communication from Earth to Mars. Hence, the rover would have to perform a landing by itself, with no human guidance involved.

During this time, I thought I saw a masked lady with a ‘bindi’ on her forehead at the NASA control room who was, in her well-modulated American accented voice, giving us a live update of the Rover.

And since that day, Swati Mohan has been all over the news. We have got to know that Mohan was born in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India, and emigrated to the United States when she was one year old. She became interested in space upon seeing Star Trek at age 9. She studied Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University, and did her master’s degree and Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Astronautics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Swati Mohan is the lead for the Navigation and Controls (GN&C) Operations for the Mars project. She led the attitude control system of Mars 2020 during operations and was the lead systems engineer throughout development. She played a pivotal part in the landing which was rather tricky.

This led me to ruminate about women and how they have challenged stereotypes and status quo to blaze the trail, especially in STEM.

I have been fascinated from the time I got to know that the first programmer in the world was a woman, and daughter of the famed poet, Lord Byron, no less. The first Programmer in the World, Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace nee Byron; was born in 1815 and was the only legitimate child of the poet laureate, Lord Byron, and his wife Annabella. 

As a teenager, Ada’s prodigious mathematical talents, led her to have British mathematician Charles Babbage, as her mentor. Babbage is known as ‘the father of computers’. Ada translated an article on the Analytical Engine, which she supplemented with an elaborate set of notes, simply called Notes. These notes contain what many consider to be the first computer program—that is, an algorithm designed to be carried out by a machine. As a result, she is often regarded as the first computer programmer.

Six women—Francis “Betty” Snyder Holberton, Betty “Jean” Jennings Bartik, Kathleen McNulty Mauchly Antonelli, Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer, Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum, and Frances Bilas Spence were associated with the programming of the first computer ENIAC. They had no documentation and no schematics to work with. There was no language, no operating system, the women had to figure out what the computer was, and then break down a complicated mathematical problem into very small steps that the ENIAC could then perform.  They physically hand-wired the machine, using switches, cables, and digit trays to route data and program pulses. This might have been a very complicated and arduous task. So, these six women were the programmers for the world’s mainframe computers.

The story goes that on February 14, 1946 The ENIAC was announced as a modern marvel in the US. There was praise and publicity for the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, the inventors of ENIAC the first computer, Eckert and Mauchly were heralded as geniuses. However, none of the key programmers, all the women were not introduced in the event. Some of the women appeared in photographs later, but everyone assumed they were just models, perfunctorily placed to embellish the photograph.

One of the six programmers, Betty Holberton went on to invent the first sort routine and help design the first commercial computers, the UNIVAC and the BINAC, alongside Jean Jennings. These were the first commercial mainframe computers in the world.

It behooves us to walk down the pages of history and read about women who had during their time decided to #choosetochallenge and celebrate the likes of Swati Mohan who have grown tall on the shoulders of the first women programmers.

About the Author –

Sumit brings over 20 years of rich experience in the international IT and BPO sectors. Prior to GAVS, he served as a member of the Governing Council at a publicly-traded (NASDAQ) IT and BPO company for over six years, where he led strategic consulting, IP and M&A operations.

He has managed global sales and handled several strategic accounts for the company. He has an Advanced Professional Certificate (APC) in Finance from Stern School of Management, NYU, and is a Post Graduate in Management from IIM. He has attended the Owners President Management Program (OPM 52) at HBS and is pursuing a Doctorate in Business Administration at the LeBow School of Business, Drexel University.

He has served as an Adjunct Professor at Rutgers State University, New Jersey teaching International Business. He speaks at various industry forums and is involved in philanthropic initiatives like Artha Forum.

5 Leadership Lessons from the Pandemic to Kickstart your Technology Career in 2021

Jane Aboyoun, CIO, SCO Family of Services

Life is not without its ironies. While the pandemic turbo-charged our dependence on technology for day-to-day activities like never before, it also clarified the importance as a leader to be thoughtful and strategic – to take a step back before leaping into the fray.  Here are 5 lessons that helped me navigate the COVID crises that I believe we can all benefit from carrying forward into 2021 and beyond.

  1.  Slow Down to Speed Up

The necessity of responding effectively to COVID-19 as a Tech Chief compelled me to use my expertise to quickly identify technology solutions that would have an impact for my clients.  While responsiveness in an uncertain climate is essential, it’s actually a strong technology foundation that allows agility and creates ballast for organizations looking to gain competitive advantage in uncertain times.  

Lesson #1 is therefore that while it may not be as inspiring as the latest app, focusing on the “blocking and tackling” and building a strong technology foundation enables agility and re-invention.  As a CIO, I constantly balance possible change opportunities with the readiness of my clients to accept that change. Knowing how far to push my clients is a key part of my role. Just because a technology is available, doesn’t always mean it’s right for them.  Always consider how a new technology fits within the foundation.

  1. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

My role as the CTO of the New York Public Library proved to be a great training ground in how to manage the complexity of upgrading infrastructure, moving applications to the cloud, and building a digital repository. I devised a three-part strategy for the transformation. First, I had to upgrade the aging infrastructure. Second, I had to move the infrastructure and the applications into the cloud, to improve our resiliency, security, and functionality. The third was to figure out how to preserve the library’s physical assets which were expiring from age. We decided to digitize the assets to permanently preserve them. Within 5 years, the repository had over a Petabyte of assets in it and was continuing to grow. These resulted in a world-class computing environment, moving a beloved, trusted, public city library into the digital 21st century that can be accessed by future generations.  Lesson # 2 – the secret to our success at NYPL was that the technology platforms and applications we used were all developed by best-of-breed providers.  We recognized that we were in the data business rather than the R&D business, and as such, didn’t build anything ourselves.  Instead, we took pride in working with and learning from industry leaders.

  1. Future-Proof Your Thinking

The pace of change is so much more rapid than it was even five years ago. Being able to recognize that the landscape is evolving, pivot at speed, and adopt new technology within the organization is now an essential skillset for technology leaders.  I am personally excited about the ‘internet of things’ (IoT) and the data that is being collected at the edge which will be enhanced by 5G capabilities. Also, AI and ML are on the cusp of making a ‘next level’ leap. I think there are lots of good applications of it, we just need to figure out how to use them responsibly.  Lesson # 3 is that as a technology leader, we need to be constantly looking around corners and to remain open-minded and curious about what’s next.  It is important for all leaders and aspiring leaders to ask questions; to challenge the status quo. 

  1. The Human Factor Remains a Top Priority

New technology comes with its own set of challenges. I believe the issue of privacy and security to be the most pressing. Data is being collected everywhere and often has proved to be more valuable that the platform it sits on. Hence, it is paramount to understand evolving data and privacy standards, as well as how to secure it and identify breaches. Then there are also moral and ethical issues around AI. While the opportunities are limitless, it is of utmost importance that we maintain our moral and democratic compass and that we apply technology in a way that benefits society. Lesson # 4 is that while it’s challenging to get the balance between innovation, opportunity, and ethics right, it’s a battle worth fighting.

  1. Facts Matter – Strive for Balance

Another issue for me is information overload.  Knowing what is real and what isn’t, has never been more important. This is where go-to trusted news and academic sources come into play. Two influencers I follow are Dan Fagella from EMERJ and Bernard Marr.  Both Dan and Bernard focus on AI and it’s motivating to hear and read what they have to say. I also read the technology review from MIT and listen to several technology podcasts.  Lesson # 5 is that it’s critical to continue to seek knowledge and to make a point of agnostically learning a lot from other technologists, business-people, and vendors.   Doing your own research and triangulation in the age of ‘alternative facts’ ensures that you stay informed, relevant and are able to separate fact from fiction.

In summary, as we enter the ‘Next Normal’, I anticipate that the pace of change will be faster than ever.  However, it’s important to remember that it’s not technology that leads the way, it’s people.  Staying in touch with technology trends and solutions is obviously important, but so is staying in touch with your values and humanity.  At the end of the day, technology is just an enabler and it’s the human values we apply to it that make the difference in how impactful it will be.

About the Author –

Jane Aboyoun is the Chief Information Officer at SCO Family of Services, a non-profit agency that helps New Yorkers build a strong foundation for the future. In this role, Jane is responsible for leading SCO’s technology strategy, and managing the agency’s technology services to support business applications, architecture, data, engineering, and computing infrastructure.

As an accomplished CIO / CTO, Jane has spent 20 years in the C-suite in a variety of senior technology leadership roles for global, world-class brands such as Nestlé Foods, KPMG, Estēe Lauder Companies, Walt Disney Company, and the New York Public Library.

Blockchain-based Platform for COVID-19 Vaccine Traceability

Srinivasan Sundararajan

Over the last few weeks, several pharma companies across world have announced vaccines for COVID. The respective governments are going through rigorous testing and approval processes to roll out vaccines soon.

The massive exercise of administering vaccines to billions of people across different geographies poses various challenges. Add to this the fact that different vaccines have strict conditions for storage and handling. Also, the entire history of traceability of the vaccine should be available.

While tracking the supply chain of any commodity in general and pharmaceutical products, in particular, is always complex, the COVID-19 vaccine poses tougher challenges. The following are the current temperature sensitivity needs of various vaccine manufacturers.  

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The information is from publicly available sites and should not be treated as a guideline for vaccine storage.

Blockchain to the Rescue

Even before the pandemic, Blockchain with its built-in ability to provide transparency across stakeholders has been a major platform for pharmaceutical traceability. The criticality for providing COVID-19 vaccine traceability has only strengthened the cause of utilizing blockchain for the supply chain in the pharma industry.

Blockchain networks with its base attributes like de-centralized ownership of data, single version of truth across stakeholders, the ability to ensure the data ownership based on cryptography-based security, and the ability to implement and manage business rules, will be a default platform handling the traceability of COVID-19 vaccines across multiple stakeholders.

Going beyond, Blockchain will also play a major role in the Identity and Credentialing of healthcare professionals involved, as well as the Consent Management of the patients who will be administered the vaccine. With futuristic technology needs like Health Passport, Digital Twin of a Person, Blockchain goes a long way in solving the current challenges in healthcare beyond streamlining the supply chain.

GAVS Blockchain Based Prototype for COVID-19 vaccine Traceability

GAVS has created a prototype of Blockchain-based network platform for vaccine traceability to demonstrate its usability. This solution has a much larger scope for extending to various healthcare use cases.

The below is the high-level process flow of the COVID-19 vaccine trial and various stakeholders involved.

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Image Source – www.counterpointresearch.com

Based on the use case and the stakeholders involved. GAVS prototype first creates a consortium using a private blockchain network. For the sake of simplicity, Distributors are not mentioned, but in real life, every stakeholder will be present. Individuals who receive the vaccine from hospitals are not part of the Network at this stage. But in future, their consent can be tracked using Blockchain.

Using Azure Blockchain Service, we can create private consortium blockchain networks where each blockchain network can be limited to specific participants in the network. Only participants in the private consortium blockchain network can view and interact with the blockchain. This ensures that sensitive information about vaccines are not exposed or misused.

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The following smart contracts are created as part of the solution with assigned ownership to the individual stake holders.

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A glimpse of few of the smart contracts are listed for illustration purposes.

pragma solidity ^0.5.3;

pragma experimental ABIEncoderV2; 

contract Batch {

    string  public BatchId;

    string  public ProductName;

    string  public ProductType;

    string  public TempratureMaintained;

    string  public Efficacy;

    string  public Cost;

    address public CurrentOwner;

    address public ManufacturerAddr;

    address public AirLogAddr;

    address public LandLogAddr;

    address public HospAdminAddr;

    address public HospStaffAddr;

    string[] public AirTemp = new string[](10);

    string[] public LandTemp = new string[](10);

    string[] public HospTemp = new string[](20);

    string  public receiptNoteaddr;

    constructor  (string memory _batchId, string memory _productName,  string memory _productType,  string memory _TemperatureMaintained,  string memory _Efficacy,  string memory _Cost) public {

        ManufacturerAddr = msg.sender;

        BatchId = _batchId;

        ProductName = _productName ;

        ProductType = _productType;

        TemperatureMaintained = _TemperatureMaintained;

        Efficacy = _Efficacy;

        Cost = _Cost;

    }   

    modifier onlyOwner()    {

        require (msg.sender == CurrentOwner, “Only Current Owner Can Initiate This Action”);

        _;

    }      

    function updateOwner(address _addr) onlyOwner public{

       CurrentOwner = _addr;

    }        

    function retrieveBatchDetails() view  public returns (string memory, string memory, string memory, string memory, string memory, address, address, address, address, address, string[] memory, string[] memory, string[] memory, string memory) {

        return (BatchId,ProductName,TemperatureMaintained,Efficacy,Cost,ManufacturerAddr,AirLogAddr,LandLogAddr,HospAdminAddr,HospStaffAddr,AirTemp,LandTemp,HospTemp,receiptNoteaddr);  

    }

}  

The front end (Dapp) through which the traceability of the COVID-19 vaccine can be monitored is also developed and the following screenshots show certain important data flows.

Vaccine Traceability System Login Screen

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Traceability view for a particular batch of Vaccine

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Details of vaccinated patients entered by hospital

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Advantages of The Solution

  • With every vaccine monitored over the blockchain, each link along the chain could keep track of the entire process, and health departments could monitor the chain as a whole and intervene, if required, to ensure proper functioning.
  • Manufacturers could track whether shipments are delivered on time to their destinations.
  • Hospitals and clinics could better manage their stocks, mitigating supply and demand constraints. Furthermore, they would get guarantees concerning vaccine authenticity and proper storage conditions.
  • Individuals would have an identical guarantee for the specific vaccine they receive.
  • Overall this technology-driven approach will help to save the lives in this critical juncture.

 Extensibility to Future Needs

Gartner’s latest hypercycle for emerging technologies highlight several new technologies and notably Health Passport. As the travelers used to travel with a physical passport pandemic has created the need for a health passport, which is more like a digital health record that passengers can carry on their phones. Ideally, it should show the passengers past exposure to diseases and the vaccine records. By properly deploying health passports, several industries can revive themselves by allowing free-flowing movement of passengers across the globe.

The above blockchain solution though meant for COVID-19 traceability can potentially extended to a health passport once the patient also becomes part of it by a wallet based authentication mechanism, at GAVS we plan to explore the health passports on Blockchain in the coming months.

About the Author –

Srini is the Technology Advisor for GAVS. He is currently focused on Healthcare Data Management Solutions for the post-pandemic Healthcare era, using the combination of Multi Modal databases, Blockchain and Data Mining. The solutions aim at Patient data sharing within Hospitals as well as across Hospitals (Healthcare Interoperability) while bringing more trust and transparency into the healthcare process using patient consent management, credentialing, and zero knowledge proofs.

Customer Focus Realignment in a Pandemic Economy

Ashish Joseph

Business Environment Overview

The Pandemic Economy has created an environment that has tested businesses to either adapt or perish. The atmosphere has become a quest for the survival of the fittest. On the brighter side, organizations have stepped up and adapted to the crisis in a way that they have worked faster and better than ever before. 

During this crisis, companies have been strategic in understanding their focus areas and where to concentrate on the most. From a high-level perspective, we can see that businesses have focused on recovering the sources of their revenues, rebuilding operations, restructuring the organization, and accelerating their digital transformation initiatives. In a way, the pandemic has forced companies to optimize their strategies and harness their core competencies in a hyper-competitive and survival environment.

Need for Customer Focused Strategies

A pivotal and integral strategy to maintain and sustain growth is for businesses to avoid the churn of their existing customers and ensure the quality of delivery can build their trust for future collaborations and referrals. Many organizations, including GAVS, have understood that Customer Experience and Customer Success is consequential for customer retention and brand affinity. 

Businesses should realign themselves in the way they look at sales funnels. A large portion of the annual budget is usually allocated towards the top of the funnel activities to acquire more customers. But companies with customer success engraved in their souls, believe in the ideology that the bottom of the funnel feeds the top of the funnel. This strategy results in a self-sustaining and recurring revenue model for the business.

An independent survey conducted by the Customer Service Managers and Professionals Journal has found that companies pay 6x times more to acquire new customers than to keep an existing one. In this pandemic economy, the costs for customer acquisition will be much higher than before as organizations must be very frivolous in their spending. The best step forward is to make sure the companies strive for excellence in their customer experience and deliver measurable value to them. A study conducted by Bain and Company titled “Prescription for Cutting Costs” talks about how increasing customer retention by 5% increases profits from 25%-95%. 

The path to a sustainable and high growth business is to adopt customer-centric strategies that yield more value and growth for its customers. Enhancing customer experience should be prime and proper governance must be in place to monitor and gauge strategies. Governance in the world of the customer experience must revolve around identifying and managing resources needed to drive sustained actions, establishing robust procedures to organize processes, and ensuring a framework for stellar delivery.

Scaling to ever-changing customer needs

A research body called Walker Information conducted an independent research on B2B companies focusing on key initiatives that drive customer experiences and future growth. The study included various customer experience leaders, senior executives, and influencers representing a diverse set of business models in the industry. They published the report titled “Customer 2020: A Progress Report” and the following are strategies that best meet the changing needs of customers in the B2B landscape.

AI Devops Automation Service Tools

Over 45% of the leaders highlighted the importance of developing a customer-centric culture that simplifies products and processes for the business. Now the question that we need to ask ourselves is, how do we as an organization scale up to these demands of the market? I strongly believe that each of us, in the different roles we play in the organization, has an impact.

The Executive Team can support more customer experience strategies, formulate success metrics, measure the impact of customer success initiatives, and ensure alignment with respect to the corporate strategy.

The Client Partners can ensure that they represent the voice of the customer, plot a feasible customer experience roadmap, be on point with customer intelligence data, and ensure transparency and communication with the teams and the customers. 

The cross-functional team managers and members can own and execute process improvements, personalize and customize customer journeys, and monitor key delivery metrics.

When all these members work in unison, the target goal of delivery excellence coupled with customer success is always achievable.

Going Above and Beyond

Organizations should aim for customers who can be retained for life. The retention depends upon how much a business is willing to go the extra mile to add measurable value to its customers. Business contracts should evolve into partnerships that collaborate on their competitive advantages that bring solutions to real-world business problems. 

As customer success champions, we should reevaluate the possibilities in which we can make a difference for our customers. By focusing on our core competencies and using the latest tools in the market, we can look for avenues that can bring effort savings, productivity enhancements, process improvements, workflow optimizations, and business transformations that change the way our customers do business. 

After all, We are GAVS. We aim to galvanize a sense of measurable success through our committed teams and innovative solutions. We should always stride towards delivery excellence and strive for customer success in everything we do.

About the Author –

Ashish Joseph is a Lead Consultant at GAVS working for a healthcare client in the Product Management space. His areas of expertise lie in branding and outbound product management.

He runs a series called #BizPective on LinkedIn and Instagram focusing on contemporary business trends from a different perspective. Outside work, he is very passionate about basketball, music, and food.

Patient 360 & Journey Mapping using Graph Technology

Srinivasan Sundararajan

360 Degree View of Patient

With rising demands for quality and cost-effective patient care, healthcare providers are focusing on data-driven diagnostics while continuing to utilize their hard-earned human intelligence. In other words, data-driven healthcare is augmenting human intelligence.

360 Degree View of Patient, as it is called, plays a major role in delivering the required information to the providers. It is a unified view of all the available information about a patient. It could include but is not limited to the following information:

  • Appointments made by the patients
  • Interaction with different doctors
  • Medications prescribed by the doctors
  • Patient’s relationship to other patients within the eco-systems specially to identify the family history related risks
  • Patient’s admission to hospitals or other healthcare facilities
  • Discharge and ongoing care
  • Patient personal wellness activities
  • Patient billing and insurance information
  • Linkages to the same patient in multiple disparate databases within the same hospital
  • Information about a patient’s involvement in various seminars, medical-related conferences, and other events

Limitations of Current Methods

As evident in most hospitals, these information are usually scattered across multiple data sources/databases. Hospitals typically create a data warehouse by consolidating information from multiple resources and try to create a unified database. However, this approach is done using relational databases and the relational databases rely on joining tables across entities to arrive at a complete picture. The RDBMS is not meant to handle relationships which extend to multiple hops and require drilling down to many levels.

Role of Graph Technology & Graph Databases

A graph database is a collection of nodes (or entities typically) and edges (or relationships). A node represents an entity (for example, a person or an organization) and an edge represents a relationship between the two nodes that it connects (for example, friends). Both nodes and edges may have properties associated with them.

While there are multiple graph databases in the market today like, Neo4J, JanusGraph, TigerGraph, the following technical discussions pertain to graph database that is part of SQL server 2019. The main advantage of this approach is that it helps utilize the best RDBMS features wherever applicable, while keeping the graph database options for complex relationships like 360 degree view of patients, making it a true polyglot persistence architecture.

As mentioned above, in SQL Server 2019 a graph database is a collection of node tables and edge tables. A node table represents an entity in a graph schema. An edge table represents a relationship in a graph. Edges are always directed and connect two nodes. An edge table enables users to model many-to-many relationships in the graph. Normal SQL Insert statements are used to create records into both node and edge tables.

While the node tables and edge tables represent the storage of graph data there are some specialized commands which act as extension of SQL and help with traversing between the nodes to get the full details like patient 360 degree data.

MATCH statement

MATCH statement links two node tables through a link table, such that complex relationships can be retrieved. An example,

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SHORTEST_PATH statement

It finds the relationship path between two node tables by performing multiple hops recursively. It is one of the useful statements to find the 360 degree of a patient.

There are more options and statements as part of graph processing. Together it will help identify complex relationships across business entities and retrieve them.

GRAPH processing In Rhodium  

As mentioned in my earlier articles (Healthcare Data Sharing & Zero Knowledge Proofs in Healthcare Data Sharing), GAVS Rhodium framework enables Patient and Data Management and Patient Data Sharing and graph databases play a major part in providing patient 360 as well as for provider (doctor) credentialing data. The below screen shots show the samples from reference implementation.

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Patient Journey Mapping

Typically, a patient’s interaction with the healthcare service provider goes through a cycle of events. The goal of the provider organization is to make this journey smooth and provide the best care to the patients. It should be noted that not all patients go through this journey in a sequential manner, some may start the journey at a particular point and may skip some intermediate journey points. Proper data collection of events behind patient journey mapping will also help with the future prediction of events which will ultimately help with patient care.

Patient 360 data collection plays a major role in building the patient journey mapping. While there could be multiple definitions, the following is one of the examples of mapping between patient 360-degree events and patient journey mapping.

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The below diagram shows an example of a patient journey mapping information.

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Understanding patients better is essential for improving patient outcomes. 360 degree of patients and patient journey mapping are key components for providing such insights. While traditional technologies lack the need of providing those links, graph databases and graph processing will play a major role in patient data management.

About the Author –

Srini is the Technology Advisor for GAVS. He is currently focused on Data Management Solutions for new-age enterprises using the combination of Multi Modal databases, Blockchain and Data Mining. The solutions aim at data sharing within enterprises as well as with external stakeholders.

Quantum Computing

Vignesh Ramamurthy

Vignesh Ramamurthy

In the MARVEL multiverse, Ant-Man has one of the coolest superpowers out there. He can shrink himself down as well as blow himself up to any size he desires! He was able to reduce to a subatomic size so that he could enter the Quantum Realm. Some fancy stuff indeed.

Likewise, there is Quantum computing. Quantum computers are more powerful than supercomputers and tech companies like Google, IBM, and Rigetti have them.

Google had achieved Quantum Supremacy with its Quantum computer ‘Sycamore’ in 2019. It claims to perform a calculation in 200 seconds which might take the world’s most powerful supercomputer 10,000 years. Sycamore is a 54-qubit computer. Such computers need to be kept under special conditions with temperature being close to absolute zero.

quantum computing

Quantum Physics

Quantum computing falls under a discipline called Quantum Physics. Quantum computing’s heart and soul resides in what we call as Qubits (Quantum bits) and Superposition. So, what are they?

Let’s take a simple example, imagine you have a coin and you spin it. One cannot know the outcome unless it falls flat on a surface. It can either be a head or a tail. However, while the coin is spinning you can say the coin’s state is both heads and tails at the same time (qubit). This state is called Superposition.

So, how do they work and what does it mean?

We know bits are a combination of 0s and 1s (negative or positive states). Qubits have both at the same time. These qubits, in the end, pass through something called “Grover Operator” which washes away all the possibilities, but one.

Hence, from an enormous set of combinations, a single positive outcome remains, just like how Doctor Strange did in the movie Infinity War. However, what is important is to understand how this technically works.

We shall see 2 explanations which I feel could give an accurate picture on the technical aspect of it.

In Quantum Mechanics, the following is as explained by Scott Aaronson, a Quantum scientist from the University of Texas, Austin.

Amplitude – an amplitude of a positive and a negative state. These could also be considered as an amplitude for being 0, and also an amplitude for being 1. The goal for an amplitude here is to make sure that amplitudes leading to wrong answers cancel each other out. Hence this way, amplitude with the right answer remains the only possible outcome.

Quantum computers function using a process called superconductivity. We have a chip the size of an ordinary computer chip. There are little coils of wire in the chip, nearly big enough to see with the naked eye. There are 2 different quantum states of current flowing through these coils, corresponding to 0 and 1, or the superpositions of them.

These coils interact with each other, nearby ones talk to each other and generate a state called an entangled state which is an essential state in Quantum computing. The way qubits interact are completely programmable, so we can send electrical signals to these qubits, and tweak them according to our requirements. This whole chip is placed in a refrigerator with a temperature close to absolute zero. This way superconductivity occurs which makes it to briefly behave as qubits.

Following is the explanation given according to ‘Kurzgesagt — In a Nutshell’, a YouTube channel.

We know a bit is either a 0 or 1. Now, 4 bits mean 0000 and so on. In a qubit, 4 classical bits can be in one of the 2^4 different configurations at once. That is 16 possible combinations out of which we can use just one. 4 qubits in position can be in all those 16 combinations at once.

This grows exponentially with each extra qubit. 20 qubits can hence store a million values in parallel. As seen, these entangled states interact with each other instantly. Hence while measuring one entangled qubit, we can directly deduce the property of its partners.

A normal logic gate gets a simple set of inputs and produces one definite output. A quantum gate manipulates an input of superpositions, rotates probabilities, and produces another set of superpositions as its output.

Hence a quantum computer sets up some qubits, applies quantum gates to entangle them, and manipulates probabilities. Now it finally measures the outcome, collapsing superpositions to an actual sequence of 0s and 1s. This is how we get the entire set of calculations performed at the same time.

What is a Grover Operator?

We now know that while taking one entangled qubit, it is possible to easily deduce properties for all the partners. Grover algorithm works because of these quantum particles being entangled. Since one entangled qubit is able to vouch for the partners, it iterates until it finds the solution with higher degrees of confidence.

What can they do?

As of now, quantum computing hasn’t been implemented in real-life situations just because the world right now doesn’t have such an infrastructure.

Assuming they are efficient and ready to be used. We can make use of it in the following ways: 1) Self-driving cars are picking up pace. Quantum computers can be used on these cars by calculating all possible outcomes on the road. Apart from sensors to reduce accidents, roads consist of traffic signals. A Quantum computer will be able to go through all the possibilities of how traffic signals

function, the time interval, traffic, everything, and feed these self-driving cars with the single best outcome accordingly. Hence, what would result is nothing but a seamless commute with no hassles whatsoever. It’ll be the future as we see in movies.

2) If AI is able to construct a circuit board after having tried everything in the design architecture, this could result in promising AI-related applications.

Disadvantages

RSA encryption is the one that underpins the entire internet. It could breach it and hackers might steal top confidential information related to Health, Defence, personal information, and other sensitive data. At the same time, it could be helpful to achieve the most secure encryption, by identifying the best one amongst every possible encryption. This can be made by finding out the most secure wall to break all the viruses that could infect the internet. If such security is made, it would take a completely new virus to break it. But the chances are very minuscule.

Quantum computing has its share of benefits. However, this would take years to be put to use. Infrastructure and the amount of investment to make is humongous. After all, it could only be used when there are very reliable real-time use cases. It needs to be tested for many things. There is no doubt that Quantum Computing will play a big role in the future. However, with more sophisticated technology, comes more complex problems. The world will take years to be prepared for it.

References:

About the Author –

Vignesh is part of the GAVel team at GAVS. He is deeply passionate about technology and is a movie buff.

Enabling Success through Servant Leadership

Vasu

Vasudevan Gopalan

Servant Leadership – does it seem like a dichotomy? Well, it is not so. In this new age of Agile and Digital Transformation, this is a much sought-after trait in Leaders by their Organizations.

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The goal of Servant Leadership is to Serve. It involves the leader supporting and empowering their teams and thus enabling Success. The paradigm shift in the thought process here is that – instead of the people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the team. And do remember that a Servant Leader is a Servant first, Leader next – not the other way around 😊

In today’s Agile world of Software Delivery, the Scrum Master needs to be a Servant Leader.

So, what are the characteristics of a Servant Leader?

  • Self-aware
  • Humble
  • Integrity
  • Result-oriented
  • Has foresight
  • Listener
  • Doesn’t abuse authority
  • Intellectual authority
  • Collaborative
  • Trusting
  • Coach
  • Resolves conflict

As you can see here, it is all about achieving results through people empowerment. When people realize that their Leader helps every team member build a deep sense of community and belonging in the workplace, there is a higher degree of accountability and responsibility carried out in their work.

Ultimately, a Servant Leader wants to help others thrive, and is happy to put the team’s needs before their own. They care about people and understand that the best results are produced not through top-down delegation but by building people up. People need psychological safety and autonomy to be creative and innovative.

As Patrick Lencioni describes, Humility is one of the 3 main pillars for ideal team players. Humility is “the feeling or attitude that you have no special importance that makes you better than others”.

Behaviors of Humble Agile Servant Leaders

  • Deep listening and observing
  • Openness towards new ideas from team members
  • Appreciating strengths and contributions of team members
  • Seek contributions of team members to overcome challenges and limitations together
  • Be coachable coaches – i.e. Coach others, and simultaneously be easy to be coached by others

Humility’s foe – Arrogance

In Robert Hogan’s terms, arrogance makes “the most destructive leaders” and “is the critical factor driving flawed decision-makers” who “create the slippery slope to organizational failure”.

Humility in Practice

A study on the personality of CEOs of some of the top Fortune 1000 Companies shows that what makes these companies successful as they are is the CEOs’ humility. These CEOs share two sets of qualities seemingly contradictory but always back each other up strongly:

  • They are “self-effacing, quiet, reserved, even shy”. They are modest. And they admit mistakes.
  • At the same time, behind this reserved exterior, they are “fiercely ambitious, tremendously competitive, tenacious”. They have strong self-confidence and self-esteem. And they’re willing to listen to feedback and solicit input from knowledgeable subordinates.

According to Dr. Robert Hogan (2018), these characteristics of humility create “an environment of continuous improvement”.

What are the benefits of being a humble Servant Leader?

  • Increase inclusiveness – the foundation of trust
  • Strengthen the bond with peers – the basis of well-being
  • Deepen awareness
  • Improve empathy
  • Increase staff engagement

So, what do you think would be the outcomes for organizations that have practicing Servant Leaders?

Source:

https://www.bridge-global.com/blog/5-excellent-tips-to-become-a-supercharged-agile-leader/

About the Author –

Vasu heads the Engineering function for A&P. He is a Digital Transformation leader with ~20 years of IT industry experience spanning across Product Engineering, Portfolio Delivery, Large Program Management, etc. Vasu has designed and delivered Open Systems, Core Banking, Web / Mobile Applications, etc. Outside of his professional role, Vasu enjoys playing badminton and is a fitness enthusiast.

Healthcare Data Sharing

Srinivasan Sundararajan

Patient Care Redefined

The fight against the novel coronavirus has witnessed transformational changes in the way patient care is defined and managed. Proliferation of telemedicine has enabled consultations across geographies. In the current scenario, access to patients’ medical records has also assumed more importance.

The journey towards a solution also taught us that research on patient data is equally important. More the sample data about the infected patients, the better the vaccine/remedy. However, the growing concern about the privacy of patient data cannot be ignored. Moreover, patients who provide their data for medical research should also benefit from a monetary perspective, for their contributions.

The above facts basically point to the need for being able to share vital healthcare data efficiently so that patient care is improved, and more lives are saved.

The healthcare industry needs a data-sharing framework, which shares patient data but also provides much-needed controls on data ownership for various stakeholders, including the patients.

Types of Healthcare Data

  • PHR (Personal Health Record): An electronic record of health-related information on an individual that conforms to nationally recognized interoperability standards and that can be drawn from multiple sources while being managed, shared, and controlled by the individual.
  • EMR (Electronic Medical Record): Health-related information on an individual that can be created, gathered, managed, and consulted by authorized clinicians and staff within one healthcare organization. 
  • EHR (Electronic Health Record): Health-related information on an individual that conforms to nationally recognized interoperability standards and that can be created, managed and consulted by authorized clinicians and staff across more than one healthcare organization. 

In the context of large multi-specialty hospitals, EMR could also be specific to one specialist department and EHR could be the combination of information from various specialist departments in a single unified record.

Together these 3 forms of healthcare data provide a comprehensive view of a patient (patient 360), thus resulting in quicker diagnoses and personalized quality care.

Current Challenges in Sharing Healthcare Data

  • Lack of unique identity for patients prevents a single version of truth. Though there are government-issued IDs like SSN, their usage is not consistent across systems.
  • High cost and error-prone integration options with provider controlled EMR/EHR systems. While there is standardization with respect to healthcare interoperability API specifications, the effort needed for integration is high.
  • Conflict of interest in ensuring patient privacy and data integrity, while allowing data sharing. Digital ethics dictate that patient consent management take precedence while sharing their data.
  • Monetary benefits of medical research on patient data are not passed on to patients. As mentioned earlier, in today’s context analyzing existing patient information is critical to finding a cure for diseases, but there are no incentives for these patients.
  • Data stewardship, consent management, compliance needs like HIPAA, GDPR. Let’s assume a hospital specializing in heart-related issues shares a patient record with a hospital that specializes in eye care. How do we decide which portions of the patient information is owned by which hospital and how the governance is managed?
  • Lack of real-time information attributing to data quality issues and causing incorrect diagnoses.

The above list is not comprehensive but points to some of the issues that are plaguing the current healthcare data-sharing initiatives.

Blockchain for Healthcare Data Sharing

Some of the basic attributes of blockchain are mentioned below:

  • Blockchain is a distributed database, whereby each node of the database can be owned by a different stakeholder (say hospital departments) and yet all updates to the database eventually converge resulting in a distributed single version of truth.
  • Blockchain databases utilize a cryptography-based transaction processing mechanism, such that each object stored inside the database (say a patient record) can be distinctly owned by a public/private key pair and the ownership rights carry throughout the life cycle of the object (say from patient admission to discharge).
  • Blockchain transactions are carried out using smart contracts which basically attach the business rules to the underlying data, ensuring that the data is always compliant with the underlying business rules, making it even more reliable than the data available in traditional database systems.

These underlying properties of Blockchain make it a viable technology platform for healthcare data sharing, as well as to ensure data stewardship and patient privacy rights.

GAVS Rhodium Framework for Healthcare Data Sharing

GAVS has developed a framework – ‘Rhodium’, for healthcare data sharing.

This framework combines the best features of multi-modal databases (relational, nosql, graph) along with the viability of data sharing facilitated by Blockchain, to come up with a unified framework for healthcare data sharing.

The following are the high-level components (in a healthcare context) of the Rhodium framework. As you can see, each of the individual components of Rhodium play a role in healthcare information exchange at various levels.

GAVS’ Rhodium Framework for Healthcare

GAVS has also defined a maturity model for healthcare organizations for utilizing the framework towards healthcare data sharing. This model defines 4 stages of healthcare data sharing:

  • Within a Hospital 
  • Across Hospitals
  • Between Hospitals & Patients
  • Between Hospitals, Patients & Other Agencies

The below progression diagram illustrates how the framework can be extended for various stages of the life cycle, and typical use cases that are realized in each phase. Detailed explanations of various components of the Rhodium framework, and how it realizes use cases mentioned in the different stages will be covered in subsequent articles in this space.

Rhodium Patient Date Sharing Journey

Benefits of the GAVS Rhodium Framework for Healthcare Data Sharing

The following are the general foreseeable benefits of using the Rhodium framework for healthcare data sharing.

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Healthcare Industry Trends with Respect to Data Sharing

The following are some of the trends we are seeing in Healthcare Data Sharing:

  • Interoperability will drive privacy and security improvements
  • New privacy regulations will continue to come up, in addition to HIPAA
  • The ethical and legal use of AI will empower healthcare data security and privacy
  • The rest of 2020 and 2021 will be defined by the duality of data security and data integration, and providers’ ability to execute on these priorities. That, in turn, will, in many ways, determine their effectiveness
  • In addition to industry regulations like HIPAA, national data privacy standards including Europe’s GDPR, California’s Consumer Privacy Act, and New York’s SHIELD Act will further increase the impetus for providers to prioritize privacy as a critical component of quality patient care

The below documentation from the HIMSS site talks about maturity levels with respect to healthcare interoperability, which is addressed by the Rhodium framework.

Source: https://www.himss.org/what-interoperability

This framework is in its early stages of experimentation and is a prototype of how a Blockchain + Multi-Modal Database powered solution could be utilized for sharing healthcare data, that would be hugely beneficial to patients as well as healthcare providers.

About the Author –

Srini is the Technology Advisor for GAVS. He is currently focused on Data Management Solutions for new-age enterprises using the combination of Multi-Modal databases, Blockchain, and Data Mining. The solutions aim at data sharing within enterprises as well as with external stakeholders.