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Mark Jones of CA Technologies on Application Testing, the Business of ACA and Data Interoperability

Mark Jones of CA Technologies on Application Testing, the Business of ACA and Data Interoperability - top government contractors - best government contracting event

Mark jones (1)Mark Jones serves as senior sales director at CA Technologies, where he oversees the public sector healthcare vertical.

He has been at the Islandia, NY.-based firm for close to 20 years where he has held a number of leadership roles and has worked with federal customers for 18 years.

Jones spoke to ExecutiveBiz about a variety of subjects including the testing of applications thoroughly before they go live,  how the Affordable Care Act is providing new business opportunities to government contractors and CA’s Lisa suite of products.


ExecutiveBiz: What are some of the larger accomplishments you would point to since joining CA Technologies in 1995?

CA-technologies-logo EbizMark Jones: In my role, I’m responsible for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Social Security Administration, and the Defense Health Agency, and anything related to healthcare within those agencies, and some cross agencies as well.

I started out in a customer service role, which is essentially just making sure the clients were using the products in the manner in which they were supposed to use them and making sure there was the requisite adoption. Along the way, there have been multiple promotions, from CSR to inside sales to account rep to account director to senior sales director and VP.

I would say my biggest accomplishments are related to standardization around the different agencies. Back when I first started, there was very little standardization and automation within federal agencies. This was even prior to FISMA and prior to the Clinger‑Cohen Act.

We have had multiple partnerships where we’ve helped organizations bring some of the major applications to production and provided them the visibility they needed for troubleshooting and triage and to ensure that these applications were able to be used by their stakeholders in the manner in which they were supposed to be used.

Our goal has always been to go up the stack. So, although we manage enterprise infrastructure, desktops, etc., our real goal is to make sure that we can help organizations and agencies provide the services that they need to provide to their constituents. We have made a lot of moves for more innovative products in areas around development and end‑to‑end transaction and transaction management.

We’re really positioned very well and the groundwork we’ve done over the years has also enabled us to reach out to a lot of our contacts to show them how we continue to help them meet their mission goals. We’ve gone from an infrastructure firm to more of an application delivery management firm.


ExecutiveBiz: What do you focus on when you meet with your customers?

cell with appsMark Jones: Our organization is divided up into various business units. The one that is the most popular right now and is having the most success would be security.

As you provide access to mission‑critical applications for constituents via the Web, you can imagine all the security concerns. So, we have products around identity and access management to factor authentication that would ensure that if you need a level III authorization because this application contains PII or PHI, you can protect it in the manner in which it needs to be protected.

You can abstract that security layer to make it unnecessary to have all the security within the application. If you distract that layer, the end users hit that security layer before they’re granted access to applications.

So, as the government-to-consumer initiatives continue to roll, and then as the open data initiatives make it more important to expose agency data – oftentimes, agency data that was never exposed before – we have a variety of security solutions around securing APIs and applications that are very important today and are a part of the FISMA recommendations that each agency needs to address.

Secondarily, we have the service assurance, which essentially gives you the end‑to‑end visibility for any transaction. If you want to understand what the end user is experiencing when they’re trying to access your application, we can provide that visibility.

And if the end user is experiencing any sort of slowdown within the networks, we also have the ability to troubleshoot and triage to determine if that degradation in service is related to the network, to the application, or to the server.

Lastly, we have a business unit responsible for application delivery. So, when you’re building composite, complex applications, we have the ability to help you simulate a lot of these back‑end systems so you don’t have to build this huge infrastructure in the back end to test your systems.

It enables you to run these tests earlier in the cycle to make sure that your code is more mature, as opposed to putting an application into preprod with bugs and defects. We enable you to simulate those transactions much earlier in the development cycle and then we have a slew of automation products to take the manual labor out of your software development life cycle as you’re moving an application through development, tests, performance, preprod, etc.

Those three business units really contribute the lion’s share of CA revenue.


ExecutiveBiz: How has the Affordable Care Act affected how you’ve done business?

healthcareMark Jones: It goes back to the issue about application delivery, and the necessity when you’re building complex applications to make sure that you can do end‑to‑end testing earlier in the cycle.

With the Affordable Care Act, that’s put a spotlight developing complex applications and providing end‑to‑end testing throughout the life cycle. But, it’s not just the Affordable Care Act. There are any number of large applications that have the same sort of requirements. It’s made us really focus on the issues that need to be resolved.

If you build an application with the right code and you test earlier in the life cycle, you can ensure that the end user has a positive experience.

ACA and similar applications, whether it’s a financial application, whether it’s an electronic health record, whether it’s a case management system, all require incredible amounts of testing prior to going into production.

It’s taught us that you need to be involved earlier in the development cycle in order to make sure that you can help the agency mitigate risk when it’s rolling into production.

What’s been exposed through ACA is really not that much different from how we’ve been going to market before. It’s just shined a brighter spotlight on it because of the political nature of that application.


ExecutiveBiz: What are some other applications you are working on?

Mark Jones: Probably what we’re most excited about right now is our Lisa suite of products. Let’s say that I have an electronic health record that has a core set of functionality.

Now, I’m going to be using multiple other products that need to integrate with the electronic health record, and I want to make sure that any application that I integrate with it doesn’t have a negative consequence. I can simulate all these back‑end systems to understand what the implications are for development and testing, so I don’t have to build all these back‑end systems.

I can simulate these systems, and I can run tests against them. For building applications and building complex applications, that is the product that we’re very excited about, because these are things that, in years past, you weren’t able to do.

Part of the issue that you have with building these applications is you can’t test anything till you have everything, which means that your end-to-end testing typically waits until the very end of the project. Think about that.

If you’re waiting to test all of your components until the very end of the project, and you encounter a number of bugs, or quite a bit of bad code, you really don’t have enough time to change what needs to be changed in order to roll it into production.

And you certainly don’t understand the impact of scalability. So, by having the ability to simulate these back‑end systems and provide end‑to‑end testing earlier in the cycle, we can prevent a lot of the issues that arise when you’re trying to develop new applications and roll them into production with little or no defects.

The whole Lisa suite of products allows us to have discussions that we never could before. We normally would just have discussions around infrastructure and operations. Now, we can have very innovative discussions about how we can help your development efforts succeed and those are things we could never have done in the past.

We’re bringing more innovative products to market than we have in the past. So, we’re uniquely positioned in areas that we weren’t before.


ExecutiveBiz: What’s going to be driving change in the industry moving forward?

Mark Jones: Interoperability and the transfer of data among a variety of ecosystems. That’s where the industry is going. The ecosystem’s only going to get more complicated and complex because that data exchange and interoperability has to take place in order to meet incentives.

The healthcare ecosystem as a whole is going to have more and more data interoperability, which means there’s going to be more need for security. We believe securing that data across domains and boundaries and providing visibility into those transactions is key.

There’s going to be more need for application development. There’s going to be more need for end‑to‑end visibility into the transaction. There’s going to be more need to understand within data sets or within different applications what data is really important to me and what data is less important so I can get that sort of visibility.

So, instead of agencies buying all new applications or all new electronic health records, they’re going to have to figure out a way to exchange this information securely, whether its SOA or otherwise. We are in a unique position to provide those types of solutions when the data that you need access to is really outside of your control. We can provide security around that.

We can provide end‑to‑end visibility in that area. We can help you develop applications that normally would be constrained because you didn’t have access to the data. That whole ecosystem, we are very uniquely positioned to help to address those areas for agencies and clients.


ExecutiveBiz: What are you most excited about for your sales organization?

Health research managementMark Jones: As an organization, we’re really focused on helping these clients meet their mission. The budget now precludes agencies from going after every single priority.

They’re going to pick their priorities and we’re excited, because I have the large existing accounts within my organization where we have deep relationships and we have install bases.

We want to focus on making sure that the product’s used in the manner in which it should be and align it to their mission critical needs to make sure we’re providing that security, end‑to‑end visibility, and application delivery automation that helps them meet the requirements they have for their stakeholders.

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Written by David J. Barton

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