An equation that supports healthcare IT infrastructure reliability

Common platform + standard infrastructure + unified support = reduced variability and increased predictability.
By Paul J. Williams
10:27 AM

Photo: Erik Isakson/Getty Images

Common platforms, infrastructure standards and unified support are three critically important elements that set the foundation to achieve and maintain operational efficiency, environment stability and cost effectiveness. We can look at each element of the equation separately and see how they complement and directly impact the need for a holistic approach to supporting business operations.

Common platform

A common platform typically refers to a shared technological foundation or infrastructure that enables multiple systems, applications or components to work together seamlessly. It provides a standardized environment or set of tools that facilitate interoperability, data exchange and collaboration among various entities. 

In the context of software development or information technology, a common platform can be a programming framework, operating system, database system, communication protocol or cloud computing infrastructure that serves as a foundation for building and integrating different software solutions. It allows developers and users to leverage common resources, interfaces and functionalities to reduce duplication of effort and promote efficiency.

In other domains, such as business or governance, a common platform may refer to a shared framework, set of standards, or collaborative space that enables different organizations, stakeholders or individuals to work together towards a common goal or objective. It promotes coordination, information sharing and collective decision-making.

It’s important to think of common platforms from each of these lenses in order to benefit from the full scale of this approach. Overall, a common platform fosters integration, collaboration and compatibility, enabling diverse entities to connect and interact effectively within a unified environment. Common platforms provide scale, reduce costs and increase efficiency in various ways. Here are a few ways in which common platforms can achieve these benefits:

  • Standardization. Common platforms often offer standardized tools, interfaces and processes that allow different teams or organizations to work together seamlessly. This standardization reduces complexity and enables more efficient collaboration as teams leverage existing resources and expertise.
  • Centralized infrastructure. Common platforms provide centralized infrastructure and services, such as cloud computing, data storage and networking resources. By pooling these resources organizations can benefit from economies of scale, so reducing costs compared to maintaining individual infrastructure setups. Additionally, the centralized nature of these platforms often leads to increased reliability and availability.
  • Shared services. Common platforms can offer shared services, such as authentication systems, payment gateways, analytics tools or content delivery networks. By utilizing these shared services, organizations can avoid duplicating efforts and costs associated with developing and maintaining their own solutions. This allows them to focus on their core competencies and allocate resources more efficiently.
  • Integration and interoperability. Common platforms often provide standardized interfaces and APIs that enable easy integration with other systems. This interoperability allows organizations to connect their existing tools and systems with the platform, streamlining workflows and reducing the need for custom development or manual data transfers. This integration leads to increased efficiency by automating processes and reducing manual errors.
  • Scalability. Common platforms are typically designed to handle large volumes of users, data and transactions. This scalability ensures that organizations can accommodate increasing demands without significant investments in infrastructure or development. By leveraging the platform's scalability, organizations can grow their operations efficiently and handle peak loads without disruption.

Overall, common platforms offer economies of scale, standardization, shared services, interoperability and access to ecosystems that collectively contribute to reducing costs, increasing efficiency and improving overall organizational performance.

Standard infrastructure

Adhering to standard infrastructure can indeed increase predictability and reduce variability in many cases. This is because standard infrastructure typically follows established industry best practices and norms, which have been proven to work well in many different scenarios. By using standard infrastructure, organizations can benefit from the experience and expertise of others who have already solved similar problems.

Additionally, standard infrastructure often has well defined processes and procedures in place for deployment, maintenance and troubleshooting, which can help reduce variability and ensure consistent outcomes. This can be particularly important in large-scale systems, where even small variations can have significant impacts. 

However, it is important to note that there may be cases where custom infrastructure or nonstandard configurations are necessary to meet specific business requirements. In such cases it may be necessary to balance the benefits of adhering to standards with a need for flexibility and customization.

Adhering to infrastructure standards contribute to achieving increased predictability and reduce variability in various ways:

  • Consistency. By following established infrastructure standards, you can ensure that all the components of your infrastructure are built and configured in a consistent way. This can help reduce variability in performance and behavior, making it easier to predict how the infrastructure will behave under different conditions.
  • Compatibility. Standards-based infrastructure components are designed to work together seamlessly. This can help reduce compatibility issues and make it easier to integrate new components into your infrastructure. By reducing variability in how components interact with each other, you can increase predictability and reduce the likelihood of unexpected behavior.
  • Testing and validation. Infrastructure standards often come with testing and validation requirements that help ensure that components meet certain performance and reliability criteria. By adhering to these standards, you can increase the predictability of your infrastructure's behavior and reduce the likelihood of failures or downtime.
  • Interoperability. Infrastructure standards often promote interoperability between different systems and components. This can help reduce variability in how different systems and components work together, and make it easier to predict how your infrastructure will behave in complex environments.

Overall, adhering to infrastructure standards can help increase predictability and reduce variability in your infrastructure. By building and configuring your infrastructure according to established best practices, you can help ensure that it performs reliably and consistently over time.

Unified support

Unified support refers to the practice of consolidating multiple platforms or systems into a single, standardized infrastructure for providing support services. It involves streamlining and centralizing support processes, tools, and resources to improve efficiency, effectiveness and user experience.

By implementing unified support, organizations can eliminate redundancies, reduce costs and enhance the overall support experience for both customers and internal users. Here are some key benefits and considerations associated with unified support:

  • Efficiency. Standardizing infrastructure and platforms enables support teams to operate more efficiently. They can leverage common tools, processes and workflows, which leads to faster response times, quicker issue resolution and improved productivity.
  • Cost savings. Consolidating multiple platforms into a unified support infrastructure can reduce maintenance and licensing costs associated with managing multiple systems. It eliminates the need for duplicate resources and allows organizations to optimize their support operations.
  • Consistency. Unified support promotes consistency in service delivery across different channels and touchpoints. It ensures that customers and users receive the same level of support regardless of the platform or device they use, thereby enhancing their experience and satisfaction.
  • Knowledge sharing. A unified support infrastructure facilitates better knowledge management and sharing. By centralizing support resources and information, organizations can create a comprehensive knowledge base that is accessible to support agents and customers alike, leading to faster issue resolution and improved self-service capabilities.
  • Scalability. Standardizing infrastructure makes it easier to scale support operations as the organization grows. New platforms or systems can be integrated into the unified infrastructure more seamlessly, enabling efficient support expansion without significant disruptions.

However, implementing unified support also requires careful planning and consideration of various factors, such as:

  • Integration challenges. Consolidating multiple platforms or systems into a unified infrastructure may involve complex integration processes. Compatibility issues, data migration, and system interoperability need to be carefully addressed to ensure a smooth transition.
  • User adoption. Users and support agents may need to adapt to the new unified support system. Adequate training and change management efforts are crucial to ensure successful adoption and minimize resistance to the changes.
  • Flexibility and customization. While standardization brings many benefits, organizations should also consider the need for flexibility and customization. Some specific support requirements or unique features may not be easily accommodated in a unified infrastructure, and balancing standardization with tailored support may be necessary.

Overall, unified support offers organizations an opportunity to streamline their support operations, increase efficiency, and improve the support experience for both internal and external stakeholders. It is a strategic approach that requires careful planning, implementation and ongoing optimization to reap its full benefits.

Paul J. Williams, is the associate vice president of information services infrastructure technology at Penn Medicine.

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