Following what a recent i360Gov report described as a “disastrous launch”, Healthcare.gov was in serious need of assistance.
Often referred to as “the Affordable Care Act” or simply “Obamacare,” Healthcare.gov was launched by the US federal government in order to provide its citizens with a convenient and intuitive online portal for managing, applying for or simply learning more about the United States’ new public healthcare plans.
With the criticism quickly piling up, the White House decided to act quickly in order to improve the flagship policy website.
Software AG’s in-memory software played a major role in enabling the performance needed by the new website to cope with the influx of visitors during peak times.
Drawing on the company’s many years of experience in credit card processing – possibly the only industry facing higher volumes of transactions – and a dedicated team that included a number of government experts (after all, who knows your customer’s business better than your own customers?) Software AG was able to exorcise the many problems that Healthcare.gov was facing.
With in-memory software in place the Healthcare.gov website was easily able to meet peak demands. In the latest season alone, which ended earlier this year, Healthcare.gov saw 12.7 million US citizens sign up for healthcare coverage, with website usage peaking at around 187,000 concurrent users. Given how important it is for many Americans to be able to access healthcare, the stability of the website plays a vital role in the overall quality of service.
The in-memory advantage
This impressive capability to deal with widely varying levels of demand highlights an important issue. That is how digitalisation, the Internet of Things (IoT), or in this case just the plain internet, all demand a scalable yet simple IT architectures that can enable organisations to process vast volumes of data in-memory.
This is fundamental to processing large volumes of data, as in-memory is where an organisation’s data can be accessed the quickest, and where it is made available as close to real-time as possible. Indeed, the only restriction hampering how quickly data can be processed in-memory is the unbending speed of light.
According to Fabien Sanglier, Chief Solutions Architect at Software AG, building the new architecture for Healthcare.gov was “not a big effort,” mainly consisting of including additional lines of code in order to move Software AG’s digital business platform from the test to the production environment. Needless to say, major IT projects, especially those as substantial as the Healthcare.gov project, are rarely described as simple. Nor are they often completed at such a small fraction of the total budget while also providing a range of additional technological features for a more robust solution than originally specified.
Digital transformation presents many technological, business process, and even cultural challenges. However, using a co-innovation approach, such as project experience from other industries as well as technology, enterprises working in tandem with their software providers can deliver rapid application development that is tailored specifically to address the customer’s individual needs. Together, the two partners can put to use the client’s greatest asset – its data.
And even more data
But this is only the tip of the data iceberg. Everything is becoming a source of data: a person’s skin, car and smart phone, smoke alarm or pacemaker, all producing data to be mined for knowledge of extremely high value.
A house or office smoke alarm will detect intruders and report to the police with the exact location of the unwanted quest, cars can report to the weather service where it is raining, in real-time, to produce an extremely accurate forecast, wearable devices can monitor blood pressure, heart beat, blood sugar levels and other factors altering whoever is necessary when things get out of whack, preventative maintenance on the body bringing it in for a service before a part fails.
Nobody knows where it’s going but it is going to be a wild ride
Every manufacturer, globally, knows this is coming, whatever this is, and will better try to disrupt itself before somebody else does. Their future businesses will be based on data driven digital services added to what they manufacture today.
Today’s merchandise will become a smart device, a smart toy, a smart engine, a smart something that will be integrated to provide the new digital services portfolio. The real money will be in what data can be collected and analysed and how business value – within or outside whatever industry we are talking about - can be refined from it.
There are many obstacles to this new Promised Land and all involve throwing the dice and taking a chance. Which protocols to use in digital sensors, to retro-fit existing sensors or not? What data to collect today? What data might be needed tomorrow? How to design a digital sensor for software upgrades in the future? And then most importantly, how to make money from the new digital services available? One random example: If someone pays $300 for a dumb water pump today how much will they pay for a smart pump tomorrow? What pricing model will support the further development of software that will be used on the pump? What pricing model will pay for the data connectivity over the life cycle of the pump? Will the pump be given away for free and a subscription payment model for the added services introduced?
With so much uncertainty it is not surprising that most IoT projects of today focus on efficiency gains or cost cutting, getting more out of the current business model. But it is the leap into the unknown that will pay the biggest dividend, literally, and the digital pioneers are already boldly going where no one has gone before.
There are as many IT industry pundits as there are bookmakers on this planet but it is anyone’s guess as to where bets should be placed. That was always the case since the abacus it can be argued, but it is the pace and magnitude of change that is unforgiving today. Digital disruption is coming from all directions: new innovative start-ups, fast moving competitors, new entrants from outside traditional sectors (possibly as obvious as a stealth fighter), extremely well informed customers, open global choice and, a major digital side effect: disintermediation - the elimination of the middle man - this could wipe out entire industries!
To keep bets open, to decide or react based on better knowledge, to be able to change enterprise or processes, quickly, requires an incredibly flexible, reactive, malleable, easy to use software layer that orchestrates today’s mainly static IT environments. At Software AG, we call it the Digital Business Platform. It is the best and safest bet right now. Simply because with it, enterprises can build an IT architecture for the unknown. An architecture that can support a business strategy for the unknown.
Back to co-innovation
To realise business value in this volatile of business environment, the software vendor must become a business partner, must match customers’ business knowledge, ideas and innovation capabilities with technology knowledge, ideas and innovation. This brings us back to co-innovation as highlighted in the Healthcare.gov project becomes increasingly important.
Co-innovation is igniting a completely new engagement and partnership model. Jointly identify and develop digital business opportunities and quickly reaping the harvest while market conditions remain favourable in a fast changing world.
In today’s world, the fast beats the slow! With the entire economy rapidly digitalising, standing still is not an option. Go forth and co-innovate!
Eric Duffaut, Chief Customer Officer, Software AG
Image source: Shutterstock/Vasin Lee