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Digital Transformation

By Richard MG Davies, Group CIO, International SoS


Richard MG Davies, Group CIO, 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. 

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