As both the biggest chain pharmacies in the United States and the owner of Aetna health insurance, CVS Health had no time to lose preparing the global COVID-19 pandemic. The organization had to condense its two-year rollout of Office 365 Teams down to less than three months to prepare 98% of the organization’s 40,000 corporate employees who are now working from home (in addition to the 60,000 front-line employees working in stores).
Add to this challenge is how the company is growing by leaps and bounds — CVS acquired ten major companies over the last ten years and has, in less than a month, opened up 50,000 new jobs.
“Fortunately we are prepared,” said Melissa Person-Ashforth, CVS Health’s head of API integrations and digital ecosystems in the Office of the CTO, via a Zoom call.
The most important part of Person-Ashforth’s role is managing the enterprise API integrations and ecosystems for the whole CVS-Health platform. She manages the team of architects, developers quality assurance, production, and support, all responsible for the uptime of its data aggregation services.
The company takes its goal of upholding Service Level Agreements (SLA) very seriously, Person-Ashforth said, with response rates in the milliseconds and TPS Supplier Agreements that go as high as a million per second.
“We’ve had delays — and my team and I are pitching to the CIO” for upgrades, she said is always looking for opportunities to improve and modernize. One such strategy is a bigger move to the hybrid cloud. Currently. CVS is 25% cloud-based, and it is trying to rapidly transition to at least half of all operations.
Person-Ashforth says CVS is in constant business-continuity mode because not being sustainable during crises is simply not an option. Even in crisis mode, the company has got to have a backup.
When an AT&T circuit went down that effected CVS’ Cisco Webex deployment, meetings were switched from video conferences to their corporate mobile phones.
The work is extra challenging in that all customer data is subject to strong regulations and mandatory compliance training for Personal Health Information (PHI), Personally Identifiable Information (PII), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), E.U. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). These regulatory, compliance and security requirements carry over to the third parties they are serving APIs to, as well.
Work from Home
She said “We’re a healthcare company — we have to be proactive,” which is why CVS Health made an example of themselves by converting to remote-first nearly two months ago, well before many U.S. companies did.
She said this is a time — with folks working from home with kids — when flexible work and split shifts are essential, as well as a trust that people will meet their project deliverables, on budget and within spec.
“Even though it’s not, I feel it’s business as usual. We were already equipped with laptops and capabilities to do work from another site. My business travel went from 90% to 0%,” Person-Ashforth said.
When she realized she was working longer hours from home than usual — working when she would normally commute — she started setting some boundaries. Especially now, they may have customers on the west coast who need them to work late, but she’s encouraging her team to excuse themselves from meetings and not to work from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Feature image via CVS.