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Becoming Cloud Smart: Learn from CVS Health

Sumit Dhawan

A key theme at this year’s VMware Explore 2022 focused on how organisations navigate the challenges of moving from “cloud chaos” to “cloud smart.” With a cloud smart approach to building multi-cloud architectures, enterprises have the freedom to select the right cloud for the right app. (VMware CEO Raghu Raghuram shared additional perspective on cloud smart.)

During this year’s General Session, we discussed this journey in detail with one leading organisation and VMware customer – CVS Health, one of America’s most innovative health solutions companies with more than 9,600 pharmacy locations nationwide and over 300,000 employees. 85% of Americans live within 10 miles of a CVS pharmacy location, with 4.8 million consumers visiting a location daily, and 45 million unique digital consumers further expanding its online reach.

I was honoured to be joined on stage at VMware Explore by Roshan Navagamuwa, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer of CVS Health, to learn more about how CVS Health leverages a “technology forward” cloud-smart strategy.

During one of the most uncertain periods in recently history, CVS Health played an instrumental role in responding to the challenges of COVID-19. Since the pandemic began, it has administered more than 50 million vaccines and more than 32 million COVID-19 tests. The company continues to embrace innovation in order to meet the health needs of customers, including increasing mental and virtual health services.

A few take-aways from our discussion:

Begin with a focus on organisational goals.

As Roshan put it, “We started with our imperatives as a health care business, which are to drive improved outcomes, lower costs, higher levels of engagement, and broader access to high quality care. Our initial focus was making the consumer experience easier and more convenient, leveraging smarter and more efficient technology.” He stressed the importance of enabling colleagues across CVS Health with the tools and capabilities they need to keep customer promises in a dynamic and fast-paced environment. Underpinning these consumer and colleague capabilities are cloud-based platforms and automated processes.

The journey to cloud smart requires taming complexity.

CVS Health’s cloud journey initially began with its digital and analytics team, expanding over time to include its broader community of application developers. Use cases grew quickly from scale-scale opportunities to products and experiences that are now core to the business.

In early stages of the cloud journey, teams worked with speed and loose coordination in a federated governance model. A few years ago, however, Roshan described reaching an inflection point with large independent implementations within each cloud provider that led to increased cost and complexity.

Roshan’s team took a step back and reset to a more enterprise-optimised approach by consolidating into one team managing an integrated hybrid multi-cloud service and centralised controls and governance. Today, CVS Health leverages a more cohesive hybrid multi-cloud operating model focused on its priorities of ensuring reliable, secure operation with financial control and accountability; an increasingly better developer experience; and reusable products that are easier to integrate.

All of these capabilities ultimately enable business value with the agility needed to deliver on CVS Health’s mission; an example can be seen in their ability to quickly build and integrate health equity analytics into its COVID-19 response, distributing millions of vaccines to underserved populations.

Break down silos as technology teams continue to converge in function.

Roshan and I also discussed the trend of convergence among technology teams. I know from my own conversation with many customers and CIOs that a common challenge has been organisations keeping cloud teams in their own silos. Many “cloud first” enterprises have set up a variety of siloed teams – public cloud operations, platform engineering, and private cloud teams. While the formation of these teams has helped organisations cultivate specialised skill sets, it has also often created complexity, confusion, and chaos.

Roshan shared how CVS Health tackled this challenge, converging multiple teams into a more cohesive cloud services team. This helped streamline a number of burdensome processes, optimise workloads, and drive more automation – ultimately shortening the journey from idea to working software. This was also true of the team’s approach to strengthening the colleague experience. “We converged disparate teams that delivered and supported colleague technology into one team, focused on colleague experience,” Roshan said. “We were intentional about the technology choices best suited to support a mobile workforce and our retail team members – especially our front-line health care workers like pharmacists and nurse practitioners.” As he shared with us, streamlining the colleague experience has allowed their focus to be centred on patients rather than burdensome manual processes.

VMware’s portfolio of cross-cloud services enables organisations to navigate their own journeys to cloud smart and ensure accelerated app dev, consistent enterprise infrastructure, and frictionless app-access experience.

The promise of multi-cloud is enabling organisations to focus their time, energy, and resources on innovations that improve customer experience and accelerate growth. I was inspired to hear from Roshan how embracing the potential of cloud smart has helped to enable CVS Health’s impact in delivering consumer-centric health care.

Learn more about our latest innovations announced at VMware Explore.