How would you like your data? Self-serve BI and analytics distribution by email are not mutually exclusive!

by Trevor Strome on June 19, 2012

email_laptopAt a recent presentation, I was discussing how healthcare organizations (HCOs) are (slowly but surely) becoming more information-centred. As evidence, I offered examples of many department managers who have come to rely on the many dashboards, reports, and other analytical tools available through our analytics portal and distributed via email.

One member of the audience took issue with the fact that I was even distributing any data via email, basically stating that I was “encouraging old practices” by “spoon feeding” these managers with “plain old reports that were outdated” the minute they were sent out. In other words, that I should be actively encouraging self-service to information in the portal by cutting off any (and all) other “outdated” modes of dissemination.

First of all, let me emphatically state that I am a firm believer in the concept of self-service to information (or “self-serve BI”). The true power of modern business intelligence (BI) platforms is that they offer high degrees of end-user customization so that mangers, executives, and other users of BI tools can create customized views of information and gain rapid access to the information they desire, without relying on an analyst or IT specialist to build something.

The issue, though, is that managers, executives, and other leaders are exceedingly busy running the healthcare system. They often do not have the time to browse through and create customized dashboards for every piece of information they might need. While granted that emailed reports and dashboards don’t provide full interactivity and data browsing capabilities, they do provide ready access to required information that is likely commonly-used for operational decision-making. Furthermore, for those users who are less computer-savvy, accessing emailed reports and analytics offers the opportunity to use the available information, and can act as a “gateway” to becoming more advanced user of analytics.

Throughout my career as a developer of analytics solutions, I have seen many battles fought over the “best solution” (whether it be programming language, operating system, specific algorithm, or now mode of information dissemination).  I have always taken the pragmatic approach of “whatever works” rather than force-fitting a solution into a pre-conceived architecture or approach. I have seen that emailed reports, dashboards, or other analytics can result in the information being available to decision makers when they need it, and can help them become better consumers of analytics. In this case, then, I’m OK with an “obsolete” approach that works (at least until the email method is no longer required). And I will continue to offer more extensive options in the analytics portal for those users that have the time and inclination to use it appropriately and effectively.

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