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Case Study: Health Care Giant McKesson Harnesses HP ALM

This enterprise case study focuses on McKesson Corp., and how they're improving their operations

This enterprise case study discussion from the show floor focuses on McKesson Corp., and how they're improving their operations and reducing their mean time to resolution. We'll also explore applications quality assurance, test, and development, and how they're progressing toward a modernization front on those efforts as well.

Here to help us understand the application lifecycle management and dev-ops benefits issues better are Andy Smith, Vice President of Application Hosting Services at McKesson, and Doug Smith, Vice President of Data Center Transformation at McKesson. The interview was moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Here are some excerpts:

Andy Smith: What we've been doing over a little more than two years is improving our processes into ITIL v3. We focused heavily on change management, event management, and configuration management. At the same time, in parallel, we introduced the HP Tool Suite, for monitoring and configuration management, asset management, and automation.

What we've seen through the improvement in the processes and the improvement in the tools has been a marked improvement in all of our metrics. We've seen a drop in our Tier 1 outages of 54 percent during the last couple of years, as we implemented this tool. We've got three years worth of metrics now, and every year, the metrics have declined compared to the prior year. We've also seen an 86 percent drop in the breaches of those Tier 1 SLAs.

Doug Smith: We've been on this road of [data center] transformation now for about three and a half years. In the beginning, we focused on our production environments, which generally consist of fairly predictable workloads across multiple business units, and as Andy mentioned, quite a variety actually of models. In the past, the business units have obtained a great deal of autonomy in how they manage their infrastructure.

The first thing was to pull together the infrastructure and go through a consolidation exercise, as well as an optimization of that infrastructure. There we focused heavily on virtualization, as well as optimization of our storage environment, and to Andy’s point around process, heavily invested in process improvement.

We look to continue to take advantage, both from an infrastructure perspective as well as a tools perspective, in how we can facilitate our developers through a more rapid development cycle, more securely, and with higher quality outcomes for our customers.

A couple of years into this, we began to look at our development environment. McKesson has several thousand developers globally, and these developers spread across multiple product sets in multiple countries.

If you think about our objectives around security, quality, and agility, we look to continue to take advantage, both from an infrastructure perspective as well as a tools perspective, in how we can facilitate our developers through a more rapid development cycle, more securely, and with higher quality outcomes for our customers.

Andy Smith: When we first started looking at new tools, we recognized that we had a lot of point solutions that may have been best-in-breed, but they were a standalone solution. So, we weren’t getting the full benefits of the integration. As we looked at the next generation of tools, we wanted a tool suite that was fully integrated, so that the whole was better than the sum of the parts is probably the best way to put it.

We felt HP had progressed the farthest of all the competition in generating that full suite of tools to manage a data center environment. And, we believe we're seeing the benefits of that, because all these tools are working together to help improve our SLAs and shorten those mean time to restore.

Governance in place

Doug Smith: It's not unique, but to a large business like McKesson, as a federation, we have businesses that retain their autonomy and their decision-making. The key is to have that governance in place to highlight the opportunity at an enterprise level to say that if we make the investments, if we coordinate our activities, and if we pull together, we actually can achieve outcomes greater than we could individually.

Andy Smith: McKesson is a Fortune 15 healthcare company primarily in three areas: nurse call centers, medical pharmaceutical distribution, and a healthcare software development company.

It’s a very federated model. Each business unit has its own IT department responsible for the applications, and in some cases, their own individual data centers. Through Doug’s data center transformation program, we've been migrating those data centers into fewer corporate locations, and I'm responsible for running the infrastructure in those corporate locations.

For the products that McKesson develops and sells to the healthcare industry, in many cases, we're also hosting them within our data centers as an application service provider.

I can take the testing scripts that were used to develop the products and use those in the BAC Suite to test and monitor the application as it runs in production. So, we're able to share that testing data and testing schemas in the production world to monitor the live product.

And the bigger sum of the whole to me is the fact that I can take the testing scripts that were used to develop the products and use those in the BAC Suite to test and monitor the application as it runs in production. So, we're able to share that testing data and testing schemas in the production world to monitor the live product.

Doug Smith: As you look across product groups and our ability to scale this, and with Andy’s capability that he is developing and delivering on, you really see an opportunity for a company like McKesson to continue to deliver on its mission to improve the health of the businesses that we serve in healthcare. And, we can all relate to the benefits of driving out cost and increasing efficiency in healthcare.

So, at the highest level, anything that we can do to facilitate a faster and more agile development process for the folks who are delivering software and services in our organization, as well as help them provide a foundation and a layer where then they can talk to each other and build additional services and value-added services for our customers on top of that layer, then we have something that really can have an impact for all of us.

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At Interarbor Solutions, we create the analysis and in-depth podcasts on enterprise software and cloud trends that help fuel the social media revolution. As a veteran IT analyst, Dana Gardner moderates discussions and interviews get to the meat of the hottest technology topics. We define and forecast the business productivity effects of enterprise infrastructure, SOA and cloud advances. Our social media vehicles become conversational platforms, powerfully distributed via the BriefingsDirect Network of online media partners like ZDNet and IT-Director.com. As founder and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, Dana Gardner created BriefingsDirect to give online readers and listeners in-depth and direct access to the brightest thought leaders on IT. Our twice-monthly BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcasts examine the latest IT news with a panel of analysts and guests. Our sponsored discussions provide a unique, deep-dive focus on specific industry problems and the latest solutions. This podcast equivalent of an analyst briefing session -- made available as a podcast/transcript/blog to any interested viewer and search engine seeker -- breaks the mold on closed knowledge. These informational podcasts jump-start conversational evangelism, drive traffic to lead generation campaigns, and produce strong SEO returns. Interarbor Solutions provides fresh and creative thinking on IT, SOA, cloud and social media strategies based on the power of thoughtful content, made freely and easily available to proactive seekers of insights and information. As a result, marketers and branding professionals can communicate inexpensively with self-qualifiying readers/listeners in discreet market segments. BriefingsDirect podcasts hosted by Dana Gardner: Full turnkey planning, moderatiing, producing, hosting, and distribution via blogs and IT media partners of essential IT knowledge and understanding.

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