By Ted Minkinow, CIO, Fullerton Health Group
The same rules apply for selecting a digital transformation partner that most of us use for choosing a partner in any aspect of life. Many capable candidates exist, and you can bet that all of them will put their best face forward during the dating/evaluation period. The questions are: what will the relationship be like after the deal is closed, and what are the implications if the relationship fails?
Every business has an elaborate set of considerations, both from the owner's front and the partners. However, extraordinary and significant additional considerations exist in the healthcare sector. Here we also focus on increasing our customers’ length and quality of lives while striving to make services and treatments affordable and accessible to everyone. Technology plays a crucial role in everything we do, so selecting our digital transformation partner is as important to our business and as it is to the lives of our customers.
We had a quick date with the significant players in the digital transformation world and decided on Microsoft. In all our Asia-Pacific offices, cloud migration either has been planned or is already underway. Over the past two years, we have migrated to Office 365, moved our mission critical applications and databases to Azure, migrated all websites and web apps to Azure, standardized corporately on Azure SQL and SQL Server 2016, and implemented advanced features like machine learning analytics. Moreover, we are in the early stages of utilizing Dynamics 365.
Any of these initiatives represents a significant investment of time and resources, and each comes with a risk for the business. The good news is, there are ways—some unique in dealing with Microsoft—of getting multiplicative value for each dollar spent, as well as minimizing risks associated with modernizing paradigms. My perspective of dealing with Microsoft spans years’ worth of product implementations and migrations, and in that time, I have developed a blueprint that has helped me succeed along the way.
Consider Microsoft a strategic partner and not just a software vendor
Their software provides productivity and collaboration for our geographically-dispersed workforce, their security schemes protect our data, and our customers access us through apps built upon the Microsoft stack.
Technology plays a crucial role in everything we do, so selecting our digital transformation partner is as important to our business and as it is to the lives of our customers
That makes them more than a partner. Disabuse yourself of the notion Microsoft is interested in competing against you in your vertical. Success for Microsoft is measured in the success of businesses running their software. Leverage that.
Co-opt your Microsoft account rep as a member of your staff
Amanda a Microsoft employee but she works for me as my advocate within Microsoft. I assign her tasks and deadlines, and she provides regular updates. Her focus is sales, but she never tries to sell me licenses. Rather, she keeps me up to date on Microsoft’s technology roadmap of new capabilities and puts me in touch with product experts, should we want to investigate how we might leverage new technology. Amanda also helps escalate and stamp out the common issues expected in complex transformations. We copy her on all correspondence coming out of our company to Microsoft. Know the Microsoft hierarchy in your area and your vertical. Microsoft is starved for customer feedback, and when they receive it, they act. Get to know the people filling the roles that are important to you (as a minimum: the heads of the account team, consulting service, Premier services, and the local Microsoft head of compliance for your industry). These are the people who can fast-track solutions to issues or responses to technical questions. They might also ask you to participate in case studies, marketing videos, or interviews that will give your company positive views in the public eye. Attend Microsoft events. Don’t delete the email invitations from Microsoft as a minimum; forward them to members of your staff. The product-focused events allow you or members of your team to upgrade knowledge, but just as important, Microsoft events foster networking between customers and Microsoft experts. These experts are often happy to recommend solutions to issues or to later keep you and your staff updated on new or planned product features. They will also participate in your internal presentations. Participate in Microsoft programs Microsoft programs offer everything from sneak-peaks at upcoming releases to introductory rates on products (like a significant discount on Azure if paid a year in advance) to free consulting support for evaluating products. Last year, we entered the SQL 2016 Technology Adoption Program. We received the bits, met weekly with an SQL Server product team that a consultant had assigned to us, and got direct support from Microsoft in migrating to SQL Server 2016. In return, we tested features and provided feedback. The TAP program put us into production months before Microsoft released SQL Server 2016, giving us a head start on the productivity and security enhancements. Negotiate and consolidate Depending on the size of your organization, you should expect Microsoft to negotiate prices for licenses and services, and if you are a multinational corporation, I recommend consolidating licenses to give all the business units’ access to your negotiated rate.
If Microsoft supplies a significant amount of your business and productivity software and you are not intentional and focused in the partnership, then you are venting high value into the atmosphere, increasing your risk or failure, and cheating yourself out of a beneficial business relationship.Fullerton Health is an integrated enterprise healthcare service provider founded in 2011 in Singapore, that specializes in designing customized medical services for corporate and insurer clients.