CVS Health puts customers at the center in product management shift

CIO Roshan Navagamuwa explains how a software engineering culture and four-layer architecture are helping $268B CVS Health become the world’s leading health solutions company.

Roshan Navagamuwa, CIO, CVS Health
CVS Health

CVS Health is one of the largest businesses in the world, with the mission to be a technology innovator in providing frictionless health services to their millions of customers. How does a business of that scale, with a recent a massive acquisition (Aetna) and previous acquisition of Caremark, change the way it develops and delivers technology?

That is what I asked Roshan Navagamuwa, who joined CVS Health in 2012 and became CIO in 2019. To follow is an edited version of our interview.

Martha Heller: What is a capability that CVS Health has put into the market that exemplifies your approach to your customers’ experience?

Roshan Navagamuwa: We believe digital capabilities are key to the mission of making healthcare consumer centric. We want to make it easy for people to engage with us digitally while protecting their privacy and make it harder for bad actors. An example of how we’re doing this is through our next-generation authentication (NGA) solution that goes way beyond user IDs and passwords. There are characteristics that are unique to a given individual that this solution employs, and it can “step up” security by requiring additional validation steps if needed. It’s an example of our risk-based approach:  to start with what the desired experience should be and then solve technical and other problems in new ways to bring these experiences safely and securely to life.

Why is NGA an important part of CVS Health's overall goal?

We live and work more digitally than ever before, and the pandemic accelerated this trend. NGA is important because, put simply, we must make digital access just as easy as the motion-activated doors of our retail locations. Simplifying experiences and making things easier for people to access the care they need is a fundamental guiding principle for us. NGA is one example of how we are striving towards that principle.

What approach does the enterprise IT team take to bring solutions like NGA to life?

Our consumer-centric approach is enabled by two pillars within IT. The first is a product-oriented model, and the second is an architectural framework that has four layers: experiences, products, platforms, and infrastructure. Experiences come to life by connecting products, which in turn leverage shared platforms, such as data and infrastructure, such as cloud.

By leveraging these layers, we are breaking down large legacy applications into smaller component products that can be reused in a composable architecture. For example, in the past, authentication was embedded into an application. Today, we are externalizing and reusing it to be more efficient and enable a more consistent and progressive consumer experience.

How do you treat data in your architecture?

We treat data as an enterprise asset and enable that through a platform approach. Our enterprise data platform collects and connects data, applies rules that enforce compliance, and provides services for business capabilities. We are in the process of modernizing this platform for hyper scale and real-time capabilities, while continuing to embed security, compliance and privacy principles as part of the fabric.

This platform approach to data helps us better personalize experiences for consumers, improve operations, and drive better outcomes overall. We can be more agile when we have high-quality, readily available services that our product teams can leverage.

How do experiences fit into the architecture?

Experiences, such as NGA, are generated by combining products to enable a particular service or, at a broader level, a customer journey. This is what we mean by a composable architecture. This approach maximizes reuse, agility, and flexibility to create and adapt consumer and team member experiences.

In a dynamic and increasingly digital environment, consumer and business needs can change on a dime. The ability to quickly compose the experiences that work best for that need, at that time, is a critical advantage.

Where do APIs come in?

Seamless experiences can only come alive if they are powered by APIs for every part of the customer journey. APIs are the way to dynamically combine and configure how a service or an experience will work, by exchanging instructions and data through these interfaces.

We are on a journey to API-enable everything and manage these efforts deliberately, at scale. We have work to do to rationalize what we have and align our teams on a future approach that optimizes management capability and velocity, but we’ve made great progress.

We’ve talked about experiences, products, and platforms. How are you approaching the infrastructure layer?

Infrastructure should be software-driven. CVS Health has both a public and private cloud infrastructure to support this. We are also working aggressively to shift more to the public cloud while strategically refreshing our data centers with modern software-driven infrastructure.

In parallel, we’re also working to integrate infrastructure as code (IAC) as part of our devsecops practice for teams that are at the right stage of maturity. When done well, this is a powerful enabler of speed and efficiency that drives ultimate resilience.

How does your product model change funding?

When we fund a product, we establish dedicated product teams that have a sustained focus on developing the product through a fluid roadmap. This translates to better experiences that can keep up with consumer and business needs, creating more value over time. This approach is in contrast with the more conventional model of annual planning and funding of projects with static scopes, benefits, and start and end dates.

There are defined areas where we do this well today, using long-term funding and taking a value-indexed test, learn, scale approach. We are working on expanding this model thoughtfully to have a bigger impact across our broad suite of assets.

CVS Health is a $268 billion business with over 300,000 employees. What have you learned about change management in leading transformation at such a massive scale?

We must be just as focused on change management as we are on the strategic initiatives themselves. To that end, we have a dedicated transformation management office (TMO) within IT to ensure this focus.

We took two additional steps. First, we made a commitment to learning and development through a "tech university" model for our teams. Second, we stood up a tech council to steer and drive technology to be a more strategic enabler of the business.

Foundational to all of this is bi-directional communication. We must explain what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and why it matters to our team members, and listen to their feedback in turn. The important part is to have the dialogue and translate insights into actions that make sense. Managers down the line are incredibly important in this process, making change local and giving individuals a personal stake in it. We used the objectives and key results (OKR) framework to enable this.

Ultimately, I strongly believe purpose and mission matter when making a transformation like this. CVS Health has a deeply motivating purpose and mission worth striving for—even if it always remains just out of reach—because consumers and patients will always need and deserve more.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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