Friday, January 31, 2014

The Data Warehouse is an Internal Small Business

You can force the adoption of a transaction system -- like an EMR, an email system, a time & attendance system, et al -- on end users, but you can't force the adoption of an Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) or analytics system. The uptake of analytics and an EDW is largely voluntary. End users-- customers-- will turn their back on your EDW if it's not operated by pleasant people, if it's not easy to use, and if it doesn't meet the needs of those customers.

The executive sponsor and the EDW team need to have the mindset of a small business. You need to market the data content and the analytics products of the EDW. You need to assign customer service and customer account representatives. You need to educate end users about how to use data to improve their roles in the organization. You need to increase the data literacy of the organization. Imagine building a Home Depot in a community that didn't have anyone who knew how to use a hammer, saw, or screwdriver? There's a reason Home Depot provides free classes on home remodeling and repair--it generates business. If your organization doesn't know how to be data driven, you better teach them if you hope to be successful as an Enterprise Data Warehouse team. You need to have a user friendly, attractive internal web site that advertises your EDW products and services, exposes your metadata, and creates an interactive site where users of the EDW can collaborate and provide feedback to the EDW team.

One of the most common chronic diseases that detracts from the ROI of the EDW is a passive, "If you build it, they will come" attitude. Worse yet, the attitude that is driven by misplaced paranoia, territoriality and protectionism of the data in the EDW-- organizations spend the money to build an EDW then create a giant bureaucratic pain in the neck to get access and utilize the data contents.

Everything that applies to the success of a small business, applies to the success of an EDW.  If you want to be successful with analytics and an EDW in your organization, you must have a small business mentality.

Flex your entrepreneurial muscles...!


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ten Years from Notes to Reality

What notes are we scribbling down today that will come true in ten years?

I was cleaning out my old files this morning-- New Year ritual-- and came across a folder labeled "Career Chapter 4: HDWA Conference, Baylor".  HDWA stands for the Healthcare Data Warehousing Association ( and the same LinkedIn Group).  In 2004, Baylor hosted our second annual conference, after Presbyterian Health hosted the first in 2003.  The 'Career Chapter 4' was referring to the steps in my career up to that point: (1) Air Force; (2) TRW; (3) Start up of Information Technology International; and (4) Healthcare.

In 2004, I was winding down my role at Intermountain Healthcare as the Chief Architect for the Enterprise Data Warehouse and Regional Director of Medical Informatics at LDS Hospital; and preparing for the transition to Northwestern University as one of two CIOs-- partnered with Tim Zoph-- at the medical center.

Inside the folder was the agenda for that HDWA conference and these handwritten notes in the images below.  I remember sitting alone at breakfast in the hotel, preparing my comments for the conference, scribbling these notes down with a sense of internal urgency-- "We can't keep reinventing the healthcare analytics wheel."

A note of thanks goes to my friends, Jim McPhail at Baylor, for hosting the conference that year; and Susan McFarland for doing all the work to organize and keep HDWA running for these many years.  Susan worked for me at Intermountain.

With the formation and momentum of Health Catalyst, ( we are making these scribbled notes come true.  It's a stark reminder to me that the evolution of dreams and aspirations can wander for many years before they emerge as reality. Patience, preparation, steady persistence and luck play major roles.

Let's scribble down some more notes, shall we?

In gratitude,

Nuclear and Healthcare Decision Making

Nuclear warfare operations was my data-driven decision making environment before the healthcare phase of my career. It was all about recogni...