How to Maximize Your Business Intelligence Investment

The purpose of business intelligence is to give companies the ability to make better decisions. When your company begins to develop its own business intelligence strategy, there are important principles to keep in mind. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Brent J. Estes outlines the three key business intelligence principles to remember.

/images/stories/70x50/bug_knowledgecenter_70x70_%282%29.jpgOrganizations large and small are using business intelligence to improve business performance and guide decision making. Many are still challenged when it comes to maximizing their investments in BI. Incorporating some proven best practices can help organizations reap the greatest amount of business value for their BI initiatives.

Rush Health Associates, an integrated network of health care providers anchored by Rush University Medical Center, recently completed a BI planning effort that successfully laid the foundation for additional information management projects currently under way. We partnered with HP Information Management Services to guide the effort.

An immediate first step was getting the business and IT groups together to assess the information management architecture, understand business needs and map out a new road map for transformation. We focused on four key operational objectives:

Objective No. 1: Growing our patient base and improving revenue.

Objective No. 2: Increasing operational efficiency of membership.

Objective No. 3: Improving the ability to negotiate better contracts.

Objective No. 4: Developing stronger clinical and medical outreach programs, including collaborating with employers and payers.

Plan a strategy and then execute it

It took seven weeks to map out a BI strategy and plan for Rush Health Associates. The plan provided a two-to-three-year vision and specific goals around expected BI functionality, technology platform, budgeted financial and resource investments, and measurable success metrics.

With a defined road map for building a comprehensive information infrastructure that turns data into information, Rush Health Associates already has been able to make more effective decisions. For example, data analysis has revealed areas within the revenue cycle process that can be improved upon. We have also identified contractual disconnects with payers, which cause operational inefficiencies and unrealized revenues. In addition, we have gained valuable insights about patients throughout our network and are positioned to lead in the development of "pay for performance" programs.

So, when your organization is ready to begin mapping out a BI strategy, remember to keep the following three key principles in mind:

Principle No. 1: Begin with the end in mind

It's important to understand the desired end result. A key question to ask is, "What will be done with the information once it is available?"

It is also impossible to integrate data without having a plan and the correct systems in place to run the business. We realized we needed to better leverage existing member information and create a cohesive BI platform to support reporting and analysis. Both clinical and operational users needed reliable access to data to help make better decisions and improve the overall quality of patient care.

We had been relying on a segment of operational systems to feed a variety of small, homegrown or licensed database applications that supported things such as contract management and clinical safety reporting. It was a loosely knit federation of systems accumulating information about our physician and hospital members and our patients--which made developing a comprehensive view of our business an almost impossible task.

Principle No. 2: Have an organizational plan in place

Be prepared to carry out the business decisions that need to be made once the plan is set. Once our key strategies and objectives were aligned with BI capabilities, a blueprint of next steps was developed. Implementation of an organizational plan, with key goals in mind, made it easier for business and IT to work together to meet the desired results.

Principle No. 3: Avoid putting data before business

This is a common pitfall in data warehouse and data integration initiatives. It happens when practitioners focus on the data instead of what the data means to the business. Since companies are swamped with data, this seems to be an easy solution. Always put the business before the data.

/images/stories/heads/knowledge_center/estes_brent70x70.jpgBrent J. Estes is the president and CEO of Rush Health Associates. He can be reached at [email protected].