By Paul Brady – Principle Consultant for BI
The future is already here – it’s just not very well distributed, so wrote William Gibson.
We are in a world where data and technology allows amazing things to take place – every single day. Whether it’s watching the latest Boston dynamics robot which can run, jump, open doors, fall over AND get back up again, or just paying a busker with a contactless card, data and technology surrounds us. We can ask our mobile phone a question, where language interpretation, translation and complex data analysis is available to us at our fingertips. Most users don’t care about “the how,” they just want to know the answer, when they ask it i.e. How old is Joan Collins? (85 FYI).
So why, in business, do people still use the same spreadsheets they were working with a decade or two ago? Why are the same old, chronically bad applications still in use? If the technology and all this data are available – where is it in the workplace? All the information is about what happened in the past. What about now? Or even better, what about tomorrow, next week, or even next year?
Most organisations collect massive amounts of data, many don’t realise the value that can be achieved with it.
Is this a technology, a data or an informatics issue?
It’s none of these! The technology already exists and the analytics tools – be it simple graphs, machine learning or artificial intelligence. Insights can be delivered to your inbox, your phone or even via “frickin’ laser beams” to the back of your eyeballs if you see what Intel’s Vaunt smart eyeglasses can do! So, if you have a problem to solve, for most businesses, the software and hardware already exist.
So why don’t more businesses adopt Business Intelligence tools? Is it down to money? Nope! In most cases, the traditional ways of working (looking backwards, being reactionary, manual processes) is much more expensive in the medium and long term than using the latest technology and data to solve problems. There are many reasons an organisation has not taken advantage of business intelligence yet. Sometimes it’s just a simple case of no-one has looked to see what is possible. For others it’s a much more complex mix of fear, culture and history. These are often ignored by technology companies when they are wrapped up in their excitement about their latest tech. Witness the excitement of Google Glass, which had enormous potential in some applications but it all unfolded (at least for now) in a near hysterical public backlash.
This is where the Trinoculars come in: Three lenses to see the world and holistically view an organisation.
Data or technology on their own is a one-legged stool. Such a thing, unless you are a hipster or an operative in a 19th-century nitroglycerin factory, is pretty useless. Agreed, the technology and the data exist, but they are nothing without people or process. People refers to those who work in the process, the staff, the customers, the patients, families and service users.
People isn’t just headcount or skills, it is everything: hopes, fears, history, politics – everything which makes the culture of the organisation. Failing to engage with or understand the ‘People’ will mean any business change or new technology will never work.
Even less recognised is the Process. This isn’t four squares, a couple of diamonds and a few lines in Visio. This is a detailed understanding of why everything currently is as it, which should involve: walking the floor, talking to everyone, learn “chalk circles,” observing and reviewing. This will show everything that is good, everything that is bad and, even, everything that is illegal or dangerous.
Are you sitting comfortably?
If organisations haven’t had access to their data, they will often have just People and a Process (of sorts) and this is where “narrative” rules. Some major organisations are run, in the absence of data, on stories. You can tell these when someone asks a question: “Why are sales down this month?” or “How many patients are waiting for radiology reporting?” The correct answer – based on data – is “420” or “3497” or “Botswana exports are down 12% this month”. The incorrect answer – based on stories – is ANYTHING that starts “I think…”, “It seems…”, “Dave said…” Organisations run in this way are susceptible to major problems.
Likewise, if there is only Process and Data and the People side is ignored, then organisations will experience adoption issues, implementation issues and, on occasion, wilful (passive or active) failure due to missing the People. And if there is only Data and People, with a lack of Process, you end up misinterpreting the data.
So, look at your organisation, does it only look backwards? How much data does it collect, and can you get access to it? Is your organisation data driven or story driven? What can your data tell you? Well, that’s another story for another time…
In the meantime, if you want some “future” for your organisation, contact us and we can help you adopt a trinocular vision to finally see into the future.
About Paul Brady
Paul has over 12 years in transforming healthcare organisations including working on 57+NHS sites, training 3000+ staff in lean healthcare techniques and veteran of over 300 projects. He is a specialist in healthcare analytics using routinely available data to bring new clinical and operation insights. Former Head of PMO for a large acute trust, an executive team post including responsibility for transformation, cost improvement, hospital reconfiguration and the planned care improvement programme. Paul is also the author of the foundation and advanced lean healthcare masterclass programme covering 40 topics in 2 weeks of content.