As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, I connected Paul Patarou, Sales Director at h.e.t. software to learn more about how the company redeveloped its field worker application on Windows Azure to reduce client IT overhead, speed time to market, and scale to accommodate large volumes of data. Read h.e.t. software’s success story here. Read on to find out what he had to say.
Himanshu Kumar Singh: Tell me about h.e.t. software.
Paul Patarou: h.e.t. software develops specialist solutions for social care providers in the United Kingdom and Australia. Based in Haverhill, near Cambridge, we are considered a leader in the sector, with 550 clients that deliver care across home care, residential and nursing homes, and supported living services.
HKS: Where did the idea for your field worker application originate?
PP: We have an excellent knowledge of our social care services clients and continually evolve our solutions to meet their needs. We recognized that recording the care and contractual details of thousands of care service support visits was a large overhead for these organizations. For example, processing timesheets and mileage claim forms, and creating schedules can take many hours of administrative time. Being able to gather information in the field is essential for delivering quality services efficiently.
In 2008, with mobile devices playing an increasing role in the delivery of care, we saw an opportunity to expand our services. There are 7,000 home care providers in the U.K. alone, but until recently there were no applications that supported carers to capture site information in real time. Our clients relied on staff to fill in sheets about visits, and then processed them at an office. Administration and labor costs are big concerns for our clients.
HKS: So you developed a field worker solution. How did it perform?
PP: We moved quickly to develop a system that responded to these challenges. The solution was a success, but we needed a hosting platform that could cope with the large spikes in data transmission throughout our 24 hours a day, seven days a week service. We realized that the platform we had was not going to be as scalable as we needed it to be. Our clients have to record all visit data because they’re required to show it to the Government agencies that fund the care. Millions of transactions take place every day, and volumes tend to peak at certain times. For example, carers will make more visits at breakfast, lunch, and dinner times, so they capture more data during these periods.
HKS: Tell me about CareManagerMobile.
PP: CareManagerMobile is an application delivered as a service on a mobile device through Windows Azure. The secure web application can be accessed on multiple smartphone platforms through an HTML 5 browser. It uses GPS location-based tracking to record real time visit information, including arrival and departure times. When a carer arrives at a service user’s location, confirmation of both the visit and tasks are updated automatically. New schedules and requests can be sent to the mobile device, while details around proof of care are recorded for both the care provider and the funding agency.
HKS: What are some of the developer benefits with Windows Azure?
PP: The development team can test new releases quickly and cost-effectively with Windows Azure because physical resources don’t need to be provisioned or configured. Windows Azure provides us with powerful staging, deployment, and management features. In addition, we get scalable on-demand storage, plus security and continuity of service.
HKS: What about customer benefits?
PP: With Windows Azure, CareManagerMobile can quickly scale up and down to meet customers’ data requirements and application resources are cost-effectively allocated through specialized web and worker roles. Network load balancing is automatically managed to provide continuous availability and customers are protected by a 99.95 percent uptime availability service level agreement.
And we charge for CareManagerMobile as an annual subscription, per-user so we can scale the application up and down according to data volumes. This way, our clients can significantly reduce the operations and maintenance cost of their IT while allowing them to scale without performance issues.
HKS: And the business benefits to h.e.t. software?
PP: Our solutions are used by around nine percent of the potential market in the U.K. Following a strategic marketing push in 2012, we predict that the number of customers using CareManagerMobile will grow rapidly. We’ve got the scalability to manage expansion without having to factor in new staff or resources.
Additionally, Windows Azure features allow us to develop software services we couldn’t have provided ourselves. For example, we can configure test solutions in minutes. This helps us deliver competitive products and new releases to market quickly.
Care is also enhanced. In the past we didn’t have the data to plan resources as effectively as we wanted to. Now, if a client asks a carer to complete additional tasks that cause the appointment to take longer than allocated, we can let the next person know. And, if this happens frequently with a particular client, we know we need to allocate more time to that client in future.
HKS: What are your future plans with Windows Azure?
PP: We plan to begin moving our entire care solution portfolio onto Windows in 2012. It makes sense for us to extend the cost and performance benefits of Windows Azure to all our clients.
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