For many CIOs of established global multinational enterprises, spanning multiple business units in numerous countries, modernising IT systems and workforce mobilisation can seem a daunting task.
The international healthcare group Bupa identified the shifting sands of business IT before many other firms. Andrew Easton, Head of Technology Strategy and Architecture, faces a complex modernisation process where past and future technologies will have to mesh together to meet the future demands of the business.
The ‘location independence’ that mobility offers a business like Bupa has the potential to deliver increased flexibility and agility as well as offer new business opportunities, improved service for customers, and operational cost control. Where business processes are dependent on human decision making, there’s potential to have that human element intervening even faster or to pull up real time information in any location and at any time to enable more informed and responsive decisions and conversations to occur.
Bupa’s enterprise spans multiple business interests, cultures and systems, some originating many years ago, and Easton compares Bupa’s existing global IT estate to an ‘archipelago’.
For anyone starting a business today, process, people and applications are naturally driven to exploit cloud technology, smartphone integration, and the internet; that’s not a reality that Easton, and many senior executives like him, can often enjoy.
“We’re arguably in the foothills, looking up, deciding how to make that journey,” he says. “The past affects the future. You’re looking at technology, experience, and processes from the past, trying to integrate with solutions for employees and partners who work and get things done in a different ways because of the internet, cloud and mobile.”
Bupa’s IT footprint reflects the fact that many of the internal applications its staff use pre-date the internet, let alone smartphones and tablets. “This is a new internet world,” he adds. “But these new devices simply didn’t exist when many of our applications were established.”
The painstaking journey of organisational change entails a thorough examination of the company’s application portfolio across each business, identifying which should be mobilised to meet the demands of a connected workforce and customer base, and which can be tailored or replaced to function on modern devices.
The process is a complex one, given the nature of the organisation, with around 14 distinct IT functions fulfilling different commercial and local demands across Bupa’s care homes, health insurance, healthcare analytics and healthcare provisioning businesses. This challenge is often compounded by the variability in life cycle and maturity of the businesses and their associated IT functions.
“In some of our businesses, it can be a very easy process; but in others we have to take more time and focus and think of alternative ways to navigate the journey,” says Easton. “But being aware of the challenges associated with our history and structure – challenges facing many organisations – helps us consider and shape pragmatic approaches to modernising the application portfolio without being unduly constrained by the past.”
Andrew Easton will be appearing at Apps World on 2-3 October in London to discuss his business mobilisation experiences. For more information on how to attend, please see the Apps World website.