How to Structure Your Application Archive Initiative for Success

Customer Case on Application Archiving: Transforming a vision into reality with commitment and common sense.

Blog #3, already? I toiled over the contents of this one. Not because I felt like I was about to lay down some revelatory content, but because I thought there had to be more to it.   

You’ll recall in my first blog, I introduced to you the Data Archiving Program at Baptist Health and to my program leadership counterpart; Chris. I related how Chris was able to put minds at ease when those who needed access to data thought it was irretrievably lost. I also spoke of his ability to identify program roadblocks early and resolve them effectively. My most recent (and 2nd) blog laid out the Return on Investment (ROI) realized by Baptist Health and how the Data Archiving program benefits the organization far beyond the hard dollar savings on which we’ve calculated ROI. This week let’s talk about how we (the Baptist Health leadership team and our Dell Technologies team) laid the foundation for this successful Data Archiving Program.   

I said I toiled over the content because I felt like there had to be more to it, the foundation for successHonestly there’s not. Prior experience, application knowledge, sound processes, dedicated and talented resources, all wrapped by strong (really strong) executive sponsorship. That’s the foundation – that’s the formula – that’s what set the trajectory for this program’s success.   

Executive Sponsorship is a staple to any successful program; Baptist Health’s Data Archiving program is no exception. From an Executive Sponsor, we all hope for someone who will support and champion our program throughout the organization. I’ve viewed most of the Executive Sponsors during my career as those to whom I report progress, keep apprised of the program budget – and value they’re deriving for the money they’re spending –, and to whom I escalate significant issues the program is having difficulty overcoming. Throughout my career, the Executive Sponsor/Program Management dynamic has been me reporting to my Executive Sponsor with the expectation and reality of getting minimal participation from them. After all, the projects/programs I manage for them are but one small part of their responsibilities. I’ve tried, and still try, to handle everything so my project/program is something about which they don’t have to worry. Mike Browhas and continues to show me the impact an active Executive Sponsor can have on a program. 

Mike is Baptist Health’s System Vice President  I.T. Operations. He’s our Executive Sponsor. Not only has Mike been an internal Champion of the Data Archiving program, but – from the beginning– he’s been an active participant.  From the outset, Mike was the visionary.   

  • He identified the business problem and sought assistance in solving it.   
  • He knew these aging systems posed a problem for Baptist Health.
  • He understood that as Baptist Health grew by acquisition, the problem would expand.   
  • He understood the data in these applications must be kept in order to satisfy regulatory and policy compliance requirements, yet the value of access to that data diminishes over time.   

Mike and the Dell Technologies team came together and put in place a program structure to address this business problem. 

Active Sponsorship 

As we first began to talk about the structure, Mike embraced the concept of developing archive applications that provide users the functionality they need – not the functionality they want. Providing consumers of the data (the user community) a way to access the data and return the results in a simple, easy to understand format, is foundational to Data Archiving. This seems simple but here’s where leadership comes in. At Dell Technologies, we’ve run Data Archiving programs for many customers. One of the biggest challenges comes when the user community becomes adamant about “recreating” most, if not all, the functionality in the legacy application. The users have a comfort level with the legacy application and are hesitant, if not unwilling, to let go of it. When strong and unwavering leadership isn’t present to adjust (and re-adjust) user expectations, development of the archiving application can get complex and costly. As the objective of archiving data is to reduce costs and knowing the need to access this data will diminish over time, it makes sense to spend as little to archive the application as is feasible. Mike understood this and – time after time (remember, we’ve archived almost 70 applications to this point with many more to go) – helped shepherd those conversations with various application user communities. Mike’s leadership and unwavering commitment to providing the users what they need, but no more, saved Baptist Health countless dollars in the development of their archiving application, and allowed the team to implement efficient and reusable processes.   

To successfully archive the data from an application, it must be static. Data cannot be changing. The archive, in most instances, cannot be updated. The organization is preserving the data, not updating it. Quite often Mike has worked with application stakeholders to ensure they understand why the data in the legacy applications must be static and negotiate a date by which no more updates are made. Coming to agreements with these stakeholders has removed challenges associated with changing data and enabled the Data Archiving program to move forward expeditiously. 

An active Executive Sponsor, with a clear vision who places trust in the people chosen to run the program, is the foundation on which this program was built.   

A Program Wrapped in Process 

Chris and I took Mike’s vision and built an Archive “Factory”, leveraging Dell Technologies Factory Archive process.   

We began with Baptist Health’s list of 300+ applications that they’d identified as data archiving candidates. This is a list of applications from hospitals, practices, and other facilities throughout the Baptist Health care network. Next, we took that list and identified and prioritized the applications from most optimal candidates to the leastFactors such as cost-saving to the organization, determining whether the data is static (no updates are occurring), is the data accessible, and do we have access to the application’s Subject Matter Expert(s) (SME) to help us develop requirements, all factored into the analysis. Once an application was marked as “Ready to Archive,” we moved it in to the process – The Factory. 

To create an effective Factory, the pipeline of “ready” applications must be rich, the more applications in that pipeline the better. In the last blog, I discussed Return on Investment (ROI). I made the point, the more applications an organization archives the more cost-efficient archiving becomesEfficiencies are gained through this robust pipeline. From our past archiving engagements, we know that applications often get “stuck” somewhere in the process. Delays happen for various reasons. For example, it may be difficult to schedule time with users who are needed to develop requirements, or access to the application or its data may be delayed. Once the data is accessible it is mapped to each requirement to determine the feasibility of meeting the requirement. Sometimes extra work is needed to find a data element that satisfies the requirement or to understand the logic being applied in the legacy application. It may be that technical hurdles must be overcome during the development of the archived application. Whatever the reason, we know applications often don’t move through the process at the same pace.   

Though the process is defined, the pace at which the application moves through the process introduces a variable that must be managed. There are pieces of the process – early readiness vetting, a strong communication plan, expectation setting and other process components –implemented to ensure the application moves through the archive as efficiently as possible. Yet, the inevitability of applications getting stuck, and planning for such occurrences, is also part of the process. Mitigating the impact of stuck applications is accomplished through ensuring a certain volume of applications populates the Factory and – important piece here – structuring the team in a way that one or more resources can pivot from one application to another.   

The Adaptable Team 

At any time 10 applications may be in various stages in the Factory. Effective coordination is necessary, as is having a highly skilled team, with a “pivot” mind-set. Nine Dell Technologies resources staff the primary program roles: Business Analyst, Development, and Coordination. Sub-roles exist, as well. Developers, for instance, work on Extract – Transform – Load (ETL) activities, User Interface (UI) development activities, and Quality Assurance (QA) tasks.   

  • Rock stars like Tyler jump between UI and ETL tasks as needed. 
  • Prateek is the ETL specialist who has also helped coordinate some things for us.   
  • Charles, Juan, and Carlos are the UI developers who can jump into QA roles.   
  • Charles manages the InfoArchive platform and serves as the program’s architect.   
  • QA has saved us countless hours of re-work; Kirby mans this area and can transition to the Business Analyst role, when needed.   
  • All coordinated by Derek, the Development Lead.   
  • Point being – this team is skilled, cross-trained, coordinated, and has adopted flexibility as a staple of the way they work.  No one-trick ponies here. 

Nancy is our BA and is the face of the project. If there’s a secret sauce, Nancy is likely it. A rare skill set with a unique blend of high-tech and high touch. She spends time learning what the users need and captured those needs in easy-to-understand User Stories – our version of requirements. She’s able to effectively discern a need from a want. Her biggest contribution to the project – and I can’t emphasize this enough – is to take information and lessons learned and inject them back into the front of the process. Each time a conversation is initiated with a new user community, she effectively draws on the requirements derived from past archived applications and uses them to as starter points for this conversation. This is tremendously effective for new users who don’t really know what they need, might be fearful of losing functionality from their current application, and might be struggling to understand what an archived application might look like and how they’ll use it to get the information they need. What she does is raise the baseline. We don’t start from scratch trying to help users both envision a new way of getting to the data but also reducing their fear and anxiety in doing so. Instead of telling, she demonstrates. Instead of asking users to tell us what they need, she shows what others have done with similar requirements and asks if their needs are alike or different. And if that’s not enough, she’s an effective interface and advocate to the development team. Her user story drafts are easily understood by the developers, she participates in data mapping tasks and technical discussions. This is a role each program/project should have and rely on. She’s our glue, for sure. 

I’ve got to wrap up but can’t do so without discussing the Baptist team that’s with us on this journey. Initially Dell Technologies staffed every role, except Chris’. Baptist, having the desire to incorporate archiving as a staple in their hospital operations and acquisition strategies, has started to supplement the Dell team with resources to be trained in the Factory archiving technologies and processes. Both to eventually take over some of the less complex archiving tasks and to increase the Factory velocity, Baptist is assembling a team that is learning the development tasks (ETL and UI), QA activities, and BA processes. The approach to augmenting the Dell team allows Baptist to beef up skills in a new technology and to gain exposure to the tried and true processes. The positive impact of this approach is already felt.  Baptist Health is saving money by taking over tasks wherever their skill sets and availability allow. Their help and participation increases the speed at which “ready” applications can be archived – which saves Baptist money and more quickly.    

In Summary 

I’ve written a lot – likely exceeding my allotted space – and I could write much more.  I wanted to give you a sense of why this program has succeeded and continues to succeed.  So here it is in a nutshell: 

  • Grab yourself a committed Executive Sponsor. One who has a vision, rolls-up their sleeves in active participation, clears roadblock, and empowers and trusts the people he’s asked to help bring his vision to fruition.   
  • Use sound technology and employ proven repeatable processes. Spend time mulling over where technology and process might need beefing-up.  Continually evaluate and make change easy to incorporate and without fear of implementing it. 
  • Build a team with the right skills and –more importantly – the right mindset. Plan, coordinate, adjust effectively to allow the skilled resources to do their job without having to concern themselves with things that might derail their work. 

Next time, I’ll talk about some of the archived applications; how they effectively replaced the legacy solutions, functionality themes, and how readily the organization has adopted these solutions.  In the meantime, take a look at Baptist Health’s website if you haven’t already, and learn more about our Application Archive and Retirement services 

Read their full story here. Or watch the video.

About the Author: Scott Malson

Scott Malson is Dell Technologies Senior Program Manager, working in Dell Technologies Application Portfolio Optimization discipline, leading an Application Archiving Program for a large Healthcare organization based in Louisville Kentucky. As a Sr. Program Manager with many years of experience overseeing transformational programs for some of Dell Technologies most strategic customers, Scott Malson has a proven track record of successfully planning, developing, and implementing state of the art technical solutions that solve real business problems. Prior to joining Dell Technologies, Scott was an IT leader in the Automobile Insurance industry. This is Scott’s first foray into the blogging world, taking this opportunity to share his thoughts and experiences on a customer and technology about which he is most passionate.