When Is The Right Time To Upgrade?

Clients often come to us to assist with their system upgrades. One of the key areas of discussion is around what version should they upgrade to and when should the upgrade occur?

There are several reasons why you may need to upgrade or apply a system patch/point release: take advantage of newer features; keep aligned to vendor supported version; to address a bug/issue with your current installed version;… Whatever the reason is it is important that you have a upgrade strategy. An upgrade strategy should address the software version that you are planning to upgrade to (eg, N or N-1); the frequency of major releases from the vendor; the available window to perform the upgrade in; the anticipated budget of performing the upgrade; the recovery/roll-back strategy in case the upgrade needs to be aborted; what system and user testing is required after the upgrade; communications to the end users of the system upgrade and any actions required by them;…

First, the frequency question. Some may say this is an easy problem to solve but what if the vendor only releases one major release a year. Then if you adopt an N-1 policy for updates then your system could be potentially two years old for your users! Conversely if releases are five times a year and you want to adopt an N-1 strategy then you are potentially looking at five upgrades in a year. This may become cost prohibitive for the benefit that you gain. Balance is the key here. As a rule of thumb, you should perform at least two upgrades per year approximately 6 months apart and away from any blackout window or other critical processing periods.

The next question is whether you should adopt an N or N-1 upgrade strategy. This becomes more of a question around your confidence in the vendor to provide a quality release with minimal bugs. We normally advise that you follow an N-1 approach assuming the software vendor does several major releases a year as a starting point. If releases are more frequent and the core of the software is stable and isn’t changing, then you may consider following an N approach. Perhaps when there are significant changes to the core of the software fall back to an N-1 release for several upgrades and then go back to an N approach. Some clients may decide to temporarily change from N-1 to N to take advantage of a new critical feature that is in demand by the business.

Finally, should you upgrade for minor/dot releases? The simple answer is no unless it fixes a bug that your business is experiencing, provides additional security or provides a feature that you need for your business.

You must not forget to perform upgrades as you introduce risk to the business by not regularly upgrading. Data and system security are often cited as a concern by not upgrading but another risk is that you may be unintentionally holding the business back by not taking advantage of new software features. System stability is often stated as another reason not to upgrade which I feel is a short-sighted view. When you do eventually upgrade you are placing a significantly increased risk on the business post upgrade. The reason is that the upgrade is no longer a routine business task, and this leads to the upgrade potentially becoming a major project which will attract other risks and costs.

Not sure how to plan an upgrade strategy, email AtoBI at info@atobi.com.au and let us help.

The Evolving Role of Finance in Healthcare

Finance Executives are now playing an increasingly crucial role in organisations and Healthcare is no exception. Not only are their responsibilities & mandate growing, but they also need to step up their involvement at a strategic level to help deliver better care at a lower cost.

This increased leadership role requires skills that exceed the scope of Finance: Good understanding of clinical challenges, people management, technology acumen, communication decision making, data-driven…

The key priorities of Finance in Healthcare are changing as the industry is moving towards value-based care, process automation and financial efficiency.

Driving Cost Management Initiatives

CFOs are under increasing pressure to drive cost improvement measures and keep operating margins at the right level. Taking well-informed decisions requires comprehensive, granular and real-time information to ensure full efficiency and build the credibility of Finance as a strategic advisor.

Finance must take the lead and provide efficient processes, tools and resources to help:

  • Prevent risks & costs before they occur or get out of control
  • Advise and provide recommendations with the #1 outcome in mind: Patient Care
  • Monitor the efficiency of cost reduction measures

From a technology perspective, the CFO needs to work hand in hand with the CIO to re-examine the IT ecosystem, automate simple & repetitive tasks with Robotic Automation and AI tools, and assess the cost-effectiveness of maintaining separate systems, consolidating them or creating a hybrid infrastructure.

Supporting Clinical performance & Quality of Care

The Finance department is the cornerstone of a Health organisations’ performance not only ensuring financial sustainability but also in supporting clinical excellence and helping improve the quality of care.

How? By tracking and forecasting more efficient key metrics from Financial indicators to clinical KPIs such as: Hospital Acquired Complications, Relative Stay Index, Average Length of Stay, Readmission rate, Average Diagnosis coded (Acuity), Long Stay proportion, Operating Expenses, Labour Costs, Activity-based Funding…

Being at the heart of the organisation, Finance is in a unique position to better link clinical & costing data and drive process improvements.

Keeping an eye on the Revenue Cycle

Finance Executives are on the frontline to speed up the revenue cycle and provide visibility over the complete cycle of care. They need to build a 360° and accurate, real-time view of the patient journey, connecting to all data (Financial, clinical, external…) to help drive better performance.

Making sure the patient experience is outstanding from admission to discharge also means providing transparent costing information, seamless payment, feedback collection through Patient Reported Measures…

Implementing Better Performance Management Processes

Collaboration, workflows and Budgeting/Forecasting processes usually offer much room for improvement in Healthcare and cause inefficiency, poorly informed governance and transparency challenges.

Developing more integrated and streamlined processes across financial planning and strategic capital allocation must be one of Finance’s top priorities, as well as leveraging rolling forecasts to foster consistent financial performance and responsiveness.

However, just implementing a system is not sufficient if the underlying process is not addressed too. Combining People, Structures and Technology is key to improving collaboration and performance across the organisation and can generate significant returns.

Communicating effectively

Finance now requires more than ever, great communication skills and tools. The days of quarterly presentations over outdated endless spreadsheets is over, and CFOs are now accountable to provide timely, accurate and clear information to the business, allowing fast and well-informed decisions.

All stakeholders need a good understanding of the relationship between critical financial, quality, patient flow and workforce data points. Everyone from the executive team to the care team and even the patients themselves need easy access to the insights to facilitate better health for patients and a better bottom line for the organisation.

This is now made possible by self-service Business Intelligence and Corporate Performance Management platforms, which allow the automation of Dashboard & Board Packs as well as ad-hoc, intuitive and self-service reports and queries.

Collecting insights and providing access to the right information at the right time is a responsibility now shared by both IT and Finance and a key requirement for a well-functioning Healthcare organisation.

Written by Olivier Bastard – Account Executive at AtoBI
Get in touch with Olivier

Embedded Analytics

What is “Embedded Analytics”?

Simply put, it means data visualisations seamlessly integrated into a larger environment, such as a company intranet page.

What’s the benefit?

Traditionally, Business Intelligence (BI) software has been self-contained applications that require installation and training for users, making it a chore for them and increasing maintenance loads on IT teams. This approach has always been a blocker for delivering answers to business questions, since most users are too busy doing their jobs to go hunting for data in slow, difficult-to-use software applications.

Embedding analytics into an existing environment provides relevant, real-world and always up-to-date information to end users in a place that they’re already familiar with. It does not require users to go seeking data or to learn new software applications. Rather, it puts interactive visualisations at their fingertips and keeps the important information front of mind for them all the time.

Not only can embedded analytics provide high-level KPI data to users in a place like a corporate intranet, it can also be used to deliver complete solutions for users requiring detailed analytics tools. This entire scenario can be delivered in-browser and seamlessly integrated into the intranet.

Embedded Analytics allows

  • Ease of use
  • Saves time
  • Central location for all data analysis and reporting
  • Provides the same look and feel interface whilst accessing data from different applications/sources
  • Secure

Sounds great but how do we do it?

While the idea sounds large and very expensive, it doesn’t have to be either of those things. AtoBI can rapidly deliver solutions from small-scale visualisations in existing environments right through to fully interactive, cross-platform analytics applications that integrate data from multiple sources and deliver it in a web browser.

Usual Beasts And How To Defeat Them – Tackling Reporting & Planning Challenges

Most Sales and Finance teams are familiar with the spreadsheet hell: End of month, budgeting season, Re-Forecast, Board pack… often mean hours of work in Excel, crunching data manually, using error-prone formulas and pivot tables ad nauseam.

But why, despite the diversity of Business Intelligence and Corporate Management Solutions, does time-consuming, unefficient manual work still persist? And how can organisations achieve smarter Reporting and Planning processes?

1- The cost of inaction

I once heard from a CFO: “Our month-end reports and budgets always end up on-time, I don’t think improving a non-perfect, but functioning process should be the priority.

Yes, streamlining reporting & planning processes cost time and money. But the cost of inaction is often overlooked. The information consumed by CXOs are the primary source of decision-making for organisations and critical to align Strategic vision with Execution. There is a proven link between performing, competitive organisations and their ability to continuously improve their Performance Management strategy.

What if implementing more efficient processes could help produce frequent, accurate and automated Reports & Forecasts? What is the cost of decisions made too late, on outdated asumptions, or with a partial view? How about staff retention (can sales and finance teams spend their time in a more productive and stimulating way than crunching data in Excel?).

2- Excel use will decrease, but not completely disappear

Business intelligence, Corporate Performance Management, Planning solutions have been around for decades now and definitely improved dramatically. However spreadsheets remain. Why?

First, because it’s the most common skillset and everyone knows how Excel works. It’s universal and when most companies constantly modernise their IT ecosystem, Excel has been one of the most durable and consistent tool across organisations.

Secondly, because it offers autonomy and flexibility. Sales can crunch their own numbers and quickly answer ad-hoc questions on the fly without waiting IT or the BI team to come back to them the day after.

Regardless the systems in place, Excel has to be in the picture and the answer is not as simple as “Replacing spreadsheets”. The solution is more about how can we make these spreadsheet processes part of the data governance & automation strategy wihtout creating shadow-IT or parallel processes, challeng their purpose and bring incremental changes.

3- Focus on high-value activities

This can be an easy thing to say, especially when most teams can’t do anything but keep their nose to the grindstone to meet deadlines and keep up with their day-to-day activities.

Now that technology offers many ways to automate repetitive tasks, we can afford spending more time on what actually matters most: decision-support, value-added analysis and strategic insights. But it doesn’t happen overnight.

A strtegic vision supported by a step-by-step, pragmatic approach offers minimum risk for a quick return on investment. Aim at running a Marathon, but start walking 5km first: It’s the same for any BI project. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning can bring a major impact and massive value, but have you started building a single source of truth, addressed data quality issues, removed manual & repetitive tasks, integrated Reporting & Planning processes across the organisation already?

If you want to know more about how we can help drive better performance and streamline processes from Data Management to Reporting and Forecasting in your organisation, feel free to reach out!

If you need assistance navigating through Data Management, Business intelligence, Corporate Performance Management or AI & ML solutions, please feel free to reach out to us!

Written by Olivier Bastard – Account Executive at AtoBI
Get in touch with Olivier

The Real Meaning Of AI

 There has been a significant shift over the last 5 years with focus moving from BI to AI and ML.  As market leaders AtoBI are aligned with technologies that are at the forefront of this change, to ensure that our customers have cutting edge solutions.

On 7 December 2017 a critical milestone was reached when Googles AlphaZero Program defeated the 2016 world computer chess champion, Stockfish 8.  Its human creators never taught it, it used machine learning principles to self-learn in just 4 hours.  Scary as it is, we shouldn’t be frightened of progress, in fact we should embrace these changes.

It’s not just understanding the technologies available but recognising the complexities that customers have, even in similar industries.  Finding the right solution to address your issues can sometimes seem a daunting task, but AtoBI is here to provide you with the confidence that our extensive experience and expertise will make your journey with these new technologies easier. We pride ourselves on our expert team and their ability to help our customers navigate this new world.

If you are still apprehensive, don’t be, try to think of AI as Assistive Intelligence rather than Artificial Intelligence.  AI is designed and ultimately controlled by humans, to increase the accuracy of insights and aid prediction.  We should embrace the new technologies available to us. To find out how AtoBI can help you and your organisation on your AI journey contact us at info@atobi.com.au.

AtoBI – What’s New From Our Vendor Partners?

 Vendors are constantly looking at ways to meet the market demand for new solutions. At AtoBI, we are constantly looking for solutions for our clients and sorting the “wheat from the chaff” with solutions. This provides you with the knowledge that a lot of the leg work has been done already by us when we propose a solution to you. There are several other aspects that are considered as well, including… read more here.

Creating the Future of Employee Wellness with Data-Driven Insights

I got into the health space because it’s where I felt I could have the most impact. To paraphrase the Dalai Lama, people spend half their lives trying to gain as much wealth as possible. Then, those same people spend the next half of their lives burning through that wealth in order to get their health back.

This has never made much sense to me, but it’s a problem I see rear its ugly head time and again. I notice this during the personal moments I spend involved in yoga and meditation, but it’s especially true in my career as an enterprise data management professional for Viverae.

I’ve always been very passionate about health and wellness. Working in this field, you feel like you make a real difference in people’s lives. You can see your impact on the world—the way one small decision you’ve made today grows and evolves into meaningful change tomorrow, next week, or even a year from now. You don’t always affect a large group of people. Sometimes, it’s just one person. But at the end of the day, that’s more than enough.

Becoming the Catalyst for Positive Change

The biggest reason I joined Viverae was to enact positive change in the world around me. At Viverae, our wellness solutions help employees manage their health while also assisting companies in creating a culture of well-being. Employers partner with us because healthy employees tend to also be passionate and productive employees.

Prior to joining Viverae, I was in consulting for around fifteen years. Most of the businesses I worked with were large companies with complex ecosystems in terms of data and analytics. I was happy with my job, but at the same time, I hoped to work at an organization where I could see the impact of my work. I also wanted to get more into healthcare. My role as Vice President, Information Management & Analytics at Viverae is a perfect fit.

Showing Value Today

Every kilobyte of data that goes in and out of Viverae first flows through my team and I. How Viverae stores this data, how we transform it into analytics, reports, and business intelligence—we’re responsible for all of it.

For the last several years, we’ve focused most of our efforts on showing clients the true value of what we do. When you’re dealing with data in the way we are, you tend to see a lot of people’s eyes start to glaze over when you talk about it. People don’t want to hear about technical specifications or data points. They don’t want you to sell them a service; they want you to sell them results.

To shed a little light on things, think about the situation in terms of medical costs. Medical costs are increasing every day, and there’s not much anyone can do to directly contain that. In order to sell our service, we have to focus on how we can help a business address this problem. We can’t make medical costs cheaper, but we can reduce the number of sick days employees need. We can cut down on the number of people who need to go to the emergency room. We help improve employee health and well-being, which improves productivity. These are the goals we’ve set our sights on.

I have a Health Management Analytics team that does all the analysis for our organization. We present the results we find to both clients and account managers to help forge better and more effective client relationships.

The problem is often that turning insight into action and then results is a process that happens gradually—or at least, far slower than most people would like. At Viverae, we’ve found that the changes we initially institute will take around three years to yield tangible results. Developing cultures of well-being is a process, a worthwhile one. But demonstrating value with that timetable is difficult. We need to show our clients results faster. Luckily, we have a tool to help us do that: Qlik.

Diving Beneath the 1s and 0s

I was already familiar with Qlik thanks to the time I spent working with another company who partnered with Qlik. At Viverae, we had tried a number of business intelligence solutions that proved to be ineffective. Once I had made a case for Qlik Sense, we rolled the platform out to our internal analysts.

Previously, we would generate a general report that detailed a client’s annual results. Our customers would repeatedly come back with questions about their data. We realized they wanted us to go deeper, which meant we would have to go back, create new reports, and perform more analysis—all of which was incredibly time-consuming. It was also a non-value add for my team because all we were doing was applying a filter or changing the way we visualized data in some way. We were putting a new coat of paint on the same data and handing it back to our clients. Every time they had another question, we would have to start from scratch.

Now that everything is in Qlik Sense, we can give analytics access to clients and CRMs directly. They don’t have to ask us these questions because they can easily access the data for themselves. Now, our client relationship managers can do more consulting and less routine administration. They can talk about what’s happening with a particular program and why. They can see what isn’t working, figure out why that is, and do something about it.

The amount of time we save through this new process is enormous. Under our old system, answering what appeared to be a very simple question had a large number of manual steps. If a client came to us and asked, “Why are my high-risk populations at such a high level of risk?” determining that was a lengthy affair. Someone had to go into the data and figure out who the high-risk population was just to get access to the right data. Then, they would have to do a lot of analysis to discover exactly what “high risk” means. This process led to a huge amount of back-and-forth between our team and our clients, all of which was getting in the way of the actual service we were trying to provide.

Viverae Dashboard

Now, we have a dashboard that handles these and other types of requests. If none one of our clients and you want to see who your high-risk population is, you can filter the entire dashboard down to just that population with one click. Not only that, but you can also see exactly what their lifestyle risks are. You can dive deep into what their biometric risks are. You can see factors like “lack of physical activity” and compare and contrast them with other criteria like “high BMI.”

With this tool, we’ve been able to uncover a massive amount of insight for clients in a fraction of the time it used to take. For example, we have one client where there’s a big population of tobacco users, which drives up their overall risk factor significantly. With the old approach, it would have taken us a huge amount of time to identify this contributing factor—if we were ever able to actually get there at all. With Qilk, we’ve been able to quickly identify this contributing factor and adjust their program design accordingly.

But again, for both our company and our clients, this is about more than just processing data. It’s about uncovering the true story hidden underneath that data, something that has allowed us to improve our program design immeasurably.

For example, if we see that a client has a lot of employees who are tobacco users, we can build a program that works to incentivize them to stop smoking. This helps employees become healthier and demonstrates immediate value for our customer. Our clients appreciate seeing that we’re taking a proactive approach.

For our clients, using Qlik lets us more easily prove our value. For us, using the software saves us massive amounts of time. To illustrate the time we’re saving, we can look at our Agenda Reports. Our client relationship managers generate this type of report for our monthly client meetings. Before Qlik, they’d probably spend two hours every month for each report. Now, they can generate a report with a single click! When you consider we have 600 clients, that’s 1,200 hours Qlik Sense gave us back. If you value our client relationship managers’ time at $60/hour, that’s a savings of $72,000 a month.

But this isn’t just about dollars and cents to us. Our employees aren’t sitting idle with their extra time. Instead, they’re focusing on providing unparalleled value to our clients. Today, we can provide our customers with insights beyond their wildest dreams.

The Future of Wellness Has Arrived

It used to take three years before we could see the positive results of our actions. Now, we can start to see those trends shift in the right direction in as little as a week.

In the wellness space, no one else is doing anything remotely similar to what Viverae is. We’re offering the ability to track Internet of Things (IoT) data to engage members and validate corporate wellness programs. The level of analysis we have—coupled with the dashboard and the value we’re able to illustrate to our clients—is virtually unparalleled in our industry. I see it as a massive disruption to the wellness market.

Qlik has helped us get to the answers our clients ask for. Because of the nature of our work, this has a direct impact on the lives of their employees. I’m happy if I only help one person get their health back, but I’m thankful that with Viverae and Qlik, I can help over a million.