By Jim Buckheit, consultant, Freed Associates.
As healthcare organizations pursue improvements in productivity and clinical outcomes, they are also increasingly turning to business intelligence (BI) systems and staff to provide the data and tools needed to achieve and sustain such gains. The problem is, many organizations’ BI teams – tasked with a myriad of urgent and competing internal demands – often lack the experience, bandwidth and/or big-picture strategic and analytical skills needed to adequately respond to their organizations’ heightened needs.
That was the dilemma faced by a health maintenance organization (HMO) that had doubled its membership and found its BI team ill-equipped to respond to its growing technology needs. The HMO’s experience in recognizing and addressing its BI issues provides a template that other organizations can follow when confronted with similarly pressing BI demands.
The Four R’s of Quality BI Performance
The greatest positive emerging from the HMO’s BI issues was a wholesale reassessment of its BI team’s role, responsibilities, responsiveness and resources. You can call these the four fundamental R’s of well-functioning BI team performance:
Role – Rather than being focused on “doing,” a well-functioning BI team should also consider itself to be a vital strategic partner in the health care organization’s business. Attitudinally and functionally, a BI team needs to operate as a key part of the organization’s business team.
The HMO installed a new BI leader who immediately focused on mentoring and developing existing staff, overseeing and assisting with business analysis and reporting functions and defining a strategic path for the team to meet the HMO’s organizational strategy. This leadership change quickly stabilized the BI team’s performance and enhanced its ability to more effectively respond to internal requests. Your BI team’s leadership should be capable of achieving similar performance.
Responsibilities – Instead of simply being “order-takers” and “project fulfillers,” well-functioning BI team members should be high-quality strategic and process partners with internal clients. Creating and having in place service level agreements (SLAs) between a BI team and its business clients is crucial for establishing expectations for timing, deliverables and process improvement measurement.
For the HMO, the BI team’s new SLAs defined responsibilities for each business team member involved in project requests, performance objectives, documentation and sign-off requirements at milestones. The SLAs also provided project quality measurement standards, project success definitions and internal satisfaction reporting. Do your SLAs provide similar levels of accountability and clarity?
Responsiveness – Delays in responsiveness to client requests are not only inappropriate, they detract from a BI team’s professionalism. Established operational guidelines should delineate proper responsiveness for members of your BI team.