IB Symposium 2019: embracing people change

At this year’s Information Builders Symposium, presenters focused on the ‘people’ piece in the ‘people, process and technology' triad.

In its 6th iteration, the Information Builders Symposium trained this year’s business intelligence conversation on helping members of the public sector leverage data to do more with less. The key, according to Symposium organizer and public sector manager for Information Builders Canada Tara Myshrall, is to “move the needle on technology adoption,” with the ultimate aim of establishing analytics throughout the organization. To support this goal, she argued, organizations must build strategy that takes into account “people, process and technology” in efforts to align business and IT, workers at different organizational levels and in different units, as well as external agencies around the scale of data projects. To help, Information Builders has designed Symposium as a forum for peer-to-peer sharing of battles stories that analytics adopters can learn from as they wrestle with the establishment of pervasive analytics in their own organizations.

Darby Allen, fire chief, Fort McMurray
Darby Allen, fire chief, Fort McMurray

Interestingly, in Symposium presentations spanning smart healthcare, policing and city-based analytics deployments, the ‘people, process and technology’ triad translated frequently to an overview of change management from a people perspective. Setting this tone in his keynote address, Darby Allen, Fort McMurray fire chief during the May 2016 wildfire – the second largest in Alberta’s history – attributed success in the evacuation of 90,000 residents to four major success factors: a safety culture, timely decisions, twinning the highways, and the actions of the people. He credited “the team, how they jelled and came together with single focus, no matter how small their role,” with success in the injury-free evacuation.

In her talk, Using Business Intelligence to Enable Strategy at QCH, Laure Pitfield, director and privacy officer at Queensway Carlton Hospital in Ottawa, offered a deep dive into tactics that can motivate this focus on outcomes. Specifically, she outlined how the hospital used analytics dashboards to encourage “non-process thinkers” to utilize controls that would improve efficiency and remove waste from hospital operations. Brought onboard QCH to study a “Continuous Performance Improvement” initiative at the hospital, Pitfield has focused on change management to support introduction of LEAN approaches. Now head of Decision Support at the hospital, she works with a team consisting of analysts who are responsible for business intelligence, coders, health information professionals, and “Jim”, a process control expert whose role involves focusing executives on the right KPIs. In an initial project, the team engaged with the surgery and perioperative program, an expensive area, which has a high nurse to patient ratio, and the need to achieve a set number of procedures to maintain funding. Working with this group, the team discovered that the type of data, and how it was delivered, could have significant impact on the acceptance of process change. According to Pitfield, “you can’t just flash data up, and expect to see change – you have to tie it to behaviours.”

Laure Pitfield, director and privacy officer, Queensway Carlton Hospital
Laure Pitfield, director and privacy officer, Queensway Carlton Hospital

The best approach for the surgery team was to deliver data that could provide an historical perspective, that would describe current state, and also what to expect going forward. In addition, using Information Builders’ BI tool, WebFOCUS, Decision Support built a data model that is tightly aligned with potential process improvements. Using questions designed to engage surgery, Pitfield’s group developed a monthly scorecard – DATASH RK – which provides KPIs for a specific unit that are aligned to corporate targets to help individuals understand how their process feeds into overall goals. Set to launch in December, the solution offers flexible, interactive access to results, that will also be delivered on a daily basis. As Pitfield explained, the daily dashboard will provide “tighter feedback, is very accessible, colour coded, and users can click down to data – it’s like a speedometer in your car that helps you quickly adjust. One graph shows wasted time in 10 rooms, and time is money.”

In their journey to a data driven organization, York Region Police (YRP) have also focused on people change. As Greg Stanisci, manager of BI & Data Analytics, YRP, noted in his presentation Intelligent Technology for Modern Policing, “data democratization is key” to transformation and the goal is to make data accessible to as many people as possible, not just the leadership. The primary question for YRP has been how to empower officers, and what is the change management process that will deliver maximum value from the data. While the force began with technology – the creation of multiple dashboards through deployment of Information Builders’ WebFOCUS BI tool in 2015 – Stanisci noted that “what has the biggest impact on success is the people. If people don’t use the dashboard again because they don’t know how to use it, we have failed.”

Greg Stanisci, business intelligence and data analytics manager, YRP
Greg Stanisci, business intelligence and data analytics manager, YRP

At YRP, culture is a huge challenge: “most of the officers did not go to school to learn how to talk about data,” Stanisci explained, and “our leaders aren’t ready or able to ask the types of questions our new data solutions can answer.“ “Data disruption is breaking the system,” he added, but “even some of the most simple changes generate resistance.” Over time, YRP has developed several strategies to help overcome this hurdle. The first is “organizational empathy,” knowing who your customer is, and understanding their needs. “You need to understand their fears, desires, pain points, and anticipate how data will affect them as individuals and cogs in the wheel, and help them understand how each cog can affect the bigger system,” according to Stanisci. This entails involving key stakeholders from the beginning in process around dashboard creation so that they have a clear sense of ‘what’s in it for me’. Dashboards have to be easy to use and understand – user experience is critical. Stanisci observed, “It’s really easy to build a complex dashboard, but its really hard to make a simple dashboard,” so YRP relies on “artist” designers that aim for a clear aesthetic with accessible components that are user friendly. “A User Interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it’s not that good,” he quipped. To ensure key stakeholders know how to use the technology, YRP also provides 3-4 hours of in class training, which Stanisci views as the key to adoption, which in turn is key to data driven success.

Clare Cameron, program manager, BI, CIty of Burlington
Clare Cameron, program manager, BI, CIty of Burlington

The key theme that emerged in the City of Burlington’s presentation is that BI itself is transformation. Or as Clare Cameron, BI program manager for the city, put it, “implementing BI has been a transformative project.” Formed in response to study recommendations delivered in 2013 by the Deloitte consultancy, which defined the city’s biggest challenge as building access to data and analytics, Burlington’s business intelligence strategy consisted of three imperatives: implement technology, enable self-serve analytics, and build data driven culture. So far, Cameron explained that Burlington has extended “thin skin” analytics and the foundational technologies that underpin it to 11 departments, 60+ users, 15 services, and has integrated 29 data sources, and created 54 dashboard pages. The city’s first customer for BI was the Fire Department, a dashboard for Asset Management Planning was next, followed by a dashboard to measure phone queue volume for the city’s call centre. Burlington has also created a data mart with reports to preserve legacy data as Recreation Services transitioned to a new system, created a Cash and Budget Monitoring BI solution that links to SAP and RBC data, as well as a Real Time Road Status Patrol system. They are now working on an IoT based WebFOCUS map with the automated population of data showing different views of parking availability. According to Cameron, BI has made the data “more visible and more usable,” it has saved time and money, and delivered the “wow” moment by answering questions in a matter of minutes that in the past would have taken days.

Over the period of BI implementation, the Burlington BI team found that as they learned more about the best means to ensure analytics success, they have had to adjust their vision. Their new program goals, which may serve as lessons learned for organizations embarking on similar projects, speak volumes about how technology can unlock the value in data driven people and process.

  • Implementing technology – the team focused on Information Builders systems initially, but now understand that with lots of support from IB, it was surprisingly easy to get started on the analytics journey. They now see business intelligence more as an activity and are now focused on the human side of deployment.
  • Delivering dashboards – they have an ambitious agenda, are committed to providing dashboards to 39 departments and now recognize that everyone in the organization can benefit from analytics. However, in project planning, it’s important to double the time estimates, and build in support for what has already been created. As data changes, people will need more information, will change their questions, and dashboards will need to reflect this.
  • Integration – they initially believed WebFOCUS would serve as a solo tool for BI, but now understand the need to integrate complementary technologies and tools such as ESRI to achieve maximum value from data.
  • Skills development – formal training was on the initial project agenda, but the team has received more knowledge transfer from Information Builders and from online sources. As a result, focus has shifted to internal training, where experiential learning is critical. Users need to know more than the technology; they need to know how the data and process fits into the city environment.
  • Data driven culture – creation of a data driven organization was an obvious priority, but the team now believes this can’t totally replace other approaches to decision making, such as gut instinct or intuition and experience. Data must be used as a tool to complement other soft skills.
  • Master Data Management – the team expected this would be a simple process, but now recognize that it will take a lot of help from business managers, and is a long-term project for the city.
  • Data quality – the initial goal was to first assess all data, identify problems and report these to stakeholders. They now assess targeted data, develop easy-to-understand scoring, and share with the business to see if fixing the issue is unavoidable.
  • Citizen dashboard – a city goal was to get more data out to the people – and the more the better. Today the ideal is to get information to the people, to be specific in the content, keep it simple, and focus on the users’ strategic goals.
  • Build Community – the team originally established a community of practice that included private and public sector interests, but are now more aligned on public sector interests and requirements.

Cameron concluded her talk with points on the importance of collaboration, on mutual learning that can be achieved in community sharing of experiences and practices. The IB Symposium, at its best, is an exercise in this sharing, which is no means exhausted by the QCH, YRP and Burlington examples described above. Along with technical demonstrations delivered by IB dashboards wizards such as Joe Walsh, and high-level discussions of NG analytics frameworks by former Michigan State Police Services personnel and now IB public sector staff Dave Kelley and Deep Uppal, there were a number of breakout sessions designed for debate and discussion. In the panel Changing to a Culture of Evidence-Based Decisions with Melissa Treier of Information Builders, Tracie Legg, City of Burlington, Iris Michaels, Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance, and Justin St. Maurice, of Conestoga College, led by InsightaaS principal analyst Michael O’Neil, the theme of cultural change as the agent in organizational transformation as discussed in Information Builders’ Vision to Value (V2V) best practices community research group, was extended to a new, public sector audience.

Changing to a Culture of Evidence-Based Decisions panel, led by Michael O'Neil
Changing to a Culture of Evidence-Based Decisions panel, led by Michael O’Neil

Focus on usability and experience as a driver of the cultural change needed to extend the adoption of analytics featured in Symposium presentations is not lost, but rather embraced by Information Builders in user advice and in product development. As Melissa Treier, VP product sales and strategy, Information Builders, noted in the panel discussion, success in creating an evidence-based culture lies in operationalizing data, moving it from executive KPIs and delivering data to those who are closest to the customer. In her view, “you don’t buy BI, you achieve this,” through willingness to accept, adapt and really change how the organization operates. But this change of state is more readily achieved with tools that people can more easily adopt. As Peter Morris, director, data management and competition, NA sales for IB, noted in the IB Product Roadmap outline, “people’s expectations have changed exponentially, and the future demands frictionless data access.”

Melissa Treier, VP product sales and strategy, Information Builders
Melissa Treier, VP product sales and strategy, Information Builders

To help, IB has announced product innovation in multiple areas – it has combined WebFOCUS and Omni-Gen engineering groups to improve the cohesiveness of its platform for customers, and to ease use, as new drag and drop data access capabilities for non-technical users in the Omni Designer data model demonstrate. It is also improving self-service for its products, developing search on the IB home page, using AI to advance usability, and AI and cloud to incorporate automatic content generation in Info Apps. Treier now calls the design, build roadmap “an integrated canvas for analyst and developer,” with new functionality that allows individuals in these groups to more easily prepare the data. According to Treier, the initial user experience has been completely redesigned: “IB has been known for industrial strength, but now it is looking to make the platform prettier to compete with other vendors.” And to ensure uptake, Information Builders has launched a new education platform – both online and instructor led – to make education more accessible, to people, the change drivers.

Interested in attending a future IB Public Sector Symposium? Contact caterina_didio-duggan@ibi.com to be added to the invite list.


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