Self-Service Analytics: A Boon for Business Users

Over the past decade, analytics has emerged as a critical tool in the enterprise arsenal. It allows organizations of all shapes and sizes to gain insight into an increasingly complex world. Yet, somewhere between challenge and opportunity lies a simple fact: These business analysis tools have typically required data scientists to assemble the right data sets and interpret results.

As a result, “Organizations have focused on hiring as many data scientists as possible, even though they are very expensive,” observes Scott Schlesinger, principal at EY’s IT Advisory in the Americas.

Yet, over the last couple of years, things have begun to change. Analytics tools, while becoming more sophisticated, have become much easier to use.

“We’re seeing tools that have built-in capabilities and preset or preconfigured algorithms for some of the more common types of analytics that organizations want to run,” Schlesinger notes. The upshot? “Business users who were left out of the equation a couple of years ago are now making important decisions using these self-service capabilities.”

This allows organizations to use data scientists for more strategic tasks or outsource the function entirely. But, more importantly, self-service analytics are revolutionizing the way businesses and other organizations make decisions and manage ever-growing volumes of data—from legacy databases and point-of-sale information to social streams and sensor-supplied data emanating from the internet of things (IoT).

As Kim Smith, Capgemini’s chief digital officer, puts it: “Analytics allows organizations to constantly learn—and refine systems and processes.”

The evolution of self-service analytics—and the ability for line of business (LoB) users and others to tap into the power of this technology—is already having a profound impact on the enterprise, government and other organizations. These tools allow decision making to take place in near real time, thus enabling organizations to become more agile and flexible.

“Self-service analytics puts capabilities in the hands of the business user, and that’s ultimately where it needs to be,” Schlesinger says.

A Healthy Approach to Business Analysis

One organization that has harnessed the technology to drive improvements is Elliot Health System, a 296-bed acute care facility in Manchester, N.H. The medical facility turned to SAS Visual Analytics (VA) to better understand performance, to track readmissions, and to conduct what-if scenarios surrounding complications and re-admissions. Physicians, nurses and other professionals can view data, which is derived from electronic medical records and other sources, through graphs and tables.

“They are able to drill down and really look at patients, trends and underlying patterns,” says Linda Kenney-Janosz, senior data analyst for the Center for Clinical Excellence at Elliot Health System. “Clinicians are able to see gaps and make corrections.”

The facility, which accommodates more than 57,000 patients annually, currently relies on more than 60 analytics reports. Since implementing SAS VA in August 2015, the number of users has risen from 16 to 78.

What makes the tool so powerful, Kenney-Janosz says, is that the software requires almost zero training, while delivering actionable data and information that’s available on almost any device, including desktop computers, laptops on carts, iPads and smartphones. Users access SAS VA through EPIC, the electronic health record system, or through links in emails when reports are updated. They can also log in directly, she adds.