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Founded in 1961, Southern Cross Healthcare Group is a not-for-profit group of businesses focused on New Zealanders' health. The member-owned society group includes New Zealand's largest health insurance provider Southern Cross Health Insurance, which makes up 62% of the market and has an S&P financial rating of A+. The group also includes Southern Cross Hospitals as well as other insurance businesses.
Southern Cross's team of over 70 software development professionals were finding corporate IT and security standards too restrictive, limiting their ability to work creatively and do what they needed to deliver creative business outcomes. There was a growing divide between the Security Team and Development Teams with comments like "security is blocking my work" and "developers don't understand the risk of ransomware".
At the same time, Southern Cross had an aging fleet of laptop and desktop computers, was moving to flexible desk arrangements, and had developers who needed access to costly high specification machines. There was a need to decouple the software development environment from the corporate environment to provide greater developer flexibility and creativity while also maintaining business and security risk standards.
Southern Cross made the decision to move the software development teams onto Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD). AVD places peoples' Windows desktop, applications and data all in the cloud, enabling them to work on their Windows desktop securely from anywhere, on any device. Southern Cross worked with Microsoft Gold Partner Equinox IT to implement Azure Virtual Desktop.
With Equinox IT's help, Southern Cross:
The work was carried out during the difficult time of New Zealand's initial COVID-19 lockdown, which increased delivery expectations to meet the organisation's rapidly changing remote working needs.
AVD is a Microsoft cloud service which brings its own complexities and coupled with this Southern Cross's implementation was one of New Zealand's first and certainly the most complex.
"Any new technology has a settling in period, however knowing that the service is meeting the expectations of the end users and supporting teams is a great outcome."
~ Damon Cowley, Head of Information, Security and Risk Management, Southern Cross Healthcare Group
"It was an exciting engagement working with Southern Cross's Security and Development teams on the most complex Windows Virtual Desktop deployment in New Zealand. It was rewarding to deliver to this complex business outcome under the difficult conditions of COVID-19 lockdowns."
~ Ajit Garikipati, Consulting Architect, Equinox IT
Azure Virtual Desktop is still settling in at Southern Cross, but already the team has realised a number of benefits to help position them for continued health industry leadership. Outcomes included:
Microsoft Gold Partner Equinox IT helped Southern Cross assess, architect, implement and secure the Azure Virtual Desktop software development environment.
"Equinox IT provided a collaborative team approach to solutioning the new developer environment. Regular check-ins and updates helped to keep the momentum, as well as the establishment of user champions to really prove the solution was fit for purpose."
Damon Cowley Head of Information, Security and Risk Management Southern Cross Healthcare Group