Self-Service Analytics: A Boon for Business Users

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print
Business analysis tools

Business analysis tools no longer fall within the exclusive domain of data scientists, as line-of-business users are tapping the power of self-service analytics.

The system has made data easily accessible and eliminated many of the barriers that typically exist. For example, Kenney-Janosz explains that by using a dashboard, "The Emergency Department can look at the previous day, double-click, drill down and look at particular patients. They can then understand whether it was during the time of the day when there were a lot of patients waiting to be seen or a different identifiable issue."

Hospital staff can also view data at an aggregate level to better understand overall trends. They can view behavior at different times of the day, patient wait times, complaints and other criteria.

The results have been revolutionary. Among other things, Elliot Health System has reduced the median time from check-in to discharge from 225 minutes to 110 minutes—a 50 percent improvement. This, in turn, has helped the facility better manage costs and resources.

The facility has also reduced re-admissions and improved clinical processes, including physician and nurse performance related to "Meaningful Use," a U.S federal government provision that incents health care providers to use digital media and tools to track patients. "We have data about physician performance that we can use in a practical and meaningful way," says Jonathan Mankus, program manager for the Center for Clinical Excellence at Elliot Health System.

Business Analysis Tools Empower Users

At the center of self-service business analysis is a simple but important question, according to EY's Schlesinger: How do we empower the business user who was previously left out of the equation? "In the past, business groups usually had no idea what data scientists were doing and what they were thinking," he points out.

Today, tools have advanced, and thinking about analytics is advancing. Business users have the ability to make decisions faster and better when an organization delivers the right combination of data and puts the right governance in place. Business users "can do drag-and-drop and use what-if scenarios to understand possibilities and opportunities," he says.

Success, Schlesinger says, revolves around three primary areas: the technical capabilities that tools deliver, including an organization's ability to support and grow with the technology; cultural factors, including who has access to the system, how they're able to use it and the required training to glean useful insights; and political factors about how decisions are made.

"In many cases with self-service analytics, the decisions are more about cultural and political issues than the actual technology," he says. Schlesinger also points out that many Millennials have foundational skills that align with self-service analytics, and many of them are entirely comfortable with these changes, while other groups may trail somewhat behind.

Schlesinger suggests that organizations begin by identifying a business case for analytics and then looking for opportunities to put it in the hands of business users. Ultimately, he says, it can lead to gains in performance and profitability, spur improvements in operational efficiency and cost savings, help understand competitors and an overall industry better, and, in some cases, create entirely new opportunities for products and services.

Self-service analytics "is introducing a new era of capabilities and performance," Schlesinger says. "It is allowing organizations to put the line of business users in charge of the data."

This article was originally published on 2016-08-25
Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).
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