4 Steps to Prepare for Open Enrollment: Ready for Takeoff?
Before you're 30,000 feet in the air, there are many safety precautions taken to ensure that an aircraft is ready for flight. External checks, engineering prep, internal checks, and visual inspections are all critical components to securing a safe flight. These extensive checks make aviation one of the safest forms of travel, especially compared with driving.
Of the many considerations that make flying generally safer than most other forms of transport, perhaps the most important ones are preparation and precautions. No aircraft goes in the air without being triple-checked.
Ensuring technical and operational readiness
We have a similar approach here at Akamai when preparing our customers’ websites and critical applications for peak events. Since we help the world’s largest retailers get ready for peak spending seasons, like Boxing Day and Black Friday, and the world’s largest streaming companies prepare for new movie or TV show releases, we’ve developed runbooks and checklists to help ensure that websites and applications remain available and efficient.
Ensuring technical and operational preparedness to effectively manage influxes of traffic is key to a successful open enrollment season, especially as patients and members flock to online portals, which they expect to perform as well as the best sites in the consumer space.
In fact, the transformation in healthcare’s digital maturity even over the last two years makes open enrollment a great opportunity to reassess website preparedness and the underlying security measures. To help, we've written this blog post to share some high-level tidbits on how best to prepare for and manage traffic ebbs and flows.
Step 1: define objectives
The first step in any project is key. The first step we take here at Akamai is to define the objectives and limitations. Orienting teams around a clear objective makes the following steps much easier to execute.
Key questions that we ask during this time are:
What are your needs?
What has changed since last year?
How are you measuring the success of this project?
How are you protecting your critical websites and applications?
We also find that using this time to review the previous year’s open enrollment is a great way to ensure that mistakes don’t transfer over year to year.
Once the scope and objectives of the project is set, it’s time to begin preparations for the big event.
Step 2: prepare
Step 2 is arguably the most labor intensive. Once you decide what you’d like to accomplish, it's time to build a plan to achieve it. In fact, our colleague Michael Hansen, a senior engagement manager in retail, has written at length about holiday readiness for the retail industry, and many of those lessons are applicable here for open enrollment readiness. We say this stage is the most labor intensive because Michael spends three parts of that four-part series talking about the importance of preparedness and what it looks like from different facets of the business.
Let’s dive into some highlights. We like to think of the “prepare” stage of open enrollment as a time of discovery, because you can’t plan for what you don't know. And although it's nearly impossible to prepare for every situation, there are concrete steps that you and your organization can take to ensure you're ready for whatever open enrollment throws at you.
As organizations are preparing, there are three subtasks that are integral to success. They are:
Updating and maintaining your security posture is essential, especially given the nature of ever-evolving threats. Malicious actors are getting smarter and more relentless, and they are continuing to try new techniques to evade detections. What better time to coordinate an attack than during one of the most important times of the year? Maintaining an optimal security posture should be paramount during your holiday preparation, as well as throughout the rest of the year.
Maintaining strategies for managing flash crowds and disaster recovery is the next subtask in preparing your organization for open enrollment. Asking hard questions like the ones below will be integral to best prepare your people and systems for that impending wave of traffic.
Can my current infrastructure handle at least two to six times the amount of traffic (sustained) compared with a normal day?
Are my websites and applications set up for failover in the event there are issues?
Do I have sufficient alerts and monitoring in place to catch issues quickly?
Implementing general performance-tuning recommendations is the last subtask in the preparations for open enrollment. Implementing optimizations and reporting will not only help with website performance, but also enhance the overall availability of your website or application. These features, all part of the Akamai Ion solution, should deliver the best experiences to your end users by accelerating and optimizing your website and API content.
Once these subtasks are met, you're ready for open enrollment!
Step 3: execute
The next, and perhaps most exciting, step is to execute the plans you've been developing for the past five months. The “execute” stage includes finalizing runbooks, finishing up proof of concepts, and other administrative work. This third step could be named “execute and communicate” because a successful execution is not possible without communication. If something goes wrong, you need to know who to reach out to within your organization and among your partners.
In the fourth and final blog post in his series, Michael emphasizes the role of alerting and monitoring “to make sure you are aware of the performance, health, and security posture of your website or application during the open enrollment traffic surge.” When something breaks, who are you going to call? Make sure you know the answer before starting this step.
Step 4: review
Step 4 is when you’re able to see the realization of all your hard work and you can make adjustments to improve your website for the future, if necessary. Some key data points to revise may be progress to key performance indicators and other metrics (member satisfaction, page abandonment rate, etc.) from all angles, including system, products, services, and support. Reviewing and revising key aspects like these will help ensure the continuous improvement of the process.
The review stage, if you followed all the aforementioned steps, will be a victory lap for you and your team. Now it's time to prepare again for next year!
Akamai is here to help
Scaling quickly from a few to thousands of users while securing member data and ensuring application availability is a Herculean task. Open enrollment, much like holiday readiness, is a stressful and risky activity. Patients and members expect applications and websites to run seamlessly for them, especially during an event as stressful as open enrollment.
Luckily, Akamai is here to help every step of the way. Connect with us for support and in-depth know-how of all open enrollment situations and more.
Any person. Any device. Anywhere. Akamai can help.