Discover PerformanceHP Software's community for IT leaders // June 2014
See the big picture in your workflows
Big Data’s big clickstreams mean organizations can sleuth out the processes that slow people down the most.
There’s no denying the power of Big Data analytics to upgrade our business intelligence quality. The "wow" factor of customer analytics or the easy wins of operational analytics are a powerful start, but it should not be forgotten that Big Data can improve everything.
There are many other data touchpoints that are rich with a different kind of business potential: the chance to make employees more efficient, and give professionals direct feedback and training that makes them better at what they do.
"We tend to focus on ‘clicks’ in terms of what customers click on," says Dan Wood, market development manager for HP Software, "but we forget that our employees are clicking away throughout the day, as they do the heavy lifting of their jobs using web-connected internal applications. Analyzing, correlating, and reporting on these clickstreams can reveal tremendous insight into efficiencies and inefficiencies, habits and patterns, and overall approaches to key workflows."
The power of workflow analysis
At nearly every moment in the workday, most employees are engaged in some kind of workflow. Any process, any handoff, any request for information, any interface with software (such as when a human has to enter data) constitutes a workflow. And arguably none is as efficient as it could be.
There can be many sources of inefficiency holding employees back. For example, one extra button or drop-down menu, or one additional database call, can add up to many additional hours per month for a frequent operator of that software system. Big Data can not only identify those inefficiencies among hundreds of individual processes, but it can stack-rank the worst offenders, telling us where to focus to get the biggest improvement.
Workflow insights aided by Big Data can be helpful in almost any industry. In government and finance, for example, workflows to process applications, permits, and investigations are initiated hundreds or even thousands of times per day.
Bigger data, better doctors
Cerner, a leading information technology provider for health care, uses a response time measurement system (RTMS) to track the workflow of emergency room clinicians in an attempt to maximize patient interaction time and improve overall quality of care. By replacing their RTMS’s maxed-out data warehouse with HP Vertica, Cerner overhauled the system, which now delivers more accurate insights into a wide range of clinician behavior.
Drawing from 16 billion records per month, the RTMS tracks clicks as clinicians go about their days, and tallies exactly how many minutes are spent on key activities such as chart review, diagnosis, ordering of equipment and medications, responding to alerts, and documenting patient interactions.
For example, the RTMS can show the percentage of time spent on administrative duties vs. diagnostic time or face-time with patients—by individual or in the aggregate. Aggregate data can help Cerner decide where to invest in software process improvements. Meanwhile, individual physician data identifies opportunities where a bit more training can go a long way.
The importance of presentation
It’s not just the raw capacity to analyze massive data volumes that makes a workflow optimization solution successful; it’s also a matter of using innovative data presentation models to let Big Data insights come to the fore.
Because of the massive processing power of next-generation data analytics tools, clickstreams that once were impossible to render in a human-consumable form can now be easily rendered in highly visual, human-friendly dashboards.
"Forms such as heat maps, pie charts, time series charts, and baseline vs. benchmark comparisons help analysts and employees alike see clearly how subtle shifts in workflow/behavior can dramatically improve efficiency," Wood says.
Monetizing Big Data insights
While the obvious application of a system like Cerner’s is to root out inefficiencies and address them, there are some more subtle ways organizations can leverage and monetize their workflow analytics. The business benefits are wide-reaching and involve everything from employee retention to IT agility.
- Managing capital expenditures—Click-through data can validate the need for new investments, both in workflow improvements and employee retraining.
- Professional development—With greater insight into their performance, professionals can achieve greater levels of achievement and satisfaction in their vocation.
- Maintaining high availability—Proactive identification of system performance issues allows IT to take action before latency takes a widespread toll on productivity.
Today’s Big Data analytics systems create a conversation with business information. By turning that conversation inward, organizations can turn untapped employee click-data into a barometer for continuous improvement.
The new Enterprise 20/20 chapter, "Big Data 20/20," looks at the transformative future of advanced analytics. Download the complete chapter—and find previous chapters—on our Enterprise 20/20 page.
For more on how cutting-edge analytics can transform a business from the inside out, learn about the analytics power of HP’s HAVEn platform.
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