Richard MG Davies, Group Chief Information Officer, International SoS
we were just monitoring the situation over the weekend following the explosions at the Port of Tainjin, 12th Aug. when the news came through of a bomb going off at the Erawan Shrine, in Bangkok.
My Travel Tracker System was informing members how many of their staff were in Bangkok, 5000 in total, the Security Alert system was sending out notifications and the Incident Response Team were stood back up for the 2nd time in 2 weeks to support the 50 or so Casualties who were members, 2 of whom were critical.
International SOS cares for subscriber clients across the globe, from more than 850 locations in 92 countries. In many ways it’s a unique organisation, privately owned, with more than 11,000 employees led by over 1,400 doctors and 200 security specialists. Teams work night and day to protect our members.
For me it’s a dream job. Within this environment IT plays a critical role in both supporting the business but also creating commercial products. The digital agenda fits perfectly into the business strategy of International SoS.
Before we start let’s 1st define what we mean by Digital. For us it’s 3 things:
• Products & Value Propositions
• Channels to both Market & Staff
• Infrastructure Propositions provided by the Cloud
International SoS is going through a significant transformation to exploit the opportunities created by the digital agenda. I could limit the conversation to the IT organisation but there are 4 Steps in our transformation plan and only the first two are confined to IT:
1. Establishing Digital Operations
2. Building Digital Capability
3. Enabling Digital Business
4. Driving Digital Customer Value.
Taking each of these areas in turn.
Establishing Digital Operations
Operationally to move an IT organisation from just looking after enterprise systems to managing Digital is not simple. A lot of digital strategies focus on development rather than operations. But I would recommend to begin with thinking about Digital Operations as there are many new considerations to get your head around.
“Capturing,Storing &Transmitting data introduce snew risks, I believe any Digital Strategy runs the risk of increasing your Security Exposure”
With Digital you can eliminate all manual paths, so Digital Operations requires very tight SLAs, if you are thinking of offering these as commercial Products to be used by your clients you most likely are going to be exposed to commercial penalties, with availability and recovery KPIs. To do this well, not only does the team and processes have to be more robust, they may need more elaborate reporting and measurement tools.
Digital Operations have to accommodate many more frequent releases, if you think about the lifecycle of a digital product it's much faster than that of an enterprise system. Moreover, expectations for feature enhancement and improved speed, established by consumer IT, are higher than ever.
Building Digital Capability
This step is about moving from an Applications & Infrastructure mindset to that of Products & Platforms. It's about understanding your commercials, market share and pricing. It's about integrating Products in such a way as to leverage Platforms. Again you will need a different kind of team, more integrated - digital savvy - a team who thinks in terms of Business Solutions, not BRS's, a team who have an appetite for business cases of 9-18 months rather than 3-5 years a team who can change from engineering solutions to managing vendors and back-to-back SLAs.
Your standards, both technology and management have to change. With Digital there are some specific technology areas that have to be addressed:
• If you're in the cloud you have ubiquitous access, you can stop thinking of Data Centres, hubs and follow the sun.
• If you are going to embrace mobile even though in my opinion Mobile Web is fine, you most likely are going to get asked for Apps, so you need to establish some kind of a Mobile Apps Devlopment environment, either created in house of bought off the shelf.
• You need to develop the capability to perational flexibility and on connect your digital front end solutions with your back-end applications, developing or using APIs where possible.
Enabling Digital Business
To enable Digital Business we like to categorise systems as front office, back office and in the middle.
Starting with the back end, most enterprise systems these days come with mobile UI. These are great for data entry, reporting and queries on the go. The other day I met a vendor, who happened also to be a member, (happens a lot). I wanted to know what kind of revenue we got from them last year to compare to the volume we give them. It was easy for me to go into Sales Force on my iPad to run the query. Our Oracle Finance system has the same. Just utilising these addons can create a good digital capability on the back-end without significant additional expenditure.
In the middle office, we keep a lot of medical records; these records have to be kept in some countries for many years. Some of these records have very large files that contain medical images, MRI scans etc. Utilizing the full range of cloud based services we are rearchitecting our solutions minimise the data held within the web and transaction processing systems, and optimising storage in a private cloud whereby we can be compliant with data protection and storage requirements.
We have 30 assistance centres around the world, each looks like a super-charged call centre from a technical infrastructure perspective, this is our front office. Members can call 24/7 and speak to a doctor or a security specialist. We arrange all of the evacuations out of the assistance centres, we run an evacuation every 30mins around the world. But we have a great overhead with PABXs, voice recording equipment and physical phones. We are moving all this to the cloud, this will cut costs, improve reliability and introduce sophisticated call routing, so we can more flexibly access our specialists with rare skills.
Driving Digital Customer Value
Digital Health is coming of age. Many of us wear devices to monitor our health and measure our fitness. Noncommunicatable deseases are a big area of concern for our members. Cardio problems are in our top 5 reasons to have to evacuate our members. We have a number of Tele and Digital Health solutions. These range from low bandwidth video transmission devices, to devices that monitor vital signs transmitting the data in realtime back to the assistance centres for analysis. The options are many, so to prioritise where to start it's important to take a holistic perspective and consider what it is you want to achieve:
1. Improving sales
2. Marketing & Brand Development
3. HR & Communcations
4. Improving Customer experience
5. Create completely new Products & services or significantly develop some aspect.
If you take our Telemedicine & Digital Health capabilities they cover a number of the above:
• Make accessible previously scarce or unobtainable resource available.
• Extend the boundary of the organisation further into our member’s lives.
• Create new ways in which we communicate with our members.
• Provide or gather Information remotely.
Finally, and perhaps the greatest consideration of all in a Digital Transformation is Security. Capturing, Storing & Transmitting data introduces new risks, I believe any Digital Strategy runs the risk of increasing your Security exposure. It’s essential you adapt your security posture in line with your Digital Transformation. Talking to our members I’m always surprised at how many organisations don’t have cyber-security risk insurance. One insurance company told me that only 1 in 10 corporations have it. Hopefully I leave you with some food for thought but if there’s only one action you take away, it might be to look into this.