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My big intro to BI & analytics vendor MicroStrategy

Bob Brown | July 15, 2016
MicroStrategy CEO boasts of digital badges and openness, customers talk self-service analytics and reporting

Saylor was also big on digital badges, what he described as a new document type that can be downloaded to your phone and serve as an ID (i.e., student, employee or customer credential) for unlocking computers, VPNs, websites and even physical access controllers, such as for elevators and parking lot doors. Retailers, banks and hospitals might be among the sorts of MicroStrategy customers that could take advantage of badges, for identifying VIP customers, providing an alternative to ATM cards and providing faster emergency service.

MicroStrategy customers speak

While digital badges never came up during a customer panel that followed Saylor's talk (he told me the product is still pretty new), these BI and analytics experts had plenty to say about other topics.

Mike Kowalsky, business informatics lead at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, says demand for analytics help among employees at his organization has been on the rise, especially since a new e-health system was rolled out and his team held a road show to spread the word about BI. "My managers were worried that we were soliciting too much demand because the backlog was really growing," he said.

Virginia Coburn, a manager at Boston Children's Hospital's Enterprise Reporting Group, was feeling Kowalsky's backlog pain. "My group is responsible for not only developing and gathering demand for dashboards and reports, but promoting a self-service environment as much as possible because we can't keep up with our demand," she said.

The emphasis on analytics to date, she said, has been patient care-focused (though marketing and finance applications are also possibilities down the road). Having a structured electronic medical records system in place has allowed Coburn's group to provide tools for clinicians to analyze large volumes of data, which gives them better visibility into outcomes, readmission rates and more. As a beta user of MicroStrategy 10, Children's has been able to encourage self-service usage in part through a more streamlined end user requirements process that limits going back-and-forth with lots of sample data, only to find that real data mucks up the works. One initial hesitation Children's had in going with MicroStrategy was a fear of finding staff knowledgable in the software, but Coburn credits the company with making its tools easier to use over the years for not just members of the reporting group, but for all sorts of end users.

Kowalsky says it's not unique to healthcare that people across an organization don't always realize enterprise-level analytics now exist. "When we start to gain efficiencies like this, some lightbulbs start to go off in executives' heads and they say, "Let's stop doing these decentralized operations of building your own data warehouses. Let's leverage the enterprise version that we're already paying for anyway... Why don't we do that and allocate some of the other operational expenses to cure cancer'," he said.


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