Florida Blue, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, is committed to enabling healthier communities through affordable medical insurance and services. But ensuring healthy digital experiences for the insurance provider’s more than 6,500 employees — most of whom worked remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic? That’s been a more recent project for the enterprise’s senior IT manager, William Smierciak, and service operation teams.
As public health guidelines and restrictions in early 2020 sent employees to work from home, and IT support tickets began rolling in, Smierciak and Florida Blue’s IT team quickly discovered their old way of troubleshooting was not sufficient for a distributed workforce. In order to address increasing remote work problems in a timelier manner, IT needed to gain better visibility of employees’ home internet networks and wireless configurations; optimize connectivity and network performance; and streamline IT service operations.
That’s why Florida Blue chose Lakeside Software’s leading digital experience management (DEM) solution to understand what remote workers experience, the root cause, and more efficient ways of providing IT support. Now Lakeside’s Digital Experience Cloud, powered by SysTrack, helps the enterprise reduce triage time, speed up troubleshooting, and improve productivity for all of Florida Blue’s employees.
“This has been one of the most impressive products that we have used in the environment,” said Smierciak during his session on improving employee productivity at Lakeside’s DEXterity Virtual Conference 2021, “and as we move forward, our utilization is only going to grow.”
Here’s a closer look at how Florida Blue made it happen.
Challenge: Slowness and Long Resolution Times for Remote Workers
“Everything is slow.” That’s the biggest complaint Florida Blue’s IT teams hear from roughly 30-40% of remote employees using laptops and other Wi-Fi devices for their VPN sessions, according to Smierciak.
But, of course, that doesn’t give IT technicians a lot to go on. And before implementing Lakeside’s DEM solution, it took IT teams a great deal of time — sometimes hours, days, or even weeks — to triage service tickets, investigate what end users experienced, and narrow down the root cause of the problem.
For the past 15 to 20 years, Florida Blue’s IT team has depended on a very manual way of troubleshooting slowness and other issues:
- With remote assistance, troubleshooting involved interrupting the user’s work to review logs, observe symptoms first-hand, or “tweak” the system to improve the experience. Without remote assistance, though, technicians would need to go on location, or have the user bring in their device for servicing.
- IT teams remotely pull Event Viewer or application logs (when available) and spend time to manually go through them.
- Lots of Googling to come up with ideas for what to do.
- User ended up with a new device while IT continued troubleshooting with the old one. It was faster to just provide employees with a new machine, reinstall apps, etc.
Even after devoting all that time and all those resources, though, the process was very hit-or-miss, Smierciak admitted. In the end, IT couldn’t always identify the exact issue and the exact solution.
“While we were trying to identify a possible solution or a ramp up to a systemic solution for the entire enterprise, it didn’t come without a cost from either the user, the technician, or even from the vendor,” Smierciak said. “All of that equals time, and obviously time equals money.”
A clip from Smierciak’s session, Improving Employee Productivity Through Network Optimization and IT Service Efficiency, during Lakeside’s DEXterity Virtual Conference 2021 held in May.
Solution: All-in-One View with Lakeside’s Digital Experience Cloud
To avoid time-consuming troubleshooting and create more productive digital experiences, Florida Blue began piloting Lakeside’s Digital Experience Cloud in early 2020.
Powered by SysTrack’s intelligent edge architecture, the highly scalable DEM solution gathers more than 10,000 metrics directly from endpoints every 15 seconds — even if devices are being used at remote locations or outside the corporate network. That rich repository of granular data from across the IT estate, combined with SysTrack’s intelligent analysis, then provides organizations with deeper insights into their digital environments, both in real time and through historical trends, as well as the issues that are impacting end-user experience and productivity.
A screen grab of Smierciak describing how he and others use SysTrack dashboards to get a high-level view of the issues impacting an end user’s device.
Within a few months of using Lakeside’s DEM solution, Smierciak and his teams were able to review error logs in mere minutes — not hours or even days like before. They could also save logs locally for vendor support with minimal or zero impact to end users. And the single pane of glass perspective of system performance impacts — through dynamic dashboards and reports — made it simpler to get up to speed.
With these capabilities, Florida Blue’s IT teams were finally able to see the “slowness” users were experiencing, right as it was happening.
“This is huge for the service desk and some of our leadership who like to be able to see an all-in-one, encompassing image,” Smierciak said. “This has been pretty important for a lot of our teams to be able to look at users’ dashboards, see the impact, and get a better idea of what that user experience actually is.”
A screen grab of Smierciak highlighting app latency graphing within Resolve, a Digital Experience Cloud app.
Graphing app latency, for example, has greatly reduced a lot of guesswork, he added. Instead of relying on users without technical knowledge to offer clues, IT techs can find more precise, detailed information through the graphing function in Resolve. Service tickets with graphs and other granular details are also invaluable for enterprises that require a lot of documentation, Smierciak pointed out, allowing for easier follow-up and auditing.
Insights from Lakeside’s Digital Experience Cloud has also helped Florida Blue address the critical question at the heart of every connectivity and network issue: Is it really the corporate VPN at fault, or is it the internet service provider?
“Prior to us having SysTrack, we had to go based on the word of the user and their phone call to Comcast, or AT&T, or other internet service provider … (telling) them that their internet is fine and that the problem is with their company’s VPN or connected network,” Smierciak said. “The back and forth of blaming the enterprise or blaming the VPN network, it really created a lot of problems between the IT staff, the user who is having the issue who just wants the problem fixed, and the internet service provider.”
Result: 'SysTrack Saved Time, Energy, and … Dollars’
After about six months of piloting Lakeside’s Digital Experience Cloud, Florida Blue slowly rolled out the digital experience management solution to its expansive production environment. And it didn’t take long for Smierciak and IT teams to notice some immediate benefits:
- Service desk staff had immediate visibility into end-user experience
- Reviewing and diagnosing issues was faster since IT technicians can learn more at first touch
- Ticket routing was improved with proper ID
- Clearer understanding of symptoms and correlation
- Precise graphing of each app and its time to launch, communicate, remote, and return
- Detailed reporting on users’ home networking issues for both wired and wireless
- Insight into CPU/RAM/page file impacts that degrade system performance
- Central location for system logging and filtering options to cut through the clutter
Triaging also became much faster, thanks in large part to insightful, customizable dashboards that expand IT visibility across the enterprise’s digital environment.
“We didn’t have to walk somebody to that desk or remote control that machine, open up multiple windows, go into different system settings or containing windows to try and get that information,” Smierciak said. “It was all within that single pane of glass.”
As a result, Florida Blue is reaping the benefits of small, timesaving wins that are adding up. Dispatching fewer mid-level support team members to desks that are spread out across several floors and buildings, for example, has saved countless hours, Smierciak said. IT teams can also easily identify problematic servers through SysTrack dashboards instead of manually checking the connection details for hundreds of user devices.
That’s only the start. Uninterrupted productivity, faster troubleshooting, and a drastically reduced number of new devices shipped out to remote users experiencing connectivity issues have also helped the health insurance provider gain more value from Lakeside’s Digital Experience Cloud.
“SysTrack saved time, energy, and … dollars for our organization in the last year,” Smierciak said. “Those small, medium-sized wins for us equated to a much larger win to the end user because it was less time waiting, less time guessing. But at the same time, with the leadership looking at the reports, looking at the charts, seeing less tickets improperly routed and so on, it’s been very impressive to see just from our initial deployment.”
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Lindsey Poisson is a technical journalist at Lakeside Software focused on the latest news, trends, and innovations in the IT industry and digital experience management market. Previously an award-winning newspaper reporter, she now delves into topics surrounding remote work, digital employee experience, proactive IT support, and the future of work. She also currently lives, works, and adventures around Ann Arbor, Michigan.