Case Study

Scalable cloud infrastructure to support excellent customer experiences

Nava has partnered with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to optimize its cloud platform, CMS Cloud. Eventually, the number of applications CMS Cloud supports will quadruple, but costs and workloads won’t.

Summary

Nava partnered with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to optimize its cloud platform, CMS Cloud, and to make it easier for CMS to migrate from traditional data centers and build in the cloud. To ensure that CMS Cloud is accessible to everyone who may need it, we applied a human-centered approach across all of our engineering and design work, beginning with documentation and onboarding.

Approach

As CMS migrates out of traditional data centers, the hundreds of engineers, managers, and other stakeholders at CMS will reap the benefits of having their applications in the cloud, which offers secure, compliant, flexible, and cost-effective ways of managing applications and data. Teams will be able to work in the cloud how, when, and where they want, get support if and when they need it, and see what they’re spending in real time. And in turn, the people who rely on CMS for healthcare payment coverage will also benefit as CMS is able to more rapidly evolve and adapt to people’s needs in a changing world.

Outcomes

Cloud.cms.gov (only available with CMS VPN access) provides CMS Cloud customers — Business and System Owners, Contracting Officers, and Application Delivery Organizations (ADOs) — with all of the information, tools, and support they need to successfully migrate an application, build a new application, or operate in the cloud.

We launched the first version of cloud.cms.gov as a text-based website that provided a high-level overview of CMS Cloud. We made the simple structure easy to update so we could continue to make improvements while also saving engineering resources until we really needed them — when the platform became more robust and interactive.

We created more than 100 pages of technical documentation and contextual information. The increasing amount of relevant, accurate information helped CMS staff see the website as their go-to source for everything about working in CMS Cloud. As more people used it, we iterated on the design, structure, and navigation to make it easier to use and understand.

Katherine Brewer of CMS described it:

We now have an efficient, distributed content publishing model, a higher-quality build and more scalable operations, as well as a more visually engaging site...As a result, customer experiences drastically improved.

Process

To ensure moving to the cloud was as easy as possible, we audited and redesigned the onboarding experience of CMS Cloud customers. This was a first step toward automating the process. We started by documenting the existing process and all of the places customers were asked to provide information. Then we determined which were relevant and redesigned information-gathering across the touchpoints.

We then minimized redundant information, centralized important information, and proactively captured and verified necessary information to reduce cognitive load for CMS Cloud customers. 

Teams at CMS have long recognized that migrating to the cloud isn’t just a technical undertaking—it’s also a cultural change that requires new working norms. To help foster efficient working practices, we’re building a centralized authenticated workspace within cloud.cms.gov. This means that CMS Cloud customers can sign in and access shared services, tools, and real-time information about the systems and applications they’re working on.

Using an iterative approach

As we did when first designing and building cloud.cms.gov, we’re using an iterative approach to create the authenticated workspace. In its first iteration, the workspace consists of a dashboard that aggregates links that take customers to the tools and services they’re using and provides cost information to Business Owners. As customers use the workspace, we collect data about how they interact with the links to inform our improvements. 

CMS Cloud continues to expand the shared services offered, providing tooling that enables a modern DevSecOps approach. Providing easy-to-adopt tools for logging, monitoring, automated testing, and security scanning enables CMS to scale modern development practices, which also eases the burden of compliance and saves teams time and money. Once we set up a service or tool, every CMS Cloud customer can simply use it—they don’t have to spend time and resources to find, set up, and manage it on their own. For example, previously, customers who needed a logging tool would find, implement, and maintain one on their own. Now everyone can simply use an industry-leading logging tool to schedule regular maintenance and reports. This upgrade alone will save CMS more than $12 million annually.

Scaling CMS for better healthcare payment coverage

CMS currently runs approximately 160 applications in the cloud. By iteratively rolling out shared tools and workspaces, we hope to help them dramatically scale the work they can do and triple the number of applications CMS is running in the cloud. Helping CMS use the cloud more efficiently for secure, compliant, flexible, and cost-effective ways of managing data will help them better serve the millions of people that rely on them for healthcare payment coverage.

This case study appears in Nava's 2020 Public Benefit Report.


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