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Cloud Efficiency: Different Paths, Same Destination

Cloud Efficiency: Different Paths, Same Destination

"From an IT perspective, [the cloud model] changed the culture of the company," noted Planview EVP of Products Patrick Tickle. "At the end of the day, we had to move from an IT culture to an operations culture and all the things that go along with that -- performance and up-time. All those things were pretty significant shifts from an IT perspective."

By Dana Gardner
11/18/13 5:00 AM PT

Aggressive use of cloud-computing strategies can significantly improve delivery of applications to end users.

Healthcare patient-experience improvement provider Press Ganey and project and portfolio management provider Planview are both exploiting cloud efficiencies and agility. Their paths to the efficiency of cloud have been different, but the outcomes speak volumes for how cloud transforms businesses.

In this podcast, Greg Ericson, senior vice president and chief innovation officer at Press Ganey, and Patrick Tickle, executive vice president of products at Planview, share their companies' approaches and results.

The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.


Listen to the podcast (24:37 minutes).

Here are some excerpts:

Dana Gardner: We heard a lot about cloud computing at VMworld, and you're both going at it a little differently. Greg, tell us a bit about the type of cloud approach you're taking at Press Ganey.

Greg Ericson: We focus on providing deep insight into the patient experience in healthcare settings. We have more than 10,000 customers within the healthcare environment that look to us and partner with us around patient-experience improvement within the healthcare setting.

We started this cloud journey in July of 2012 and we set out to achieve multiple goals. Number one, we wanted to position Press Ganey's software as solution products of the next generation and have a platform that was able to support them.

We went through a journey of consolidating multiple data centers. We consolidated 14 different storage arrays in our process and, most importantly, we were able to position our analytic solutions to be able to take on exponentially more data and provide that to our clients.

Gardner: Patrick, how has cloud helped you at Planview? You were, at one time, a fully a non-cloud organization. Tell us about your journey.

Patrick Tickle: We have a big global customer base of on-premise customers that built up over the last 23 years. Obviously, in the world of software these days, there's a fairly seismic big shift about being in Software as a Service and how you get to the cloud, the business models, and all those kinds of things.

Conventional wisdom ... was that you can't get there unless you start from scratch. Obviously, because this is the only thing we do, it was pretty imperative that we figure out a way to get there.

So two or three years ago, we started trying to make the transition. There were a lot of things we had to go through, not just from an infrastructure standpoint, but from a business model and delivery standpoint.

The essence was here. We didn't have time to rewrite a code base in which we've invested 10-plus years and hundreds of thousands of hours of customer experience to be a market-leading product in our space. It could take five years to rewrite it. Compared to where we were 10 years ago, when you and I first met, there are a lot more tools in the bag for people to get to the cloud than there were then.

So we really went after VMware and did the research sweep much more aggressively. We started out with our own kind of infrastructure that we bolted together and moved to a FlexPod in our second generation.

We have vCloud Hybrid Services now, and leveraging our existing code base, and then the whole suite of VMware products and services, we have transformed the company into a cloud provider. Today, 90 percent of all our new Planview customers are SaaS customers. It's been a big transition for us, but the technology from VMware has been right in the center of making it happen.

Gardner: Greg, tell us a little bit about some of the business challenges that are driving your IT requirements that, in turn, make the cloud model attractive. Is this a growth issue? Is this a complexity issue? What are your business imperatives that make your IT requirements?

Ericson: That's a great question. Press Ganey is a 25-year-old organization. We pioneered the concept of patient experience and the analytics, and insight into the patient experience, within the healthcare setting. We have an organization that's steeped in history, and so there are multiple things that we're looking at.

Number one, we have one of the largest protected health information databases in the United States. So we felt that we had to have a very secure and robust solution to provide to our clients, because they trust us with their data.

Number two, with the healthcare reform, the focus on patient experience is somewhat mandatory, whereas before, it was somewhat voluntary. Now, it's regulated or it's part of the healthcare reform. When you look at organizations, some were actually coming to us and saying, "We want to get however many patient surveys out that we need to satisfy our threshold."

Our philosophy is why would you want to do that? We believe that if you can understand and leverage the different media to be able to fill that out, you can survey your entire population of patients that are coming into not only your institution but, in the accountable care organization, the entire ecosystem that you're serving. That gives you tremendous insight into what's going on with those patients.

Our scientists are also finding a correlation between the patient experience results and clinical and quality outcomes. So, as we can tie those data sets together in those episodic events, we're finding very interesting kinds of new thought, leading thought, out there for our clients to look at.

So for us, going from minimally surveying your population to doing census survey, which is your entire population, represents an exponential growth. The last thing is that for our future, in terms of going after some of those new analytics, some of the new insight that we want to provide our clients, we want to position the technology to be able to take us there.

We believe that the VMware vCloud Suite represents a completeness of vision. ... Longer term, as we become more sophisticated in identifying our data and as the industry matures, we think that a public cloud, a hybrid cloud, is in the future for us, and we're preparing for that.


Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which tracks trends, delivers forecasts and interprets the competitive landscape of enterprise applications and software infrastructure markets for clients. He also produces BriefingsDirect sponsored podcasts. [Disclosure: VMware is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.] Follow Dana Gardner on Twitter.


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