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Inside Juniper’s radical IT transformation

Western Australia’s aged care provider Juniper embarked on an aggressive strategy to completely transform its IT operations in just two years

When Dan Beeston joined Juniper around two years ago as its ICT manager, he found himself in a traditional IT shop struggling to get a handle on a hodgepodge of systems and applications.

Shadow IT was the norm at Juniper – a provider of aged care services in Western Australia – due to the lack of IT governance while employees had multiple login accounts for different applications.

Mobility was not an option – the use of desktop PCs was prevalent as was the preference for owning assets in the organisation’s largely capital expenditure IT consumption model.

Adding to the burden of Juniper’s IT operations were different versions of the same applications being used across the organisation, along with efforts to maintain older systems that were longer needed.

“A lot of service units were going off to get their own systems without consulting IT,” Beeston told Computer Weekly. “We had a very fragmented organisation from a technology perspective.”

Driven by the need to transform its IT operations to support the aging population in Western Australia, Juniper developed a radical plan to turn things around. It appointed a managed service provider (MSP) and upended its IT consumption model in favour of services-based offerings.

These include a multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) service, as well as device as a service, through which Juniper leased new hardware such as iPads, smartphones and Microsoft Surface Books. The organisation’s IT service desk also became a fully managed service supported by engineers supplied by the MSP.

Beeston also bolstered the IT team with new roles that existing members had transitioned into. These included a cloud engineer who handles lift-and-shift application migration to the cloud, and a business intelligence analyst who deals with integration and analytics.

In addition, a business analyst role was created to ensure that IT was at the table in conversations around software, as well as to analyse Juniper’s existing software portfolio to decide if any of its applications needed to be replaced or upgraded.

On the front line, technology advocates were appointed to get employees up to speed with new technologies, including clinical applications that were installed on iPads at the point of care, enabling caregivers and nurses to update health records of residents and view their preferences.

Juniper is also a proponent of using data analytics to deliver high-quality care. Although it could easily tap Microsoft Azure’s analytics and infrastructure services since it uses Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualisation technology, it chose to go with Amazon Web Services (AWS).

It was more about building an environment that allowed us to be flexible, extract data and make people's lives better
Dan Beeston, Juniper

“We felt, as part of our strategy, that AWS would allow us to drive business analytics better. Initially it was just lift-and-shift, but now that we have internal resources, we’re in the process of setting up data lakes,” Beeston said.

To prevent a sprawl of systems and applications that were never decommissioned, a governance structure and IT chargeback were implemented to reflect the actual cost of hardware, applications and services to Juniper’s service units.

There was still one more thing to fix – resident and incident information was duplicated across multiple systems, making it difficult and time-consuming to locate and extract data for decision-making.

It soon became apparent that access to critical data had to be centralised on a single risk management platform, which in turn required integration with other systems such as clinical care, payroll, enterprise resource planning and a new identity and access management platform.

But manually integrating these systems would be far too complex and costly. So, Juniper turned to Boomi’s integration platform, which Beeston’s team now uses to integrate different systems and move data between them without the need for additional administrative staff.

Change management

Beeston said getting buy-in from board members was the first step in Juniper’s change management strategy. “It’s a board-level initiative and they're driving the top down approach,” he added.

That meant rolling out initiatives at the corporate office first, and when the staff in care facilities saw the benefits and improvements, there was greater buy-in when the initiatives were rolled out widely, Beeston said.

As for technology change management, the multitude of technology products and services involved in Juniper’s transformation roadmap meant that IT teams did not have the luxury of time or resources to figure out, for instance, how a server had been configured previously.

“We had a lot to deal with, so we moved things along quickly to see what breaks,” Beeston said. “We had good testing scripts and made sure everything was tested. And after we made the change, we would roll things back if there was an adverse effect.”

Fortunately for Beeston, the cost of executing an aggressive transformation strategy was not a big concern. “It was more about building an environment that allowed us to be flexible, extract data and make people's lives better,” he said.  

Beeston said while it was hard to quantify the outcomes of the strategy in terms of cost savings or productivity improvements, tangible benefits could be seen across Juniper’s workforce.

“The staff tell me that they get to leave on time now and our resources have been freed up through things like identity management to improve the quality of care.

“It was disruptive but that’s okay because we needed to drive an aggressive strategy – and we’ve been quite successful with that,” he said.

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